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For kidchamp, a wildlife rehabilitation story, starring Klondike prospectors “Pinky” and “Bear Grease.”

Their camp was selected as home base by a particularly larcenous camp robber. This bird is a member of the jay family, sometimes called a whiskey jack in the north. It is at any time an audacious and highly vocal bird. It knows little fear and will seize any food left lying around, a trait Bear Grease and Pinky did nothing to discourage, as the presence of a whiskey jack was supposed to bring good luck, and they were superstitious. Like other miners who worked hard but, lacking luck, did not find gold, they had to have some excuse outside themselves to explain failure.

The camp robber or whiskey jack, treated in such a friendly manner, became bolder and bolder. He took to swooping down on the table and grabbing food that was left there. One day when supplies were getting short, the camp robber made a particularly bold swoop and grabbed a pancake from the table. Bear Grease in his anger hurled a rock at the bird and by chance struck it. He called to Pinky in alarm. He had killed the camp robber. Together, the partners picked up the bird. Seeing its eyes were not glazed with the film of death, they fanned it with their hats and forced water into its beak. The camp robber soon recovered, and as they released it, flew away. It had learned its lesson and did not come back.

Pinky and Bear Grease had been working the claim for some time without success. They were getting discouraged, and when a passing miner told them of good colors farther down, they decided that the departure of the whiskey jack had brought them bad luck, that the place was cursed, and they should move. So the two partners packed their gear and once again moved to a new location. A year later another miner took over the abandoned claim and made one of the rich strikes of the area two feet below where Pinky and Bear Grease had left off. The whiskey jack cost the two partners about $200,000 apiece.

David B. Wharton, The Alaska Gold Rush (Indiana University Press, 1972), 241.

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