“Well, cockfighting and cocksucking,” she said, “but ‘hobby’ doesn’t quite hit the bull’s-eye. More like – what do they say? – ‘avocations,’ though they don’t ever work out even, as one you always know is legal in two states, while everywhere the other goes by laws more difficult to figure, though both will put you on your knees. Still, Colonel, you can actually practice the second all over the country without attracting much attention, so I do.”
By that point the interview was a cast-iron disaster, but I figured she wanted me at least to know she knew it. When the Q-and-A veers around toward hobbies, most people realize there’s no hope they’ll be chosen. At that point, I could understand she wanted to wrest control away from my framed diplomas, executive desk and pressed uniform.
“In the chicken business a woman is supposed to spectate and supply and support her man. They can drink in their trailers, serve up the pulled pork platters and scream in the bleachers. But in the pits? The idea of a hen handling a cock, which seems natural as moonlight to me, well, it would send the old timers into hissy fits. Nothing uglier than a throwback redneck geezer angry at seeing his territory fall into enemy hands.
“But I won out. You see, at first I became a vendor, selling Ruff Tuff forks and gaffs, Ometol, band pliers, spur saws, whetters, boots, drops and black vitamins. Carried a Puerto Rican line of wicked bayonets. I was friendly and easy and had mastered more details than a poultry scholar. I also carried Feathered Warrior magazine out of DeQueen, Arkansas, my home state, you’ll remember, and I gobbled up every issue from breeding to grooming and culling. Pretty soon I knew which spurs were right on Roundheads (great cutters and high flyers!), how best to shurl a Kelso or Claret. Even old-time cockers came to me for the inside skinny on short heel gaffs and slashers. You see, I was working my way into being a trainer, which is how I got to the Blue Ridge, exercising and sparring grays in muffs for Aces Down Farm, studying up on ointments for scaly leg and lice, new Filipino blades and tackle – cutting edge, so to speak . I was handy at dubbing and doping, treating bubblefoot and such. I was holy hell in the exercise yard, flying the flock for hours, and I kept my boss Millard Ridgeway happy in the blue-trimmed Winnebago when his wife was hauling the “trouble twins” about town. He was a banty fellow, easy to please and always tender. Better than that shit-heels Morton I traveled for out of Loachapoka, Alabama. I kept all Millard’s cocks, if you follow me, keyed up, on fire, happy to be mad. Once he gave me full charge of two dozen white Zebra Kickers to get ready for a secret Ozark main, and we won big. He told all his partners I was a genius with roosters, a world-class trainer who’d bring him prize trophies and tons of money from the official book and side bets. And if you can train, well, you can go into the pit and handle.
“Of course, it was lucky I already had blow job expertise. I had to lick and nip and flutter-kiss my way into the good graces of cigar-puffing powermen, and as a night-owl Chi-O in Fayetteville (root, Hogs, root!) I’d apprenticed and developed a keen ability early. It’s how you make frat boys happy while saving your cherry for a better rate of exchange. Not that I held out all that long. But Sigma Chis and Tekes and even the jocks – they’re all just a bunch of stags, which is what we call over-eager yearling birds. They like to crow loud to each other about getting their rocks off more than they enjoy actually doing it.”I believe, by the way she relaxed and held eye contact, she had gotten over any hope of shocking me and was just yielding to some sudden urge to share. We had fifteen minutes to kill, and I don’t think she ever really wanted to manage a museum for Old Dominion Military Institute or any other military or civilian college. Her degrees didn’t quite rate as qualification, and her erratic work experience didn’t improve her chances. She answered our ad because, I think, she was restless, though I don’t question her early answer that young men in uniform always seized her attention. The way she sashayed across my office in that short skirt and shimmery blouse, those western boots, that hot handshake: It added up to a woman with an appetite for being seen, teasing and working an angle. Not a presence I could, even with compelling credentials, bring to a campus that aims to adjust and strap down youth hormones about to explode.
Per Contra Fiction - Winter 2006