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Deterioration of a Gentleman’s Sport: The Criminalization of Cockfighting.

Posted by gamecocksunlimited on May 18, 2012

By James A. Holt

The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not o­nly turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!

If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens to it.

– Frederic Bastiat


As often occurs in life, a rather serendipitous event initiated a life-long devotion. It was November 21, 1989–a cold and clear day and many miles from the State Capital, in the deep remoteness of Van Buren County, when my interest in criminal and constitutional law and history first ignited.

I had been laid off from work at a custom cabinet shop and was consequently enjoying leisure o­n this day. A restlessness had set in and the monotonous dreary drone of the television had grown intolerable. So, that afternoon I had walked over to a longtime friend and neighbor’s home for conversation and to share a couple of ice-cold brews. He happened to have another visitor by the name of David Freeman who had a gray-colored game rooster with him (he had been transporting the bird in his pick-up) and the discussion quickly turned to cockfighting. The competitive nature of men soon overcame us. I also happened to own a half-game rooster of unknown lineage, which ran loose in the woods beside my place. David and I eventually managed to get the roosters in close proximity to o­ne another and staged a naked-heel fight between the two birds.

The struggle of this fight without sharpened steel whetted my appetite for more and better action. Freeman had been fighting gamecocks o­n and off for ten years and I incessantly asked him questions about the hobby and business. He mentioned that if I wanted to learn more that he was going to visit a friend who owned several roosters and invited me to come along and take a tour of the chicken yard. Thus, I set off o­n o­ne of many intriguing rural adventures.

We loaded up and I rode “shotgun” in Freeman’s battered multi-colored Ford pick-up of questionable ancestry. The door windows rattled and clanked continuously during the journey.

The battle-weary gray rooster perched in the middle of the seat and he never uttered a sound. When the truck rolled to a stop in the driveway of our destination I could glimpse through the cracked and dusty windshield and identify about twenty roosters, all o­n tie-cords, and in two parallel rows of “tee-pees.” After lighting a cigarette and a brief struggle with the malfunctioning passenger-side latch the door creaked open and I stepped o­nto the graveled drive and into the brisk coolness of the late evening air. Emphatic crows rang out musically breaking the usually tranquil stillness of the countryside. As we stepped toward the roosters they cackled–alert and in constant motion–snapping their heads quickly in the direction of any movement or sound. Some flew up o­nto their tee-pees popping their wings with arrogant zest. The sounds were like .22 rifles being fired in rapid succession. Others proceeded to chase some of the loose running hens as far as their tie-cord would reach. Glossy feathers of brownish-red and black shined radiantly in the beams of light, that passed through the tall pines from the descending sun. The cocks were full of activity and life. The chicken yard was a wonderful and intense place to experience. It was indeed evident, that gamefowl were about the elementals – life, death, power, and sex.

Freeman put o­n a demonstration for me as he led the tour. He held between his hands the gray rooster we had fought earlier and with both arms raised over his head, positioned his body so that a rooster o­n a tie-cord could see the rooster in his hands. He stood within the tie-corded roosters fighting range. When the rooster o­n the tie-cord focused o­n his enemy held from above he would launch into flight to six feet in height and try his best in a fury of snapping wings and pumping legs to shake the hand-held rooster to death.

This was an impressive display of athleticism and aggression. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was a manifestation of the rural lifestyle at its finest. Neither a football nor a basketball game nor any other “legitimate” sport could compare to this. The birds had an intangible and indescribable yet real and sparkling fire in their deep liquid mahogany eyes. I believed beyond a reasonable doubt that these beautiful high-performance creatures were born and designed for fighting. They reminded me of thoroughbred horses and of the sheer greatness of Secretariat who was born to run. I was also a firm and practicing believer in the bearing, selling, and trading of personal arms. I traded a blued Rossi .38 Special revolver with a two and o­ne-half inch barrel for o­ne of those roosters along with a hen and two pullets o­n that evening. I felt very proud to be a new owner of gamefowl. During the ride home a burning desire sparked in me to learn all about cockfighting, which would stimulate the need to understand criminal and constitutional law.

March 4, 1990, began pleasantly enough. As was my habit, I started the day by brewing a fresh pot of coffee and listened to my roosters crowing in the backyard. The crows were sublime music to my ears and I could identify each individual rooster by his timbre. As I sipped the first steaming cupful, butterflies (comparable to those a young man can get before his first date with a pretty girl) fluttered inside me. I was going to get to see roosters clash with the steel strapped o­n!

Earlier in the week I had made arrangements, (with new friends in the cockfighting community) to attend a derby in Bledsoe County. I did not know the exact location and met them at a rendezvous point and rode the rest of the way with them. I remember distinctly that I asked them if they thought there was any chance of a raid. Both said it was unlikely–there had not been a raid in Bledsoe County in years – if ever.

When we arrived men were unloading roosters from their vehicles and conversing with o­ne another with small talk and o­n the upcoming fights. The atmosphere was not unlike a family reunion. But, it would not be long until the blacksheep of the family crashed the festivities.

I heard someone yell “Raid!” and within seconds heard what sounded like a gunshot and to my right a young man wearing a baseball cap burst through the doorway with a slide-action shotgun leveled at me. The 12th Judicial District Drug Task Force (armed with paramilitary equipment complete with machine pistols and battle carbines) and the Bledsoe County Sheriff’s department were the perpetrators of the raid. Within the next hour, these so-called public servants proceeded to shoot a rooster to death, threatened to shoot in the back any citizen who tried to run, yelled obscenities, verbally harassed, insulted and threatened citizens generally and more than likely conducted illegal searches and seizures. They reminded me of the Nazi stereotype of the Gestapo-like “jack-booted thug.” Nevertheless, I would immerse myself in cockfighting for the next five years.


The raid and its aftermath presented some rather perplexing questions, which nagged me for years. Why was an excessive amount of force and firepower used to stop an innocuous, peaceful, and private rural cultural tradition? Does either the constitution of the United States or of the State of Tennessee explicitly or implicitly prohibit cockfighting? How did cockfighting become stigmatized as “criminal” and how did it become an “illegal” act in Tennessee? In an attempt to answer these questions, the following is a brief exposition o­n what has been uncovered with the advantage of hindsight.

A basic historical and working knowledge of a subject deepens o­ne’s appreciation and understanding of it. Unfortunately, pinpointing the actual date and place of the origins of the cockfighting tradition proved virtually impossible. It has crossed oceans and continents and survived, however, in various forms of cultures and governments. The art and science itself is highly esoteric and much of the history is based o­n oral tradition passed o­n by generation to generation. Thus, written accounts are scarce, but not unobtainable. Documents and artifacts do exist revealing that gamecocks have been highly treasured creatures and fighting them has been practiced for a very long time. Usually time tends to lend a reverence to most things and activities. When held within the context of world history, laws against cockfighting are recent political and social aberrations.

C. A. Finsterbush in Cockfighting Around the World traces the origins of the organized breeding, fighting, and trade in cocks to the Phoenicians and the beginnings of game fowl as a species to the area due South of the Himalayas. His hypothesis about a Himalayan genesis is, however, disputed. Tim Pridgen in his classic work o­n cockfighting gives an outstanding analysis of the history. The following excerpt provides a good contextual framework for the beginnings of cockfighting in Tennessee:

We know that in India, fully 3,000 years ago, cockfighting rules were in force. We know that 2,500 years ago in the Bible city of Mizpah, there resided a Jewish general Jaazaniah whose personal seal, discovered in recent years by archeologists, bears the likeness of a spurred fighting *****. We know that ancient Egyptians enjoyed the sport.

Greece had fighting cocks hundreds of years before our era. Evidence of their presence is preserved for us in pottery and in history. When Themistocles addressed his troops before the Battle of Plataea, pointing to the fighting cocks and admonishing the men to adopt that spirit, it was nearly 500 years before Christ, and evidently was no new thing in Greece then. Aristophanes two or three generations later wrote of the gamecock and referred to it as the “Persian bird” indicating whence came the ***** to Greece. Thesupposition is that game fowl were in Egypt at the time Moses led the Israelites into the Wilderness in search of the Promised Land, although it is not recorded that the Jews took fowl with them.

Rome seems to have taken to cocking somewhat later than Greece but with no less zeal. At the height of Roman glory, cocking was a sport that had the same apparent pull that it has among those who know it today.

When Caesar went over and laid claim to Gual, he found cocking a pastime there . . .

Henry VIII was a great cocker. Charles II made a secure memory for himself among cockers in his strain of Pyles, which continued hardy and strong beyond the flower of his own progeny. Nobles without number became cockers. The sport was tolerated by the clergy, even encouraged, and at o­ne time in the long history of cocking in England, the churchyard was the accepted place for conducting the community mains.

Sir Walter Raleigh was a great cocker in his day, and there is at least some reason to believe that when he made the effort to establish what later came to be known as the “The Lost Colony” o­n the North Carolina coast, gamecocks came o­n ships and thus, he perhaps, put gamecocks o­n American soil for the first time.

Just when America began to fight cocks is not established. No record was made of it. It

is known that fighting fowl never existed in the New World in the wild state and that their coming was by importation.

The practice was well-established generations before George Washington becamerecognized as o­ne of the country’s leading cockers.

Andrew Jackson seems to have marked another high peak of the American legalized gamecock, his admiration having seen public pits flourishing in the Committee rooms.

The dawn of cockfighting in Tennessee seems to predate statehood. Andrew Jackson was a well-known cockfighter who eventually rose to the Presidency. His political breakthrough came in 1796 when he helped in the creation of the new state–first serving as congressman and then as senator. Most accounts state that Jackson was fighting cocks as early as age seventeen in Salisbury, North Carolina, where he had resided to study law before coming to the Southwest Territory later known as Tennessee.

One oral tradition from Middle Tennessee holds that just after the end of the American Revolution a man named Mayfield settled in the area, which eventually became Williamson County. He had been given 640 acres of land because of his service in the war and he had four sons. A fort was built o­n his land, the first settlement in Williamson County, and was called Mayfield Station. Andrew Jackson reportedly spent the night and fought cocks there at times. o­n occasion the fights were against Mayfield and other times he and Mayfield would combine their roosters and fight against other cockfighters. Some fights were held at Fort Donelson. Documentation via letters of correspondence proves that the Mayfield family and Jackson knew o­ne another although cockfighting is not mentioned specifically.

The planter-class of Virginia were fighting cocks before 1792. James Roberson of Virginia led 300 settlers, in the winter and spring of 1779, to the French Lick, which later became Nashville. The early settlers of the area felt an allegiance to Virginia and the Mero District was a county of Virginia for a brief period. In 1797, a year after its statehood, the first legislature met in Tennessee. A long standing rivalry between factions from Virginia in Middle Tennessee and factions from North Carolina in the east caused representatives of the Mero District to be shut-out of the legislative process.22 The first cited act, which indirectly affected the legal status of cockfighting, was a gambling statute, the Act of 1799, C.H. 8, sec. 2 (code, sec. 4870). 23 The act came a mere three years after statehood. In spite of Jackson’s North Carolina background and his love of gamecocks, it was probably settlers from Virginia, such as Mayfield, who condoned cockfighting and gambling more than their eastern counterparts. If it is assumed that in 1799 that the Mero District representatives of Middle Tennessee were still out of power – modern Tennesseans can thank easterners for the original anti-gambling statute.24

Nevertheless, an extension of the act to include cockfighting and a challenge came originally from the west in Hardeman County. In a case dating from 1840, Bagley v. State, forty-one years after passage of the act, a Tennessean was charged with cockfighting. Defendant Bagley had been indicted for cockfighting under the gambling statute. It was argued, in his defense and quite correctly that “a game of hazard is that in which chance is the essential ingredient, and a game of address is that in which skill–a quality of the human intellect–is the predominant quality or characteristic [. . .] But the result of the *****-fight depends much more upon the relative size, age, weight, strength, condition, and other qualities of the cocks than upon chance or skill, in other words, chance or skill, hazard or address, are not the prominent characteristics of a cockfight, and therefore it is not within the letter, spirit, or meaning of the acts o­n the subject of gaming.”25 J. Turley speaking for the court disagreed with this sagacious and favorable argument. In the opposing opinion of the court he merely constructed a framework of stare decisis in which to fit preconceived and erroneous anti-cocking notions into.

Seventeen years after Bagley v. State, the gambling statute was contested again, in Williamson County. This case stated that “eighteen hundred and fifty-seven, certain evil-disposed persons”26 were indicted for violating the statute. J. Caruthers, for the court, delivered o­ne of the most ill-conceived vindications for malum prohibitium in the history of recorded jurisprudence. Moralizing about gambling instead of advocating liberty, he asserted that “All men should keep at a distance from such degrading practices. Gambling is punished by law more o­n the ground of public policy, o­n account of its effects upon the actors and society, than the intrinsic wickedness of the thing itself. It is prohibited by law and visited with penalties because of its destructive effects upon the moral character and social habits of individuals. It leads to idleness, dissipation, bankruptcy and wretchedness. Its victims are almost invariably converted into cold, selfish, reckless harpies.”27

Caruthers proceeded to blast cockfighting itself “If o­ne species of this vice could be more low, groveling and despicable than another, it would seem to be that under consideration. It adds barbarity and cruelty to the other attributes of ordinary gaming.”28

About the time of the Caruthers opinion George Mayfield’s grandfather was born in

Williamson County.29 He is said to have owned some of the bloodlines of Andrew Jackson’s and they were a black-feathered fowl, and he would have been fighting fowl during the latter 19th century and in the early 20th century. He introduced his grandson, George, to the hobby who continued the honorable family tradition of breeding and fighting cocks for most of his life.30

The idea that cockfighting might somehow constitute cruelty first came under legislative scrutiny just as the unconstitutional reign of the Radical Republicans during Reconstruction was beginning to come to an end. Section 1668 of the 1871 Code made it unlawful for anyone to “cruelly beat, torture, or use horse, ox, dog, or other animal.”31 Neither cocks nor cockfighting were addressed nor included but the seeds for the growth of inclusion were planted.

Within the next ten years (and under the present constitution of the state) Bill 31 was introduced in the House of the 42nd General Assembly. James Hammond Smith, a banker and two-term representative from urban Memphis,32 introduced it o­n Tuesday, January 11, 1881. The bill proposed to repeal Article 5, sections 1668, 1669, 1671, and 1672 of the Code and to enact an act for preventing cruelty to animals. It passed the first reading. It was laid o­n the table o­n March 12th and was taken from the table and passed a second reading o­n the 29th. Smith amended two sections o­n the 31st and it was set for a vote the next day. The bill passed the House, ironically o­n April Fools day, by a vote thirty-eight to fifteen.33

The House Bill passed the first reading in the Senate o­n April 2nd and a second reading o­n the 4th and passed a third by a sixteen to four vote o­n the 6th. It was returned signed by the Speaker of the Senate to the House34 and Governor Alvin Hawkins signed it into law o­n the same day.35

This law, known then as Chapter CLXIX, marked the beginning of the state’s postulation that there exists an offense of cruelty to animals in and at a cockfight. In other words, the General Assembly assumed a “legal” responsibility for the management, care, and use of game fowl. The statute implies that they understand the nature and purpose of game fowl better than the actual owners do. (I seriously doubt that any member of the current General Assembly can even mix a feed ration for game fowl, much less care for baby chicks). The Code numbers would change over the years but the 1881 wording would remain the same until 1989, when the statute was revised twice.36

Early enforcement of the statute was reasonable and handled by county law enforcement that could be held accountable, either pro or con, in an election. As an example George Mayfield owned and operated a pit called the Still House Hollow Pit in Williamson County in the 1950s and 60s. It was raided twice–once in the 1950s and again o­n January 1, 1961. There was local political intrigue in the latter raid. The three constables involved desired the raid to make the incumbent Sheriff, Ed Johnson, look bad to a segment of the electorate. Apparently, he knew nothing of the fights and when the constables alerted him about them, he more or less had to follow the raid.37 The Tennessean reported that Mayfield was charged with operating and maintaining a place for cockfighting and that everyone–spectators and law officers were courteous to another. The spectators hardly even turned the heads when the officers calmly walked in. Mayfield accepted full responsibility and took down the names of everyone there for the officers.38

By the early 1980s, however this type of civilized decorum and mutual respect between county law officers and cockfighters had changed to something more sinister and violent. By 1982, state law enforcement officers (who are unaccountable to local voters) began usurping traditional boundaries of jurisdiction and started impetuously imposing themselves upon game fowl enthusiasts. o­ne witness to a raid in Warren County in 1982 stated that detainment of the game fowl enthusiasts was at the National Guard Armory and lasted several hours and that no o­ne received their private property (i.e. the roosters, etc.) back. Various state law enforcement personnel were said to have been involved in addition to those of the county.39

The print media, in covering the event, exhibited bias and willfully omitted statements from game fowl breeders or aficionados or criminal defense attorneys. Instead Assistant Attorney General Mickey Layne and Franklin P. Blue, director of the Warren County Humane Society, were both given a platform for political propaganda. Layne is quoted as stating that the suspects “were o­n the verge of rioting”40 and Blue proposed that the fines collected would help the Humane Society.41 The article also stated that law enforcement personnel were preparing to use tear gas to subdue the game-fowl enthusiasts.42

Within two years of the raid in Warren County, the Tennessee Supreme Court was presented with an opportunity to declare the statute unconstitutional in order to stop the trend toward using the excessive force of federal and state tax-funded paramilitary forces for use in raiding cockfights.

The defendants were indicted in Bradley County. The trial judge dismissed the indictments as unconstitutional and the state appealed. The constitutional issues argued were whether or not the statute was vague, overbroad and inhibited freedom of association and mobility. Supreme Court Justice J. Harbison, relied heavily upon the moralizing in Bagley v. State and Johnson v State for the contextual framework of the opinion of the court. He also concentrated upon the doctrine of “legislative intent” and the wording of the statue itself.43 It is o­ne of the more illogical opinions set forth under the doctrine of stare decisis.

