Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Death in the Afternoon

Chicken-fighting is one of the past-times of winter and early spring while the roosters have their tail-feathers. Some people think that cock-fighting is cruel and perhaps they are right, but if you have ever seen what roosters will do to hens, it makes you a lot less sympathetic. Chickens are some of the most vicious creatures on this earth. We can all just thank the Creator God that chickens are not 10-feet high, because us humans would have been extinct a long, long time ago. So there is quite a bit of practicality to fighting roosters. You only need so many.

I've only been to one cock-fight in my life and that was with my Filipino grandparents. My grandfather had an island-wide reputation as a breeder of fighting chickens and when he was in his prime his yard was filled with huts and cages for his chickens, with roosters tied out by a string around one leg, gazing down their beaks with imperious fierceness. The chicken-fight that I went to took place in the old Filipino camp in Pahala, under the shade of the giant, ancient mango trees. This was in the 80's when the sugar plantation and mill were still in full operation, but the Filipino camp was quite broken-down already. I don't remember much about the chicken-fight. There were crowds of people and my grandmother took me around to show me off to her friends. For some reason I ended up getting a hair cut there in someone's living room.

I watched one chicken-fight: first the round of betting with much yelling and money held high in the air, then the chickens were let go. Being a "let-go man" is a special skill -and dangerous, as the roosters have knives tied onto the spurs of their legs, and they waste no time going after each other. There is also a "knife-man" who specializes in tying on the knives. Then there is the owner, anxious. He has bred or bought the rooster, fed it a special diet, groomed and massaged it to build up its muscles, trained it with sparring matches. The two roosters circle each other with ruffs open like angry lizards, then fly at each other clashing in mid-air. They peck and bite at each other, and slash with their bladed legs. It's over in minutes. One combatant is dead or nearly, the other is triumphant and deadly. Each chicken is collected by its owner. Money is redistributed. Another pair of roosters are matched.

More often than not a fight erupts between the humans as well, or some kind of drama. Everyone is jacked up on money and surrogate battle. Someone is caught stealing or cheating or not behaving the way they are supposed to be. There are threats, yelling, posturing. Perhaps it comes to blows. Usually not. Just blowing off adrenaline. It is a Sunday afternoon. A past-time that takes place in clearings in the forest or fields - it is illegal - but that doesn't stop anybody: some things are older than laws.

1 comment:

PuuhonuaRanch said...

Thanks for the memories. It seem like so long ago that we were all spending Summer and Christmas breaks with the cuzins at Grandma and Grandpa's house.