The rooster saga as reported last week did continue. At 9:00 am on Sunday I piled into the back of a pick up truck with five other people and two roosters. Four more people were already in the cabin. Our resident rooster (Rodney) was on his way to his first rooster fight and I had decided to join Chartchai, Prayat, and some of their friends for this big event. (see back issues: Rooster Fighting 21 May 2000 http://www.bangkokpost.net/kat/archives/210501a.html)
After driving for 45 minutes past some smelly farms and down bumpy roads, we arrived at a large and humble barn-like building in the middle of nowhere. The many parked trucks and motorcycles in the area were the only clues that something was going on. The surroundings looked like upcountry Thailand although we were in fact in Bangkok.
We all walked up a muddy wet path, paid a 20 baht (0.44 US Dollar) entrance fee, were handed a very small notebook and pen and stepped through the metal gates. The men I had come with ran off to set up their rooster camp while I stood and stared and was stared back at for a while. No wonder, I was one of a total of three women out of about 140 people. They had their very own roosters with them and I only had a backpack and frizzy blonde hair.
The building contained a snack court, a rooster supply stall (padded rooster carriers, rooster tape, vitamins, small ceramic stoves for heating water, elastic beak holders, string, needles and candles), and a series of boxing rings about the size of a large plastic children’s pool with padding on the sides and sad looking ‘Astroturf’ on the ground.
A rather large circular wooden stadium with bleachers was in the middle of the building. This is where the important fights would later take place. Each ring was assigned a number. There were five in total.
I learned that one round was 20 minutes with a 20-minute break between fights at the stadium I was at, although other rules state they should last for 15 minutes. There could be up to five rounds but most of the roosters I watched never fought more than two.
I decided to go find Rodney who turned out to be involved in the very serious occasion of being weighed in. A man picked up various roosters, used his hands as a scale and decided who would fight whom. Eventually a list of the pairs was written on a big whiteboard in front of the major ring. Everyone went to examine the board, scribbled in their books and money started exchanging hands.
Rodney was listed as #21 and Prayat’s rooster was #4. The tin roof on the building was already turning the place into a sauna and was less than aromatic. It was going to be a long day.
Each ‘team’ had already set up its own camp. Everyone had brought bamboo mats or chairs. Rooster cages sat next to their owners and were covered over until the birds needed to be disturbed. Everyone started boiling water on ceramic coal-fired stoves. Chatter mixed with cockle-doodle-doo filled the barn.
As the first fights began, a whirl of activity took place. Roosters were fed sticky rice, chicken broth, vitamins and vegetables. They were cuddled, bathed, given pep talks and eventually put back in their cages to rest. Before it was time to head to the ring, the entire procedure was repeated and their feet were wrapped with elastic bandages.
It turned out that Prayat’s rooster was to fight a rooster owned by an eccentric showoff named Heavy. He even had his name written on his mohawked head in fluorescent colours (spelled ‘Haevy.’) Several large wooden phallic symbols hung from his belt and he reveled in a shocking sense of fashion. He was a jester and he particularly enjoyed jesting me.
The roosters were brought in, held apart by the referee for a second, and then they were off. A crowd of about 45 people roared, hooted and hollered. Prayat’s rooster did very well indeed and sent Heavy’s rooster running away in the first five minutes of the second round.
It was a very good-natured crowd, but the day was still young. The roosters were relatively unharmed and went back to their camps to be tended to. I would have had the false impression that rooster fighting is a relatively cheerful and harmless event if I had not stuck around for the rest of the day. I was outside trying to find cooler air when a less vibrant Heavy and rooster exited the building. He had lost 10,000 baht.
I had four hours to go before Rodney would take the ring, leaving me with plenty of time for observation and contemplation and leaving the crowd the opportunity to do the same with me. Find out what happens when Rodney takes the ring next week.