It was December 1989. A few days earlier we had been married and we were now driving south on the Blue Ridge Parkway to visit with one of the most respected legends in the dog game. In spite of the unfamiliar geography, we had little trouble arriving at our destination. The road we were on ran parallel to a mountain creek, and on the other side of that creek we soon spotted what we were looking for, a large wooden sign nailed to an old apple tree that read:
This was the home of Lester Hughes, a man who, in the words of Tom Garner: “Is a living encyclopedia on the subject of the American Pit Bull Terrier”. We drove across the narrow wooden bridge that connected the road to the driveway, which ended abruptly at the base of a steep hill leading up to the mountain that has been Mr. Hughes home for all of his sixty-eight years.
When we got out of our car we realized that it was a lot colder here than in the foothills where we live. To the left was the house and Mr. Hughes greeted us at the door. He projected the calm self confidence of a man who had already accomplished all of his goals in life, yet the intensity of competition was still there. He introduced us to his wife Evelyn and their two children, Christine and Cole, then proceeded to put on a coat and his trademark western style hat. We followed him outside to see his yard of about twenty-five dogs.
We headed up a small slope and to the right of the driveway, at the end of which was a building. Directly to our right, along the bank of the creek, were a row of kennel runs where Mr. Hughes’ brood bitches and puppies are kept. These were ideally set up; six foot chain link sides with the doors set two feet off the floors, an insulated doghouse attached to each kennel from the outside, with a small door in the side of each house to allow instant access to a bitch with puppies or a sick dog. Each pen has an automatic waterer and built in food tray. The best feature of these kennels is that each one is elevated on a sturdy wooden deck. Mr. Hughes simply sprays them down with a high pressure hose and everything rinses down between the boards.
At that time, the dogs in those kennels included: Holly, a daughter of CH Jeep ROM out of Gene’s Honey; Black Mert, a daughter of Groves’ GR CH Outlaw; Baby Jane, a very good daughter of Crenshaw’s Screamer; plus some pups off Eli III /Midnight Cowboy breeding.
Just past the kennels was the building we’d seen from the driveway. We were surprised to find as we entered that it was warm inside, the building had heat, electricity and running water. This building which consists of a small office, a heated whelping room, a bathroom and a carpeted main room has been the site of a lot of Bulldog history over the years. The back door led out onto a deck over the creek, and a series of narrow bridges and catwalks that crisscross the creek. Behind the building, the creek (which despite the intense cold, was not frozen over and filled the air with the sound of roaring water) splits into two branches and then rejoins, forming a small island of rock. On this island, and on both banks of the creek, were a number of barking Bulldogs running back and forth on overhead cable runs and trying to get our attention.
Each dogs’ setup consists of either a winter proof doghouse or a barrel partly embedded in the riverbank, and a long, sturdy, overhead cable run. The dogs drink fresh water from the creek itself and seemed quite at home hopping back and forth across the water on the rocks. Mr. Hughes’ dogs were in the best of health and among them were: Long’s Werdo, an inbred son of CH Jeep who has proven to be quite a producer; Daisy, CH Jeep ROM x GR CH Miss Rage; Bandit, GR CH Outlaw x R.C.’s Molly; L’il Bill Jr., CH L’il Bill x Shena; plus an assortment of very well bred young dogs. Mostly Eli bred through Rascal, Buster and Cowboy Lines.
That was the first of many times we have visited The Old Mountain Man. We feel honored to know a man who is truly one of the “dinosaurs” of the dog game, and are grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from him. Mr. and Mrs. Hughes have been most generous with their hospitality, welcoming us into their home and offering us their friendship.
Mr. Hughes became involved with Bulldogs about forty-five years ago, although it was not until about twenty years ago that he became well known in the mainstream dog game. By the seventies he had become known as “The Old Mountain Man”. He has seen a lot of great dogs in action in his near half century in the game, and played a part in the careers of more than a few of them. He is not a man who brags about his many accomplishments or has anything negative to say about another Dogman, and his word is his bond. He doesn’t get involved in any of the petty squabbles or gossip so prevalent in the dog game and is a remnant from an era when all that was required to seal a business deal was a handshake and ones word.
“A few years back some boys drove down from the Bronx, New York to buy a grown dog”, Mr. Hughes told us one time. “They didn’t have enough money with them to buy the dog they wanted, so I let them go ahead and take the dog home and send me the money later.” Mr. Hughes shook his head and smiled, “Everyone told me I’d never see the money, but the rest of the money came in the mail from New York, just as they’d promised.”
He has a keen eye for the dogs, and a great deal of insight into their behavior. We have heard it said that Lester can see in five or ten minutes what it would take most people an hour too see in a dog, and we have come to value his opinion of a dog more than our own. We have seen him observe what appears to be an “Ace” in action, and when asked for his opinion simply state that “another ten minutes he would’ve stopped”, or after watching a young dog thoroughly embarrass its owner, tell the owner to wait another month and try it again. A lot of dogs that came close to being culls at eighteen months turned out to be fastlane dogs, with just a bit more time to mature thanks to his wisdom.
