During my pre-teen days, I used to accompany my late Granny on her bi-monthly trips from Butterworth to a small town called Padang Serai in Kedah, to visit her eldest daughter. We would wait at the bus stop nearby for the red-and-yellow liveried Central Province Wellesley bus to take us on the 90-minute journey.
On each visit, Granny would pack at least one chicken (sometimes a duck as well) from her own hand-raised “broods” in our backyard, for my Big Aunty and her family.
Usually, the chicken was quite cooperative (legs tied, no doubt), but the ducky fellow could be quite an embarrassing nuisance with its non-stop quacking all the way. Well, in those days, no one in the bus complained or made a hoo-hah. It was an accepted way of life. (In these days of smartphones, the saga would have gone viral).
Looking back, the gecko (aka ‘lizard’/ ‘cicak’) might have been the strategy guru of modern-day also-ran “experts” who go around touting their “Win-Win” business plans.
During my kampong days (1950s~70s), lizards thrived and roamed freely in the house – on the walls, upside down on ceilings, and occasionally scurrying across the floor. We normally observed a peaceful co-existence pact with them. However, sometimes accidental skirmishes did occur.
Those little fellows usually made a quick escape, after leaving behind their twitching appendages to bewitch their “aggressors”.
As kids, we were very fascinated by those meaty tails abandoned by their ex-owners, as they wriggled for quite a while. “How was that possible ?”
Of course, those hardy cicak which ran away like heroes, would gain new tails within days, and return to their favourite foraging haunts.
Today, I will reveal a secret to all – it may upset some, though.
In my kampong days, we kept a couple of cats, Tom and Tabby. Before we knew it, they produced 3 kittens, and then another 3…and soon our house and compound began to look like a mini Safari park. The young ones were very cute and playful.
But then the home stank…with all the cat-a-poo and cat-a-pee, and the situation was near catastrophe.
So we decided to put half of the tribe into a bag and took it to a far-off place, about a mile away and let the deportees out. Problem solved – so we thought.
Meow! About a week later, all 4 of them showed up at the house …. Amazing. How did they do it? Folklore said the felines could smell their way back!!
Please fasten your seat belts and get ready to puke !
Mice and rats are prolific breeders and have since time immemorial been the bane of human kind. They compete voraciously with us for food and also they spread many diseases.
So how to beat them ? My dad told me that in his youth days, people used to hunt for freshly-born baby rodents (less than a day old or so) and then eat them alive, just like that, or else dipped in a sauce or wrapped with a large banana split.
Folklore maintained that those pinkish, hairless and blind newborns “were effective for treatment of asthma and a good general tonic for the human body”.
I learned that in China, this practice of “pest control” is still popular. Anyone else game for this squeaky “delight”?
Decades ago, it was a tradition among the Chinese to engage in fowl play as part of the wedding ceremony for a newly-married couple.
After the formalities were done at the groom’s place, the wedding party would go to the bride’s home for the rituals at the maternal side. Accompanying their return to their matrimonial home would be a rooster and a hen, which would then be released under the newly-weds’ nuptial bed. If the rooster emerged first, that “augured” the first-born child would be a son, if the hen came out first, then a daughter.
In Chinese these are called 带路鸡 (or ‘chua lor kay’ in Penang Hokkien)
These days I believe most couples would chicken out at the prospect of having two live specimens foul up their love nest; don’t worry there are lots of mock ones available.
This wire-mesh cage was one of the two fabled weapons used for snaring those sneaky pests in my old kampong house.
Fatal Attraction by the bait lured the victim into the cage, to tug at its last meal, thereby triggering the spring-loaded door. The trapped rat would later be executed via drowning — with the whole cage submerged under water.
I have not seen this kind of trap for almost 4 decades now. Not that rats have disappeared; in fact even in my ‘squeaky clean’ adopted country, a resurgence in their numbers is seen in recent years. Perhaps rodents have also become more promiscuous these days, in line with the New Morality.
But in Singapore, one has a new weapon, ie., Facebook. One post is enough to send politicians scurrying for dear life. Oops, smell a rat ?
That seemed like ages ago, in the earlier years of my childhood in the kampong. When was the last time you saw a cat stalking and catching a rat or a mouse ?
We had one lean & mean Tommy boy, living on fresh rodent sashimi three meals a day. Alas, one day he went out and never returned.
The later replacements did not seem to be interested in hunting rats, mice or birds or anything that was alive. They were contented to purr and brush their tails against our legs, waiting for some nice fried fish or meat or papayas (yes, papayas). Otherwise, they would do day-long siesta on the sofa with four legs facing the ceiling.
Had they made peace ? Or eating rats wasn’t feline chic anymore ? Let us see if we can get an explanation in Lee Ang’s next blockbuster.