Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cockfighting (#190)

I was listening to a talk show on the car radio the other day which is something I used to do a lot of, but don’t anymore. As the show went along, I remembered why and will tell you.

It’s because I used to get a lot of ideas from those shows and they’d nag at me until I wrote about them. Some of them turned into columns.

But as many of you know, and most can well imagine, writing is darn hard work. It’s not enough to get ideas by plucking them from the ether or pilfering them from talk shows.

Oh no.

You have to think of words to describe those ideas.

And that ain’t all.

Oh no.

Unless you want a readership snorting in derision, instead of guffawing at well-chosen bon mots, you have to spell those words correctly and use them grammatically. Which, u know, requires, like, thought.

And if you’re doing an emailed column AND duplicating it as a blog post - well - pity da fool. That means formatting each of them differently...and...as fellow techno-dweebs (aren’t you all?) I’m sure you can feel my pain.

So talk radio was out. Too darn much work. Now my car radio’s presets are mostly rock n’ roll on the FM band. And I like it. But sometimes all six stations are either playing a song I hate or in commercials. So I’ll check out my AM dial.

Which is where the talk shows lurk.

So (he typed, after what must be a near record-length preamble) the other day I hated four of the six FM presets and the other two were in commercials, so I punched in AM and got a talk show.

The topic was about 70 people who were arrested in Ontario because they were involved in a cockfighting ring. That’s Ontario, Canada. The Great White North. It’s a long way to Santo Domingo from here. Who knew we had cockfights? Between dueling, beer-addled, Saturday-at-closing-time Lotharios, sure -- but birds?

(For those very few of you who may not know what’s involved in this “sport,” two roosters equipped with razor-edged attachments to their feet, slash each other to ribbons and onlookers bet on which will kill the other. It’s extremely popular in many Central American, South American and Asian countries and, apparently, at least one pocket of Ontario.)

Anyway, the hosts opined, as hosts do. In this case, the hosts were Paul and Carol Mott of CFRB in Toronto. Paul usually wears the black hat of the bad-guy Conservative (kinda like Stephen Colbert is a Fox-worshiping Republican) and Carol is the white-hatted, left-leaning (but nearly-sensible) counterweight. They have a nice, easy rapport and their show must be quite popular because they’ve been doing it in the same time slot for several years.

Most folks called in to express their abhorrence and dismay at the thought of those who took pleasure in watching cocks kill each other, which echoed the thoughts of the hosts who, on this topic at least, were of one mind.

But a couple of callers said, “Who really cares about chickens? If we did, we wouldn’t stack them in crates for long drives in overheated trucks to be killed and eaten.”

Another tried to compare cockfighting with boxing and ultimate fighting but the hosts quickly, and correctly, shot that down by saying people who fought in those contests exercised their free will in deciding to do so - roosters had no such privilege.

And I got to thinking about bullfights and cockfights and dog fights and what’s common in some countries and illegal in others. I thought other things too. Like if I had my druthers I’d only eat free-range chickens, fresh fish and other game caught and killed humanely.

I have no problem with folks who put their distaste for killing animals into a life of vegetarianism. I respect and admire them. I just don’t follow that same path. I believe we were meant to be omnivorous but I also believe we must respect life. Any animal destined to serve us, whether as livestock, food, or companion, is worthy of respect in life and in the manner of its death.

One caller wanted to know if the hosts would be appalled if two cockroaches were put in a tiny arena and fought to the death. If I recall correctly, they said they wouldn’t like that either but it wasn’t as yuckifying as the birds.

And I realized that everybody has a line, a sort of “do not care” line where stuff can happen and not occasion a shrug. Offenses deemed to have crossed that line might warrant anything from a “tsk” to apoplexy.

I’m glad that cockfighting is illegal in Canada and that those people got arrested.

I’m pretty much okay with the cockroaches going at it, though.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More Walking With Benny (#189)

What follows are three excerpts from my Walking With Benny journal written last winter.

