Yeah, that’s right, while it was every household’s custom to raise chickens and ducks to some extent, the children of twenty five years ago had other more interesting things to do, at least in the area of fun. Catching a hen or rooster was only fun when the hen was stubborn and insisted in flying over the fence and across the neighbor’s yard. However, when today’s ten- year old’s might be interested in performing some computer skill or composing a poem, when we were ten years old, we were only interested in “ketching den maclalas”. I don’t know but every Belizean calls those lizards – Maclalas”. (Of course, in Spanish we called them lagartijas or little “lagartos” (small alligators).The best way to catch them was with a small lasso and this required patience. However some kids flung themselves like a hunting cat or tiger and grabbed them by hand. And what did children do with a maclala? We kept them in a small box, or paper bag or in our pockets. We did make sure we fed them with houseflies (concas), spiders, or similar small insects. When we felt that the poor reptile was getting weak, we released them onto a fence and gave them their liberty. And you might ask, what did children get out of this? It simply gave them something to do. Going fishing was fun too, but that was considered a routine chore.
Another fun thing children did twenty five years ago was fishing flying animals instead of swimming animals. I am talking about fishing for the frigates. Yes we knew it was considered illegal to fish these birds, but we could not resist the temptation of having a frigate on our fishing lines- sort of having a live kite. So we used bait without any fish hook. The frigate would swallow the fish or guts which we used as bait and be able to vomit it once it realized it was trapped to a line. This little pastime sometimes elicited the visit of the policeman to give the children a stern scolding, but the temptation to fly a living bird kite was irresistible. I can assure you … I never did it. To be honest with you, feeding the frigates was a lot of fun too. We used to fling the small unwanted fish in the air and the birds would rush down to catch them in the air. The lower we flung the fish, the closer they flew to have their meal. This one, I admit, I used to do a lot just for the excitement of having the frigates as close as possible.
Catching dragonflies was another fun activity. During their mating season, they would perch on the clothes line or on tall grasses. The fun was to silently sneak behind them and catch them between the thumb and index fingers. Then we attached a piece of thread to its tail and walked around the village showing off or dragonflies. When they looked weak or tired, we would release them in the air and gave them their freedom.
Occasionally we would go to the cayes on the west to shoot with slingshots birds like the spoonbill, cormorand, or at times migrating ducks. But as for the Maclalas, they were our number one targets of fun.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist