Chicken Drop epiphany: Some things you only need to do once

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Thursday night's "World Famous Chicken Drop" at Wahoo Bar in downtown San Pedro. The drama builds as the chicken struts, pauses, struts some more. Pauses. Struts. And finally, poops!  Ideally on a number you have drawn.

Thursday night’s “World Famous Chicken Drop” at Wahoo Bar in downtown San Pedro. The drama builds as the chicken struts, pauses, struts some more. Pauses. Struts. And finally, poops! Ideally on a number you have drawn.

On Thursday,  I drove into town to do the one thing I have avoided successfully for 10 months: The World Famous Chicken Drop at the Wahoo Lounge.  Avoided, yes, but just the same, it gnawed at my curiosity.

“You need to do the Chicken Drop at least once,” said the collective voice of all San Pedro.

It is like the Poker Run and floating in tubes with a  bucket of cold beers at the Palapa Bar. These are the little mini-tattoos of Belize experience that you attach to secretive parts of your body — and show to others on a need-to-know basis.

“Yes, I’ve been to the Chicken Drop. Thanks for asking.”

How to explain the Chicken Drop?

Well, have you ever been to the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee? In the lobby is a very large fountain in which ducks float all day. Late in the afternoon — the special time of day we often call “happy hour” — mini-bars begin to pop up all over the lobby and people with a drink in one hand and a camera in the other begin to materialize as if from nowhere. At the appointed hour, a regally dressed hotel staffer appears and escorts the ducks out of the lobby and into an open elevator to the sound of a John Philip Sousa march that was written just for this occasion, decades ago.

And the crowd goes wild! Not really, but it can be fun if you have money in the game. If the Chicken Drop winner fails to materialize, or sober up long enough to collect winnings, the money goes to the local animal rescue shelter. Now that is a good thing.
And the crowd goes wild! Not really, but it can be fun if you have money in the game. If the Chicken Drop winner fails to materialize, or sober up long enough to collect winnings, the money goes to the local animal rescue shelter. Now that is a good thing.

That is Southern tradition, ya’ll.

The ducks go to the rooftop and a very nicely appointed cage for the night and the mini-bar tenders call for wheelbarrows to haul away the huge influx of gin-and-beer sodden cash from the daily ritual.

So, minus the Sousa march, that’s pretty much what the Chicken Drop is all about. There is a song written just for the Chicken Drop, and it was played often during the night.

The Chicken Drop happens every Thursday. Starting around 6 p.m., Wahoo’s elite Chicken Security team (I would wear one of those black T-shirts in a minute, for the sake of irony …) lays out the big board with its 100-square grid, each square a randomized number. When all bets are laid and numbers picked, Chicken Security brings out the first bird to the pulsing uptempo mad beats of DJ Barrington.

Rose and Caira (in white) patiently wait for the chicken to drop on one of their numbers. Didn't happen but a friend we recently met in Pook's Hill on the mainland did pick up $100 BZD, blus a little poop on the heel of her sandal.
Fans patiently wait for the chicken to drop on one of their numbers. Didn’t happen but a friend we recently met in Pook’s Hill on the mainland did pick up $100 BZD, blus a little poop on the heel of her sandal.

Some blissfully drunk tourist gets to prep the chicken — Jackson and Johnson were two of the birds. The lucky San Diegan, San Franciscan, Salt Lake Cityite, Houstonian or Bostonian whirls the bird gently (mostly) in circles, lifts it up and down a few times and then, with the help of Chicken Security, blows warm air up the chicken’s butt before dropping it on to the grid. And yes, “the Johnson” jokes flowed like Beliken beer.

I question the scientific underpinnings behind blowing into the chicken butt — but, I think it makes for good visuals and Barrington seems to like saying “chicken butt” a lot.

So, the vaguely disoriented chicken struts around the grid, pauses lifts one leg and vibrates its tail feathers until …. nothing. It moves on to another numbered square as the people with money in the game try to coax Johnson toward their own numbers. Sooner or later, last night it seemed mostly later, the chicken poops on a number and somebody walks away $100 BZD richer. That happens about five times a night. The finale is a $1000 BZD price for a $10 BZD buy-in.

That finale chicken hovered around the No. 7 square for so long I thought for sure Rose was about to pick up her second Grand Prize for the year. It didn’t. The poop and prize went to a local scuba diver, which made me happy. Locals seem to like to bet on the birds as much as tourists.

OK, Chicken Drop. Check. That’s done.

This bird's for you, Chicken Drop fans!
This bird’s for you, Chicken Drop fans!

 

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7 thoughts on “Chicken Drop epiphany: Some things you only need to do once

    Maureen Still said:
    December 19, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Yes, I’ve been to the Peabody and the chicken drop sounds like much more fun. I love the story about your stepdaughter. I can tell your a great dad!

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      December 19, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Thank you, Maureen. I stayed in the Peabody as Graceland was gearing up for the 10th anniversary of the death of Elvis. So was the big-hair rock band Motley Crue. They looked so weirded out, sitting in the lobby of the Peabody.

      Like

    Miranda said:
    December 19, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Yes, Bob. I have a son and two daughters, and it’s a very different kind of “worried” with the girls. At one point, for several years, I had 3 teenagers, and boy, that was fun! My “baby” is now 22, so I breath a little easier!

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      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      December 20, 2014 at 4:48 am

      When we lived back in the states my now-grown sons would call, and often e-mail, at random times just to say hello and talk a while. What an affirmation that is! I didn’t realize it as a goal at the time, but to have grownup children who still want to be in your life is a pretty good thing!

      Like

    David said:
    December 19, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Hello Bob: Great post! My wife and I have two girls (no boys) and I can say with certainty that you are not alone with your late night worries (v-e-r-y nice of Caira to thank you before retiring to her room). I love my daughters to no end, and your concern that night clearly indicates that you love Caira equally as much. Enjoy every moment, they only get better. Me, I’m now the grandfather of a 2-1/2 year old boy (not that I’m trying to accelerate your timeline or anything!), and what fun is he (from a grandparent’s perspective!). And yes, I have had the pleasure of witnessing the drops of a chicken at the infamous chicken drop (we visit Ambergris annually – hope to meet you some time)! Good luck with your procedure/cardiology visit in the New Year. Kind Regards, David. p.s. We have a favorite cab driver on the island – we keep his number with us, even when we are not there! He and other friendly souls on the island just strengthen our resolve to retire to Ambergris Caye some day.

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      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      December 20, 2014 at 4:40 am

      Thanks for a most-reassuring letter, David! Send me an e-mail next time you visit. I too have a grandson, about the same age. I sometimes imagine a day when he will be old enough to spend summers here with us running barefoot, hunting coconuts and swimming like a dolphin, much as my grandparents did for me (well, as carefree as you can get around Buffalo, N.Y.).
      Like you with your daughters, I have watched Caira grow into a mature and responsible young woman. One of my great joys this past year came when she asked me, as a former writer and editor, to review several of her term papers and make suggestions. That was like being asked for an autograph by a fan!
      Again, thanks for writing. Hang on to those goals!

      Like

    Lorenzo Gonzalez said:
    January 23, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    ” “Those are the ones you have to worry about,” offered a woman standing next to me. ” haha Great story Bob. I had a good laugh.

    Like

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