– Gameness til the End
By Carol NeSmith, Blackwater Farms, Alabama
While complying with the request of my friends in the Philippines, Mexico and here at home, I would like to give some history of the Sweater strain of gamefowl since they came into my possession. The story starts about 49 years ago when I first fell in love with the game fowl. Now I am 60 years old and still, I love game fowl as much or more than I ever have. I have bred, fought, fed, bought, healed and handled cocks of many different strains and crosses and have done (probably) as much breeding experimenting as many man my age. It’s my opinion that there is no “one best strain fowl” and not one best feeder either. There are many of both in class “A” and when you go to a derby nowadays for real money, you are sure to meet both of them. The days of a monopoly in the cocking game has passed away because of money and brains in the cocking game.
I don’t claim to have originated the best strain of pit fowls in the world or even in Alabama, but the fact that Black Water fowl have won the majority of their fights in hard competition and have kept pace with the best of the cocking people for the last 15 – 20 years under all rules and lengths of gaffs and knives in the Philippines and Mexico is very gratifying. For the last six years I have been out of the game and breeding, but my son Chris has had the honor of carrying on the breeding and fighting the Black Water fowl, and may I say he has done a wonderful job. Our fowl passed the experimental stage and have characteristics bred into them. I fell that with our system of breeding we can hold them at their present standard for years to come. We have several breeds of game fowl at Black Water Farms, now I would like to tell you about the Sweater strain and how they came into my hands. For years I attended the fights at Clear Creek and Pumpkin Valley pits in Alabama and saw these Sweater cocks fought by man named Sonny Ware and anybody who is anybody in the cocking game, know this gentleman from Alabama.
Sonny and his father were in the game fowl business all of their lives and have had some of the best bloodlines of game fowl. Sonny and I fought against each other at these pits and I had to ask Sonny for some of these yellow leg Sweaters. Because of the fact that we competed against one another, he would not let me have a drop of Sweater blood.
Then one day several years later, a good friend called me and said he would sell me a trio of the Sweaters because he was getting out of the game fowl business and that Sonny had let him have an old Sweater cock and two hens to breed and he would sell me young trio of these chickens. The mans’ name was Odis Chapell, he said he had to return the cock and hens to Mr. Ware but he had several young chickens out of these and he would sell me a trio of my choice. So I bought a trio of young sweaters and that’s how I came into possession of my first Sweaters.
Odis had other friends that he let have or sold these young Sweaters to. Newton Wade and George Lay were two of them that I know of. Mr. Lay was already known for his Lacy Roundheads and Newton Wade was known for his Albany’s. Both of these people were good friends of mine and in later years I did use some of their Sweaters to infuse into my Sweaters, but let’s get back to the trio I got from Odis.
When I purchased the Sweaters from Odis, he said that Sonny thought that the Sweaters were bred out and could not longer compete in the tough competitions anymore, but the young trio matured into a wonderful looking fowl. The cock, a light red with white streamers in the tail, pea comb and yellow legged and very good station and good conformation with lots of plumage. The hens, a buff and straw color with black trail feathers looking a lot like a Roundhead but with better station and more plumage.
I didn’t want to breed brother and sister, so I sent the Sweater cock to Mr. Brown of Oak Grove Farms to breed to his yellow leg Hatch since at that time I was fighting with Mr. Brown and his son Gene in a partnership. I had the two hens left to breed at my farm and so I went to Mr. Jumper to get something to breed to these two hens. Everyone knows this wonderful gentleman and while I was there Johnny gave me some information about these Sweater chickens. Mr. Jumper said that Sweater McGinnis (from whom these chickens got their name) needed some cocks to fill a main at the pit in Hot Springs, AR. I forgot the year that Mr. Jumper said this main was fought but anyway, he said the late Mr. Harold Brown of Red Fox Farm let Mr. Sweater have or sold him cocks that were half Boston Roundhead and half Mclean Hatch. Some of these were yellow leg and some were green leg.
He said that Harold Brown liked the green legs better and that he let Sweater have the yellow leg ones to fight in the main. Johnny told me that the cocks were sensational when Mr. McGinnis fought them. At that time, all the big time cockers (Mr. Law, Mr. Kelso and Duke) bought one of these cocks for $500.00 each as Mr. Sweater would fight them and bring these cocks out of the pit. He also said the cock that Mr. Kelso had bought was sent to Mr. Cecil Davis to breed to his Kelso hens. At the time, Cecil was breeding a lot for Mr. Kelso and he did what Kelso had ask him to do, but each year he also bred the cock back to his daughters to get back as close as possible to the cock’s side.
That was the Sweater strain that I had got from Sonny. Johnny had some of the Sweaters from Cecil and having been friends with him for years, I got one of these Sweater cocks from him to breed to the hens that were part of the trio that I got from Odis. This was a very beautiful cock and the offspring were very good pit fowl.
I think that this cock from Mr. Jumper contained a little more of the Kelso blood because the offspring came with yellow and white legs. I discarded the white leg pullets and only bred the yellow leg ones.
