Why The Chicadee Goes Crazy Twice A Year

A long time ago, when it was always summer in our woods, the Chicadees lived merrily with their cousins, and frolicked the whole year round. But one day Mother Carey sent the small birds a warning that they must move to the South, when the leaves fell from the trees, for hard frost and snow were coming, and maybe starvation too.

All the cousins of the Chicadees listened to the warning and got ready to go; but Tomtit, their leader, only laughed and turned a dozen wheels around a twig that served him for a bar.

"Go to the South?" said he. "Not I; I am too happy here; and as for frost and snow, I never saw any, and I don't believe there are such things."

Very soon the leaves fell from the trees and the Nut-hatches and the King-wrens were so busy getting ready to go that the Chicadees left off play for a minute, to ask questions. They were not pleased with the answer they got, for the messenger had said that all of them were to take a long, long journey that would last for days, and the little King-wrens had actually to go as far as the Gulf of Mexico. Besides, they were to fly by night, to avoid their enemies, the Hawks, and the weather at this season was sure to be stormy. So the Chicadees said it was all nonsense, and went off, singing and chasing one another through the woods, led by Tomtit singing a new song in which he made fun of the travellers.

Tom Tom Tiddy-Mouse!

Hid away in our house,

Hid his brother in the cellar,

Wasn't he a silly feller?

But their cousins were quite serious. They picked out wise leaders and formed themselves into bands. They learned that they must follow their leader, they must twitter as they flew in the darkness, so as to let those behind know where\he leaders were; they must follow the great rivers southward; they must wait for a full moon before starting, and never travel by day.

The noisy, rollicking Chicadees continued to make fun of their cousins as they saw them now gathering in the woods along the river; and at length, when the moon was big, bright, and full, the cousins arose to the call of the leaders and all flew away in the gloom. The Chicadees said that all the cousins were crazy, made some good jokes about the Gulf of Mexico, and then dashed away on their favourite game of tag and tumble through the woods, which, however, did seem rather quiet now, and bare of leaves; while the weather, too, was certainly turning uncomfortably cool.

At length the frost and snow really did come, and the Chicadees were in a bad way. Indeed, they were frightened out of their wits, and dashed hither and thither, seeking in vain for some one to set them aright on the way to the warm land. They flew wildly about the woods, till they were truly crazy. I suppose there was not a squirrel-hole or a hollow log in the neighbourhood that some Chicadee did not enter to inquire if this was the Gulf of Mexico. But no one could tell anything about it, no one was going that way, and the great river was hidden under ice and snow.

About this time a messenger from Mother Carey was passing with a message to the Caribou in the Far North; but all he could tell the Chicadees was that he could not be their guide, as he had other business. "Besides," he said, "you had the same notice as your cousins whom you called 'crazy.' And from what I know of Mother Carey, you will probably have to stick it out here all through the snow, not only now, but in every winter after this; so you may as well make the best of it."

This was sad news for the Chicadee Tomtits; but they were brave little fellows, and seeing they could not help themselves, they went about making the best of it. Before a week had gone by they were in their usual good spirits again, scrambling about the snowy twigs, or chasing one another as before.

They were glad to remember now that Mother Carey said that winter would end. They told each other about it so much that even at its beginning, when a fresh blizzard came on, they would gleefully remark to one another that it was a "sign of spring," and one or another of the flock would lift his voice in the sweet little chant that we all know so well:

Spring soon Spring soon

[You can play this music (MIDI file) by clicking here.]

Another would take it up and answer back:

Spring com-ing Spring com-ing

[You can play this music (MIDI file) by clicking here.]

and they would keep on repeating the song until the dreary woods rang again with the good news, and the wood-people learned to love the brave little bird that sets his face so cheerfully, to meet so hard a case.

And winter did end. Spring did come at last. And the sign of its coming was when the ice broke on the stream and the pussy willow came purring out above it. The air was full of the good news. The Chicadees felt it, and knew it through and through. They went mad with joy, chasing each other round and round the trees and through the hollow logs, shouting "The spring is here, the spring is here, Hurree, Hurree, Hurree," and in another week their joyous lives were going on as before the trouble came.

But to this day, when the chill wind blows through the deserted woods, the Chicadees seem to lose their wits for a few days, and dart into all sorts of queer places. They may then be found in great cities, or open prairies, cellars, chimneys, and hollow logs; and the next time you find one of the wanderers in any out-of-the-way corner, be sure to remember that the Chicadee goes crazy twice a year, in the fall and in the spring, and probably went into his strange hole or town in search of the Gulf of Mexico.

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