The articles below are good study on the most popular bloodlines of today from a history perspective.
I have not created a pedigree table yet like most of the past articles on “Cockfighters and Breeds” category. I want everyone to read and digest all the words written. And not just look at the pedigree table.
Let’s memorialize December for George Herman “Sweater” McGinnis. He died enjoying our sports. McGinnis was a cockfighter first. He was a World War II veteran second.
Sweater McGinnis must be one of the best all around cockfighter. A cockfighter with complete cockfighting skills.
- doctor/surgeon/behavioral therapist
- trainer/coach/massage therapist
- protector of all liberties/individual liberty activist
At the bottom are photos from my visit to William T. Greene who received these bloodlines from McGinnis. WTG returned the favor by breeding these bloodlines pure without any outside blood. At 91 yrs old – more or less during my visit, WTG is still a purist propagator of Sweater McGinnis’ Blueface and Grey.
– Gameness til the End
Posted by ChinaChicks1
George Herman “Red Sweater” McGinnis had a great sense of humor. If he could return to earth right now, he would realize that the controversy about the Blueface story was the best practical joke he ever pulled. Im sure he would get a few chuckles out of this article, but I am going to write it anyway. Perhaps if nothing else comes of it, it will inspire others to give us their version of the story.
Herman McGinnis was born in 1905 in Southwest Oklahoma near Chickaska. For much of his early life he stayed with uncle, Dave Lane, a druggist in Oklahoma City. Dave Lane was one of the best of the old time chicken fighters. In the early 1920’s while Sweater was still a teenager, he handled a main of cocks from Frank Perry and Sap Barret against the legendary Henry Wortham and won with his last 4 cocks to win the main. This was the old Shell Creek Pit near Sand Springs, Oklahoma.
Sweater was a professional cocker in every sense of the word. Except for a short hitch in military service in WWII, he spent his lifetime working with gamefowl. He was in great demand as a feeder and handler, and he spent considerable time with John Madigin, Walter Kelso and Jack Walton. With his conditioning method, he could build stronger thighs on a cock than any feeder I ever knew. They would be as hard and big around as the average mans wrist. They were so strong that his cocks frequently broke their own legs. As a handler, Sweater never missed a trick, legal or otherwise. It is fitting that he died in the pit with a gamecock in his arms at the Boxwood Pit in Virginia on the 19th of December 1959.
Sweater had hundreds of chickens raised for him each year but until he moved to North Carolina in 1954 to work for Percy Flowers at Pineville Farms, none of them were specifically called the Blueface family. There is no particular combination of bloodlines that could be pointed out as Blueface to the exclusion of all others. They were simply referred to as McGinnis Reds or Greys, depending on the color. Sweater never advertised his fowl, he didn’t like to sell them and almost never did, however he gave many of them away.
His usual breeding method was to place a cock and 6 hens on a farm walk where they could reproduce freely. In the Fall, Sweater would pick up what stags he wanted, and tell the farmer to eat the rest of them. Thus a great deal of Sweaters stock was available to anyone who knew where he walked his fowl. Many of the so called Blueface families today are based on fowl obtained from these farm walks and contain not a touch of the McLean Hatch usually associated with the name Blueface. The bloodlines that Sweater used in various combinations and which appear in some of the modern Blueface lines include the Madigan Texas Rangers, a truly great family of Brown Reds.
When Sweater was in charge of Madigan’s brood yards in Houston in the late 1930’s, a great many of the cocks and hens were carrying a fourth or more of this Texas Ranger breeding. When Madigan died in 1942, Kelso and Japhet inherited his fowl which were all shipped to Kelso’s place in Galveston. Sweater set up the various brood yards then Kelso and Japhet alternated in choosing which ones they wanted. But Kelso didn’t like the Clarets, not to mention the Rangers, so Sweater took what he wanted of those.
Sometime later, Sweater decided he needed more speed in his fowl and someone sold him a family of Three Spurs from Washington state. These cock had a normal spur, plus a rudimentary spur above and below it. I know of at least one family of modern Blueface that show this trait and some of the cocks cannot be heeled properly until these small spurs are clipped off. I understand the Black Sumatra Jungle Fowl and their descendants have this odd spur formation.
Sweater fought a lot of the Sam Bigham fowl a Marsh Butcher/Claret cross. This is one of the sources of the rare white leg that shows up in some Blueface. He also had some Kearney stock he got from up North. A particular favorite of Sweaters was his Jim Thompson Mahoganies, as bred by Bob Lang of Long Island, New York. Sweater called these Thompson’s his secret weapon and left them in Oklahoma when he went to North Carolina. He didn’t know how the deal with Percy Flowers would work out, and he was hedging his bets by leaving the Thompson’s and several other yards of his seed stock with friends he trusted. He left some of his McLean seed stock with an old Okie friend in Arizona and most of the Thompson’s with Billy the Barber Atchley of Oklahoma City, who in turn supplied Sweater with some really good Butcher fowl. After Sweater died, the brood yards he left at Pineville deteriorated and much of the reason could be lack of access to these Oklahoma seed stock fowl.
