That is the name which the northern Indians give to the black-capped tit-mouse, or chickadee. “Little friend Ch’geegee” is what it means; for the Indians, like everybody else who knows Chickadee, are fond of this cheery little brightener of the northern woods. The first time I asked Simmo what his people called the bird, he answered with a smile. Since then I have asked other Indians, and always a smile, a pleased look lit up the dark grim faces as they told me. It is another tribute to the bright little bird’s influence.
Chickadee wears well. He is not in the least a creature of moods. You step out of your door some bright morning, and there he is among the shrubs, flitting from twig to twig; now hanging head down from the very tip to look into a terminal bud; now winding upward about a branch, looking industriously into every bud and crevice. An insect must hide well to escape those bright eyes. He is helping you raise your plants. He looks up brightly as you approach, hops fearlessly down and looks at you with frank, innocent eyes. Chick a dee dee dee dee! Tsic a de-e-e?—this last with a rising inflection, as if he were asking how you were, after he had said good-morning. Then he turns to his insect hunting again, for he never wastes more than a moment talking. But he twitters sociably as he works.
You meet him again in the depths of the wilderness. The smoke of your camp fire has hardly risen to the spruce tops when close beside you sounds the same cheerful greeting and inquiry for your health. There he is on the birch twig, bright and happy and fearless! He comes down by the fire to see if anything has boiled over which he may dispose of. He picks up gratefully the crumbs you scatter at your feet. He trusts you.—See! he rests a moment on the finger you extend, looks curiously at the nail, and sounds it with his bill to see if it shelters any harmful insect. Then he goes back to his birch twigs.
On summer days he never overflows with the rollicksomeness of bobolink and oriole, but takes his abundance in quiet contentment. I suspect it is because he works harder winters, and his enjoyment is more deep than theirs. In winter when the snow lies deep, he is the life of the forest. He calls to you from the edges of the bleak caribou barrens, and his greeting somehow suggests the May. He comes into your rude bark camp, and eats of your simple fare, and leaves a bit of sunshine behind him. He goes with you, as you force your way heavily through the fir thickets on snowshoes. He is hungry, perhaps, like you, but his note is none the less cheery and hopeful.