COCK-A-DOODLE-DO
The Natural Sounds of Tahiti
This story is printed as a tribu te to the
Chinese New Year of the Rooster, which
begins on February 9, 2005. 1 wrote it sever-
al years ago for the "Tahiti Sun Press"
when 1 lived in Tahiti, in the Commune of
Mahina, near Point Venus. 1 now live on the
lovely island of Moorea, with a yard full of
chickens and noisy roosters. Besides eating
the handouts 1 feed them twice a day, the
favorite pastime of these cocks is to awaken
me at the first crack of dawn, whenever 1
take an afternoon nap, and every hour on
the night of the full moon. J. Prince
Sometimes, when I don't feel like
going to the office, I just stay, home
and tell my boss that I am "getting
inspiration". Some people call that
playing hooky. Anyway, I get by with
it.
What I am really doing, however, is
just being quiet and listening.
Listening to the natural sounds of
Tahiti. When you live in a Tahitian
neighborhood, as I do, with no closed
doors or windows, then you can um
up the sounds as being those of chil-
dren's voices--crying, laughing,
singing or playing.
Or they are the sounds of the cooling
breezes as the tradewinds blow
through the weeping willow tree
beside my front terrace, the banana
leaves in the garden, or through the
sweetly fragrant white ginger flowers
just outside my bedroom window.
Sometimes it is the sound of the var-
ious radio stations of Tahiti, with each
neighboring house tuned into a differ-
ent program. The music of the latest
Tahitian recording mingles with the
vibrations of cap and disco songs,
commercials and news bulletins.
When all else is quiet, I can hear the
roar of the ocean as the waves crash
onto the protective coral reef or sweep
across the black sand beach at Point
Venus, a mile from my bouse.
The most obvious and most frequent
sound, however, is that of the cocks
crowing. This is a characteristic of
roosters that most visitors to Tahiti
cannot comprehend.
These birds roost outside my bouse in
the upper branches of the croton bush-
es. Although these hens and roosters
do not belong to me, they have chosen
my trees for their bedroom, and no one
cali deter their decision. Therefore, I
am serenaded almost every night
around midnight or later, when one of
the young cocks cries out his signal to
all the other roosters within hearing
range.
The other sentinels, in turn, relay the
message that all is weIl, and this good
news is carried along by an alert roos-
ter guard until everyone bas been
informed aIl the way to Point Venus.
Then the reply from the most distant
old cock retums and is carried back up
the road until the young cockerel that
began it all understands that he bas
made bis mark in the fowl world. Then
he and I can both get some sleep.
These very vocal birds do not confine
their communications to the dark
hours of the night, however. They are
on duty 24 hours daily, as they trail
around chasing the prettily feathered
hens that forage freely in everyone 's
gardens.
Just as most "city-bred" tourists find
the chickens and roosters of the islands
a constant source of amusement, so do
I find them not only amusing, but very
educational.
Soon after I moved into my house in
Mahina, all the neighbors' chickens
decided to join me, it seemed, as both
roosters and hens became frequent vis-
itors, then full-time occupants of my
property.
Two hens look up residence in an
empty trash can that I had lined with a
burlap sack. Although I cannot now
remember why I did that, 1 do remem-
ber that the hens found this to be a per-
fect place to make a nest. The two
chickens laid a total of 20 eggs and
they both sat on the eggs, one remain-
ing on guard duty while the other one
look a meal break.
When the chicks were bom, both
mother hens led them about, cluck-
clucking to show the little ones where
the choice morsels of food could be
found for immediate consumption.
After the neighborhood dogs and cats
had their share of the tender morsels,
the survivors numbered exactly one
chick. Both mother hens continued to
share the educational dulies of this
remaining off-spring.
Other hens that nested around my
house chose interesting places to lay
their eggs. One lady settled under my
lawnmower; another chose a bench
beside the bouse that was also covered
by a Bougainvillea bush, and yet
another not-so-wise ben tried to hatch
ber brood under the lily plants beside
my bouse. This didn 't offer any protec-
tion from the rain, and no protection
from the Tahitian children in the
neighborhood, who had delightful egg-
fights with this hen's hard labors. They
didn't even leave one egg intact to
allow her to pursue ber motherly
instincts.
The very proud cocks of Tahiti are
wonderfully colored. As they follow
the hens around, waiting for the
women to feed them, their multi-hued
feathers shine in the sunlight, revealing
as many colors as nature bas bestowed
upon the butterflies and fish.
The men and boys of Tahiti like to
make fighting cocks out of their regu-
lar domestic roosters. For this reason,
my garden has often become a refuge
for a few poor birds who tried to hide
from this mistreatment to their docile
natures.
For a long lime 1 was awakened every
Sunday morning by the sounds of
young Tahitian boys, who were run-
ning around my bouse, trying to catch
the family rooster in order to have him
compete with another neighborhood
cock. This could provide long hours of
entertainment and the exchange of
many francs, until one or both of the
unwilling birds had collapsed or died.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
And, oh, how he could crow! He sang to me nightly, from the depths of bis rooster soul. He boasted of the pleasures of bis youth, battles won and prizes gained. He broadcast the exciting tales of his whole
roosterhood up and down the street, aIl the way to Point Venus and back. And aIl the other cocks in the district of Mahina awoke from their night perches and took note of
this old battle-scarred rooster's tales of adventure. ln tum, to show their approval and admiration for this mighty veteran, the other roosters all crowed in unison, waking the entire district of humans, animals and fowls.
The nights are much calmer now. The occasional outcry of a young bird, trying to gain favor among his feathered friends, still gives an exulting crow once in a while. But my old friend's voice is no longer heard around here. Perhaps he has found his reward in bird heaven. Wherever he is these days, it's certainly not around my house, nor in the neighborhood.
It seems that my crippled rooster served no further purpose to his owners, whomever they were, after he could no longer enter-
tain them by fighting on Sunday aftemoons. So one day they made him the pièce de resistance for their Sunday dinner of "coq au vin"

One old veteran of this practice
attached hirnself to my household for a lime. This rooster's claw was aIl swollen and misshapen, due to his Sunday performances. As he could no longer chase the hens, he was left out of their feeding circle.
This clever old fellow soon learned
that food was distributed from my
front door each morning. So he made a habit of being first in line, ahead of the 18 cats I was feeding at the time. As his distorted foot would not allow him to tear his food apart, he had been a pretty hungry bird until he found my front door.
To show his appreciation for my
benevolence, this crippled cock began to roost in the croton bushes outside my bedroom window. This close proximity would definitely ensure him a hearty breakfast each morning. And, although his masculine prowess with the ladies of his ilk had ceased when bis chasing skills were impeded, this mighty cock still had his crowing voice.

From TAHITI BEACH PRESS
email: tahitibeachpres@mail.pf