More on the life of Sweater McGinnis
In addition to the Red fowl, Sweater raised a lot of Greys, primarily Madigan and Kelso. These were frequently combined with the various Red fowl,and the resulting offspring were either McGinnis Reds or McGinnis Greys, even though they were full brothers but different colors. I have a photo I took of a full plumaged Grey cock in 1949 while visiting Sweater and Lun Gilmore at Jack Walton’s place in Dallas. Sweater told me that all his battle cocks that year were carrying some of this cocks bloodlines. Much of the material in this article came out of that meeting. I believe that Gilmore was Jack Walton’s brother-in-law, and I will discuss his role in the Blueface story later on. Until now I haven’t mentioned the straight Blueface. The fowl I have mentioned in the previous paragraphs do appear in many of the modern Blueface lines, but Sweater wouldn’t have considered them the real thing. To properly describe the evolution of the Blueface, I first have to establish the historical perspective. To do this, I have to mention 2 other professional cockers: J.D. Perry of Oklahoma City and the inimitable Max Thaggard who until recently was still pitting them around Gunthrie, Oklahoma. In the early 1940’s, the team of J.D. Perry and Karl Bashara was the class entry at all the Oklahoma pits. Karl’s Shufflers and J.D.’s ability as a feeder and handler made a combination that was hard to beat. When C.C.Cooke of Oklahoma bought all of the Sandy Hatch fowl for $ 2,500 and then joined forces with E.W. Law in Florida, they hired J.D. to run their show. J.D. crossed Cooke’s Hatch with Law’s Claret’s to make the now famous Hatch/Clarets that revolutionized long heel cocking. Power/Speed Blends became a household word at least in the cockhouse. About this same time, Max Thaggard bred an old one eyed Frost Grey cock (that Bobby Manziel have given him) over some Brown Red hens. The resulting offspring became the Vibrators the greatest infighters (cutting to the breast) that I, or most likely any man ever saw. For a too brief period, they were unstoppable. After losing all too many fights to the Hatch/Clarets and those speckle-bellied Vibrators, Sweater started out to go them one better. He came up with the bright idea of combining the Hatch/Claret type fowl with the Grey/Brown Reds and beat everybody.
Sweaters friend Lun Gilmore had a sickly looking, pale headed old buff hen that normally would have been killed, but she was supposed to be one of the very few good Hatch hens ever to leave Ted McLeans place. Presumably she was carrying some Morgan Whitehackle breeding, as many of the McLean fowl did, because on rare occasions she would produce some spangled-looking offspring. However, the Jim Thompson fowl on which the original Hatch were based also produced about 20% spangles and sometimes even a pure white. In fact I have seen White Hatch fowl that their breeder was reluctant to claim as Hatch for fear of others would accuse him of poor record keeping. Lun may have got this hen from Pete Frost but they both shared her, so to speak, Frost got McLean to send them a Hatch cock to mate to this old hen. McLean owed Frost a favor but he wasn’t happy to see his bloodlines scattered around. So he sent them a cock alright- a little 4:02 blinker peacomb bird he intended to kill anyway.
When this runty little cock was sparred, he really put on a show. He could hit as hard as a shake. These South Texas boys were used to seeing the shotgun type cocks, and one that can hit so hard as this Hatch was something new. They bred him to the old pale headed hen just to see what the pair would produce. That first year they raised about 20 chicks and fought the stags with mediocre success. One of the few that won was rattled and would turn dark in the face when he was sparred. Sweater took this Old Blueface cock to breed to some hens he liked that were a mixture of Madigin Grey and Lieper Hatch. Thus was started the first attempt to breed a family of Blueface, although they were not really called by that name. It was that first old pale-headed hen that really started things. It so happened that most of her chicks also showed that sickly pale face.
Somebody told Sweater that the old hen was a disease carrier (Leukosis) and that he ought to kill her and all her offspring, Sweater didn’t like those damned blue-faced chickens,but he wasn’t ready to give up on them. They all had well rounded bodies and felt good in his hands, they just looked pale-even the cocks in good condition.
