Song or Story
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Story originally heard somewhere north of Moosehead Lake; recorded in Argyle, ME
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Of all the stories told in lumbercamps, few have captured the attention of Maine’s folklorists like the story of “The Man Who Plucked the Gorbey.“ The gorbey, one of many names for the Canada Jay (also known as a moosebird, meat bird, gray jay, or Whiskey Jack), is a native of the northern coniferous forests of North America.
Ives: “You were telling me the other day about Archie Stackhouse.”
Ives: “Now where did you know him?”
Sibley: “Well, he used to be wangan man up in the woods there, and he’d watch camp and tote-teams; he used to stay up there the year round. Well, this is the story they told. Now I don’t know whether it’s true or not. The only thing I know about it-he didn’t have a spear of hair on his head no more than you in the palm of your hand. Not a bit. And they said he took a-one of these gorbies, these meat-birds, you know what them are. Well, he took one of them and he picked him, all but his wings. In February. Picked him all off, feathers all off him, all but just his wings, and he said, “Go, you son of a bitch, and get you a new coat.” And they said the next morning when he woke up, his hair laid right on the pillow, every God-damned bit. Now, if they’s any truth in that, I don’t know, but I do know he didn’t have any hair.”
The Man Who Plucked the Gorbey, Charles Sibley, Moosehead Lake, Argyle, Maine, lumber camp, Canadian Jay, moosebird, meat bird, gray jay, Whiskey Jack, souls, Archie Stackhouse, story
Ives, Edward D. “The Man Who Plucked the Gorbey: A Maine Woods Legend,” The Journal of American Folklore 74, no. 91 (1961), 1-8; Kirtley, Bacil F. “On the Origin of the Maine-Maritimes Legend of the Plucked Gorbey,” The Journal of American Folklore 87, no. 346 (1974), 364-65; & Botkin, B. A. A Treasury of New England Folklore: Stories, Ballads, and Traditions of Yankee Folk. New York: Crown Publishers, 326-30 contains a reprint of Gerald Averill’s version, “Esau and the Gorbey,” as published in Ridge Runner: The Story of a Maine Woodsman.
Folklore | Oral History
Sibley, Charles. 1958. “The Man Who Plucked the Gorbey.” NA1.55 T55. Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History, Raymond H. Fogler Special Collections Department, University of Maine.