The setting for this adventure is the middle of the okeefenokee swamp. Literally in the swamp. The lights were strung over the dog pit suspended from tree limbs and run by generator and yeah somebody did live there.
The hundreds of photos I shot over the years were quite accurate but
could never really convey the atmosphere. Imagine if you will
approximately 100 people sitting on cobbled together bleacher eating,
drinking and smoking waiting word from the promoter.
This show was being staged by my buddy the illustrious Harry Hargrove
who at the appointed time stepped over the pit wall to make " the
announcement." Back in the day all shows where prefaced by the promoter
giving a brief speech.
"We're getting ready to have a dogfight here tonight (whistles, cheers)
so if there's any sheriff's department, ATF, Treasury agents or humane
society here I want you to stand up and identify yourselves (no one
does, duh) . I see some people here tonight that I don't know so I'm
going to point to them and somebody tell me who they are (all eyes
scrutinize the crowd).
At this point my somewhat warped sense of humor kicked in. I turned to
Carolyn Hand who was sitting to my left and asked, "you don't think
anybody like that's here tonight do you?" She leaned close and (sotto
voce) said "oh honey you never know who might be sittin next to you at
one of these things anymore". She then assured me that if there was the
men would handle it so I shouldn't worry.
After ascertaining that no undesirables were present the matches
commenced. There is no way to convey the atmosphere. The smell of wet
dogs, blood, beer, b.o. and the all pervasive miasma of redneck moron
overlaid with barbeque is beyond description. Bets are being called with
odds, some are taken while others are countered. A half kilo coke deal
goes down not ten feet away while two dogs grapple and swap out holds.
I'm in my own little world bounded by the viewfinder of my trusty
Nikon. The owners want pics if their dog wins or shows game. Jack Kelly
will publish them in the Sporting Dog Journal along with the match
reports Carolyn will submit. Kelly is absent from this show, the dogs
are average, no one going for a title tonight so he'll get the report
and photos in the mail.
The matches go as expected until number six. Two fast mouthed fast
footed bitches both looking for their first win fight wall to wall. This
match went about forty five minutes before one quit standing on all
After number seven is done it's time to convoy out of the swamp and
down to the nearest all night diner for breakfast. It's only around two
and sitting around for the post show dissection is always rewarding. We
take the three largest tables in the place and begin evaluating the
dogs, the handlers, the gate and the crowd. These post match parties
usually last an hour or more and something I always found quite
I now have additional names to go with match handles. The guy sitting
across the pit from me wearing three different plaids is from N.C. and a
friend of Robert Bass. His kid is pre vet at UNC. That'll come in handy
for everyone. The dogs this night had required no urgent post fight
care, they just weren't that good. He and I will meet again in the not
too distant future.
Finally it's time to go. After I leave the parking lot I spray myself
with air freshener. The cloying smell of dogfight has permeated my
clothes and I've no desire to spend the next few hours with it in my
nostrils. Tonight the Doors, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin ride with me
over an empty rolling two lane road. It's very cold, sever clear with a
full moon riding west. Frost sparkles like diamonds on cut over fields.
The songs, the solitude and the night are really quite lovely, it's a
good drive home.