By Ed "Fulldrop" Piper (1971)
Probably everyone has heard about the Lawman Whitehackles and the Gilkerson Whitehackles which I believe were very similar and came from the same place in England, the North Country. They were known there as North Britons. The name Whitehackle was given them in this country.
I never saw any of the straight ones myself as they had been crossed up and gone before my time. But, few people outside of New York State have ever heard of, or at least they never mention, the Lawman Muffs. Billy Lawman, I believe, received several shipments of fowl from his father in England. The last to arrive, so Billy sated, was in 1911. That shipment, like the previous ones, contained some Lawman Muffs as well as Whitehackles.
Many old-timers from that section of New York State told me they considered the Lawman Whitehackles the greatest fowl they had ever seen. A few others told me they liked the Lawman Muffs even better. They were said to have fought very similar to the Whitehackles but were stronger and tougher and harder to kill. Both families were deep game. It's more than likely 90% of the Whitehackles and Muff fowl in the North descended directly or indirectly from the Lawman and Gilkerson fowl.
John Hoy of Albany, N.Y. fought most of the Lawman fowl. He was considered one of the all time greats among short heel cockers. For seven years, he was under contract to feed for the late T.W. Murphy, the "long one" as his help called him. Murphy acquired that nickname because he was tall, slim and straight.
Hoy lived at Albany, N.Y., and Murphy lived at Poughkeepsie, N.Y., about 75 miles away. The contract stated Hoy was to feed all the mains Murphy fought during a season for $1,500. There were no derbies or tournaments in those days. This was previous to 1925 or thereabouts. I was told that the last year Hoy fed for Murphy he was so weak he had to be helped up the stairs to Murphy's feeding quarters. He probably fed the cocks, but I would imagine he showed Murphy's man, Nick Downes, how he wanted them worked.
Hoy liked to bet on the harness horses, and not far from Poughkeepsie was the Goshen Racetrack where the Hamiltonian and other harness horse races were held. Walter Cox, a famous harness horse driver, was in complete charge. His Supt. was George Bates, and George liked to fight cocks. I believe, but not sure, that it was through Bates that Cox became interested in cocking. Hoy liked to get tips on the races from Cox, so Bates asked Cox to ask Hoy for some good fowl.
It's pretty certain at that time that Murphy fought a lot of the Lawman fowl of Hoy's. In fact, Nick Downes, who was with Murphy for 38 years, claimed up to the time he died that the good fowl Murphy fought up until 1942 were the Lawman Whitehackles of Hoy's and nothing else. But, Murphy had some fowl of his own at the time which were said to be of Mike Kearney extraction. So, Hoy gave Walter Cox one of his Lawman Muff hens and borrowed a cock of Murphy's to go with him.
That pair was the foundation stock of the Goshen Muffs which were famous in that section for many years. Dave Berg and his son, John, lived at Cobleskill, N.Y., not far from Albany. Hoy and Dave Berg were hooked up in cocking for some time, and Dave had with him a young man just starting in the game. On the way home he asked Berg if he would let him use a Hoy Muff cock that had won that night to breed. "What do you want that one for? I didn't like him very well myself," Berg said. "I liked him alright," said the young man. Berg asked him what he wanted to breed him to, and the young man said a Shelton Knob Comb Blue.
Very few long heel fowl were highly regarded in that short heel section at the time, so Berg said, "Well, he's plenty good enough to breed to that kind of hen." So, the young man took him home with him. The following fall the young man came to Berg's farm and said, "Listen I have 19 big blue stags out of your Muff cock and the Knob Comb Blue hen. They are ready to kill one another and I have no coops, what will I do with them?" "Well, I have some empty coops, and you can bring them over and leave them just long enough for you to get some coops built, then get them out of here as I have no time to waste with chickens of that sort," said Berg.
Hoy came up one day while they were there and asked Berg what they were. That's cold country up there. In fact, just a week or so ago I got a letter from a man who lives near there, and he said it had been 20 degrees below zero the night before. Berg's coops were enclosed with walls and doors separating the stags. Hoy idly held the seperating door open and let a couple of them go at each other. They went together like bombshells. "Say, they might be good, keep them and we will try them later on," said Hoy.
Those stags were the begining of the famous Berg Blue Muffs. I never saw one, but Tom Foley, Dave Berg, Phil Marsh, Ed Pine and several others classed them as some of the greatest fowl of all time. Berg and Pine together fought a main against someone years ago, and pine asked Berg for a little 4.09 Blue Muff that fought and won in the main. And, that blood was in some of the best cocks Pine ever fought, including the cock that Dan O'Connell used on Old Albany hens to make the Pine Albany.
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