Significantly, the opinion fails to explain which section of the constitution of Tennessee either expressly or implicitly prohibits cockfighting. The insinuation being that this particular hobby of a portion of the citizenry if not expressly permitted is consequently forbidden. This is a notion which stands in complete contradiction to the spirit and rule of constitutional law. Void for vagueness is a valid legal concept. The legislature, in the words chosen for the statute, did not clearly and specifically describe the elements of what constitutes the mens rea (mental intent) essential to offense. A word is never used to define itself and thus unlawful cannot be used to define unlawful as the statute attempts to do. The notion of preventing the cruelty to animals via subsequent punishment is a legal oxymoron. And neither does the statute elucidate how birds or fowl are to be defined as “animals.”

Justice Harbison merely drafted a legal opinion to fit preconceived opinions about cockfighting into. Ignoring the wisdom of the trial court, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the lower court for trial. Thus rendering a decision, protecting animal “rights” at the expense of the constitutional rights of human beings.

The gamecock lives the life of a warrior. He fears death from his opponent as much as he fears the break of daylight. He is nurtured and pampered by his owner and receives care vastly superior to that of the millions of mass-produced poultry consumed by a ravenous public. In fact, the stench of a broiler house can make o­ne nauseous. Laying hens are confined to cages, which are so small that they cannot spread their wings. Gamefowl, o­n the other hand, are unleashed in their prime–fit and sharp–to reign in total victory over the enemy or to die fighting their hearts out in a glorious death in a contest of fitness and skill. All attitudes toward gamefowl are simply anthropomorphisms. The dynamics demonstrated in the life and death contest of cockfighting the human being may anthromorphically call courage and honor, two virtues, which are unfortunately out of vogue amidst a pervasive modern preoccupation with trivial and inconsequential matters.

At its essence, the dispute over cockfighting is cultural. A dissonance between rural and urban values exists. A rural environment demonstrates to o­ne that the violent death of animals and fowl is a simple fact of life and not something to recoil in horror over or to wring o­ne’s hands about or threaten to shoot someone over. An urban environment tends to insulate and isolate people from this obvious fact of life.44 The “over-civilized” townsperson tends to be more likely to consider his or herself sophisticated to the point of a distorted “animal tenderness.” Unfortunately, public servants employed in the field of law enforcement have been and are permitted to impose the “animal sensitivity” by threatening and pointing firearms at peaceful citizens and assisting in the theft of their property. When the rule of constitutional law is ignored the opinion of the majority receives validation and in turn oppresses the minority. Thus, urban opinion suppresses rural opinion. “Mob rule” is contradictory to true representative government. Adherence to the constitution(s) is the mechanism for preventing this from occurring.

Three modern trends have also combined to steadily damage the rural cultural tradition of cockfighting. First, court decisions such as Illinois v. Gates and U. S. v. Leon45 have eroded the rights of criminal defendants in general. Secondly, as the United States have urbanized many rural customs have been sneered at and deemed uncivilized by the urban majority. Thirdly, the “war o­n drugs” has expanded to become an excuse to trample the Bill of Rights and to plunder via forfeiture and confiscation the citizenry and this has led directly to the ominous militarization of domestic law enforcement. It is, in effect, an all-encompassing knee-jerk reaction by governments (Federal and State) to justify stamping out various expressions of political liberty. Cockfighting is about liberty and overzealous enforcement against it is a distinct step backward in the political progress of mankind.

As the seventeenth century English poet John Donne penned quite accurately–no man is an island unto himself.46 Nothing occurs in a vacuum and past acts of persons can define and pose limits o­n what men and women47 are “allowed” to do within a society. Often times it is found that the beliefs, propaganda, and errors of yesteryear leave the present generation to struggle in a stagnant morass of oppressive laws. And the behavior control imposed is usually directed toward a minority of the citizenry. The citizens who have a deep appreciation for game fowl have been harassed, to varying degrees, by the criminal justice system for just over a century in Tennessee.

Over the past two decades the problem has grown intolerable and blatantly unconstitutional. Uncontrolled search and seizure is o­ne of the trademarks of an arbitrary government. When government personnel attack and steal from peaceful citizens it should not be tolerated in a free society. An inherent flaw in the enforcement of victimless crimes is that law enforcement has to stoop to criminal behavior in order to enforce “criminal” law. The writers of the U.S. constitution were tired of the 18th century English version of police harassment. The fourth amendment and the comparable amendments in the states, (which were the precursors to those of the general government), are a reminder to those in the criminal justice system that they are to respect and protect the privacy, property, person, and activities of the people as a whole, not just those who permit them to hold the positions of political power. This holds true whether or not they agree with an activity or not. Disagreement is not a valid excuse to disregard the very principles of the fourth amendment. There is no beast, reptile, animal nor fowl worth the loss of private property and lawful rights of human beings. When the legislature has created para-military forces which are operating independently as a “law unto themselves,” the judicial branch has a duty to step in as an authority to harness them. The highest judicial court in Tennessee has unfortunately failed in this duty.

Gamecock themes are a part of our historical vernacular. From General Thomas Sumpter of the American Revolutionary War being called the “Gamecock” to Theodore Roosevelt describing General Wheeler as “a regular game-*****” in The Rough Riders. A confident man is still called “cocky.” And in the “Information Age of the Common Man and Technical Irresponsibility” there are many web sites concerning cockfighting. Thus, neither does the legislature, judiciary, or law enforcement personnel have a valid excuse for ignorance of the virtues and historical significance of the custom.

Cockfighters come from many backgrounds and professions ranging from pharmacists to plumbers. Bets are verbal “private gentleman’s agreements.” The poor man’s rooster fights in the pit with an equal opportunity to be superior to the rooster of a wealthy man. All freedom lovers are welcome at a cockfight. The fights (even where “permitted”) are not put o­n public display to those who do not desire to witness them.

Cockfighters are simply people who cherish an age-old tradition, which teaches the pursuit of excellence in a discipline and hobby, and want to be left alone in that pursuit. If law enforcement personnel can be restrained, cockfighting can enhance the quality of life for those who dedicate a large portion of their time to it. And Tennessee’s constitution permits this. Cockfighting is, Justice Harbison to the contrary, honorable and the current statute against it in Tennessee is in opposition to the principles of liberty found in the U.S. and state constitutions and the political ideals o­n which this nation was founded.


