The Generous Jay

A repost from 2021, slightly edited. 

We followed the truck for miles, from Hatch along NM-26 to NM-27. Every hundred yards or so we’d see a red chile on the road. Hatch, New Mexico is the chile capital of the world. Some loose pods in the back were blowing from the uncovered load, or so we supposed. The distributor’s loss. Gains for the ravens or crows—or spicy sustenance for a hungry lizard. No pain for them, unlike non-human mammals. Although many folks like the burn.

Red or green? That’s what the order taker asks. A New Mexico thing—green chile cheeseburgers is a menu staple. Chile relleno with the whole pod. Onions the size of Florida oranges, the giant ones. Ristras hang decoratively from porches, drying—awaiting grinding into powder. Rotating barrels outside grocery stores roast the peppers each fall. Roadside vendors sell burlap bags filled with the red heat, cooked as is for one dish or another.

It’s chili con carne for me, without chile peppers. I’m still up for Kung Pao or General Tso’s Chicken. Sadly—not much demand in the Southwest for those items and those that can be found are just not the same. I’m not quite an acclimated New Mexican foodie yet after more than a decade here.

Those unspoken observations ran through my mind on the trip en route to Silver City. Then I saw the Mexican Jay. Just like the ones at our house, high atop the hill near Silver City. Were the Jay’s picky or kindly—knocking seed off our feeder? Other birds and the chipmunks happily scarf up what their benefactor tosses to the wall below. So, the chiles weren’t blown from the truck; the Mexican Jay sitting atop the load was tossing them off, every so often. A generous or fussy bird? Maybe it was leaving a trail to follow—nah, not likely.

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