The cocking world will be shocked and saddened by the sudden death of J.D. Perry of Muskogee, Oklahoma, on Friday morning, January 11. On his way to work at a clothing factory in Muskogee, owned by his sister, during a cold spell, he slipped on the ice, fell, and hit his head on a steel beam lying beside the walk. He got up, went in the factory, and was telling some of his fellow workers about his fall when he began to shake. He was taken to the hospital but was dead on arrival due to concussion of the brain. "J.D.," as he was generally known in the cocking world, had for about 15 or 20 years of his life a colorful career as a cocker. We have none of the details concerning his death or funeral, and what we write is from what we knew of him for the past 20 years. We believe he was born in Oklahoma and started his cocking career in that state. Somewhere along in the 1940's, he went to work for C.C. Cooke of Oklahoma City.
Shortly after that, Cooke bought the Lawridge Plantation at Miccosukee, Florida from E.W. Law, one of the best known cockers in the world. According to the story told to this writer by Cooke, here is what happened. Law had been after Cooke when he came to Florida for the tournaments to buy his plantation for three of four years. Finally Cooke made him an offer of a certain amount ($50,000 as I recall), saying he would give that for the place and everything in and on it, just as it stood. Law accepted his offer and the deal was closed. Shortly after the deal was closed, the place transferred to Cooke, Law said, "Now, just as soon as I can find a place, I will come and get the chickens." "What chickens?" asked Cooke. "Why, my chickens," said Law. "You have no chickens. I bought your place with everything in and on it, and the chickens are mine," said Cooke. From that point on, Law and Cooke were at swords points and did nothing but quarrel. Cooke had Perry come down to look after things for him, including the chickens. Eventually, they settled things up and Law moved away taking with him, as I recall him telling me, 29 chickens.
Cooke got all the rest, hundreds of them. How it was settled as to how many chickens Law was to keep, I don't recall (although I was told at the time), but this is the way they were divdied. Perry had access to all of Law's breeding records, and by the time the split came he knew as much about the Law chickens as Law did. Cooke purchased from Henie Mathesius, for $2,000 approximately, 125 Hatch cocks and stags, and 125 hens and pullets. These were shipped to the plantation in Florida. So, when it came time to divide up the chickens I suppose these were in the deal, too, but wether Law took any of the Hatch fowl I don't know. At any rate, J.D. represented Cooke, and he and Law would come to a yard of chickens (let's say there was a cock and four hens). First one took his choice of individuals in the pen and then the other. For instance, Law might say, "I will take the cock," and J.D. would say, "I'll take this hen." They alternated first choice from yard to yard until Law had his 29 chickens and Cooke got the rest. Then all the chickens were shipped back to Oklahoma to Cooke's yard.
At the time this split occurred, I think it safe to say that E.W. Law had in his possession more good families of game fowl than any man on earth had at the time, or ever had. There were Clippers made by Law from a Pine Albany and Claret cross, there were straight Albanys, there were Pine Albanys, Clarets, Regular Greys, Perfection Greys, and literally dozens of other families and crosses accumulated by Law up to that time. 98% of all these families, of course, were shipped back to Oklahoma by Perry for Cooke. And, of course, Perry came home to take charge of the Cooke layout. The late Bobby Manziel teamed up with Cooke. With Perry breeding the fowl and feeding them for fighting, they formed what might be termed one of the most formidable cocking combines of all time, certainly of this generation. For the next several years, they were practically unbeatable using practically all Cooke fowl for their fighting. In 1946 or 1947, they won a main against Sam Head and Co. at Ruleville, Miss., for ten thousand a side in a clear cut and decisive manner using what were said to have been the first cross of Claret and Hatch. I thought at that time, and still believe, the main showed by Perry were the best long heel cocks I have ever seen.
At that time, Orlando held their annual meet, St. Augustine, Pass Christian, Waco, and other large pits were in operation and it was practically a fifty-fifty bet that Perry would "be in the money" or he would win outright. Their winning record for several years was phenominal, and probably never will be equalled by any cocker or combination of cockers for that class of fighting, derbies and tournaments. But, as all things must, it ended eventually when Perry left to go to work for the late Mr. Halff of Leesburg, Texas. Perry was replaced by Cooke with a half-dozen different chicken men at various times, but they got nowhere. After a few years of this, Cooke closed up shop and sold his place and chickens. From then on, Perry and his chicken operations presented a mystery no noe has ever figured out with any degree of accuracy. Cooke and Perry were on friendly terms even after Perry left to go to work for Halff.
While no one ever told me this, I am positive Perry could have had, free of charge, from Cooke, either during the time he worked for him or after he left, any chickens Cooke owned. And, it's a certainty Perry did have some of the same bloodlines later on. Cooke was always generous with his chickens, and he liked J.D. So, I am sure he would have given him, and no doubt did, anything he asked for. Even if that were not so, Perry had for several years supervised the shipping of hundreds of fowl sold by Cooke all over the U.S.A., and I don't know a man who got any Cooke fowl who wouldn't have been glad to give Perry any that he might have asked for. But, almost from the day he left Cooke, Perry never did any good in the chicken game. Halff was worth millions and spent it like water. He had a fabulous layout and the best chickens money and friendship could obtain. I don't recall how long Perry was with Halff before Halff died, but it must have been a couple of years. Their success was just mediocre, no better than the average chicken man who fight in the big shows.
After Halff died, Perry went with Flato, another millionaire from Corpus Christi, Texas. Flato had previously built a ten acre chicken layout at Robstown, Texas that cost him $64,000. Perry lived on the place and was in complete charge of everything; the breeding, rearing, feeding, selection, etc. Money was no object. He could have anything he wanted. I feel reasonably sure had Perry told Flato of some fowl he was sure he could have done some winning with but the cost would be $50,000, Flato would have told him to go ahead and buy them. Flato wasn't in the game for money, all he wanted was to do some winning. Again, they did very little, no better than average. After about three years of this, Flato quit the game. With the passing of Bobby Manziel, Mr. Halff, Dick Kleberg, and Flato quitting the game, the men who could hire a chicken man of Perry's type were few and far between. Flato owned some sort of stove factory in Mississippi, and he told Perry to go over and see if there was any job in the factory he would like to have. If there was, it was his.
There was nothing there he wanted, so for the next year or so Perry did nothing of importance. Eventually, he went to work for his sister at Muskogee. As I understood it, Perry, a Mr. Daniels, and a Dr. Schumun had a small chicken plant outside of Muskogee, and they did some fighting but not too much. Last year, Perry fed the Anderson entry for Oaklawn and tied for second money with an 8-4 score, just one fight behind the winner. It can truthfully be said the J.D. Perry was a credit to the game, clean-cut, honest and respected by all who knew him. No one questioned the fact he was a first-class feeder, breeder, and all-around game chicken man. He leaves, I believe, a wife and two children. May he rest in peace.
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