Several months ago you asked me to write the history of my Miner Blues. I appreciated being favored with this request and promised you that I would write the same, however, when yours of July 5th came asking if I had the history written, I had failed to have a single line.
I consider myself very poor at writing anything and writing the history of my own fowl makes it all the more difficult for me, but I shall keep my promise and do the best I can. I will try and not say too much for my fowl and if I do, just remember how much each real lover of the gamecock thinks of his own strain.
I have two strains of Blues, one a strictly straight comb strain, the other of all Roundhead blood. I shall give you the history of the straight comb strain first because they were the first fowl that I really bred. I owned my first gamecock about 25 years ago. At that time the village of Cornell had some men who kept a few half-mile running horses, a few scrub gamecocks and boasted of one real 100-yard dash men.
Every summer many covered wagon loads of Gypsies passed through Cornell; they made money trading horses, racing horses and gamefowls. Professional foot racers traveled with them. We had saloons then and the little village was pretty sporty, would gamble on anything.
I took in the horse races, foot races, and gamefowls. Several of us young fellows liked the gamecocks very much, so we all bought cheap cocks and started in the game. There were seven or eight of us started in the game at that time. A few years later I secured twenty subscribers to Derby Game Bird for a premium of Gregory gaffs.
All of these boys finally quit the game except George Hasel and me. George quit about three years ago and moved to South Bend, Ind., from there to Chicago and not long ago I received a letter from him in Denver, Colo., in which he said that he wanted a trio of the old straight comb Blues as soon as he got located where he could keep chickens. I am getting off my track so I will go back to the time we were raising chickens among ourselves.
At that time I was working in my father's store and a man by the name of Ed Foley ran a hotel next door. He had a large back yard and one day I noticed a beautiful blue-red game cock running in this yard with some dunghill hens. I asked Foley what breed he was and what he would take for him and he replied that he was one of Nick Vipond's Blues and did not belong to him, that he was only walking him for Nick, but for me to go to Streator (which is 15 miles from Cornell) and see old Nick and he would perhaps sell me a cock, I got my best friend, George Hasel, and we went to Streator and looked up Nick.
It was not hard to find him as he ran a saloon in the main part of the city. He took us to his home and showed us many fine cocks in pens. We each bought one and could hardly wait until we hot home to tackle some of the boys for a scrap. The next day both cocks were fought and both won. After that day both of us bothered old Nick quite often. We must have been an awful pest to him and I often wonder how he had the patience to fool with us.
However, he seemed to take a liking to us and would let us watch him condition cocks upstairs over his saloon in the winter and at his home in his barn during the warmer months. He taught us how to hold a cock and how to work him and to this day I have never seen a man who could put a cock through his work and not break a feather as he could.
He had a world of patience with a biting cock and his condition was good, but now I think that he pulled his cocks too low for them to be at their best. Nick traveled and fought his cocks and also fought mains against Col. Minton, George A. Fuller, the Red Hornet man, (at that time of Springfield, Ill.) and many others. Like most others, Nick had other fowl besides his blues, some good and some bad, some of them belonging to other parties that he would condition for them. Years have proven that his Blues were the best that he had and were the only ones that he kept when he got old.
The straight comb Miner Blues that I breed today are direct descendants of the best and last brood yards of Nick Vipond's Blues. Just what blood these Blues are no one really knows. Many have asked Nick what blood they were and I have asked him where he got them, but he never would say, his reply being to all "they are my old Blues."
However, Nick was born in Wales, he moved from Pennsylvania to Streator over 50 years ago, was a coal miner and later went into the saloon business. He brought with him from Pennsylvania some very dark blue fowl, dark eyes and dark legs. Some say that they were imported from Ireland and that Nick bought them from a man in the east who needed money badly, however, I do not know that this is true, and doubt if there is anyone who does know, but I do know that the first fowl that I saw at his place was dark-blue.