1. This individual has not been located to ask permission to use his real name. David Freeman is a fictitious name.

2. Naked-heel means no artificial spurs constructed of steel were used.

3. A tie-cord is a mechanism for containing a gamecock to a given space of ground to prevent him from getting to another rooster and fighting (game roosters will fight to the death regardless of whether or not a human being is present) which is a string made of rubber or nylon usually six to seven feet in length. At o­ne end is a steel stake, which is driven into the ground and at the other a hitch, which attaches to the rooster’s leg just above his natural spur. Thus a rooster has plenty of room for movement yet is confined and separated from his fellows. A “tee-pee” is an A-frame construction made of wood or a synthetic, which provides a perch and protection from inclement weather for the rooster.

4. Or shuffle–meaning the rhythmic multiple fighting strokes of a rooster used with or without a beakhold. The legs are thrust in concert with a flapping of the wings. When roosters are well-bred, fresh, and in shape the speed and power of these motions are incredible. There is very little which is comparable to witnessing two top of the line roosters meet each other with deadly vehemence in the center of the pit six feet in height in a whirlwind of flashing steel and flesh. (Especially if you own o­ne of them!)

5. This thoroughbred of Thoroughbreds blistered the 1973 Belmont Stakes to victory in thirty-one lengths and in a time, which still stands as a world record today. Mary Simon “Age of Titans” The Thoroughbred Times. (September 16, 2000:) 23. He was born to thrill us with his domination of the racetrack. His value derived from the fact that human beings had constructed a mechanism and created opponents for his incredible performance. Cockfighting fits into the same genre of cultural activities that horse racing does. And a gamecock must have a foe to vanquish to obtain value.

6. Unfortunately widespread historical illiteracy exists concerning the relationship between the possession of personal weaponry and political freedom. Careful and insightful research into history exposes the evidence that no people have ever been unarmed and truly free at the same time. Totalitarian governments from the Qin Dynasty in third century B.C. China to the National Socialist German Workers Party of the twentieth century A.D. have sought to confiscate weaponry and disarm citizens. The bearing of personal arms is simply o­ne of the most important elements which distinguishes liberty from slavery. The following items offer a good primer o­n the relationship. The Prince by Niccolo Machavelli, Commentaries o­n the Laws of England by William Blackstone, Federalist Number 28 by Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Number 46 by James Madison, and o­n the Constitution of the United States by Joseph Story. All of these works stress the vital importance of an armed citizenry and constitute good introductions for anyone seeking enlightenment upon the subject.

7. Term for an organized fight, which was borrowed from the Kentucky Derby years ago.

8. It was a gunshot, which I had heard. Later I saw a white feathered rooster stained in crimson and stretched out in death o­n the ground. Bledsoe County Chief Deputy Gene Frady admitted to the willful and intentional slaying of the rooster by law enforcement agents but was apparently unable to identify the triggerman. “Raid Breaks Up Cockfights” The Bledsonian Banner. Column 2. Front page and Column 1. Page 2.

9. I was not presented with the opportunity to examine the weapon. Nevertheless, I have been a student of smallarms for eighteen years and my recollection of the diameter of the bore would have made it at least twenty gage but more likely twelve. It was not a twenty-eight gage or a .410 and the sixteen gage which is an in-between bore size to the twelve and twenty is not common among the circles of law enforcement.

10. The Greek philosopher Aristotle discovered centuries ago that all things should and do fulfill a function or purpose. This is a valid premise to apply to the tools of mankind. Unfortunately, duffers of and those not thoroughly educated in small arms are often confused over the nomenclature and purposes of the various designs of firearms. A brief introduction to weaponcraft and tactics and is needed to assist in illustrating just how dangerous and out of control law enforcement personnel were (and still are. The machine pistol is often erroneously called a “sub-machine gun.” It is a short-barreled and two-hand held weapon which can be capable of fully and/or semi-automatic fire. Its dimensions are larger than a pistol and smaller than a battle carbine. It has a chambering, however, for a pistol cartridge.

A firearm o­nly hits as hard as its cartridge and as well as it is aimed. o­nly large, deeply driven and precisely placed hits to the heart, vital organs, and major arteries or to the central nervous system are of consequence in a gunfight. Immediate incapacitation of the opponent is the ideal goal. If a violent aggressor is threatening your life, you do not shoot to maim. You shoot to stop that individual from doing what he or she is doing i.e., trying to bash your head in or kill you, etc. Because of all of the variables involved in a lethal confrontation, it is very hard to produce incapacitation without causing death. If the legal use of deadly force is justified, then killing is also. The machine pistol encourages the purposeless unaimed “spray and pray” technique of firing. Indiscriminate and careless firing is a menace to any bystander or persons who are not intimately involved in a gunfight. Thus the question – does law-enforcement really need a weapon which encourages irresponsible gun handling

Conclusive evidence (beyond the scope of this brief introduction) exists demonstrating that a major caliber self-loading (semi-automatic) pistol will do better or as well everything the machine pistol will do in close-range defensive fights. Both weapons fire the same projectile! And a pistol cartridge velocities any speed gained by a few inches of barrel length is basically a moot point. Knowledgeable gunfighters scorn the machine pistol because it serves almost no purpose in offensive or defensive gunfighting. It simply looks and sounds impressive. In fact, it is too bulky and cumbersome for its power.

The machine pistol can be effective if a close range (within fifteen yards or so) offensive firefight is planned. In other words, in an act of attempted lethal aggression within the confines of a building or structure. Thus it may be deduced that government agents who tote the machine pistol are either ignorant of the weapons purpose or are intentionally seeking to instigate a close-range offensive firefight. The weapon has no valid defensive purpose unless it’s the o­nly o­ne you have access to. The battle rifle such as the HK 91 (I include the 91 because even though it has a “carbine” length barrel it is chambered for the potent .308) extents reach and greatly enhances power and is generally the best choice for offense. Some Task Force agents carried battle carbines (examples are the M-16 and “civilian” counterpart) which some persons also wish to call “sub-machine guns.” These tools are also offensive weapons. (They are good game getters as well). Both the battle rifle and carbine can be used defensively but are not nearly as convenient as the pistol in an unexpected “up close and personal” street brawl. Nor for matter in defending o­ne’s self in the guerrilla-like conflict called the “war o­n drugs.” In other words, if a person can keep his or her composure and has done the homework and practice, the handgun can wreck havoc upon multiple attackers at close range.

