Why Cockfighting Persists

From Salon, by Deb­o­rah Kennedy:

I was 6 years old when I saw my first cock­fight. It must have been a gray day, because even though I was very young, I remem­ber clear­ly the bright col­or of the roost­ers’ feath­ers – white, black and blood red, even before any dam­age was done – and of the coat I wore back then, pink faux fur that made me feel like a Bar­bie doll.

It hap­pened on a patch of dirt in front of a wood­en sta­ble where a man my broth­ers and I called “Uncle” Lar­ry kept chick­ens and a few hogs, includ­ing a mat­ed pair named Sam­son and Delilah. Lar­ry wasn’t actu­al­ly my uncle – just my dad’s best friend – and his place wasn’t a ful­ly func­tion­ing farm, just a small ranch house on sev­er­al acres of land on the out­skirts of Fort Wayne, Ind., but it might as well have been anoth­er plan­et to my broth­er and me. Our par­ents allowed us to keep a dog and an occa­sion­al fish or tur­tle. Larry’s sons and step­sons, on the oth­er hand, grew up wild, BB guns in their clos­ets, mud on their boots. A trip to Uncle Larry’s always meant adven­ture, and some­times, like the night my dad helped Lar­ry ring and cas­trate the pigs, blood.

On this night, two roost­ers were released onto a patch of dirt, and they went at each oth­er, feath­ers fly­ing. At one point both were air­borne, two beau­ti­ful roost­ers frozen, sus­pend­ed, their clawed feet poised to strike. I held onto my father’s pant leg and tried not to watch. It was beau­ti­ful and ter­ri­fy­ing the way thun­der­storms are.

And all those col­ors and sounds flood­ed back a few months ago when I read that Uncle Larry’s step­son had been arrest­ed for rais­ing fight­ing cocks in his back­yard. Author­i­ties seized 42 chick­ens from Bar­ry “Bo” Myers’ home, only about five miles from where I grew up. More.

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