Later he had a very beautiful, white leg, red-eyed, light-red cock over some blue hens and in a short time he had many white leg and yellow leg Blues of different shades of lighter blues, also many light-red with white or yellow legs. I asked him one day what the white leg red cock was and he said that he was just the same as the Blues and added that some of them came red.
I bought a 4.14 white leg red cock of him that had won bottom weight in one of his mains and six dark blue hens. My friend Hasel bought a 5.04 dark blue, slip leg cock and two dark-blue hens. I had the pleasure of being in on the last three mains that Nick fought, my friend George Hasel was also in on one, these being fought against local parties. In two of the mains he won every match but one and lost but one main, by the odd.
After the last main, which he won, he told Hasel and me that he was going to give each of us a good cock that had won in the main and tell us how to breed them. We already had eight dark-blue hens, the dark-blue slip leg cock and the white leg 4.14 cock, then he gave Hasel the white leg red 6.02 cock. This cock was old, but did not show it, and had won quickly in the main. A year or two before Hasel had asked Nick to price this cock, but he would never do it.
When Nick gave Hasel the cock he told him that since he had always wanted him so badly that he would make him a present of the cock and told him to breed him over the pullets from the slip-leg blue. He then gave me a fine young 5.08 dark-blue cock that had won a sensational battle in the main and told me to breed him to the pullets from the 4.14 Red.
I never got a picture of the slip-leg nor the old white leg red Hasel got, but I had a photographer take a picture of the 4.14 Red and I took a snapshot of the 5.08 Blue. The one I took is not clear, but I am sending both for you to print. Hasel and I bred these four cocks and eight hens just as we were told to do and exchanged stags and pullets each year and mated more yards. We could do this nicely with four yards to draw from.
At about the same time that we got the last two cocks from Nick a friend of mine named Harry Rucker (who lived in Cornell) bought a 3-time winner brown-red, white leg cock from Nick and bred him on some Dom hens he had and two years later Hasel bought this Vipond cock from Rucker and later bred him over daughters of the slip-leg.
About ten years ago, Nick quit the business and moved to Chicago, later moving to either Marion, Ohio or Indiana, I have forgotten which and finally came back to Streator where he died about three years ago. When he moved to Chicago he sold all of his fowl except two large dark-blue hens and one large white leg hen.
These he would not sell. He called on me just a short time before he left and brought these three hens and asked if I would keep them for him, said that his daughter was sick and that he and his wife must go and live with her and that they had no place to keep chickens.
I kept the hens and bred them single mated. I have a letter that Nick wrote to me sent from Chicago, about eleven years ago asking me to have his hens caught up as he would be after them soon. He never bred any more fowl, but came and took one of the blue hens for a friend and gave me the other, the white leg hen having died.
My straight comb Miner Blues I breed today are direct descendants of the four cocks and the eight hens that Hasel and I got from Nick, the cock that Rucker got and the three hens that Nick left with me. I have many yards and believe that I can breed them indefinitely without a cross. I have mated them as I know that they must be mated and at the same time I have line-bred them to the most sensational gamefowls that have been produced from time to time.
For instance, Hasel, by mating a dark-blue stag that I gave him over one of his white leg red hens, produced a white leg blue-red stag that proved, in the brood yard, to be one of the best producers of all. He fought this stag against Sam Brazier in Chicago in 1919.
Brazier had a wonderful stag and cut Hasel's stag blind in one eye and broke one wing in the first pitting but Hasel could hardly hold his stag during the rest period and when turned loose for the second pitting he went across like a flash, and with one eye and one wing has gone he shuffled Brazier's stag to death. Hasel bred this stag that year and as a cock for two years. We called him old Blinker.
He gave me one of his first stags from this cock, also one of his daughters and in 1922 traded me the old Blinker for a brood cock of mine that had won several times. I bred old Blinker until he died in the fall of 1924. He was a great producer and was line-bred from the start. Many of my yards carry more or less of his blood on each side.
I have bred many cocks that have won several battles but never have I found one that produced more winners than old Blinker did. Old White Leg, a four-time winner that I raised is a grandson of the 4.14 and the old white leg Vipond cock. This strain of cocks have not been bred to color but have been to mains, however, in the last few years I have mated Red to Reds and Blues to Blues whenever I could do so and not sacrifice performance qualities nor the proper mating.
