The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Barnyard Election

By Angela M. Williams © 1987

Issue: April, 1987

My uncle from Texas came home for a visit recently. While he was here, relatives dropped by the Patrick County homeplace, where my grandmother lives, to chat with him. My great uncle, John Wright of Bassett, Virginia, came for a visit one day. Several of us sat on Grandma's porch looking out over the land where Uncle John, my Grandpa Daniel and their brothers and sisters had grown up. Letting his thoughts wander over times past, Uncle John recalled the day two chickens foretold a presidential election.

The year was 1928, Election Day. Herbert Hoover and Alfred E. Smith were running for the presidential seat. On that day John and his brother Lem, were up long before dawn to do chores. They walked to the barn in darkness, preparing to feed the horses in the side lot. Lem kept some banty hens in a small area of the barn and they were roosting when the boys went inside. There was more than a speck of mischief in these boys and suddenly Lem grabbed up one of the hens off the roosting pole.

Holding it by the feet so it couldn't get away, he began pecking at another hen with the one he was holding. Uncle John recalls that one hen was mostly red in color, while the other was mostly black, and it came to the boys to name the hens after the Presidential contenders. Lem kept the bantams pecking at one another till they were fighting on their own. Then he and John continued with their chores.

Around daylight as they passed the barn, they could hear the hens still fighting. Checks at various times during the day revealed the bantams were still going strong. At dusk, Lem and John went down to the barn to see if the hens were still fighting, and to break it up, if necessary. They got to the barn in time to see "Al Smith", bloody and wounded, running through the back lot toward the creek, fleeing in defeat. A victorious "Herbert Hoover" was found inside, equally bloody and wounded, but clucking triumphantly.

Uncle John says it was probably several days before they got the "official" word that Hoover defeated Smith. They weren't surprised, though. The barnyard results were in. "Herbert Hoover" was there to prove it.