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Interview of Duke Hulsey
Joe Mac: Mr. Hulsey, this is Joe Mac from Grit and Steel, how are you?
Duke: Pretty good. I know I have slowed up somehow. My wife and I are moving to Florida. Carlos Mendez is going to do the farm now. I'm going to help him with the brood pens and everything though.
Joe Mac: I guess you are like everybody else, you need to retire too?
Duke: Yes, everything is winding down now.
Joe Mac: First of all, I would like to tell you what an honor it is to talk to you and tell you how much I appreciate what all you have done for me and for the game rooster and I just want to let you know I really appreciate you.
Duke: Well, it has been fun to me, too.
Joe Mac: Mr Hulsey, when was the first time you saw a rooster fight, or how did you get started with it?
Duke: I got started with it while living in Fort Worth and a fellow across the alley from me was a chicken fighter and one day I saw some cars over there and I knew what they were doing. I went over there and right away they were going to run me away. I told them that if I was going to leave, I was going to call the police so I was a member right away then. So from then on, when he went to the fights, he took me with him.
Joe Mac: Well, who was this?
Duke: His name was Essie Green.
Joe Mac: How old were you at the time when you saw your fight rooster fight?
Duke: About 9 or 10 years old.
Joe Mac: Did you train with Mr. Green or who did you start training with?
Duke: The first person I went with was Joe Bolin in Fort Worth and from there I went with H. H. Moore.
Joe Mac: Which chicken did Mr. Moore have?
Duke: He had Clarets and odds and ends, not too much of anything, but he fought chickens a long tiime. I stayed there for about 8 weeks. He was really though. I went up to him at a fight, he had fought a main and lost it and I said the next time you are going to put a main, I'd like to come and help you. He said you would be like all the rest, you wouldn't be there a week until you would be telling me what to do. I told him no. I wouldn't be like that.
He let me know when to be there and I helped him for about 8 weeks. After this time , I wanted to leave and show somebody else what I have learned. He didn't like it but he gave me about 6 or 8 roosters and I loaded them in the Ford Roadster and I tooke those rooster back to Fort Worth and trained them and got them ready. I was working different shifts and Saturday was pay day and everybody would always gather up and go to fights. This one man wanted to fight one of his and I told him that I could whipped him easy. I did and ended up whipping about everthing he had. On his walk ropes and pens. I fought the second rooster and he got rattled and come back and beat him easy and he looked at me and said "you son of a bitch, you got trained roosters". I told him I didn't know what training was. So that Monday when I went to work, I had a pink slip in my box saying I was through. See, he was my boss. That was the best break I got. Then I went with Jack Walden for about a year and we made pretty good money.
Then I went to Madigan and asked if he would let me come and work for him. He said he would give me a call. Back then, you didn't give a call, it was always a letter. He wrote me this letter and when he started the letter, he would always give you some type of title. I went and fought with him for 3 years. When I quit , he walked me to the gate and told me I shouldn't quit him in the middle of the season. When he got real mad, his jaws would start poping, and his teeth would pop. So, we went to the backgate to go through and he says "Duke" you are the best man I have ever seen when you go up stairs ( that was where his cockhouse was) but when you come down, you are the sorriest one I have ever seen". He was wanting me to do carpenter work and other things and I wouldn't do it.
Joe Mac: You were there to train roosters.
Duke: Yes, I am a rooster trainer. I wasn't going to fool with anything else.
Joe Mac: Why dsd he have his cockhouse upstairs?
Duke: His garage was downstairs. He had a big two car garage. Then, he had stairs on the side and you'ld go up there and that was the cockhouse. I would put up as many as 60 roosters up there.
Joe Mac: I guess he just had stalls for them up there?
Duke: Yes, the coops were all made up there and he would come up there all the time and he would watch us work. One day he was up there and he says that boy that is helping you, can he count? I told him yes. He said he was supposed to give that cock 60 runs and he only gave him 58. I said get out of here and leave me alone That was the first time I had ever said cuss words like that in front of him and he had never cussed in his life I don't believe. Well, he went down those stairs and I heard him say "Damn", then he took about 2 more steps and said "Damn". Well, he never came back up those steps again and he left me alone.
Joe Mac: What type of person was he? Was he a pretty nice fellow or not?
Duke: Real nice. He was a small fellow, but had a world of money. If he told you something, it would be just that way, but if he didn't, he wasn't going to give an inch. I was there about 3 years and I didn't get a rooster or a pullet, not even a feather and he never told me he would let me have one either. He would always say, you want one of those right outs over there and I knew they were dunghills. He would always say you can have one of those over there.
Joe Mac: Well, you mentioned Sweater, how did you meet him?
Duke: We had known each other since we were boys. He was fighting a stag main in Oklahoma and he was fighting Henry Wortham and I ran around with Henry all the time. Henry whipped him the main, but me and Sweater got to be big buddies there and we were always real close. Every week, I would go to Dallas to see his chickens and see him fool with those chickens. It was 30 miles from Fort Worth and I would ride a bicycle over there. I would stay all day and then ride back that afternoon.