At the time I wrote the following passages, I was feeding bread to ice-bound ducks. I subsequently learned this can do more harm than good - even though I only bought the good stuff - multi-grain. The last excerpt was written the day I stopped.


The temperatures are yoyo-ing again. It’s 5C this morning and the several inches of snow of four days ago is now four inches of slush. Walking is a messy, tiring, wet affair and I just might take a pass on this evening’s venture.

Hilary is coming tomorrow and we were hoping to explore a new (to us) conservation area a few miles from here. The trail there is rated “difficult.” I was hoping to try it when the footing didn’t change the rating to “here comes another heart attack.”

The weather people are calling for a slightly cooler temperatures the next couple of days. We’ll see what Thursday brings.

Today brought hungry ducks, about three dozen of them - the number I’d considered normal for most of this winter. Squirrels abounded and there was lots of small bird activity as well. But to tell the truth, I was focused more on getting one more step closer to home.

Speaking of those steps - no - I’d best back up a little bit first.

As anyone familiar with Jack Russell terriers can attest, they have issues. They’re wound a wee bit tighter than most dogs and will “go off” now and then. Usually the going-off simply involves tearing around the house at supersonic speed, bouncing off the furniture all the while furiously mouthing some fuzzy toy or luckless article of clothing.

But sometimes it involves unusual behaviour.

Ben must bite shoveled snow. Every shovelful. When not actively biting the snow as it leaves the shovel, he is actively biting the shovel itself.

He is no longer allowed outside if anyone in the neighbourhood is shoveling snow.

Ben is also distressed by waves. Waves such as one might find at a lake. Ben has to bite each wave as it rolls into his territory. Each and every one.

For hours.

Anyway, so today, a few minutes into our walk, I noticed that Ben was not on point and had not been for the last couple of minutes. The leash was slack and pointed slightly behind me. I peeked and understood immediately.

Each of the steps I was taking with my big, clodhopper winter boots was causing a slight splash in the slush.

Kind of like a wave. Or maybe like a wee shovelful of slush.

Benny was busy biting my wake. And we still had a long way to go. He’d be peeing for a week. (Excessive peeing is the price one pays for eating snow and waves.)

So, periodically, I’d stop. This served two purposes. I could rest briefly (and I needed a few of those this morning) and Ben would get bored with the lack of wave action, start sniffing, and inevitably find something to distract him for a bit.

Nice how things work out sometimes isn’t it?


While at Hilary’s yesterday morning, as we chatted over morning tea, (okay, she chatted - I smiled, nodded and made occasional noises) I noted that the birds seemed especially nervous. Normally, the sparrows didn’t react to every movement we made behind glass doors but this morning they were.

A few minutes later we understood why. Something drew our attention to the rearmost part of her yard. A hawk was standing on the snow, with something grasped in its talons. Hilary grabbed the binoculars and said it was a sparrow. She could see the poor, doomed creature’s beak moving. I said the little bird would be in shock and likely felt no pain. As she went to get her camera and I reached for the binoculars, the hawk left with its prey. I wished the sparrow a swift end as both disappeared.

After consulting the bird book, we tentatively identified the hawk as a Northern Harrier.

We were both, I think, appreciative of being witness to this drama and somewhat guilty in that it was our feeder that kept the sparrows nearby. A further reminder that there’s a consequence to every action and results aren’t always as intended.


On the way back, as Ben and I passed the pond, the ducks began to clamber upon the ice and waddle their way towards us - hopeful intent obvious in every stoic step.

I muttered and thought “No-no. Go back.” and waved them away with my free hand. Even more of them began to climb out of the water to join the waddle brigade.

“Dumb birds!” I thought and picked up my pace towards the cedars and out of their sight.

Then, with sudden clarity, I saw myself as the ducks saw me.

“Thunderfoot wave wing make food fly.”

Okay, I may have the syntax wrong but the meaning is clear. The arm motion of shooing them back looked the same to them as the one I make when throwing food.

Dumb human.