June 22, 2006
Colquitt Co.-- Many people enjoy a race, whether it includes cars or horses or just about anything with legs or wheels. And it seems we will race most anything. The love between a kid and a pet can last a lifetime, certainly for 11 year-old Tatum Shivers.
"His name is White Lighting," says Tatum holding a big white rooster. "I just thought he would win."
Ever since the chicken hatched 18 months ago, Tatum and White Lighting have been best of friends. "Yes, sir," says Tatum, as he pets the rooster that seems to fall a sleep in his arms.
Seven year-old Dykes Harrell brought a feathered friend, also. "I call him Jaguar. He was hard to catch," says Dykes, as he bends the metal wire that secures the lid on a wooden box.
The boys brought their chickens for a once a year chicken race in the Bay community, about 10 miles west of Moultrie. For those people who did not have a chicken to race, but wanted to participate. They could rent one. All it took was $10.
There were chickens of all sizes to choose from, but does size matter? "I just don't believe it does. We have some big ones win and some little ones win," says Chuck Scarborough, Bay's fire chief and chicken racing expert.
People from miles around came to see the chicken race. One chicken looked asleep, maybe preserving its energy before racing. Others seemed ready to go on a moment's notice. Dykes jumped his pre-race nervousness away, while Tatum petted White Lighting. Dykes chicken would race in the first heat. Jaguar was rather slow leaving the starting box. The other chickens cruised to the finish line, leaving Jaguar way behind.
But, Jaguar flew the coop, landing in a tree nearby. The public address announcer offered a reward for the quick and safe return of Jaguar. "Whoever captures the one in the tree gets five bucks," says the announcer, prompting bounty hunters to pull on a limb in hopes of shaking Jaguar to the ground. Their plan didn't work. Jaguar had his own timetable.
While Jaguar decided what he wanted to do, Tatum raced White Lighting, but like Jaguar, White Lighting was slow from the beginning. A dark chicken came from behind and won. "Bruce is winning! That's our chicken!" shouted the excited owner who would have crowing rights for a year. Dykes finally caught Jaguar and took him home.
"There's always next year," says Dykes as he carried the wood crate away.
Tatum took White Lighting back to his pen and to his hens, and felt rather philosophical about the experience. "I feel like he did his best," says Tatum, as he gently set White Lighting on his feet.
With chicken races and other competitive sports, young people should see first hand that it's not whether you win or loose, but how much fun they had playing the chicken racing game. The chicken races were organized by the Bay and Funston Volunteer Fire Departments as a way to help buy much needed equipment.