Joe Mac: What type of fellow was Henry Wortham?
Duke: He was the greatest man that ever lived. There couldn't be a better man. Right at the last of it, in St. Augustine, he had that fight and I won it and he just had tears in his eyes and he said my boy has done it again. If you didn't think that made me feel good!
Then when he was in the Memphis hospital and on his way out, me and my wife went to see him and they let us take him home with us. Everyday he would watch me work the roosters and finally after about a month, he didn't have an appetite and you couldn't get him to eat. My wife, Deanna would tell him, if he didn't eat he couldn't go out and watch me work the roosters. He'd go ahead and eat. He was the greatest chicken fighter that ever was.
Joe Mac: Did you ever train with him?
Duke: No, I didn't.
Joe Mac: Curtis said he was the greatest rooster man that ever lived so he mus thave been something else.
Duke: Yes, he was something . There is no way to describe how good he was. He was a good judge of a fighting rooster and knew exactly what the rooster would do and didn't work a rooster hardly any.
Joe Mac: Lane Arrington told me the same thing.
Duke: No. He didn't work them at all. He would get them out of the stall and take them to the work bench and take them by the legs and fly over there, rub them down a little bit, fly them 5-6 times and put them back.
Joe Mac: Did he ever run one?
Duke: No, he didn't fool with that. It was really fun to know him and to get to be that close to him.
Joe Mac: Who do you think helped you the most in training cocks for battle.
Duke: I would say Madigin. He made sure that I was in that cockhouse every morning at 5:00. Everything had to be exactly right on the money, it couldn't be 5-10 minutes late. If you were suppose to go up and scratch all of them at noon, that didn't mean 12:30, it meant noon and you'd better be there to throw them out.
Joe Mac: He was a man that was on time, huh?
Duke: Yes, everything had to be precise. As far as training the rooster, he never trained one and actually didn't know that much about it, but he knew the other part good. He would always tease me about great chicken men up North and I would say let them come down here and get some of these and they will find out how good it is. He would agitate me all the time.
Joe Mac: I know you fought all over the world, but which place do you think was the toughest place to fight?
Duke: Well when I went to the Philippines it was the easiest. They didn't know anything about feeding a chicken or anything, but by the time I left there (I was there 17 years) they had gotten smart and it was hard to whip them.
Joe Mac: When you first went there, you didn't hardly lose a fight did you?
Duke: No, I didn't. The deal was that when I first went there, I would get $100.00 per fight for every one that I won and of course he bought all the chickens. Jorge Araneta was the man that I was with and he was fighting them for $5,000-$10,000 each. At the time, we matched mains over there and would fight anybody and everybody in the Philippines if they would bet $10,000 on the roosters. You can believe that they come with the cream of the crops too!
Joe Mac: You got them ready to fight and I guess he had somebody else to tie the knfe?
Duke: Yes, I couldn't do any of that. I did later but to start with for the longest time I didn't do any of that.
Mrs. Hulsey: Joe Mac, Duke had to train just chickens to meet whoever wanted to fight him at their weight in the Philippines.
Joe Mac: We were talking about fighting $10,000 a rooster but that's not counting what the main would fight for is it?
Duke: No. Well, actually everybody is there and I was fighting all of them for the main. Whenever I won enough to win the main, say we were fighting 15, and I won 8 then I won the main.
When it came time to fight the BIG mains, I would always be the winner. So they wound up getting Joe Goode over there and Speck McGloclin.
Jorge Araneta called me and said Duke if there is enough good rooster in the United States, I want you to bring them over here and fight them and I don't want anyone to know you are here. I picked up every rooster I could find that was an ACE cock. I flew them in there and wasn't going to let nobody know I was there. When the main was fought, we had the radios and TV hooked up for me to see it The first fight was fighting Joe and he walked over to Jorge and said where is Duke? He said, "Well he must be home". He said "there isn't any way he his at home. He is here somewhere because nobody in the world has chickens like that except for him". So of course I went ahead and whipped him pretty bad. Joe was a tough chickenman. He was as good a chicken man on earth. The only mark against him was that he brought that poison to this country and it really hurt cockfighting.
Joe Mac: Yes, that was a bad part of the sport.
Duke: He just actually ruined the sport by doing that.
Joe Mac: Which Derby or Main was your most memorable?
Duke: The best one was when I fought the 3 mains I told you about awhile ago. I fought Henry Wortham first, then Bobby Manziel, then I fought Judge Wilkins.
Joe Mac: Did you win all 3 of them?
