What in tarnation, game fowl?

From oil rigs to raising game fowl in Kentucky


Life & Style
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Ron Isaac has led a rich and colourful life that has taken him from oil rigs to raising game fowl in Kentucky.

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The game fowl have little homes on Ron Isaac's property in Bourbon County Kentucky. Photos: Samantha Townsend

The game fowl have little homes on Ron Isaac's property in Bourbon County Kentucky. Photos: Samantha Townsend

In Kentucky the folk are as colourful as their sayings.

Some might say they have so many more sayings "than you can poke a forked stick at".

To them there is no better way to get your point across than a southern expression, whether it is a popular phrase like "what in tarnation", "you've been citified", "fixin to" or "bless your pee-pickin heart".

So when Ron Isaac said he "felt like a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest", there was no need to "piddle around".

"That's what he says to everyone he first meets," his granddaughter Carey Brown laughed.

Ron's home is a postcard perfect southern belle with a hand-built stone fence line where Boone Creek runs through.

The 140 acre (57ha) property he bought in 1989, is the final resting place of Edward Boone, the brother of American frontier man Daniel Boone. On a plaque next to his headstone, which sits under a buck-eye, tree it says: "Edward Boone was killed by Indians on the banks of Boone Creek on October 6, 1780, while hunting with his brother".

Ron Isaac's homestead is the resting place of Edward Boone, the brother of American frontier man, Daniel Boone.

Ron Isaac's homestead is the resting place of Edward Boone, the brother of American frontier man, Daniel Boone.

Ron was instrumental in resurrecting the headstone, which was originally washed downstream of Boone Creek.

"Now we get so many tourists through here," he said.

Ron is a southern gentleman where your word is your bond. He comes from a bygone era where men opened gates and tipped their hats.

He doesn't carry a cellphone as he doesn't see the need for the "highfalutin contraptions".

The 81-year-old has led a rich and colourful life where he grew up in Louisiana. He left school to join the military as a rifleman.

"I signed up with my best buddy and we were under-age, so when my mum found out she had a fit," he said.

From there he traveled the world working in oil rigs right across the Gulf and India. And when those days came to an end, he hung up his oil rig hat to call Bourbon County home with his now late wife Phyllis.

Stepping inside his home it's Gone with the Wind meets Indiana Jones. It's chock full of a life-time of furniture and mementos from four corners of the oil producing world with every wall lined with photographs of his family.

The striking images of poultry that decorate the stairways and hallways are a nod to Ron's hobby - he breeds fighting cocks.

And although this throwback to the pre-civil war south is now banned in the US, his birds find a welcome home in the Philippines where they fetch a good price.

Cockfighting became illegal in all 50 US states after Louisiana was the last state that voted to approve the ban in 2007. It is not illegal to raise game fowl.

When they made it illegal to fight game fowl, Ron said the penalty varied from state to state, from being a felony in some and a misdemeanor in others.

He knows it's not for everyone, but he says it's part of America's heritage.

"I needed something constructive to do, otherwise you won't stay above the ground long," he said.

"Cockfighting is part of our heritage.

"George Washing fought cocks in the White House and Abraham Lincoln got his name 'Honest Abe' from referring fighting cocks ."

Ron first started fighting cocks back in the mid 1960s when he lived in Louisiana.

"A friend of mine I worked with had game fowls. At that time I didn't have any and he brought me some game fowl and I raised them," he said.

"I started fighting them and the first derby I went to I won, so I was hooked.

"I've had these cocks as part of me ever since then.

"I've spent many years away, but I've always come back and had my game fowl."

He has 20 cocks, 50 hens, 210 hatchlings and 180 on their way that work alongside his cattle operation of 50 head of Angus/Limousin.

"A lot of fowl raised here go to Philippines as it's their national sport," he said.

"I've maintained my families over the years. I love them so much I didn't want to them to become extinct.

"As long as I'm living I will have my game fowl here.

"We have people here in the US that want to you do do things the way they want it to be done, but it's not necessarily the way it ought to be."

He said cock fighting was not any crueler than raising chickens to eat.

"These game fowl live like royalty and live to a ripe old age, but the chickens for eating don't.

"Let me tell you a story. There used to be a little store over here where everyone would gather.

"I came in one day and my ex-father-in-law said how cruel it was to fight them roosters.

The final resting place of Edward Boone, the brother of American frontierman Daniel Boone.

The final resting place of Edward Boone, the brother of American frontierman Daniel Boone.

"I said wait a minute you want to talk about cruelty, you see he was an avid fisherman.

"Look at these people getting out here and baiting a hook with a worm to catch a poor little old fish and suck him out of the water to pull his guts out and let him suffocate.In my opinion that's cruelty.

"He didn't say anything else about cock fighting being cruel."

  • Samantha Townsend went to Kentucky USA to attend the Alltech ONE19 conference after being awarded runner-up for the inaugural IFAJ-Alltech leadership in journalism award.
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