History of Kelso Fowl
By Lou Elliott (Nov. 1974)
Walter Kelso, who died in 1964, fought his cocks under the entry name of Oleander-a type of flowering shrub that grows profusely in the semi-tropical climate of his home on Galveston Island, Texas. In the heyday of the pure old-time strains Kelso was a maverick. His Oleander cocks were simply a succession of battle crosses. For example, when John Madigin died in 1942, Kelso and Bill Japhet inherited all of his Clarets, Madigin Grays, and Texas Rangers.
Most any breeder would do anything in his power to keep the stock pure. However, Kelso wrote, "I immediately began infusing new blood in the Madigin hens." Kelso obtained his brood cocks from other breeders after he saw the cock fight. He was more interested in performance than he was the name of the strain. He would mate the new cock to a sister of his best pit cocks. If the cross was successful, he would add other sisters to the pen.
More often than not, the pen produced worthless offspring and the cock was discarded. At any rate, that was the method used to produce the Out-and-Out Kelso family that is still the foundation stock for many of the best winning cocks fought in the major pits today. The Out-and-Out Kelso family was so-called because they were marked in the outside web of both feet. The cocks are generally black breasted reds (ranging from a deep mahogany to light reds) with their white or yellow legs and pea or straight comb.
About 1940, during the Orlando Tournament, Judge Ed Wilkins of San Antonio, Texas, fought a beautiful light blue Typewriter cock that won his first fight easily and was repeated to win a second fight on the same day. Kelso asked for and received this cock. The typewriters are a great family of game fowl made by crossing a Marsh Butcher cock over two Irish Blue hens from James G.Oakley of Alabama. The Butcher family is a cross of Grove Whitehackle (Lawman and Gilkerson) and the Marsh Gray Speeders, which are reported to be a combination of the old Santo Domingo Grays from the West Indies island of that name and Burnell Shelton's old Knob comb Blues.
The Typewriter cocks were placed on a walk with some of Hill McClanahan's Claret Roundhead hens. A blue cock from this mating was bred in 1942 to two straight comb hens from Tom Murphy of Long Island, New York. Most of the cocks were Yankee Clippers that Bobby Schlesigner of Charolottesville, Virginia, had obtained from E.W. Law of Thomasville, Georgia. Duke offered to let Kelso have any of the Clipper cocks he liked. Kelso with Sweater McGinnis handling had met Schlesigner in his deciding fight at 1942 Orlando Tournament. Kelso won the fight and the Tournament but had been impressed with the quality of the Schlesinger cocks.
Kelso passed up several of Duke's easy winners and finally selected a cock that won against a Hatch cock after 58 fighting over an hour in the drag pit with the odds 100 to 40 against him. E.W. Law started these Yankee Clippers by crossing his Clarets with Dan O'Connell's Albany fowl. This Albany family was made by mating some hens that were Hatch, Foley's Ginger, Roundhead, and maybe some Pine Whitehackle (Stryker, mostly), with a Hardy Mahogany cock (Jim Thompson Mahogany and Kearney cross). The Yankee Clipper cock was mated to two of the Left-Out Kelso hens to produce the original Out-and-Out cocks that won 85 percent of their fights in major competition over a six-year period (1947 to 1953). These cocks were 1/2 Yankee Clipper, 1/4 Murphy, 1/8 Typewriter, 1/8 McClanahan.
In 1951, Oleander won the Oaklawn Derby at Hot Springs, Arkansas, with a ten and two score. One of the Out-and-Out cocks won a quick battle and then was repeated to also win the deciding fight. In his second win, the cock broke the tip of his wing. This was the Broke wing cock that was mated back to three Murphy cross hens (probably from the Left-Out yards). In 1955, cocks from this Broke wing yard were fought in the Oaklawn Derby and Oleander won ten, lost two to split first money.
At the Oaklawn Derby in 1956, Oleander won four lost four the first two days of fighting and then on the last, they had a full show of the pea-comb cocks from the Broke wing yard. They won four straight to tie for first money with the Van Horne entry of Kentucky. It just so happened that the Van Horne entry was using cocks bred by Curtis Blackwell out of a full brother to the four final Oleander winners. In 1957 Kelso advertised all of his fowl for sale except the cock he needed for the events he had promised to enter. In the ad, his bloodlines are listed as Murphy, McClanahan, Claret and Albany. It was rumored that the Broke wing yard went to a major cocker for $500.00.