Duke: No, I didn't whip Henry. Me and Madigin got into a real bad argument that morning and I always pick the roosters to fight. He would always say well that little grey one would be good and he might not be worth a damn and he would always put that on me, but anyway, we had to hauled a lot of roosters over there to that main. My wife and boys even hauled a bunch of them. When you get ready to go in, he tells me that I am going to have to pay for your wife and boys to get in. I exploded and I wouldn't fight for him. After a while, Sam Bigham and Henry Wortham kept talking to me and told me to go out there and get this over with and lets go ahead and fight. We did, but when we fought, the first thing he did, he says how about that little grey and I knew the little grey couldn't whoop nobody. Well, I said yeah, that's fine so I went ahead and heeled him up and got him whipped. So, the next one I heeled up something else he wanted to fight. By this time I have already lost 2 fights so I started picking them. We sent all the way to the deciding fight and I had a big grey rooster and Madigin got up on the side of the pit (there were lots of millionaires there) and said "I'll bet all the money anybody wants to bet on my rooster". Of course, nobody bet him. I had already tried to lay $100 to $80 myself on him. He got crowded up against the wall and Henry killed him. Then we fought Sweater a main and just demolished him. Then we fought Judge Wilkins, I think it was about a 13 cock main and we beat him in straight fights. His roosters' head were twice as big as they were when they went in there. Mine really worked on his.
Joe Mac: If there is one thing you could help a beginner with about training roosters, what would that be?
Duke: That's one thing I have done. The best thing I could tell them is what Madigin taught me and that is to be puntual about going into the cockhouse and taking care of the chickens.
Joe Mac: Do you think some people are working them too much?
Duke: Yes, sure I do. They are working them like I did back then. I worked hard. Now days, people don't work that hard. I gave a fellow a show of roosters last year to fight and when we got to the fight, his wife was changing the roosters and doing everything with them and he wasn't doing anything.
Joe Mac: Well, maybe he was going to pick them.
Duke: That cured me of that, I said I've had enough of this.
Joe Mac: What do you think about selecting brood fowl? I have had a lot of people call me and want me to tell them who to get them from and I tell them to go watch them fight.
Duke: I think they should watch them fight or get them from somebody that is responsible and does fight every week to know that he is good enough to keep fighting. You can't just go out and get chickens from anybody.
Joe Mac: In March of 1993, when I won at Sunset, the thing that helped me the most was something that I got out of your keep. I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate that.
Duke: I was always glad we were as close as we were and I thought you were going to bring your boy down there but he never made it.
Joe Mac: I never could get him squared away. Now he is chasing these little girls around.
Duke: I can't knock that.
Joe Mac: How can they get your keep? Do you still sell it?
Joe Mac: You sold your farm to Carlos Mendez, didn't you?
Duke: Yes, Carlos Mendez. That is who I sold the farm to. He is a real high class fellow.
Joe Mac: Are you going to help him with keeping the brood pens and everything?
Duke: Yes, I am going to help with the brood yards every year for a few years and talk to him enough to let him know which ones are the ones to breed. I have some In and In left noses thre that I sold for $1,000.00 a piece for a while but I had to quit selling them. I think there is 8 of them there. I told him that all 8 of them was going to be bred every year and all their sisters. The fellow that I told you about awhile ago who I sold a show of roosters and his wife trained them, well, we are still friends, but he came down and he wanted to buy some brood cocks from me, but I had already made a deal with Medndez that he would be tending to that. I told him I couldn't sell hime one and he would have to come deal with Carlos. Well, Carlos came down and I told him every rooster that was good and he goes around and says he wants 2 of the red cocks, 2 hatch cocks and he wanted a grey that I mooched off Dee Cox. I have give Dee chickens from time to time and we have always been good friends. This one grey rooster was a hell of a rooster, I saw him fight in January in a Main on the border, so I just thought he was the damnest rooster I had ever seen but I didn't say anything about it because he didn't get hurt. Later, Dewey came to me and he said Duke, this is the cock that you like so good down in south Texas and he is going to be the next rooster in here and I don't know what he is going to do because he has won 2 fights since then. I said, he will still be alright. Sure enough, he won again but he got hurt a little bit. When he got hurt any at all, I went to him and said Dee, I would like to have that rooster and he said, he's yours.
Joe Mac: Where was this, in Texoma or where?
Duke: It was at Sunset.
Joe Mac: Well, now that might have been when they won the 10 cock in March 1994.
Duke: I don't know. I just remember about that cock. I just know that rooster.
Joe Mac: Where can people get your keep?
Duke: Just call the place and ask Carlos to send it to them.
Joe Mac: It has been great talking to you. You have always been real special to me and I have heard about you ever since I knew what a rooster was.
Duke: Well, we will be back together in a year or two after I rest up.
Joe Mac: That sounds good. We'll get to go to Sunset or wherevery you can go. Maybe we can go out for dinner again, how about that?
Duke: Yeah, that will be real nice.
Joe Mac: You have a good day and take care Mr. Duke.
Duke: You too and thank you partner.
- Grit & Steel Magazine