The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Shade Chafin

By Ernest F. Reynolds © 1990

Issue: January, 1990

Shade Chafin of Matewan, West Virginia, was many things to many people, but first, last and every time he was a sportsman. But Shade's sport in his younger days was cock fighting. He worked mighty hard at amassing a fortune from it, but it eluded him.

Experiencing difficulties in collecting after a win, Shade solicited the support of his friends outside the pit circuit. Due to mining work time, Sunday afternoon became pit time.

I was about nine years old, and Dad had consented to augment Shade's supporters to see that Shade got a fair shake. He came to our humble dwelling on the banks of the Tug, with a beautiful Cotton Tail Shuffler under his arm. He tethered him to the yard spigot, asked where dad was, and went in.

It was a firm custom along the Tug, that when the more affluent went visiting, they carried a gratuity; a groundhog, a goose, a generous portion of sliced cured ham, depending on the season. Women usually brought pastry.

I could just tell that Shade was one of the wealthier. For didn't he wear a golden double eagle on his massive watch chain? Hadn't he brought the most beautiful foul ever seen by my young eyes? No one traveled with more pomp than this dignitary of West Virginia's Billion Dollar Coal Field. Wasting no time, I seized the beauty by the feet, nipped round to the chop block and beheaded High Cockalorum.

At this very instant Shade and Dad emerged. Dad roared, grabbed a limb off the peach tree and threatened me with complete loss of hide for decapitating the Shuffler. Shade grabbed my dad's arm, preventing him from flogging me, and said, "Will, Ernie thought him a fryer. Don't whip the boy, he certainly shows promise. We can eat that rooster and still enjoy him. That's what he was bought for."

Mom cooked the gallant cock, and we feasted amid much laughter. Dad was slow to become cheery about the incident, but Shade soon brought him 'round. There! Didn't I tell you Shade was a Sport?