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.