YORK -- There may be somebody out there who will stick up for cockfighting -- but I sure can't find him.
I met a few people in convenience stores and country stores outside York on Tuesday who said that the hullabaloo over the cockfighting event broken up in a Sunday raid by police was maybe not such a big deal as it had been made out to be. But none had ever even seen a cockfight.
In Sunday's bust, police charged 33 people in connection with a cockfighting ring west of York. Thirty-six live birds and more than $4,000 in cash were seized.
Except for people who have visited Louisiana, or maybe countries in Latin America or Asia, few people will admit they have seen a cockfight.
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Charles Blackwell of York recalled seeing cockfights in Puerto Rico years ago but didn't care for the animal cruelty.
I have seen cockfights in the Caribbean, too, and I know the main reason why people who aren't raising fighting birds for breeding purposes go: to gamble.
And I'm not sticking up for cockfighting. But people bent on gambling will gamble. Illegal, sometimes all the better for them.
Does anybody think 97 million people watched the Super Bowl because of just football? For some, the bet is part of the lure.
I called Jerry West, curator of the western York County museum and knower of almost all things historical and rural in his stretch of the county. West said in the old days, there were more fenced-in lots with game birds. West said he's never seen a cockfight but is old enough -- and wise enough -- to know cockfights happened occasionally.
West called cockfighting a "bloodthirsty sport," adding, "I don't understand what people get out of it."
Plus, cockfighting is illegal. A misdemeanor.
Moonshining was always illegal -- still is -- yet, people made moonshine in York County, bought it and drank it in days gone by. Movies and books were made about the romance of the moonshiner. Who didn't love Robert Mitchum in "Thunder Road"? Junior Johnson, the NASCAR legend, became famous for winning races after running shine and getting caught. That made him a celebrity. And even though all faced consequences when nabbed, "People didn't consider moonshiners criminals," West said.
Moonshining "was not quite acceptable," West said. Cockfighting sure isn't. But then again, roosters didn't die in moonshining.
Back when the York County Fair showed birds, I interviewed several people who raised gamecocks for show.
Robbie Chappell, longtime veterinarian and lifelong York County resident who grew up near the York County/Chester County line in what is called the Blackjacks, said when he was growing up, there were several places on the highway to Chester that kept 20 or 30 birds. The Carolina Fighting Cock is a show bird known for its beautiful plumage, Chappell said. He used to raise some himself when he was young.
But never to fight. Yet, there were cockfights in York County in the 1960s before it was banned, he said.
However, Chappell doesn't believe there is much cockfighting going on in this area now because the breeders can take birds to places where fighting is legal if they really want to do it. Further, the relatively small amount of cash police claim to have seized -- $4,000 -- means that Sunday was probably just a bunch of buddies seeing if the chickens had any fight in them. The big money, thousands, is in breeding fighting chickens, Chappell said.
There is an argument cockfighters can make that the roosters naturally do fight. True, but that is a rationalization, Chappell said. He is right -- birds naturally do not fight with steel blades attached to their feet.
Dys book delayed
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