At the present time, they average in color about 50% blue reds with white or yellow legs, 40% light reds with black or brown mottled breasts and white or yellow legs and about 10% come dark-blues with dark legs. I get more dark-blues in hens than in cocks. Are medium, low station and the cocks run in weight from 4.06 to 6.08 and the hens from 3 to 5 pounds. They are exceptionally game and extra good cutters.
Just to give an example of the gameness of these Blues I am going to quote what a friend in Omaha Nebraska wrote to me about one of these Blue cocks that fought in a main there in 1925. "Fourth we matched your straight comb Miner blue against a Harry Williams Warhorse cross from Covington, Ky. Warhorse coupled your Blue in first pitting and the game dragged out to 68 pittings, 48 minutes of terrible give and take on both sides.
In my opinion, your blue was the best cock and his gameness was remarkable. He crossed the pit several times on his wings and shuffled whenever he could get a beak hold, only to be counted out in the 68th pitting, his opponent dying soon afterward. Blue had two counts on Warhorse but could not see or stand on his feet, yet he always broke all counts except the 68th.." I call these Blues Miner Blues because most of them come blue and they have been bred by my method long enough to make them the type they are today.
I have the same opinion as Mr. Ewing A. Walker has in calling his Mugs Walker Mugs. My friend Hasel advertised and sold some of these Blues that he bred and called his Hasel Blues. As he had bred them many years he felt that he had the right to call them Hasel Blues.
I have never spent much time thinking up a name for my fowl as I feel sure that if gamefowls can perform they will make a name for themselves and if not a blood-curdling name will not help them. While I have always kept these Blues pure that I got from Nick Vipond, I have also made some crosses. Most of us experiment some and I have always thought it best to make a cross when I had time to try them out then wait until I had to have a cross and trust to luck for a nick.
I have made several crosses and fought them all to find out what I had and found that some were good and others were bad. Those that were good I bred back to my Blues and then fought the quarter blood, then bred back again and fought the eighth blood. I do not need a cross on my old Blues at this time, but if I ever do I now have on hand some good hens with one-half, one-quarter and one-eighth new blood that are sisters to cocks that have proven good and of which I breed a few each year.
In 1917 D. H. Pierce loaned me a young Wisconsin Shuffler cock to breed. He was a dark-eyed brown-red and an extra good one. I tried to buy him from Pr. Pierce but he would not sell him, so I returned him in good shape in the fall of 1918. I mated this Pierce cock to one of the old dark-blue hens that Nick left with me when he moved to Chicago and from this mating I got dark-blues and dark-brown reds. Fought the stags and refought them and only one lost his first battle. I then bred one of my Blue cocks over one of the half-blood hens and the quarter-bloods win a good majority of their battles. I have two dark-blue hens today that are daughters of the Pierce cock. They are over nine years old and are strong and healthy brood hens yet.
In 1923, Henry Flock sent me a blue-red, white leg, red-eyed, straight comb cock from El Paso, Texas and wanted me to breed him. Said if I did not want him to just send him to his daughter at home and that she would care for him until he returned. Flock had won twice with him and had pronounced him a wonder. He said that Jas. G. Oakley had bred him out of a Smith Blue cock that he got off Smith Bros., that won in the Opelousas Tournament. I bred this cock single mated on one of my old Blue hens and he nicked well with my blood. I bred back to my Blues and the quarter-bloods won a larger percent than did the half-bloods.
I am saving some of the quarter-blood hens. My friend Hasel made cress several years ago with Gleezen Whitehackle on Blues, also a cross of a Shawlneck hen from Elmer B. Denham and both were good. I traded some of my Pierce cross and of the Oakley cock cross to Hasel for some of his Whitehackles and Shawlneck crosses and breed a few each year carrying this blood. This concludes the history of my straight comb blues.
Llyod B. Miner