The bird you love to hate. Is this creature really necessary?
Some noises can be tolerated others drive you up a wall in a hurry. The sound of a catfight is nasty, but it’s usually over in five minutes. It’s the same with teenager’s drag racing up the road, or infants crying their lungs out next door. At least these erratic occurrences mainly happen sporadically, and definitely not every single night for years on end.
The wild roosters of Kauai, on the other hand, are a malady in an otherwise paradisiacal setting. These rats with feathers seem to delight in picking the worst times to boldly break the tropical calm with their shrill piercing voices. What are they crowing about? Is this the proud boast of a creature who has just been laid, or is about to be laid? This I could understand somewhat, but why blurt it out to the whole chickenhood? Don’t they have any sense of discreetness about themselves? Keep it too yourself for God’s sake, or all the other roosters will want in on the action. You don’t see us humans crowing out for the whole neighborhood to know we’ve just been laid do you?
Look, I know that a rooster is simply following its natural urges as God created it. Why he created it in the first place is a mystery all together. But when he crows why does it have to do it directly under my window, in the middle of a perfectly quiet night? Or when I’m trying to nap in the stifling heat of mid-day? Is that nice? No, that’s asking for trouble, natural urge or not.
Some animals are cute and they can get away with being a nuisance. Take the gecko, a perennial pain in the ass with it’s loud kissing sound, especially painful when you’re home alone, with no spouse. I think they emit that lip smacking kissing sound just to remind you that you are not getting kissed. Not only that, geckos shit on everything: lampshades, bedclothes, and curtains, even your head if you are unfortunate enough to be sitting under one when it’s evacuation time. I try to remove them as carefully as possible so as not to wind up with a twitching tail in my hand, but geckos are too cute to kill.
Conversely, roosters inspire the most vegetarian eating, kind-hearted thinking person into a purveyor of hate and death. Yes, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Friends, both male and female pushed to the edge of sanity nightly by these pests, until they had no recourse but to fight back. How do you fight back? Two ways. If you’re patient enough you can trap them in a have-a-heart trap. Once caught you can turn them lose in your favorite enemies backyard. Some people – who shall remain nameless – drown these banes of our existence by submerging the trap in a stream for a few minutes. No more loud intrusions in the middle of your favorite dream.
The other way to rid these defiant little blowhards is to shoot them. Yes I said shoot them. They are very difficult to shoot however. As they seem to possess an extra sensory perception in knowing when a gun is pointing at them. It’s uncanny but true.
Once they sense a gun drawing a bead on them they run, and they run pretty fast; they know how to run in an awkward manner so as to make themselves an impossible target. Nothing is sacred to these scoundrels. At any hour of their choosing they come, parading around with their harem. Emboldened by their absolute conviction that they can’t be killed, they goad you into vengeance. Without a gun you are reduced to yelling empty epithets at them, with nary a prospect of deliverance. You can chase them in hot pursuit but it will be to no avail because God actually provided them with wings. Just when you think you can brain them with your shoe, they fly up over the hedge, gone, safe for one more day of harassment.
The Hawaiian name for chicken is Moa. Yes and I’d like nothing moa than to mow one or two of them down, though roosters are – I hate to admit – handsome devils, with their beautiful colored feathers of crimson, peacock like iridescent greenish-blue, and several shades of brown.
I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was to let these bodacious birds lose on the idyllic lands of Kauai, but they should be given a good spanking. It was probably the same guy who released the mongoose on Oahu and the Big Island, thinking this brother to the weasel would kill the rats. He never bothered checking to see if the mongoose hunted at night or in the daylight hours. Turns out rats come out at night when the mongoose sleeps and visa versa. Great blunder.
Maybe these exasperating birds were brought to Kauai for chicken fighting – a local obsession. Who knows, it’s too late to speculate. All I know is that they’ve made a lot of unhappy people detest them. To set the record straight, I don’t hate the sweet little chicks, or even the hens so much; it’s those damn roosters, so cocky and abrasive. They strut right up to your bedroom window – knowingly, on purpose – and blast out their alarming wake up call, as if to taunt you, saying, “Ok you lazy humans, time to rise.” Once one of their number sounds off, it seems to signal all the other roosters in the neighborhood to join in the fun, until the whole area is one big dissonant torture chamber.
