Our Village Monkey Died
There are coconut trees everywhere in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia. Every village has hundreds, if not
thousands of them growing in and around it and coconut features highly in Thai cuisine.
Our Village Monkey Died
Because of the climate, coconuts are in constant supply. I assume that when one coconut falls
off, another one takes its place, because you only see very young trees without nuts.
There are different varieties of coconut tree as there are of anything else: some trees are short (8-12 feet
tall), yet still bear nuts, while the more traditional tree are over 20 feet tall.
People don't usually wait for them to fall, because it's dangerous to have 3-4 pound coconuts dropping from 20
feet - they can easily kill. Therefore, people usually have them picked when they are judged to be ripe.
This creates a job for a coconut picker, as not many people are prepared to shinny 20 feet up a tree with no
branches, check on the ripeness of some coconuts and shinny down again.
There is a man in a village not far away, who has trained a monkey to do this job. I am told that many villages
have such a trained monkey, although our village does not.
Our village used the services of a small, wiry man of about 50, who had been doing the job since childhood. He
was our village monkey and was proud of it and the epithet. He did not find it derogatory to be called the village
monkey; on the contrary, he was happy to be called it.
Other people called him Dta or tortoise, because he was so strong and resilient. You can cut a tortoise out of
its shell, ill put its heart on your hand and it will still appear to be beating for a while.
I liked Dta. He is or was one of the few people who always said hello. I am not keen on people who blow hot and
cold - people who speak one day but not the next, because you don't know where you are with them.
You always knew where you were with Dta.
He would work any day of the week and was quite punctual by Thai standards. He wanted paying by the day or by
the hour immediately after work. He would not work after 4 pm, because that was when he went for a drink before his
He liked 'lao khao' - clear Thai 'whiskey'. He drank at least half a bottle a day.
Dta had fallen out of trees more often than he could remember - never drunk, but a little hung-over sometimes.
Stretching to test a coconut was the most dangerous time.
One of the last times I had seen him, he had fallen out of a tree again. He had internal injuries and 4-5 broken
ribs. He was wearing an aluminium straight jacket to hold him together, but he didn't like it.
He took it off after a few days because it was uncomfortable and hindered his climbing ability, so he went back
to work without it.
No-one is saying what he died of, but everyone knows that 'white whisky is very bad for you - inside'. I'll miss
Dta; he has many friends.
Copied with kind permission from An Exciting Future, the second book in this series.
by Owen Jones