Wednesday, January 8, 2014

For Crowing Out Loud!

As a youngster growing up in northern Ontario, I don't ever remember visiting a farm or seeing live chickens.  I was taught that roosters said 'Cockadoodle-doo!'.  

Whenever I saw roosters on TV and in the movies, they always crowed at dawn. (They made a lot of Westerns in those days). I think I was in my 20's before I ever heard a rooster crow 'for real'. It happened while I was staying overnight with my parents in a campground that backed onto a farm. There was a rooster next door that crowed almost all night long. Very wierd. The next morning, my dad figured out that the road leading into the campground ran at a 90 degree angle to the farmer's fence, and every time a car drove in at night with its headlights on, the rooster thought the sun was rising!  

I learned fairly early on that roosters don't actually, say 'Cockadoodle-doo!' Mostly they sound like this....or this (<<<click on the word 'this'). (You mean to say my parents and teachers lied to me?) I suppose if you stretch your imagination it sort of sounds like 'Cockadoodle-doo', mostly because the crowing sound in these videos is broken up into a few short 'syllables' followed by one really long one.. More like 'Er-er-er-er-OOOOOOO'.

I can't say I ever gave it much thought, I just assumed roosters everywhere were all the same. That was before I came to Cambodia.

Our guesthouse is situated pretty well in the heart of the city, along a dusty road, just a few hundred feet off a main street.  Gordon and I have dubbed the short street we live on 'Backpacker's Row'. There are about 15 buildings on our street, and nearly every one is a guesthouse, mostly catering to backpackers and transient tourists with a limited budget. Amid the guesthouses are a couple of simple family homes, and at least one has a brood of chickens. I've managed to get a few pictures of most of the roosters, except for one elusive bird that is scrawny and white.

Most of them are quite colourful

This one ls pretty old and scruffy

A very handsome, well-fed rooster

In Cambodia, the idea that roosters just crow at dawn is a fallacy. They crow almost incessantly, day or night. Occasionally the crowing in our neighbourhood surges into a cacophony of dueling roosters trying to out-do one another. The noise has actually woken me up from a dead sleep. 

Laying awake in the pitch-black 'middle-of-the-night', the scientist in me sometimes takes over, and I get the uncontrollable urge to listen and observe. So far I've identified four different roosters in our neighbourhood. Each one has a very distinctive 'voice''. One has a very high pitched squeaky crow, and another  has  a very bold and throaty voice. Yet another sounds like he's suffering from strep throat, and a fourth sounds like he's a heavy smoker. Not only are the crows different in tone, pitch and volume, they also vary in the syllables, 'word' sounds, and length.

I've also noticed these roosters have a definite Cambodian accent. (I'm not joking!) In North America, when roosters crow, it's a five syllable call, with the emphasis distinctly on the last syllable ('Er-er-er-er-OOOOO'). In Cambodia when roosters crow, it's four syllables, with the emphasis unmistakably on the third syllable! From my room, the four crows I hear go something like this:

For the time being, I've taken to wearing earplugs to dull the noises that drift through our ill-fitting bedroom windows, so I can get some uninterrupted sleep. It's early days, and I know my brain will slowly adapt. In time, those disturbances will become expected background noise and eventually they will grow to become my nightly soothing lullaby. Odd how we can get used to things, isn't it? After four months of this, I have a funny feeling for the first week or so after I get back home, I'll be laying awake at night listening for roosters.

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