So it was my good fortune – or so I thought at the time – to be offered a job as chicken bounty hunter. That sounded like another great addition to all the other jobs with which I employ myself on Kauai, and would look great on my resume besides, so why not I thought. I could maybe get even with the bastards, plus I could add one more feather to my cap if all went well: a quiet night.
But to be honest I don’t love killing anything. Even murdering cockroaches – my next-to-least favorite insect – is something I abhor, but it’s got to be done. If you don’t they tend to take over. You should see me in action. Say I’m contentedly playing my guitar and spot a big fat disgusting roach scuttling across the bed. Throwing down my axe I charge full-bore at the offending bug, accidentally plowing down anything that happens to be in my way. You would think I was bonkers, chasing it as though it were a deadly enemy. It amazes me how fast and wily they are, as if knowing exactly where to hide so you can’t end their miserable life. But once on the hunt I’m not deterred until I catch my quarry. It frustrates me no end to have one get away. For the rest of the day I’m watchful, waiting for it to drop its guard so I can pounce on it once and for all. What can be worse than that skeevy feeling of a roach crawling across your face as you sleep?
I don’t really take pleasure in killing anything either. It goes against the teachings of the Buddha. And even though I’m not Buddhist, I can relate, and sometimes feel terrible for seconds afterwards, but a man has to do what he has to do. Centipedes however, really turn me cold. These slithering little speed demons with their howl-inducing stinging pincers seem to find you when you’re the most vulnerable – like when you’re lying in bed. This very thing happened to me at least three times. Innocently snoozing away, lost in some wild erotic encounter that can only happen in slumber, and just when she’s about to – “OUCH THAT HURTS!!” you cry out, still half-asleep. The pleasure of the dream replaced by throbbing pain.
Once stung I’m instantly mobilized into action. Reaching for the nearest chainsaw or knife, I go on a mad hunt for the multi-legged instigator of wrath; galvanized by pain and the overriding need for retribution. Tearing the whole bedroom apart if need be, I single-mindedly attempt to find it before it strikes again. And legend has it centipedes travel in pairs. Is it in the sheets? The mattress? Is it hiding under the bed, or under the rug? I can’t sleep again until I find it. If I’m lucky enough to root it out – and this is way more difficult than it seems – I hack away at it until there are sixteen separate pieces of the thing, all crawling off in different directions. No mercy to the nasty centipede that bites me in bed! I’ve heard stories of centipedes biting guys in the nuts while sleeping. Oh dear God please not me, I’ll be good I promise!
I don’t go outside to their favorite haunts – under dark and hard to reach places – to hunt them, outside is the centipede’s territory, inside is mine. I believe in the adage live and let live – if they leave me in peace, I’ll leave them in peace. In my travels, the centipede has the most evil visage of all the insects I’ve ever come across. The only good thing about roosters is that they love eating centipedes. But lassoing a wild rooster and dragging it into your house to kill the buggers doesn’t work so well, so the roosters can’t help me at all there.
My dear friend Henry owns a nice house in Kilauea, on some great acreage with spectacular mountain views. He likes to invite guests to use his place as a refuge every now and again. He spends most of his time on the mainland and occasionally comes to Kauai to relax. Henry called me with an odd proposition.
“Allan, the wild chickens in the yard are keeping my guests awake, and I’m due for a visit in a couple of weeks.”
I’m thinking, “Okay, what has that got to do with me?”
He goes on to say, “I’d like to hire you to get rid of them, I don’t care what it takes, I don’t care what it costs, I want you to do it!”
“Let me think about this Henry I’ll call you right back” I told him.
