Pine Nuts: Tahoe Jays |

Pine Nuts: Tahoe Jays

Anyone who has visited Layne Haven in the past year has had the pleasure of meeting Huckleberry, my pet Tahoe Jay, who stops in for breakfast at eight, lunch at noon, and Happy Hour at five. Our history began when he was born on the first deck and I was able to take his baby pictures from the top deck. He was born without clothes, and maybe that’s where the expression, “naked as a jay” came from. When he finally got some clothes on he decided to make a leap for freedom. I spread a sleeping bag out on the drive below, and darned if he didn’t hit it like a Marine Corps helicopter pilot on a landing pad.

His sister, Emmeline, emboldened by what she had just witnessed, got up her courage and followed Huckleberry, but her aim was not good and she missed the sleeping bag, pretty well taking it on the chin. That was the summer of 2017.

I don’t know where Huckleberry and Emmeline spent the rest of that year, probably down in Genoa, at least that’s where I would go, but the following spring, there he was on the rail of the top deck, staring at me through the plate glass window.

So I peeled and washed a beer nut, broke it in half, and started whistling, “Life May Not Be So Bitter After All.” I set that beer nut on the rail, took a step back, and down he swooped to scoop it up. The following morning, as I slept-in, I heard a pecking on the glass door. I opened the curtains, and there he was, looking up at me as if to say, “Hey, Sleepy-Head, let’s get some breakfast going here!”

Emmeline would not give me the time of day. She chose to sit in a tree across the way and gaze at me. Then the strangest things started happening. While standing at the computer and not noticing anything outside, Huckleberry landed on the flagstaff and waved the American flag to get my attention. And if that failed, he would cling to the screen door and flap his wings. Emmeline, meanwhile, seemed content to watch her brother as he contrived every possible tap-dance to get a beer nut.

Just yesterday I dropped a nut from the second deck, and darned if Huckleberry didn’t swoop down and catch it in mid-air before it hit the ground. Galileo himself would have been proud. Then, when I returned from a walk to the lake I found Huck perched on the rail out front, where we had never met before. He flew down off that rail, hopped toward me, and looked up as if to say, “Surprise! Happen to have any beer nuts on you?”

Yesterday Emmeline finally joined us for Happy Hour, and a friend asked, “How do you tell them apart?”

“Easy,” I replied, “The eyelashes.” Actually it’s more the dance steps, but they are both amazing, and I love them equally …

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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