In chapter two of Steinbeck's novella, the old swamper Candy introduces George and Lennie to the other main characters at the ranch by describing each of them. One of the first characters he talks about is the black stable buck Crooks. He explains how Crooks is crippled because he was kicked by a horse, and how he has his own room where he spends time reading. When George asks about the boss, Candy relates the time at Christmas when the boss brought a gallon of whisky to the bunkhouse. That night Crooks was allowed into the bunkhouse where he got into a fight with a "skinner name of Smitty." According to Candy, the fight ended with Crooks getting the better of Smitty as the men wouldn't allow Smitty to use his feet because of Crooks's disability.
The scene highlights the racism which is part of the fabric of the ranch and was a prominent feature of America at the time. The suggestion is that Smitty fought Crooks because of prejudice. Not only is Crooks a victim of racism but he is also segregated from the other men. The incident at Christmas was one of the few times that Crooks was allowed into the bunkhouse where the white workers lived. Later in chapter four when Lennie wants to come into Crooks's room, Crooks explains to Lennie why he doesn't go in the bunkhouse:
"'Cause I'm black. They play cards in there, but I can't play because I'm black. They say I stink. Well, I tell you, you all of you stink to me."