This was an unusual request and I had to think about the spiritual ramifications of a deed as dastardly as this. How would my karma be affected? Not only that, but I had to ask myself if I was cut out to do this kind of bloody work. It brought up a whole omelet of questions. What would people think of me should they find out I was a heartless killer of one of God’s harmless avian abominations? I eat eggs. I love teriyaki chicken, how can I resolve this bloodletting in my mind and conscience?
Well I thought about it for a nanosecond or so and determined that I could use a little money to pay some bills that were coming due, and I have no great love for these nasty creatures who are always playing fowl. I‘d also like to help out Henry since he has done me favors in the past as well. But I didn’t really want to do it, so I’d make Henry an offer that he would have to refuse, thereby letting me off the hook. I was trying to figure out how much money it would take for me to stain my incorruptible morals, and would I still be able to eat barbeque chicken afterwards? Also what kind of dollar figure would have the power to turn me into a cold-blooded killer? Somehow $100 per bird sounded about right. It had a nice ring to it. Also I’d want the best rooster-killing gun known to man to do the job. He’d never go for that.
I called the hunting store on Lihu’e and was told the best gun for the job was a German pellet rifle; one pump with a pointy pellet and you’re ready for action. It’s cost, a whopping $300. Henry wasn’t likely to go for that, now I could call him and hear him whine about the expense and his subsequent dropping of the whole bad idea. After phoning him and giving him the numbers, to my amazement he fired back,
“I’ll send you a check, get the gun, you’re hired.”
“Are you sure you want me to do this Henry?” I said, looking for a way to chicken out; a last reprieve. But he gave the affirmative and now I was stuck.
The gun salesman wore no show of surprise when I told him why I had purchased the gun. I gathered he had similar requests all the time. I had searched the phone book for a rooster remover, or dispatcher, but there weren’t any. I couldn’t understand why not. Some enterprising young man could be making a killing here on Kauai. But some out of date bleeding-heart liberal law probably protected the birds anyway. So the poor sleep deprived people of Kauai were forced to take matters into their own hands.
I thought I might as well look the part of a bounty hunter so I bought camouflage pants, shirt, and hat. If the job didn’t work out I could use the clothes for a Halloween outfit or something. Thus geared up I prepared to spend a couple of days at Henry’s. I arrived at three in the afternoon, the palm fronds swaying in the steady trades, the sun blazing over distant Makana Ridge.
It was a perfectly bucolic setting except for five or so families of roosters, hens, and chicks, all pecking rapturously at the ground, clucking and tweeting away. Boy my work was cut out for me. “Those roosters won’t even know what hit them”, I predicted.
Excited with the prospect of a successful hunt looming ahead I donned my duds and loaded the rifle. Stealthily, I went out on the porch and took aim at the nearest rooster, but as soon as my finger grazed the trigger the bird started dodging this way and that, wildly hopping and flying away – never allowing me a decent shot. “Okay”, I thought, “I’ll just have to go out in the yard and shoot from there.” But once again as soon as I raised the rifle the rooster in my sights began its crazy dance – bobbing and weaving, zigging and zagging right out of my range. Now I was beginning to realize this might be a little more difficult than I had imagined.
Next I tried hiding like a sniper would, were he given the task of silently blowing away his foe. Positioning myself in the house I laid down on the floor with my rifle pointing out the open screen door. I waited ever so patiently for a rooster to come into range. Finally after a ten minute snooze-fest I spotted one, “Here comes one of the bastards now, I’ll show it” Kablam! “Shit, I missed.” The thing scrambled ten feet to the left crowing at the top of his lungs, a warning to all his buddies. I was beginning to feel like Elmer Fudd with that dumb shotgun of his, never able to get a clean shot at Buggs. Guess I’d have to come up with a new strategy; I couldn’t let these not-so-dumb clucks get one over on me.
As sunset was soon approaching, I thought I’d try to follow a rooster to it’s hiding place, or nest, or whatever it is they call a roosters crib. Listening for a telltale sign I watched as the burning orange orb of the sun slipped off the horizon and aimed itself at Japan. Sure enough a couple of roosters had situated themselves in a nearby Christmasberry tree. But since the trees were only eight or so feet high it would be easy enough to get off a good clean shot. I could hear one cooing and flapping its wings, settling in for a few hours of precious sleep till it would rise and terrorize the neighborhood. “Not if I the avenger of peace can help it”, I swore.
