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Rooster Love

April 25, 2017

Some say it was love. Others insist it was cruelty. Quite possibly it was both. As most of us learn at some point in our amorous pursuits: Love can be cruel.

On one thing we can surely agree: The rooster was obsessed with my friend, Laurie.

On the island of Taboga, in the Bay of Panama, there lived a rooster whom we will call Don Gallo for the purposes of this story. Don Gallo lived at the top of the path, which led from Laurie’s seaside house and along which she had to walk to get anywhere on the island. Most days Don Gallo would be waiting for her as she came up the path. When she appeared, he followed closely at her heels, sometimes for her entire walk into the pueblo.

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The path from Laurie’s house…

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Further up the path, Don Gallo would be waiting …

Don Gallo’s manner of showing his love may be confusing to some. But recall for a moment the antics of the school yard when boys chased girls and then pinched them until they cried. We may not have recognized it as such at the time, but they knew it and we knew it. It was love.

You could see the same fervor in Don Gallo’s eyes as those school girls once saw in their boyish pursuers. His determination, his focus were the same.

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The eyes say it all…

Raised from chick-hood by Laurie’s seven-year old neighbor, Leo, and trained as a fighting cock, Don Gallo was adept at leaping up in the air and, talons extended, coming back down to strike his target. (Or embrace his love…)

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Cock fighting school

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Eager students – boy and rooster

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Maximo and his prize roosters

~ Now before you get all judgey about the cock-fighting thing, remember that this is cultural and a source of great pride to the people of Taboga, especially the owners of the cocks. Maximo, pictured above, passes his days trimming feathers and training his birds to be champion fighters. When not working with his roosters, he rests in his hammock, transistor radio blaring Latin music. I asked him once if they fight to the death. His response? “¿Huh?” Followed by a strong, “¡No!” He loves his roosters….

But not in the same way that Don Gallo loved Laurie…

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Don Gallo strolling the neighborhood. “Yoo hoo, Laurie, where are you?”

Laurie remained steadfast in her denial of Don Gallo’s love. “It wasn’t just me!” she protested. “He terrorized the neighborhood. He was violent! He followed everyone!” Admittedly, he did. He once followed Flor, another neighbor, all the way to her front door. And it was not uncommon to see children battering Don Gallo with couch cushions when he tried to enter their homes. But please, finish the story and draw your own conclusions.

Laurie began carrying a stick to defend herself from his advances because Don Gallo, on occasion, would take liberties and peck the back of her legs. In his defense, roosters don’t have lips, so perhaps those painful jabs were, in his lovesick mind, amorous kisses.

One day, Don Gallo could no longer contain himself. As Laurie passed, rebuffing him once again, he puffed up to full height, leapt in the air and, with talons out in front as he had been taught, gouged the back of Laurie’s left calf. One might presume he was attempting to hug her but, given his anatomy and training, this was the best he could do.

Laurie screamed. “¡Afuera, Afuera!” and the neighbors came running. Upon seeing the blood running down Laurie’s leg, one neighbor insisted, “You must go to clinic.” Laurie, clearly in shock, said that she was fine and continued on to the pueblo, dabbing the back of her leg with a tissue and secretly cursing Don Gallo.

Laurie’s fondness for the people of Taboga, among whom she has lived for a dozen years, is deep and abiding. Going to or coming from her house each day, she passes through the neighborhood of closely built homes, many of which share walls. The islanders have welcomed her and she has become part of the community. But this rooster was walking a thin line in her book.

Once Laurie’s head cleared and she realized the bleeding had not let up, she decided that a visit to the doctora was not a bad idea. Roosters typically do not clean their talons before striking so it was probably not the most sanitary of wounds.

At the clinic, the doctor cleaned and bandaged the wound and gave her a tetanus shot. Little Leo’s mother, Katia, was next door to the clinic and heard what had happened (word travels quickly on a small island). When Laurie emerged from the doctor’s office, Katia was there. “I am paying for this,” she insisted despite Laurie’s protestations. “It’s Leo’s mascota (pet) and we are responsible.”

♥This is the heart part of the story. ♥

No one on Taboga is sitting on a pile of money so to offer to pay for a doctor visit is not only honorable but generous. It doesn’t matter the cost. In this case, the total bill for the consultation, cleaning, bandaging and tetanus shot was: $1.50.

Leo’s family vowed to avoid another crime of passion.  They imprisoned Don Gallo in a box where they planned to feed and fatten him up for sancocho, a Panamanian specialty soup featuring chicken. Or – in this case – rooster.

Laurie worries about Leo losing his pet. But Leo understands and will likely enjoy the sancoho along with his family. People don’t feel the same way about their pets as we do in the north. And, why waste a perfectly good rooster when they can make a meal out of him?

Even so, Laurie plans to buy Leo a pio pio – a baby chick – when Don Gallo meets his maker. Or the soup pot.

So ends the story of Laurie and Don Gallo. Roll credits and enjoy the music!

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4 Comments
  1. Cynthia Mariah Rose permalink

    What a story!!… love the music too!

  2. Aileen Personal permalink

    Great story! I love the song!!! 💕

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. Cathy Morrell permalink

    Delightful! So well told 🐓❤️

  4. Marianne Panke permalink

    You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back. ~ Anonymous….aka Don Gallo

    Thanks for the great story!!

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