If the gamefowl aficionados had actually been armed and dangerous enough for a para-military styled offensive assault – they would have been alert and prepared. Riflemen would have been posted in defensive positions along the perimeter of the location. Every person pitside would have had a battle rifle within reach and a major caliber sidearm holstered. They would have been ready to defend themselves. The consequence would have been severe causalities for the raiders. In other words, well-armed and prepared combatants were not at this gathering, thus eliminating the need and purpose of Drug Task Force offensive armaments. If they had been, then law enforcement personnel would have, ironically, been hurt. The situation was simply that a group of rural friends had gathered to enjoy a weekend, not to fight a “brush battle” with an armed gang looking for trouble. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Drug Task Forces, et. al. have developed the erroneous dogma that they need or are entitled to the “element of surprise.” This doctrine presumes that bushwhacking people and ransacking their home or business at gunpoint for suspected victimless crimes is a legitimate activity of law enforcement. The “silent surprise” ends, however, o­nce the word “go!” is given and then utter chaos erupts. Law enforcement personnel might be well advised that offensive and aggressive actions such as these can result in their death or injury if they assault alert and skilled citizens. A gang of armed men suddenly screaming, yelling and breaking into private dwellings while brandishing offensive weaponry can be honestly perceived as a potential threat to o­ne’s life and body. A citizen has a clear right to protect life and limb and those of others from violently threatening persons in Tennessee. (TCA 38-2-101-3. o­ne of the General Assembly’s few good statutes). Protecting the priceless right to self-defense is also a very important reason for clear and lucid knock and announce rules for executing warrants. Safety for everyone and establishing fault if a death or injury occurs carries high stakes. In other words, if law enforcement personnel clearly identify themselves, a citizen who kills a raider could bear a legal responsibility. If identification is not clear, a reasonable person may legally kill armed intruders in his or her home or business. A manifestation of the danger involved recently occurred in Lebanon, Tennessee

when a man was shot to death by law enforcement while raiding the wrong dwelling. (If the victim had shot and killed a raider or two in defense of his life – what would have the criminal justice system done to him?) The death of someone could have easily occurred o­n March 4, 1990 (After all, a rooster was shot to death in the cause of preventing his death). Careful research o­n the circumstances, total number, and value of the thefts, property damage, injuries and murders committed by government (State and federal) in the “war o­n drugs” would be enlightening. Nevertheless it is indeed o­ne of the most ominous political developments of the 20th century. The savage lunacy continues, right now, as you read this.

1. These were the public servants who were to have officially conducted the raid. “Raid Breaks Up Cockfights” The Bledsonian Banner. March 8, 1990. Column 1, Front page. And Wade Dodson. “41 Arrested in Bledsoe Cockfight Raid.” The Tennesseean. Metro/State Column 1. Front page. The young man who pointed the shotgun at me, however, when asked to identify himself said he was with the National Guard of Dunlap, Tennessee.

12. If this threat had been carried out it would have been a brazen violation of U. S. v. Garner. This case, ironically, came out of Memphis, Tennessee and the United States Supreme Court ruled that a Tennessee statute, which allowed for the shooting in the back of fleeing felony suspects, was unconstitutional. U. S. v. Garner. 710F.2d.240 (1985). Thus it may be deduced that the Drug Task Force operated by threatening to commit unconstitutional acts of violence in the role of professional blustering bullies, or intended to carry the threat out in an act of murder.

13. I suspect that the warrant and/or warrants for the raid were null and void. The Aqulilar-Spinielli “Two-Pronged” test is used in Tennessee for determining the reliability of informants. The basis of knowledge and the veracity of the informant(s) must be considered separately and supplemented in some way. Plus “These are vital, not merely perfunctory requirements. To justify the intrusion of a search, the tip must not o­nly come from a credible person, but it must be shown to be relying o­n something more than casual rumor.” Commonwealth v. Avery 365 Mass. 59, 63 309 N. E. 2nd 497.

If there was both an arrest and a search warrant I have not seen them nor the complaint and affidavit for them. And neither do I know if there was o­ne or the other or both.

However, a tip to (of all entities!) ABC affiliate television station WTVC Channel 9 of Chattanooga led to the raid after they notified the Bledsoe County Sheriff’s Department. “Raid Breaks Up Cockfights.” The Bledsonian Banner. Column 2. Front page. So, were employees of WTVC the informants or were the informants directed to the Bledsoe County Sheriff’s Department by employees of WTVC? And just how did the 12th Judicial Drug Task Force get involved? These questions remain to be answered.

The visual and print media released very flimsy and vague information as to whether or not probable cause and the Aquilar-Spinelli “Two-Pronged” test existed for a valid issuance and delivery of the warrant(s). Unfortunately, the time has been unavailable to obtain a copy of the unedited film of the raid. Also, in a raid, if law enforcement personnel does not have an articulable reason to suspect each person in particular they have no authority to search him. Ybarra v. Illinois, 444 US 85, 93-94, 100 SCT 338, 343 (1979). Therefore, unless a suspect was named and identified specifically in a warrant any reasonable articulable suspicion to conduct pat-down Terry-type searches were unlawful. Therefore, Bledsoe County Chief Deputy Gene Grady more than likely simply stole a boot-knife from me found during a Terry-type search, as he had no reason to believe I was armed and threatening him.

If the warrant(s) did not pass Aquilar-Spinelli and if the complaint for an arrest warrant did not demonstrate sufficient probable cause any and all items or “evidence” found should have been suppressed. There could not, under this condition have been any valid searches incident to a lawful arrest either.

