I came across a story yesterday, “Cockfighting In Louisiana May Be Banned,” and was reminded of an event from many years ago that the SYM witnessed.
In the Philippines, cockfighting crosses all socio-economic lines and is as much a sport as a lifestyle, preceding the Spanish occupation which began in the year 1521. The special arenas or cockpits are always bustling on Saturday nights and some of the larger ones were even televised.
It was on an unremarkable Saturday night that one cockpit was transformed into a dust bowl of bedlam.
The SYM was hanging out with his motorcycle buddies at his friends house, as they were completing the build-up of the SYM’s new Honda 750. His friend Bob was a delightful guy and father of two. Bob had been a Harley Davidson mechanic in SoCal before joining the USAF and became a Medical Services Tech. Bob had even worked on the motorcycles for the cult classic television show, “Then Came Bronson.” With his bud’s, he was able to be himself and when you encountered him at home a simple handshake wasn’t allowed..no, you had to trade licks and he had quite a punch. When Bob and his bud’s were around his wife and children, the love he had for them was touching, as his rough demeanor transformed into the warmest man anyone could imagine. There was an unspoken understanding that when they were around his family, deference to his family was mandatory.
So it happened, that on this particular Saturday night, all of the men were working on their bikes, drinking beer, telling tall tales and enjoying each others company. At one point, they all agreed a break was needed, as it was hot and humid and one could feel the pressure building for a rain shower. Bob kept his house air conditioned for his family and he invited them all inside to cool off. They visited with his wife and children and then all settled down in the living room, as Bob started searching the few television channels to find something to watch. It was a weak schedule. Finally, Bob settled on the sabong(cockfights) as he thought it might be good for a few yuks.
The level of noise and frantic activity is difficult for most to follow, as the attendees have grown up with the sport. There are people constantly yelling, placing bets and in general, getting caught up in the nervous energy that is contained in the cockpit. When the handlers and their “fighters” enter the arena, the decibel level rises precipitously. It was at one of these moments, that things got wild. The combatants met in the middle of the pit with the referee and as is their custom, they began to arouse the fighting spirit of the birds by holding them close to each other. The cocks get quite angry and eager for the fight. One cock was particularly worked up and at the moment his handler was removing the cover from his blade, the tare, the bird went wild. He slashed his handler with his blade, in trying to get to the other cock. The referee rushed in to try and help gain control of the bird and got his throat cut and from the appearance of the blood flow, seemed to have hit the carotid artery. The referee went down. The cock was now unrestrained to go after the other bird and the other handler dropped his bird and fled the scene.
At this point, the SYM and his friends are totally engrossed in the proceedings, even though they were not real enthusiasts of the sport. They were looking at each other in disbelief, laughing, pointing and talking excitedly, wondering what was going to happen next.
As the out of control cock finished off his opponent, they noticed a Filipino Policeman cautiously approach the bird from behind, draw his WWII era Colt Government Model 1911, raise it above the bird, while pointing down and BOOM! The friends sat up in their seats in surprise and watched silently, as the dust cloud slowly receded. When the dust(and feathers) had settled, there was a quiet scene of mayhem. The 230grain .45ACP bullet had reaffirmed itself as a lethal round, as the out of control cock no longer existed, nor did his remains, other than some feathers and bits and pieces. The referee was still laying in his pool of blood and they were uncertain if he was still alive and the previously raucous crowd was silenced…for a few moments, then the screen went blank before another program was cut in.
The friends all gathered in the living room looked at each other, grabbed another beer and went back out to the garage, so their thoughts and reflections could not be heard by Bob’s family. None of them picked up a wrench the remainder of the evening and they slowly drifted off to their homes. With no increased desire to ever attend a sabong.
For the good folks in Louisiana that have grown up with cockfighting, I believe that if we are to claim we, as a society, respect different cultural heritages, then the same rule should apply to cockfighting. I don’t need to attend the fights, nor does anyone else, but for those that do and have strong cultural ties to the activity I say more power to them.
Just watch those tares!