Rodney Takes The Ring

November 5, 2001

Last week’s edition continues (See back issues: 29 Oct and finds the author sitting and sweating in the bleachers going through the mass confusion and discomfort of having survived almost five hours at a rooster fight.

A woman near the restroom was crying because her rooster got the stuffing kicked out of it. The smell of blood was filling the air. I watched a ten-year old boy with the eyes of a 50-year-old fight his rooster. Other bored children were taking drinking straws from the vending counter and weaving them together. A referee fell asleep in the ring. The spectator in the front row directly behind him followed suit. The metal gates at the entrance were locked (to keep people from running away from their debts, I suppose.)

Most other faces showed joy, anger, frustration, delight, devastation and concentration to the highest extent I have ever seen. By late afternoon there were at least 300 people in051101k1.jpg attendance. A few of them were obviously very wealthy but the rest were the truck drivers, the rice farmers and the manual labourers of Thailand. Most of the men were covered with tattoos and looked rough and tumble. Probably not able to take a nice vacation up country or even afford the gas to do so. This was their version of cheap fun after a hard week of work.

As the day got longer, losses got higher, and beer and whisky bottles started opening. Tempers flared, money changed hands at a faster rate and a tense energy filled the barn. This was not smiling Thailand. This was business.

I watched the roosters being nursed at their camps. They were given an herbal steam bath with lemongrass to open their airways and improve circulation (the only nice smell generated the entire day.) If their heads were bleeding (what is about to be said is really gross, be warned), the rooster doctor of the camp would stick the rooster’s head in his mouth and suck the blood out of051101k2.jpg it before sewing up wound. Feathers were reattached for increased protection using candle wax and fancy sewing methods. The roosters remained incredibly calm through all of this. Eventually names were called over the load speaker and the birds went off to fight again.

I tried to figure out rooster scoring methods but could not. I later learned that if a rooster runs away three times, refuses to keep fighting, bleeds continuously, has a broken bone, or loses sight in an eye, he is declared the loser. There also seemed to be points given for kicks that were well delivered.

My head started to swirl and feel like a Salvador Dali painting involving fighting roosters. The morals and merits of rooster fighting blurred. In addition to the chaos erupting around me, so was my brain.

Questions: Whom should I condemn or sympathize with? The people? The roosters? Myself for being there? The gambling? Thoughts: Rooster fighting is a long tradition. Roosters have a051101k3.jpg better life in Thailand than most dogs. They are investments and pets. Chart Chai is one of the nicest most sensitive guys I know. And here he was, getting ready to fight his beloved bird. And I, the person that breaks into tears at live animal markets, had come with him.

At last, Rodney, Chart Chai’s bird, was called to the ring. Assuming that I was rich, that Rodney belonged to me, and that I must have a really expensive fighting machine, Rodney got to fight in the big stadium. I guess Rodney considered this an honour, it being his first fight and all.

Amazingly Rodney lasted two solid rounds but it was obvious that he was going to lose. Watching Rodney get his butt kicked was a dramatic experience. Unlike the first match with Heavy’s rooster that was fast and not gory, this fight got very ugly and bloody. The roosters perpetually attacked each others heads, eyes, wings, and kicked each other in the head every chance they got. They both were stubborn. I was wishing Rodney would smarten up and run away.

The third round started and Chart Chai decided just to call it off rather than have Rodney get severely pummeled, which was an excellent idea as I was thinking of stepping in the ring to rescue him anyways (which would have been a bad move, I am sure.) I am just glad that Rodney (and I) made it through the day.

Rooster fights are strange events, but human nature is even more so. I watched the battles with a mixture of fascination and horror. Most people slow down at traffic accidents hoping to catch a glimpse of something grotesque. Reporting on the ‘pristine beaches of Pattaya’ would certainly have been easier than trying to explain this event, but I am glad I went even though it made my head spin.

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