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by Bettye Hudson Galloway

"What kinda chickadee you got out there in the bushes?" asked the carpenter who was building a deck on my house.

"Chickadee?" I asked. "I don't have anything living out there."

"Yep, you do," he responded. "I been seeing him for a couple of days! He's bright red I've seen him several times."

I thought no more about the conversation, but several days later I was in the backyard when I saw a glimpse of red. Sitting quietly in the deck chair, watching, I soon saw a patch of red and green feathers slowly exit the bushes and start scratching in the grass at the edge of the wooded area. When I moved, he quickly eased back out of sight. I looked in my pantry and found a package of un-popped popcorn. I filled a bowl with water and took it with the popcorn to the general vicinity where I had seen the fowl.

Placing them on the grass, I softly called, "Here, Chickadee; here, Chickadee," and went back into the house. I watched through the window until I saw him gingerly ease out to the corn and water. He was a beautiful gamecock and became "Chickadee," the name the carpenter had first given him.

I left the corn and water each day, and soon he appeared even when I sat outside on the deck. As time passed, he bravely got closer and closer, and one day he accidentally brushed my ankle. The next day he actually came to my ankle, and from then on every time I walked in the yard, Chickadee walked beside me, brushing against my ankle.

Chickadee was beautiful with red, green and black feathers that glistened as if freshly oiled. He lived in my backyard and patrolled the perimeters constantly. When I opened the door to go to the mailbox, he would sail around the house to walk with me to the street, and then he would return to the backyard. When I left for work in the mornings, he was on the crest of the roof, watching as I backed out of the driveway.

He made friends with his neighbor, Annie, a huge, black, fuzzy dog that was always within her fenced back yard. They "talked" through the fence, and Chickadee would crawl through the fence and share Annie's food. One day I saw in the yard a blue, fuzzy bear I knew was Annie's toy. I was puzzled because Annie never came into my yard. I picked up the toy and tossed it over the fence.

The next day, I again saw Annie's blue bear in my yard. Once again, I tossed it over the fence. The next day I looked out and couldn't believe my eyes Chickadee was coming through the fence pulling Annie's toy! Chickadee was gorgeous, but he was a thief!

Our town offers a welcome service citizens can rake leaves to the curb and city workers come by with a gigantic vacuum and suck up the leaves and trash, no bagging. Consequently, I would rake leaves onto an old sheet, drag the sheet across the yard, and empty it at the curb.

One day, Chickadee, at my ankle as usual, watched every move I made. After several trips with the sheet, as I started to the curb to empty it again, he hopped upon it; the movement, however, caused him to fall off. The next time I pulled the loaded sheet toward the curb, he once again hopped upon it. I moved it very slowly until he got his sea legs, and he rode it all the way to the curb. From that time on, he was a regular passenger on the sheet. I was unable to get a photo of him on the sheet because the moment I stopped pulling it, he hopped off.

Chickadee was a grand friend over the course of several years. He never made demands and only expected his daily popcorn and water. His constant presence against my ankle told me I was loved and the love was mutual.

He never occupied any of the birdhouses or cages I bought for him, always preferring the limb on the magnolia tree that overlooked a transom window. He sat on his limb, watching through the window as I worked on my computer in the den. He was always there.

He was always there until the day I found a pile of feathers under the magnolia tree and a trail of feathers across the yard a lucky day for the chicken hawk. I have lost many human friends and relatives, but I did not cry for them. I cried when I lost Chickadee.


Bettye H. Galloway was born, reared, and educated in Oxford, Lafayette County, Mississippi. She has now retired from Mississippi state service (primarily the University of Mississippi) and as executive vice president of a drug testing laboratory.

Write Bettye at this email address: bgalloway@watervalley.net
And read more of her stories:
The Last of His Kind
A Christmas I Will Never Forget

Want to leave a comment about Bettye's story?
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or write Ye Editor at bethjacks@hotmail.com.


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