Sweater took some of the damned blue faced chickens to the poultry experts at Texas A&M College to see what was wrong. After some tests, they told him the chickens were perfectly healthy. The pale head was caused by an inherited genetic abnormality. To get rid of it, Sweater will have to raise a lot of young stock and keep the red faced ones for his future brood stock. That year Sweater and his friends hatched over 500 chickens from the old hen and her daughters out of several cocks. They only produced two red faced pullets-no stags.
When J.D. Perry left Cooke’s employ in 1948 to go work for G.A.C. Halff at Quien Sabe Ranch near SanAntonio, he took the best of the Hatch fowl with him. These Hatch were primarily the Jim Thompson / J.W.E. Clarke / Kearney bloodlines with an added touch of this and that. The McLean fowl were the same basic bloodlines but showed less of the Yellow leg breeding. The pea combs came from the old Boston Roundhead and Low Comb Irish Whitehackle that was in the Duryea fowl which appears in the pedigrees of both the Clark and Kearney Families. The Kearney stock at that time was a combination of his Irish Brown Reds and Whitehackles, plus the Duryea and Joe Wingate stock. So this was the source of the Green legs At any rate, Sweater and J.D. traded some Hatch fowl, and in 1958 J.D. was advertising Blueface for sale. The straight Blueface (McLeans)were comparitivaly slow,single stroke,ground fighters. They had the suicidal tendency of sticking their necks out while reaching for a bill hold. A cock like that just doesnt win many fights in first-class long heel competition. So Sweater tried various crosses with those damned blue faced chickens. Most of the crosses produced just average fighting cocks. A few showed promise but wouldn’t pass on their good qualities to the next generation. The one cross he tried though that seemed to add just the edge he was looking for was with Karl Bashara’s Shufflers. He also got some Brown Reds from old man Starnes of Konowa, Oklahoma. I had always heard this was an old Irish family of Brown Reds but my buddy for 50 years-Old Lunch Money, himself published an article quoting Mr. Starnes as saying his fowl were just the Bashara Shufflers with a touch of Madigan Grey Sweater. He also got the D.H. Pierce Wisconsin Red Shufflers from various other breeders, especially C.V.Myers of Pensylvania. By trying out many different combinations, he developed just the right blend of Hatch/Shuffler and his other bloodlines that he could win with.
And win he did. He set a fantastic record in the 5 short years he was working for Percy Flowers in North Carolina. In 1957 he entered the Lally Memorial Stag Derby in Pensylvania. This was the premier short heel (1-1/4 inch gaffs) event for each year. This was the first time Sweater ever conditioned cocks for a short heel event and the first time he ever conditioned a full show of stags for a major event. (None of the major pits in the south ever scheduled stag derbys or tournaments. So Sweater had always fought 2 year old cocks. He won 9 and lost 1 to take first money. The 1 loss was to a Jim Thompson stag owned by Bob Lang, who was responsible for one of Sweater’s seed stock lines.
The short heel men said that the 1957 win was a fluke and that Sweater wouldn’t have a chance next time. So he entered the Lally in 1958 and won it by the same identical score, 9 wins and 1 loss. Now the boys were convinced that this Okie was pretty foxie, so they decided to keep their money and not enter the event in 1959. The pit management finally got an entry list together though and sure enough Sweater didn’t win this time, he only took 2nd with 8 wins and 2 losses.
As a final tribute to a real chicken man, I can think of nothing more appropriate than the words spectator used in describing Sweaters stags at the 1957 Lally Memorial Derby. Remember that these stags were direct descendants of those damned blue-faced chickens produced by a sickly-faced, pale-headed old hen and a runty little 4:02 cock that had been destined for the chopping block.
“The best the North and East could produce was lined up against them, and they made a runaway of the show. They were fast, terrific bucklers, hard hitters, good cutters, aggressive finishers. Their legs reached out a mile every stroke, they delivered blows with a snap, and every punch landed where it counted. The only fight they lost was a quick one shot affair to the brain in the first few seconds, which sort of thing can and will happen to anybody who is meeting top grade fowl.” (written by Spectator, 1957)
When talking about the Blueface they should never be called Hatch. That would automatically bring up the picture of a dark black breasted red cock with green legs. Even the Hatch fowl don’t all come that color and certainly not the Blueface.
The colors range from a deep black or brown red (Shuffler’s,Brown Red’s, 3 spur) through a typical black breasted red (Thompson, Butcher, Claret) to a ginger or pumpkin (California Chet or Redquill). The Chet was only added to a couple of brood yards by Sweater but it sure made some good cutting cocks. The Blueface come both pea comb and straight comb and may have green, blue, yellow or white legs. Perhaps this explains some of the controversy over the Blueface. One man might have Blueface that come pea comb pumpkins with white legs and another man straight comb black reds with green legs. Rarely, the cocks also might be white, black or red spangle, even grey. These bloodlines were all in certain Blueface brood pens.