Ever so quietly, moving one inch at a time I positioned myself as close as possible without giving myself away. Taking aim at the dark shape of its lair in the fading light, I pulled the trigger and fired. Thwap! The pellet found it’s mark and that cock flew straight up in the air making a terrible row – feeling perhaps the sky had fallen after-all. The wounded rooster took off clamoring toward the big mango tree with me in full pursuit, but the poor thing kept running around in circles like a, well, like a chicken with it’s head cut off, before disappearing into some low lying shrubs. I was pissed, thinking, “What a waste, how can I honestly collect the dang bounty without proof of a body?” Scrupulously I searched the battleground but his remains were nowhere to be found. Feeling terribly disappointed I figured I’d give it one more shot at dawn.
I rose before the roosters had a chance to leave their evening roosts, albeit they still had managed to shred any semblance of peace with their cacophonous calls every two or three hours.
Slowly and slyly I made my way to the offender’s sanctuary, the wet dew gathering between my toes, the sweet smell of plumeria intoxicating in the early morning air. As I patiently waited for one of the birds to reveal its location, one of those rare moments of clarity descended upon me. Seeing myself, as if from above, cowering there clothed in camo gear, I wondered what had become of me – a hired gun, a shallow guy who’d kill for a buck. What happened to the sensitive singer-songwriter of old? Where had my fall begun? Breaking my soul-searching reverie was an ear-shattering cock-a-doodle-do. Reminded of the grim task ahead I shook off any false guilt that might have been aroused and seized the edge I had been waiting for. In the dawns dim light I took aim and held my breath as I had seen on a gun T.V. documentary, and slowly but firmly pressed the trigger. “Phhitt.” The surprised rooster flew up and out of the tree leaving a trail of reddish-brown feathers in his wake. I felt both elated and dread. What if I had killed the stupid thing? Could I live with myself if I had? Could I live with myself if I hadn’t: a chicken making a fool of me yet again? I took off in search of it, following the telltale shrieks of shock, pain, and wounded pride.
I caught a brief glimpse of motion in the ditch separating Henry’s property from the neighbors, and hoped the good folks next door wouldn’t see me all dressed up in my hunting outfit with a high-powered pellet gun in hand. What would they think of Mr. Easygoing now? I didn’t want the whole block to know of my newfound profession. Some people would protest, and who knows, might even call the authorities. I didn’t need that to sully my already dubious reputation.
Again, I searched for the wounded bird expecting to find a bloody carcass still warm with my pellet imbedded in its black little heart. But it was fruitless. Did they have some secret dying place, or was it simply letting me think it was dead, only to return the next morning twice as boisterous – the return of the zombie chicken? I wouldn’t put it past those devious culprits.
Worn out more from the mental aspects of hunting than I could have ever imagined I gave up trying to kill roosters with a gun, and went for the more humane way of disposing them by borrowing a have-a-heart trap. This is a mesh-wire contraption in which you lure the bird with a delectable plate of birdseed. Once in the trap the unsuspecting chicken steps on a release mechanism, which lowers a gate over the entrance. He can squawk all he wants, there’s no way he’s getting out.
Showing up at Henry’s house once a day for a couple of weeks, I rid the land of almost all the abrasive little devils. Of course their cousins would come clucking back soon, and with a vengeance, but that wasn’t my problem. For now at least Henry would be grateful.
The best part was secretly bringing the captive chickens to my adversary Wank’s house, and letting them all loose one by one. So I got paid for removing the roosters, and I had the penultimate satisfaction of ruining my foe’s nights of perfect sleep, thus killing two birds with one stone!
To celebrate the successful venture I invited Chloe, my love interest at the time, to a marvelous garlic roasted chicken dinner at the Cock n Bull in Hanalei, and much later in the evening entertained her with my best rooster impersonation yet, crowing and all.