After breeding the Sweater cock at Mr. Brown in Mississippi, I brought him home to breed the daughter of the Jumper cock. I would like to tell a story about the cock I got from Mr. Jumper. We had a flood in some bottom land where we kept about one hundred cocks. We only lost one as fate would have it; it was the cock from Johnny. I told Mr. Jumper and he knew how upset I was about losing the cock. Mr. Jumper is the closest friend that I have in this cocking game and he understood about how you can lose game fowl in strange ways (that was why I only got to breed that cock one year) After breeding the cock from Odis back to the daughters out of the Johnny cock (I did this each year until they were only 1/8 of the Jumper cock) this is the family of Sweater we call our right outs.
The Odis cock that we bred to the yellow leg Hatch of Mr. Brown was almost unbeatable. We fought these cocks in all the big pits in the circuit, Sunset, Texoma, Clear Creek and all the ones in between. I like the Sweater cock so much that I went back to Odis to find out if he knew which of the hens from Sonny the mother of the cock was so that I could breed this cock back to his mother. Unfortunately, he had not single mated the two hens so he didn’t know which one was the mother. He said that one of the hens had spurs and that he liked that one best. When I went to Sonny’s farm and asked for the spurred hen that Odis had told me about. Sonny already knows about how we were winning with the yellow leg and Sweater crosses. He saw them fight at Clear Creek and I had fought on that and had an impressive fight, he had asked for the cock and I let him have him. I also fought one of my Gilmore Hatch cocks and he won a wonderful battle after having titled, he also asked for this cock and I let him have him, out of friendship, no money involve. He knew he could not refuse me the spurred hen because he owed me a favor for my letting him have the two cocks. Besides I had told every body that the Sweaters I was fighting came from Sonny. Sonny let me have the hen and I bred the son back to his mother (or aunt) not knowing which one she really was. I do know one thing, she was the mother of the possum pullets of our Sweaters and everyone know how good these cock and hen are in the breeding of the Sweaters at Black Water Farm. If you don’t know the story about the possum, I am about to tell it.
When she as a pullet she was very beautiful. She had a high fan tail, very good station and body like a football. We let her run loose on free range at the farm and one day at feeding time, I missed her. Not wanting anything to happen to her, I started to look for her. Bruce Barnett was doing a lot of breeding at Black Water Farm at that time and had been for years. Bruce and I located the possum pullet under a root of a large oak tree. She had stolen a nest off under the root and was setting on her eggs. Not thinking anything would happen to her, we left her there and planned to catch her in a few days and put her in a pen. In a few days we returned to the place where she had been under the root setting. We only found feathers and all her eggs had been eaten by a possum and we thought we had lost her too. A few days later while we were feeding, she showed up with no tail feathers and very badly bitten in her back from the possum. After a little doctoring, she was ok and we put her in a pen. From that time on, the name just stuck we would say “go feed and water the possum hen” We bred her back to her father and the possum side of the Sweater.
I had been breeding these cocks for a few years and fighting them continuously each year. It gradually became apparent to me that they were being bred a bit too close to cope with the rough cocks they were having to meet. It was my experience from the past that because of the fast starting side stepping and phenomenal cutting abilities in the air and on the ground, these cocks could beat most of the cocks they met in the early stage of the battle. I think this was their greatest quality, but in the latter stage of the battle when it came down to give and take, I never thought that they excelled. I was convinced that to stay in the game and to fight down to a “tug of war” they had to have new blood. I made several unsuccessful attempts with this end in view.
I have a very good partner in the Philippines by the name of Nene Abello and Nene is one of the best in the Philippines. Nene and I had already won the World championship in the Philippines and lots of other big derbies with the Sweaters. I told him what I thought and that I was looking for some new blood to put in them. He said when he came to visit the next we would look for something that could help improves the Sweaters. Nene and I were always looking for new blood to improve our strains of gamer fowl. Nene always said that out of all the cockers he know I was the only one that he had met who was always looking for something to improve the stain of game fowl. He thought that I would always have great game fowl because of this. I never let them go to nothing before adding new blood.
On his next trip from the Philippines, we went to see Mr. Ray Hoskins of TX. If anyone has ever been to Ray’s farm they can tell you that he has some very impressive game fowl. He has green leg Hatch which is what I was interested in. All of the chickens at Ray’s farm were in very good health and uniform in every way. I know that Ray was a good breeder and that he never let too may people have any of his bloodlines. If not for Nene I would probable not have gotten any of the yellow leg Hatch, but with Nene being friends with Ray for many years, he agreed to sell me a cock for $500.00 and I bought it.
The yellow leg cock had good station and was black breasted with the same type and color as the Sweaters, but the plumage was longer and much improves. He consisted of very broad feathers and a quill of whale bone toughness. Such plumage enables a chicken to be fought several times during a season. The first crosses were strong, tough and desperately game. I bred back to the Sweater side, fighting and testing them. Each year’s breeding showed improvement over the year before. I kept this up until they were back to type, showing improvement over the year before, showing all the old fighting qualities of the Sweaters, but they were now back with strength and endurance making them more efficient cocks at any stage of the battle. Ray said he got this yellow leg Hatch from a very wealthy man from Chicago and that’s all he told me about them. That was the blood that put the Sweaters back on the map.