Another clue that the warrant(s) were flawed lies, ironically, in the very fact of the 12th Judicial Drug Task Force’s involvement. No illicit drugs were found but yet

Bledsoe County Chief Gene Frady was quoted as stating (concerning the raid and drugs) “Drugs that are actually pharmaceutical drugs . . . B12, stuff like that, that they shoot to get more vitamins. A lot of these drugs are narcotics.” The Bledsonian Banner. Column 2. Front page. In this quasi-chemistry babble he never stated that the chemical substances were actually illegal.

No o­ne was placed under arrest for a drug charge much less convicted of o­ne. Just how Deputy Frady defined “pharmaceutical drugs” and how he had equated the term with vitamin B-12 and how he managed to discover narcotics when none existed remains a mystery (not unlike “legislative intent”). Perhaps, the deputy had simply avoided chemistry class in high school.

A person who equates illegal drug use or sales with cockfighting is demonstrating an ignorance about cockfighting. Therefore, no well-grounded and legal “basis of knowledge” exists in that person’s opinions. If an informant or informants had stated that illicit drugs would be present it o­nly superficially explains the 12th Judicial Drug Task Force’s presence. Paradoxically, it miserably fails to meet the criteria of the veracity and basis of knowledge for informant(s), consequently invalidating the information o­n the complaint and/or affidavit for the warrant(s) and thus nullifying the Drug Task Force’s jurisdiction in the matter.

In other words, it is preposterous to believe that an informant or informant(s) had a lawful “basis of knowledge” as to what items or substances all forty-one suspects would have had in their possession o­n that day. If probable cause existed that an individual or more persons more than likely had illegal drugs they should have been named specifically and as particular parties in the complaint and/or affidavit. Also, there was unprofessional confusion over whether or not cockfighting was a felony. However, alleged felonious activity is not an automatic invocation for Drug Task Force jurisdiction in a matter.

The defendants, as a group, excluding two or three retained Dunlap, Tennessee Attorney Tommy Austin and I have no idea if he challenged the warrant(s) with enthusiasm or not. Most if not everyone received their rooster’s back. Austin’s clients entered a plea to a $2.00 fine plus court costs. My receipt states that it was paid o­n July 10, 1990 for “cockfighting” (whatever that meant). I paid a total of $109.00 and at the time I earned just a little over $4.00 an hour and had a dependent I was supporting. Paying the $109.00 was a debilitating loss. I literally lived o­n bologna and peanut butter sandwiches for a couple of weeks thereafter. Thus, my affection for the criminal justice system of Tennessee goes right down to the pit of my stomach. Perhaps I should have broken the necks of a couple of my roosters and ate them for variety and animal protein, and toasted to the wisdom of the General Assembly with tap water. Or maybe waited ten years to write about the wrongfulness of the law.

14. In lieu of the rest of their bad behavior it was surprising that they did not hike their legs like dogs and urinate o­n the game-fowl breeder’s vehicles.

15. All sources have not been used for this project. Other books include Sport in the Olden Time by Sir Walter Gilbey, The History of Cockfighting by George Ryley Scott, The Art of Cockfighting by A. Rupert, The Cockfighter: A Novel by Frank Manley, The Cockfight: A Casebook by Alan Dundes, Cockfighter by Charles Ray Willeford, The Scientific Breeding of Game-Fowl by Foyd Gurley in collaboration with John J. Roman, History of Game Strains by W.T. Johnson and Frank Holcomb, and Cockfighting and Gamefowl by Herbert Atkinson.

Three journals exist for the fraternity. Grit & Steel established in May, 1899, The Gamecock and The Feathered Warrior both of which have been in publication for nearly a century.

Cockfighting was important enough in ancient Greece (the origin of Western civilization) for pottery to have been crafted depicting men fighting cocks. A picture of a vase is in Greek Society by Frank J. Frost.

A priceless early picture of a cockfight taken o­n the outskirts of Tombstone, Arizona in the 1880s is reproduced in The Gunfighters by Paul Trachtman. Whether gamefowl was brought from the eastern states or north form Old Mexico is apparently unknown.

6. C. A. Finsterbush, Cockfighting Around the World. (Grit & Steel. 1927). Complete citation could not be completed because this book is very rare and expensive and it took a month to acquire it through interlibrary over a year ago. Therefore, this information comes from my memory of the contents.

7. Tim Pridgen, Courage; The Story of Modern Cockfighting. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company 1938) 82. This classic is also rare. I am fortunate to own a first edition copy in excellent condition.

8. Ibid, 81-90.

9. Paul Johnson. A History of the American People. (New York: Harper Collins) 1997. 268.

20. Jack Turnage. Personal interview via telephone Cookeville, Tennessee to Arrington, Tennessee, July 7, 2000.

Most of the roosters, which impressed me so much o­n November 21, 1989, were a breed called Black Toppys. I learned later that they were a strain developed by George Mayfield of Franklin, Tennessee. I obtained his phone number and made arrangements to visit his place and purchase some fowl in mid-March of 1992. If memory serves me correctly he said that the brood stock of the Black Toppys (which had fought well and built a reputation in the 1970s and early 80s) had died of old age. Everyone I have spoken with that witnessed the roosters fight have said the same thing–some of them would run in a long fight but if they were ahead early in a fight they could cut another rooster to death fast. The best of them could kill an opponent in seconds.

George Mayfield, a direct descendant of the Revolutionary veteran, was in his mid-seventies in 1992 and I remember him telling me stories about the Andrew Jackson and Mayfield relationship. Unfortunately, I had no idea that I would write a paper o­n cockfighting and never took any notes. Jack Turnage is his nephew and has a wealth of experience and knowledge about cockfighting.

21. Stephen E.Ambrose, Undaunted Courage. (New York: Simon and Schuster. 1996). 32, 475. Ambrose cites Jackson Letters, vol. 11, 591-92 as his source.

22. Dr. Michael E. Birdwell, Class lecture. History of Tennessee 312. Tennessee Technological University. Cookeville, Tennessee. July 6, 2000.

23. Cited in Bagley v. State., 20 Tenn. 486 (1840) and Johnson v. State, 36 Tenn. 614 (1857).

24. Any scholarly challenge to this hypothesis is welcomed. However, Virginians may very well have been the first settlers to import gamefowl to the Southwest Territory.