I was well acquainted with Sweater McGinnis in the 1940’s and 50’s. During those years, I was working as chicken man and handler for some of the major cockers ( C.C.Cooke, Bobby Manziel Sr., etc.) and many lesser known men. Although we were friends and visited back and forth, Sweater didn’t to let me have his good Blueface. He knew we would meet in the pit, and he didn’t like to fight against his own bloodlines. When Sweater died, I was in the process of moving from Ft. Worth Texas to Denver, Colorado. It was awkward for me to do so, but I made a quick trip to visit people who were keeping Sweaters seed stock yards. I bought all the birds I could from four brood yards, each yard containing different bloodlines. Over the past 30 years, have blended these four lines to make my present day Blueface.
by COLONEL SPARKMAN
Herman McGinnis used to work for Percy Flowers. He grew up near Oklahoma City, Blanchard, and east of Chikasha. His friends used to call him Herman until one day (1926) the temperature went down from a normal warm weather to a cold day. Herman Mcginnis was seen wearing an red old knit sweater with buttons down the front. The bottom went to his knees like a dress. The sleeves were rolled up from his elbows to his wrist and the roll on each arm was big as a football. All about you could see was a face, two hands, and two feet sticking out of a red sweater. Immediately people around him would say “Come here, Sweater” that is when the nickname came to be.
by Brownred Kelso
This coming from a man who was there,, that i know really well,,,,,,Sweater McGinnis died at the OLD BOXWOOD PIT, at Axton, Virginia, it was a long drag fight, he won that fight and let out a rebel yell and had a massive heart attack, the hat he was wearing that day kinda hung there on a nail in the doorway, one day a fella was messin around and put that hat on an old black fella named “Mose” who cleaned the floor at the pit and it likin to scared him to death,,after Sweater had died Percy Flowers might have had one of his best feeders/trainers ever a French Canadian named Johnny Monroe Sweater had left Percys cupboard loaded with good bred stuff and the only problem “i was told” Percy had was Monroe was more interested in selling those chcikens behind Percys back and sending them back to Canada,,,well here’s the way the story goes Mr. Flowers found out and hired a hit on Monroe but the gunman missed and Monroe left town,,,,he hung out in Western NC and got gone from there and i have never heard his name since!
The sweaters as bred by Sweater McGinnis for Percy Flowers were some of the gameest cocks that ever lived, it got so bad people were stealing them off the tie cords,,,so Sweater bred bantam into the blood and i was told they were better as far as fighting cocks then the sweaters were. Sweater Mcguiness was a gameness freak,,,that was his thang,, he wanted the gamest cock on the planet….and should he lived he might have gotten to that point because it was close to perfect then,,,,,,
One of the best selectors and trainers ever from what the old timers tell me was Col Jack Claffey, Col Claffey, would pick through and feed the cocks Sweater would throw out when they were going to those big tournaments in Florida, at St. Augustine The colonel had a tremendous win record and the unique thinng about him was that he never went into the pit and had no interest in the cocks fighting, just merely liked to feed and condition gamefowl. This was a most admirable man from what all was able to gather about him and he lived his life out on Percy Flowers farm until his passing, i was told,,,,,,
Now, when Percy Flowers got into trouble for making moonshine whiskey, he had a trial and finally got aquitted, the state was trying to convict him not for making the liquer but for the unpaid tax on that whiskey. The thing that might have helped him get out of that situation was that foreman of the jury was Willis Holding, the same Willis Holding that was gifted the fowl from TK BRUNER ast his death. Now as i was reading when Sweaster died Harry Parr was able to get one of the sweater cocks back from Pinehill farms (Percy Flowers) and that was a cock Willis Holding had out on loan, he was lucky to have even gotten that one back,,,,,,,,good roosters used to have more pull than American Express Gold back in the day………
The state accused Percy of making alcohol for so many years 24 hours a day 7 days a week, they had planned to tax him on this amount of money,,,by that time Pinehill farm had reached 5000acres and Percy Flowers owned Johnson county, NC,,,,his store is still there and i visited johnson couty just a few weeks back, his daughter has developed this area into its own city,,,,,,,,,,,,anyhow,,,,Oh Percy Flowers had a son,,,Jr. that went to UNC was going to be an attorney and was killed in a plane crash, i noticed pictures of him piloting an experimental craft, had he became a politician we might have cockfighting now in the USA,,,who knows…..
Willam T. Greene calls the grey bloodline “McGinnis Perfection Grey”.
Have you found out what two bloodlines are the secret of McGinnis?
Hint: Not Blueface and Not Grey