Master Cockfighter

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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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Jesse Hyde
Contact: Jesse Hyde