Jackie the Jackdaw: Childhood Friend I Have Never Forgotten
Jackdaws are Intelligent and GregariousClick thumbnail to view full-size
Some Memories Time Cannot Erase
The Friend I Never Forgot.
As a family, perhaps we have had problems with people - that certainly applies to me. My friends are few and several have died without me finding replacements. But my mother and I have partially made up for this possible deficiency in our characters by melting at the sight of many of the other creatures which share this planet with man. We always had dogs, and assorted wild creatures “recovering” in boxes and crates. I once had 17 cats, because I couldn’t bring my self to chop their organs up and neutralize their life force. OK, I was wrong and I’m sorry to say, the coyotes of South Baja did that for me and my “pride” was gradually culled until only a few cats now roam the hills of El Triunfo, battle-scarred and the terror of the local curs. Anyone who has seen a semi-feral cat see-off a dog will know what I mean: looks like a cross between a Whirling Dervish and a buzz-saw.
Despite memories of my beloved Mini-Schnauzer, Chico, who I loved deeply for many years, the pet which always looms large in my long-term memory at this time of the year was Jackie, my orphaned Jackdaw, who shared my young life for four years.
I say this time of the year, because the fledglings are adventuring into the world; we have a lot of ivy-bedecked trees around here (near Hatfield forest) and lots of sleek, grey-polled “Jackies.”
There was one in our cricket field over the last few days as I walked around in the evening getting my constitutional. It had apparently left the nest a bit early and sat dejectedly by the fence, under the trees from which it fell. It had the typical, squashed-face and Donald Duck beaky look of the nestling. It tried to fly away at my approach but could only manage a sprawling scuttle for a few yards across the course grass. I feared for it as this is cat heaven around here at this time of the year: clumps of feathers lay everywhere around the field where song-bird chicks had paid the price of enthusiastic entry into a cruel world before they could rise above it, so to speak. Not to mention foxes, hawks, owls and deranged idiots with air-guns.
But a jackdaw is not a blackbird: much bigger and tougher, especially mum who was coming down to feed the littleun, right by where I walked, without any fear.
You see, that is because I can speak jackdaw.
Their peculiar call is like a cross between a herring- gull and other members of the crow family who caw. You can’t represent a sound in text, but many will have heard jackdaws calling and know what I mean. I inflated my ageing lungs, 50 years flew away, as I cried, “Eeeeeyowww” Mother jackdaw gave me that look birds reserve for the crazed, but did seem to appreciate my efforts, as she fed the chick happily for the next two days while I strolled by, until I gratefully saw the baby was back in the trees having learned the elements of defying gravity.
Anyhow, Jackie - my Jackie - was a fledgeling just like this when I found him at a scout camp as a 12-year-old and “rescued him.”
I looked a sight arriving back at my Broadstairs home with Jackie on my shoulder, bird lime streaks all the way down the back of my new Mac. After an argument and histrionics on my part, Jackie became part of the family, beginning a love affair that was to last several years.
Jackie lived on the veranda in a large aviary built by my father. When I came home from school during the long summer evenings he was allowed out. He loved to play: tearing up cardboard in a pretended mini-fury; terrorising the chickens until a broody hen put a stop to that by jumping on him and squashing him until his squawks brought me running to boot the chicken across the garden. Sorry, chooky, but that was Jackie you were killing.
We went for walks all over the nearby fields and country roads. Jackie sitting on my shoulder, occasionally nibbling my ear and casting glittering black eyes at birds flying overhead. He, of course, saw himself as my brother; and I adored Jackie with the love a lonely only-child will have for a pet; he felt the same way about me I am sure.
I wish this story had a happy ending and tears course down my face even after all this time, as I record these final words.
I arrived home one fateful day, calling to Jackie even as I ran up the hall towards the back door and the veranda. “Bobby,” mum whispered, intercepting me in mid-flight. “Jackie’s not there, dad gave him away to the pet shop today.” There followed a raft of excuses, but I was inconsolable for weeks, maybe months, I can’t recall. I hated my father and mother and wouldn’t speak for days only demanding the return of my beloved Jackie. The pet shop man refused to comment and I remember trying to pummel him with my fists.
I wasn’t until many years later that mum told me what had really happened and what they had hidden from me on that awful day. Jackie had got out into the front garden, through the fence and, no doubt cackling with sinful, Jackdaw glee, fluttered straight under the wheels of a passing car. My parents hadn’t given him away at all, a fact I would have discovered quickly as a mature person, but took me in and enraged me as a teen. They had called the pet shop man and told him to say nothing if I came up there as I certainly would.
Poor mum and dad, long gone now, they took it on the chin thinking it would be easier for me to bear if I thought he had lived on somewhere, loved and enjoying his little jackdaw furies with another child. But it wouldn’t have mattered, Jackie had abandoned me and the tears still come over that today.
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