Master Cockfighter

After more than 70 years, Mike Ratliff prepares to retire from his blood sport

I wait until Hector's finished talking and wish him good luck. I walk over to the trash can and peer down at the bird. To my surprise, it's not dead. It looks up, flaps its blood-soaked wings and tries to get out of the bucket. He bobs his head, his beak dripping blood. His eyes flutter open.

Two boys, walking by, notice him. One of the boys picks up a Styrofoam cup and whacks the bird in the head. The bird stops for a moment and then starts bobbing its head again. The boy hits him again with the cup, smiles at his friend and walks away. The rooster looks up out of the bucket one more time, bobs his head and then closes his eyes. His head slowly lowers into the paper cups and the tamales that surround him. He is finally dead.

On and on the fights go, one after the other, long into the night. I see a bird's guts spill out of him like rubber bands. I see another, near death, pull off the improbable victory with a lucky shot that cuts an opponent's artery. I see fights that last for minutes, and others that go to the drag pits and last for nearly an hour. I see birds sprinkled with blood, and birds that are made to fight when they are going stiff and cold.

After more than 70 years, Mike Ratliff prepares to retire from his blood sport.
Mark Graham
After more than 70 years, Mike Ratliff prepares to retire from his blood sport.
Chicken huts on Mike Ratliff's chicken ranch.
Mark Graham
Chicken huts on Mike Ratliff's chicken ranch.

I meet a third-generation cockfighter, who tells me how much the sport means to his family and his Mexican-American culture. "Who's to say one culture is superior to the other?" he asks me. "What's the difference between this and bullfighting, or horse racing?" Another tells me he has no problem with the Humane Society protecting dogs and cats, but chickens are different. "So you're telling me it's okay to wring a bird's neck and put it in a frying pan, but you can't let it do what it was genetically born to do? This ain't like dog fighting. We don't mistreat these birds, and we don't make them fight."

I stay as long as I can and then I say goodbye to Hector and the others I've met. I've seen enough killing for one day.


The last time I see the Chicken Man he is seated in his scooter looking out at the field where he keeps his stag roosters, which are not quite old enough to fight. Each one has a rubber cord around its leg, which is attached to a stake in the ground, giving it maybe five feet to walk. There are hundreds of them, stretching out in long rows across the dirt field. Some have white heads and red bodies, others are orange from the head to the tailfeathers. They crow loudly, one in response to the other. They look strong and proud and fit.

I ask Ratliff what he'll do with all them, now that he's retired. "Probably just give them away," he says. "But not just to anyone. I'll give them to a cocker, someone who can carry on the tradition."

And then he hurries inside, before the rain starts falling.

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12 comments
bebe1656
bebe1656

Im very proud of my self as one of the cocker and a smalltime gamefowl breeder in my country Philippines. After finish reading this articles, what a wonderful story about Mr. Mike Ratliff.Any one can give me the exact address where His gamefarm located in Blanket,Tx. Thank you more power....

Mharl_striker
Mharl_striker

I'm glad its legal in our country...proud to be a cockfighter...this is part of our culture and protected by our laws...

Xomox99
Xomox99

Not only Breeders of gamefowl need to UNITE, the Farmers, the grain mills, the Feed stores, the big name producers of feed, the Vendors of poultry products and the new cockers of today.Very one of these producers, merchants and breeders NOT TO MENTION the IRS will loss money. Uncountable millions.SO WHO IS GOING TO LEAD THE WAY TO A NEW WORLD ORDER OF COCKERS?THE GOVERNMENT WANTS A NEW WORLD ORDER OF MONEY AND GOVERNMENT LET'S BEAT THEM TO THE PUNCH.

Gani Reli
Gani Reli

As Ratliff says "probably just give them away but not just to anyone, I'll give them to a cocker".

Well, I am a cocker too, and it is legal in my country to own and fight roosters. Send some of them to me in the Philippines and I will take care of every single gamefowl I could get to continue the heritage and preserve the bloodlines to the best I could, he! he! he! But I am serious.

Thanks,

mark lee
mark lee

i want to purchase a set of of game hens. how do i do that from here?

aj
aj

the way i see it; all cockers must be united.we all have to think as one and fight for that reason. The humane society is a very strong organization. we can not fight them by just writing letters to our representatives, because it's just a waste of time.we all know that a lot of people in this country are being misinform about the matter. The group are bunch of liars, opportunistic fools that will stop at nothing to make millions... I strongly believe that by educating people about these birds it will help us all in the future.we just have to work together.......

joe
joe

i think cockfighting should be legal, because it is a way of life for many people and it is not cruel, and people do not make the roosters fight. they fight on their own, just like boxers and ufc fighters have the choice to fight, they are violent and cruel to each other, but it is not animal cruelty. some day everyone will see just how extreme the humane societ is, and see that the humane society really doesn't know much about animals, and the humane society are mainly after all the money they are getting donated to them, but yet they don't give any of the money to the animal shelters, the animal shelters get money from the taxpayers, not the humane society. john goodwin himself is a convicted felon, for burning fur traders homes, stores, and barns, he is also a high school drop out, all the humane society is worried about is getting money in their pocket.

thank you for your time

smyers.era
smyers.era

I know Mr. Ratliff may not keep up on this site with all the unecessary bs on it, but hopefully someone cool can just pass this on to him.

Just wanted to say hello and God bless you Mr.Mike Ratliff, from a couple of your O'l students! And we are honered to have been givin the opportunity to attend your, only one of it's kind, School. Our Graduation Certificates are proudly displayed on our Office wall next to the Trophys. Glad to hear you still have your General Cross's! I know you are of German decent, and honed and refined those Roosters with the same precision that the Germans did when they designed the Mercedes Benz! Anyone fortunate enough to be handed down such an amazing creature better damn well appreciate it! But you keep your beautiful birds for as long as you can. A wise man once told me they teach you alot about Life and they keep you healthy and happy! So live long and prosper Mike! Thanks for all that you have done for us, all the way to the Supreme Court you fought for our rights and won! You are an inspiration for fighting for, if nothing else, for what you believe in. We should all take note!

I understand that there are alot of people that don't care for the sport, I get it. But it's more than that, it is our very freedom as Americans that is at stake here. If they took our freedom away all at once, there would be a Revolution! So they are doing a little at a time, I guess so we won't notice it. I notice it! 

Signed, One of your best students, (once I learned the important difference between human chicks, and game chicks!) *Chuck Myers*, & following along with tradition, daughter, and second generation student, Sherri Myers.

 Still alive and kickin it out here in the good o'l US of A Oklahoma!

See you at the fights, where bein in the Pit's, is a good thing!

 

Old Roosters never die, they just get a new Cocker built!

smyers.era
smyers.era

Spell check, HONORED. They would not let me back in  to edit! ("~")

 
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