“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 and must be scared of me, ’cause he hides when I’m around, but I’ve seen him several times.”

I thought no more about the conversation, but several days after the carpenter left, I was in the backyard when I saw a glimpse of red. I remembered what had been said, and I sat quietly in the deck chair and watched. Soon I 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 in a few days he would appear even when I was sitting outside on the deck. As time passed, he would appear as I waited quietly with the food. He would bravely get closer and closer to me, 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 a beautiful bird—he arrived at my house from God knows where—with red and green and black feathers that glistened like they were freshly oiled. He lived in my backyard and patrolled the perimeters constantly. When I opened the door to go to the mailbox, the security chime would alert him, and 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, Dog Patch style, watching as I backed out of the driveway.

Since owning a rooster was illegal in the city, I was afraid one of my neighbors would report him to the Health Department, but they all seemed to enjoy his low-key crowing every morning from his perch in the magnolia tree.

He made friends with his neighbor, Annie, a huge black fuzzy dog who was always within her fenced back yard. They would “talk” 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 that 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. Puzzled more than ever, I once again 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 the city workers come by with a gigantic vacuum cleaner and suck up the leaves and trash—no bagging. Consequently, I would rake leaves onto an old sheet, drag it across the yard, and empty it at the curb. Chickadee, at my ankle as usual, would watch 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 that I was loved and the love was mutual. He would look at me with twinkling eyes, and if birds could smile, he did. He would never occupy any of the birdhouses or cages I bought for him, always preferring the limb on the magnolia tree that overlooked a transom window. He would sit 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 came home to find only a pile of feathers under the magnolia tree and a trail of feathers across the yard. It was a lucky day for the chicken hawk. I hope he enjoyed Chickadee as much as I did. I have lost many human friends and relatives, but I did not cry for them. I cried when I lost Chickadee.

Bettye 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.

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