Chapter 92 Summary
Another Sunday, it’s Mingo who presents an idea to Tom Lea. Mingo makes the case that even the birds that get injured in the cockpit can often be coaxed back to health to fight again. However, these birds, called “culls,” are fit not for the main fights but only for the “hackfights” led by poor whites and free blacks. Mingo suggests that this is a perfect way to get George started truly handling and fighting the cocks. Ironically, it’s also the way that Tom Lea began making his fortune.
After Tom Lea agrees, both Mingo and George rejoice. They have secretly been working on training George for hackfights for months now. Still, George can’t find the words to thank Mingo. It’s one of the few times when George remains speechless. As they continue to train, Mingo tells George just how much money can be won through hackfighting. When Tom Lea tells George that he can have half of the winnings, George vows to buy freedom for both himself and his mother, Kizzy. George can’t wait to get into the cockpit!
George enters one of Tom Lea’s culls in his first hackfight. Unfortunately, the cull loses. George gets so emotional over the loss that Mingo wonders whether George will be able to hackfight again. They do win another few fights and make two dollars, but George is still upset about the first loss. It’s Tom Lea who talks George out of his misery. Everyone has to lose a cockfight or two.
Sure enough, George gets back into the cockpit and wins almost every bout in hackfighting. Kizzy beams with pride at her son’s skill, but Mingo still can’t believe how much George cries over every single dead cock they pit. The next time George returns home, he has made eighteen dollars: nine for himself and nine for Tom Lea. George gets so used to winning that he begins strutting around the cockpit and crowing like the roosters. George gets so good at it that Master Lea starts attending the hackfights as well (which for rich plantation owners is generally looked down upon). The regulars become so used to George’s amusing, cocky show that they say, “Look out! Here come dat ‘Chicken George’!” The name sticks.
At the next “main” fight, the rich aristocrat Mr. Jewett asks Tom Lea if he would consider selling Chicken George for four thousand dollars. As Lea refuses, Jewett casually lets drop the fact that Chicken George has been “visiting” with one of the slaves on the Jewett plantation. Tom Lea is furious not because Chicken George has been “tomcatting” but because he might be sharing information on chicken training. George expects punishment, but instead is given Mingo’s place at the main fights. Mingo can’t help hanging his head in sadness.