Who knew removing creatures from our earthly kingdom could be so much fun!
It’s a hair past five in the morning and I’m crouched behind a cinder block wall on my back patio waiting for a rooster to step out from the cover of our lychee tree. By Kauai standards it’s freezing, hovering somewhere in the low sixties, but I’m shirtless, being eaten alive by mosquitoes.
My shoe-less feet squelch in unidentified muck (I really need to clean up out here) and a pair of too-big shorts, hastily pulled from the clothes hamper in my mad dash to kill this fucking bird, are falling off my ass, revealing more succulent flesh on which the hovering skeeters can feast.
I’m hunkered down on the balls of my feet, calves starting to scream, barely able to make out the silhouette of the bird over the lip of the wall. The shadow hops to a branch above, seeking a higher vantage point from which to watch over its harem. It freezes, alert to the fact there’s a predator somewhere nearby. I slowly drop behind the wall and count to thirty. My six-month campaign to murder every crowing nuisance with the temerity to set foot on my property has done little to reduce the local rooster population. The sheer number of feral fowl means that killing one only serves to open new territory for landless adolescents to seize.
Perhaps my efforts only serve to cull the dumb. Maybe I’d be better off leaving a single rooster to establish a domain within my yard, patrolling its boundaries and driving off interlopers. Maybe I should just learn to live with a tiny dinosaur that spends its days screaming its ownership of my domain. Maybe.
I’d much rather sit in the cold and wait for it to turn, to present an opportunity at either the head or the area between its shoulder blades, to drop it in a single shot. Failing that I’ll hurl this .177 cal hollow point pellet at 1200 feet per second through the center of its body and leave it to die a slow death in the underbrush. Not exactly humane, but I’m far past such concerns. Dead is dead, and the local environment will break it down into its constituent parts before it has a chance to stink.
According to local lore the feral rooster population on Kauai is a result of Hurricane Iniki, which in 1992 tore through the Hawaiian archipelago doing nearly 2 billion dollars worth of damage. The majority of devastation was on Kauai, thousands left homeless and the entire island forced to live without electricity for months. The hurricane also freed countless roosters, bred for local cockfighting rings, into the verdant wilderness that comprises the majority of the land. They reproduced at an explosive rate and nowadays it’s impossible to set foot anywhere on the island without seeing a dozen of them running around, standing watch over their hens and chicks or fighting for dominance in a gas station parking lot.
With the exception of exceptionally courageous feral cats and the odd pig-hunting dog lost to eke out an existence in the hills until it’s killed by starvation and parasites, the birds have no predators. Further exacerbating the situation are soft-hearted fools who would seek to protect the birds, claiming that they add a quaint charm to the island. Which I suppose they do, if your only exposure comes during the three weeks a year you spend in your Hanalei vacation rental.
But those are the type of people who feed feral cats at a local park, the kind who ask, “Why don’t you just trap them?” as though tricking a large vicious bird into a cage somehow eliminates the need to wring its neck and drive its corpse to the dump.
I know that I have no real chance of victory, that every rooster I kill just allows another to thrive. I’m little more than a sanguinary Sisyphus, following Camus’s exhortation and reveling in my pointless task. The struggle itself must be enough to fill my heart.
So, slowly, I raise my head, peering through the scope of my rifle at a living being I’m about to remove from this earth for no other reason than that it has annoyed me. It shifts on its branch and in that moment I have my shot. I squeeze the trigger and put a piece of lead through its body.
It is not a clean kill. The rooster drops from the tree, squawking and thrashing in a hopeless effort to rid itself of the pain. The hens and chicks scatter. In its panic the rooster runs toward me, then turns and makes a crippled hopping effort to find the safety of cover. It drags a wing, dripping blood in the dirt. I have time to reload and take another shot. I’m rewarded with a burst of feathers. The rooster’s struggles slow. I fire once more from close range, an easy shot to the head.
I head back inside, wide awake, and crack a Pacifico before dawn. The corpse needs to be picked up, but still doesn’t mean dead, and I have no desire to have a spur slash me open. I drink the beer, letting the rooster bleed into the dirt. Garbage pickup is tomorrow so I can skip the drive to the dump.
The corpse gets double bagged and tossed in the trash.