In my hands, as well as many of my friends such as: Dink Fair, Ronnie Justise, Jeff Hudspeth, Jerry Atkins, Ray Boles, Bruce Barnett, Charley Abley and many other people, who through friendship or for good money, they have been winning for the past 15 years and are still wining today.
Nene Abello and my son Chis have just won the Work Championship in the Philippines again this year. These Sweaters all come a light orange with pea comb and white streamers in their tails. They have good station and are very good to look at. The hen comes looking like an orange straw or straw and buff color. All have good station and conformation. Sometimes we get a green leg hen but never a green leg cock. For the past six years, my son and Nene have been doing all the honors in the cock house and pits, I consider Nene a fine judge of a cock. He is among the best feeders and I know he is one or the best breeders in the Philippines. He knows what to expect from a cock and if they were not right in every respect he would have found out several years ago and passed them up. He tests almost every loser and they have to be right for him or he has no use for them.
Nene as help Chris and I by selecting brood fowl from the pits that we have sent to him to fight. He lets us know from which mating we have sent him which is performing the best. He has conditioned and fought more of these Sweaters than any one man. He knows them through and through and I just want to say thanks to him for staying a true friend to Black Water Farms. For the last 15-20 years he has never looked for any other fowls. I hope that I have not hurt anyone’s feelings by mentioning their name in this article and I hope I have answered most of the questions about the strain of Sweaters we have at Blackwater Farms. I am very proud of having something to do with this strain of game fowl which has taken over the ads in the magazines and the pits around the world and in keeping them as good as or maybe even better than when I came into possession of the Sweaters.
Sweater Pedigree Table
by Gameness til the End
Based on the articles posted on this post
Carol NeSmith and Eugene Brown
|NeSmith Sweater #1
(7/8 cock 1/4 hen or 1/8 of Johnny Cock)
|NeSmith Sweater #2 Possum
|NeSmith Sweater #3
Marvin Anderson and Sweater Bloodline
from Harold Brown
Marvin Anderson was born 1878 and died in 1976. While serving in the army he became acquainted with Mr. Sanford Hatch from New York. They both were cockers and became friends at this time. This was during WW1 he fought birds in Alabama and Georgia. During these times people that fought birds traveled by wagon trains to southern towns where cockfighting was a weeklong event. They fought their fowl and mains were on there way out. They decided to weigh and fight them in order until one fought his birds out, almost like ten cock hack fights. They served food and stayed all week in the towns and always had some one stay with there birds.
Mr. McGuiness had fowl as well, Harold Brown told me that he had a family of the left nose hatch, given to him by Mr. Mike Kearny, and he crossed them on 1/2 E.W. Law Grey, 1/2 Madigin Clarets, they was as good of fowl that he had. After meeting a young cocker from Alabama named Harold brown they became acquainted. He gave him some fowl none as his sweater left nose greys.
Harold said in the early 40s and early 30s they were greys and bred back to the brother and sister mating they became red, being 1/2 hatch blood 1/4 Claret blood and 1/4 grey the law birds was a dark legged grey blood to start with. I know for a fact I seen some in the early 70s that threw a grey every now and then. Harold also said he gave some of this blood to Mr. Walter Kelso for the Orlando tournament and to meet some persons in a derby at the Augusta tournament.
They where the Sweaters blood. In turn they won both tournaments. Mr. Gilbert Coutua was the feeder from Louisiana, a friend of Harold and Marvin. Marvin was breeding the yellow legged birds from Sanford and Harold kept the ones that was crossed on the Kearny blood and where green legged he got from Theodore McLean, the green legged fowl has more plumage and that’s the ones Harold could sell. Marvin and Harold decided to keep the yellow legged fowl in Alabama, only letting them out to just the local’s -runt camp Scott house-Barnett’s.
In the 60s Harold brown was beating a young cocker from Texas named Joe Goode and his brother. Then became acquainted with a young cocker named Johnny Jumper, he was fascinated with the fowl. Harold talked to Walter and told him to let this young man have some of them birds because he knew he was pretty much a up and coming cocker and Harold and Curtis liked him. They beat him a lot but he had a good show of birds and always took care of the ones that were fought.
Through the years breeding of this cross fowl they all became the color of red roosters light red in color with white in the tails, being a breeder and selecting fowl Harold sold some of these fowl, Carol Nesmith later obtained some of the yellow leg blood from his buddy Bruce Barnett’s older brother. Dink fair got some from Johnny Jumper, and some from Carol Nesmith.
Marvin Anderson told me the make up of those Sweaters were and I believe until this day are mostly the 1/2 yellow legged hatch, 1/4 Madigin Claret, 1/4 E.W. Law Dark Leg Grey. Bred back to the yellow side which would be dominant line and inbreeding like all the old timers done to keep their birds. Most sweaters being a battle cross are all mean unless handled at early stages of their life.