One Last Fight for the Old Barnyard Champ
When the Crenshaw children saw Uncle Gus sitting alone on the swing, they came around and begged for a story. His voice sounded like crunching gravel. It was made for telling stories.
“Alright, you’ve been fairly good today, so I suppose you deserve a story. Let’s see… How about the time that old roster, Cock Ruby-Eyes fought Blue Tommy Joe?”
The little girl squealed, “Yes!” The boy dropped to the floor, propping his head on his fists, ready.
“You remember that old bird, Cock Ruby-Eyes?” The children nodded, yes. “Well then, you know he had been the barnyard champ for as many years as anyone could remember. Then one day, Farmer WB Crenshaw…” The girl giggled.
“Harrumph! As I was saying, Farmer Crenshaw came home with this young rooster by the name of Blue Tommy Joe. With a bright blue comb and tail feathers, he was as pretty a bird as anybody on the farm had ever seen. Yep. Blue Tommy sure was a fine bird, with long talons and a wing spread four times the width of his body. He was a proud bird too – cocky, so to speak.” The girl giggled again, which brought a mock stern look from her uncle.
“Well, this youngster starts bragging around the barnyard that he can bring that old warrior, Cock Ruby-Eyes, down in three rounds.
Now, as it happened, a sly old gander named Hank was lurking behind a tree, listening to that brash young bird brag. He saw a chance to make himself a whole pile of corn, and he set out with a plan to do just that.
First, Hank went to Cock Ruby-Eyes and told him the youngster was bragging that he could beat Ruby with one wing tied behind him. That made the old bird fightin’ mad.
“I came to tell you,” said wily Hank, “because I don’t like some fancy dude of a bird coming in here and insulting our champ. He needs to be taught who’s the head rooster on this farm.”
Then, Hank went to Blue, and told him, “Ruby said you’re a blueberry creampuff who couldn’t beat a hen.”
The fight was set for the next Saturday. Blue Tommy went into training right then and there, so determined to be the new king of the farm. The animals who saw him working out said he was a sure win, but Cock Ruby had his supporters too.
Cock Ruby knew it might be true that he was getting too old to beat Blue, but that bird’s bragging had gotten under his feathers. “I might be ready to lay down my title, but it won’t be to this pretty-boy newcomer,” said Ruby. He was a crafty old fighter, and not above cheating.
Come Saturday, every animal down to the last duckling, chick, and calf was in the barn. Hank stood at the barn door, taking bets till the big event was about to start.
Cock Ruby-Eyes strutted in with a mean glint in his eyes and a smile on his beak. He was cheatin’ ready, with a knife blade strapped underneath his wing. He had it hidden so well, even an eagle, with perfect eyesight, would have to be looking from just the right angle to spot it.
Blue Tommy Joe danced in, not a bit scared. He came crowing, laughing, waving his wings, and nodding his pretty blue comb at the hens, who cheered and waved.
The fight started. Blue moved in fast, dancing around, playing with the old rooster, mocking him with playful swings. Ruby stayed back against the ropes, alert and biding his time. “Let the boy tire himself out,” thought Cock Ruby, as he dodged Blue’s jabs and thrusts. The animals were booing and yelling at Ruby to get in there and fight, but he stayed back, and ended the first round without much damage.
In the second round, Blue started dancing again. Then, all of a sudden, he moved in, and caught Ruby with a staggering blow. The old rooster slumped and looked as if he wouldn’t be make it through the round. But Old Ruby pulled himself up, and kept coming back, hit after hit, round after round. The fight went on into the night.
Then, in the sixth round, Ruby came alive. He moved so fast nobody could tell who struck the blow. There was a flash. Swing! Swat! And Blue Tommy was down. Tommy Blue was bleeding. He jumped back up, looking confused. He couldn’t see what was doing it, but every time he got near Ruby, he felt his flesh slice open – first his breast, then his leg. Pretty soon that spry young rooster was sagging. Then, with a fierce swing, Ruby sliced a red gash into the back of Blue’s neck. Blue staggered and fell on the barn floor, looking worn out and ready for nothing more than the skillet.
But Blue wasn’t ready to be fried just yet. He pulled himself up, bloody as he was, to stand and face what might have been Cock Ruby’s finishing thrust. But the old champ was strutting around the ring and showing off, too drunk on winning to see that Blue was up. It gave Blue time to catch his second wind and come back at Ruby. That’s just what he did, all right, he came at Ruby with a vengeance. Feathers flew all over the barn. It was a sight.
Ruby tottered, but he rallied, and went after Blue again. Swoosh! Slash! Slice! And Blue slumped to his knees, his left wing dangling, useless at his side.
Ruby knew he was just a swing away from keeping his title as the number one bird in the barnyard. He came on hard and fast, flapping his wing with the knife blade on it. Then, just as he was nearing Blue’s throat, the knife blade came loose, and flew across the ring. When the animals saw it, they mooed, and hooted, and booed Ruby, but he paid ‘em no mind. He ran for the knife, but Blue saw it too, and was on him, pecking and clawing. Ruby knocked Blue off, and grabbed the knife. The animals hissed and screeched.
Blue Tommy was done for and everyone knew it. Cock Ruby came for him, knife first, but the floor was slick with blood. He slipped. He swayed back and forth, then fell to the ground with a thud, never to get up again. Old Cock Ruby-Eyes, champion of the barnyard, was dead. The knife, meant to kill Tommy, was stuck in his heart.
The animals cheered, and picked up Blue Tommy Joe, the new Champion, and carried the exhausted and aching bird out of the barn to parade under the stars. They all joined in the merriment, except for that old gander, Hank. He hung back in the barn, counting his corn.”
The story came to an abrupt end when Aunt Bessie came out on the porch, and with a twinkle in her eyes, said, “And Farmer Crenshaw and his family had a tough old chicken for Sunday dinner. Now it’s time for bed.”