25. Bagley v. State. 20 Tenn. 485 (1840). The inherent weakness in any anti-gambling statute concerning cockfighting is that it is impossible to determine exactly what result is a matter of luck and what outcome is a matter of skill and what result is neither or both. Legislators when drafting malum prohibitum statutes are themselves predicting that certain acts deemed impermissible will occur and consequential punishment will occur. Instead of wagering a unit of value such as money they are gambling o­n constitutionality, enforcement, and an obedient citizenry. And all a wager is is a prediction that a result will occur and an article of value backs the opinion.

26.Johnson v. State, 36 Tenn. 614 (1857) This is a lot of people to be in o­ne place in mid-19th century rural Tennessee!

27.Ibid. Caruthers is basically arguing that gambling is not wrong; it is just that some people cannot handle it. This is elitist reasoning at its worst in that it postulates that

government personnel know what is best for the individual and society. As opposed to the doctrine that postulates that government is a necessary evil, which both the individual and society must correct and be wary of.


29.Exact date not available.

30.Jack Turnage, Personal Interview via the telephone. Cookeville, Tennessee to Arrington, Tennessee. July 7, 2000 and John Doe (individual requested that his name not be printed) Personal Interview. Franklin, Tennessee, August 15, 2000. George Mayfield was a building contractor who told me himself in May of 1993, that he “built Franklin.” Regardless of whether this is true or not he was certainly no “idle harpy.”

31.Article 5. Code of Tennessee.

32. Robert M. McBride, and Dan M. Robison. Biographical Directory of The Tennessee General Assembly. Vol. II 1861-1901. (Nashville, Tennessee State Library and Archives. 1979.) 836.

33.House Journal of the Forty-Second General Assembly. (Nashville: Tavel & Howell. 1881). 69, 74, 560, 575, 799, 829, 870, 874, 1032.

34.Senate Journal of the Forty-Second General Assembly. (Nashville, Tavel & Howell. 1881). 642, 656, 699.

35.Acts of the State of Tennessee. (Nashville: Tavel & Howell. 1881). 234.

36. The statute was revised after a very brief debacle by the General Assembly had “made” cockfighting a felony charge. The current statute also eliminated the phrase of “connected with or interested in the management of” as it pertains to the use of gamefowl as being a misdemeanor. This clause is an excellent example of the virtual impossibility of ever discovering “legislative intent” of which many in the judiciary are so fond.

37. John Doe, Personal Interview. Franklin, Tennessee: August 15, 2000. This individual has requested that a real name not be printed. Nevertheless, he was in attendance at this raid.

38.Rudy Abramson, “Williamson Officers Raid Cockfight Arena, Arrest 48″, The Tennessean. January 2, 1961. Page and column are illegible o­n the microfilm. However, John Doe has validated the author of the article o­n this matter. He also states that o­nly Mayfield had to pay a fine and that everyone had their roosters returned to them.

39.John Doe, Personal Interview. Franklin, Tennessee. August 15, 2000.

40. “Cockfight Fines Would Aid Humane Society” The Tennessean. February 15, 1982, column 5, page 11. Mr. Doe has stated that those suspected of cockfighting were held until 9 p.m. and hunger and thirst had began to set in and some began to request food and drink. They were not verging to a riot. District Attorney Layne also stated that the original statute was passed in 1932 and this was a fallacy.

41.Ibid. Columns 2 and 3 page 11. According to the article, both Franklin Blue and District Attorney Layne were already planning o­n how to spend the money from fines before any convictions or pleas had occurred. Blue, in the capacity of director was engaging in the vice of avarice. His demands for fine money were analogous to holding up Santa Claus at gunpoint in order to confiscate the sleigh of Christmas toys to redistribute them to someone else. Humane Society personnel have always had giant philosophical hurdles to leap over to justify taking from the “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Their moral indignation does not stand up to close inspection and analysis. Animal “rights” activists cannot prevent cockfighting with moral arguments and have thus resorted to promoting and condoning the disregarding of the constitutions (Federal and State) in order to allow the plunder of some of their fellow citizens by governmental force.

42.Ibid. However, Mr. Doe stated that he was not aware of any such activity.

43. State v. Tabor 678 S.W. 2d 45 (Tenn. 1984)

44. Employees of the slaughterhouses in the major urban areas, of course, know full well of the butchery of livestock. And the occasional roadkill can be observed strewn amongst the clutter of urban congestion. Perhaps, the General Assembly of Tennessee will someday extend the philosophy behind the anti-cockfighting statute and therefore deem the perpetrators as “murdering motorists.” Naturally, a hit with a dump truck would carry a stiffer penalty than o­ne by a Geo Metro.

45. Illinois v. Gates is a U.S. Supreme court case from 1983, which set the “totality of the circumstances” doctrine in determining the reliability of informants. If this case is read carefully it basically allows for law enforcement to send themselves an “anonymous” letter in order to obtain a search warrant (Thankfully, it is not used in Tennessee). U.S. v. Leon set the “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule. It basically allows judge, persecutor, and police “mistakes” in obtaining search warrants to stand at the expense of fourth amendment protections for the citizen.

46. A line made famous by the 20th century American writer Ernest Hemingway. The actual wording is “No man is an Island, intire of it selfe” found in the frontispiece of the original publication of For Whom the Bell Tolls. Hemingway was a big fan of the custom of bullfighting, which is found in Spain and Old Mexico and wrote a defense of the bullfights titled Death in the Afternoon. The Spanish fighting bull stands alone in stature as the o­nly beast bred for the purpose of killing a man. They are o­ne of mankind’s greatest achievements in the fields of genetics and breeding because the beast is used to test a man’s skills against himself and the beast. In other words, the matador must concentrate and keep his composure in a contest of human will over brute strength and aggression.

47.Yes, many women enjoy cockfighting! Witnessing your favorite woman cheering her favorite rooster o­n is an experience beyond the description of words. Praise the Lord and bet another $1,000 o­n the Mug!

Posted by: Dr. James Jones on Jul 01, 2003 – 06:00 AM


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