Mr. Hughes’ philosophy is that they’ll all quit, just some will quit a lot sooner than others. He has also taught us a lot about WHY different dogs quit. He saw the old CH Rascal dog lose a match and win several others and said of the loss “It was a quit because of the heat, he was not afraid of the other dog. In fact when they got him cooled down, he was struggling to find his opponent.” It does make sense that a dog who fails to scratch because his senses are beginning to fail him (because of heat, severe injuries, exhaustion or shock) should not be placed in the same category as a dog who stands the line because he does not want any more of what his opponent is dishing out.
We asked him how he thought the dogs of today compared with the caliber of dog being campaigned when he first got into the game. He told us that the overall quality of fastlane dogs today is considerably higher than thirty or forty years ago, and that there are a lot more super high ability, hardmouthed, deep game dogs around.
He also told us that the way gameness is looked upon has changed, particularly as applies to “cold dogs”. Cold was not a term that was in the vocabulary or the minds of the average Dogman forty years ago. A dog was either game or a cur. Mr. Hughes felt that the breeding careers of a lot of potential great producers were stopped short by this way of thinking.
“I started fighting dogs when I was a teenager” Mr. Hughes began. We were sitting at his kitchen table with him and his wife and had asked him how he got into Bulldogs. “Back then everyone had some kind of dog, and there was always a dogfight going on somewhere around here. I had a big collie then, supposedly a purebred, but looking back I imagine there must’ve been some Bulldog in him because he had a big ole head with big lips and must have weighed about seventy-five pounds, his name was Jack. We used to take him all over the county and he had had whipped just about every dog in the area that anyone had.
One day, me and my uncle were sitting with Jack on the riverbank by the road here.” Mr. Hughes gestures out the window at the road on the other side of the creek. “It was more of a trail than a road back then, just a dirt path that you could take a horse or maybe a small wagon on. Anyway, after a while a man came down the road with a shorthaired dog. He was from Tennessee and we’d heard his dog was supposed to be a real mean fighter. He went down the road to the old country store down the hill I guess, and a little while later we saw him coming back up the hill. He spotted us sitting there with our dog watching him and called out, “Boy, hold your dog, this is a pretty bad dog I’ve got here.”
Me and my uncle looked at each other, kinda grinnin’, and my uncle called back “I believe this one can take care of himself.” “Hold your dog”, he repeated, “This one’ll hurt him if they get in a fight.” I believe I sort of put my hand on Jack’s neck, like I was gonna hold him, and the man walked past us. I waited till he’d gone another twenty feet or so; let go of Jack’s neck and said “Get him Jack!” And Jack did, but it was the worst mistake Jack ever made.”
Mr. Hughes shook his head and a rare smile came across his face. “You couldn’t see the smaller dog for the cloud of dust”, he continued, “but when it cleared what we saw was Jack on his back. The other dog had a good stifle hold and Jack started to sing a little. It wasn’t too long before Jack wasn’t doing ANYTHING anymore but singin’. After the old man had gotten his dog off poor Jack, I asked him what kind of dog it was. He told me his dog was a “Pit Bulldog”, and that was the very first Pit Bulldog I ever saw.
It was about six months before I got a Bulldog, I don’t know whether the few I had were much good, but they won some backyard fights. If one quit, we’d just put him back on his chain and say he’ll do better next time, because Bulldogs were pretty rare back then around here. I got my first good dogs from a man in Tennessee that the old man I’d met that day with Jack told me about. We had some terrible fights, and the only conditioning those dogs ever got was hunting with us in the woods. We’d never even heard of a treadmill back then.”
Mr. Hughes told us that when he first began seriously matching dogs, most matches were fought by “Old Country Rules” or “Country Style”. In his own words, “We used to let ‘em fight until one guys dog would quit, or one guy’d go in and get his dog. That used to be the rules we had a long time ago.”
One of the first dogs he matched was his old Ranger dog, a son of Cotton’s Bullet. “I was matched into some fellers from around Smithfield. When I showed up with my dog nobody really knew me, and MAN they had money! They wore rings that looked like they’d be worth my whole house here, and gold tie clasps. I didn’t know whether I was even gonna get to fight my dog or not, in other words they didn’t want to fight for what I was willing to bet. Then some feller stepped up and backed me, his name was Whitey something or another. He asked me a little about my dog and then announced “Gentlemen, any of those of you that wish to bet, step over here and let me have your names and who you are.”
Some of them just sort of looked down their noses at this man as if to say, you think you have that kind of money? So he reached down in his front pocket and brought out a roll of bills this big.” He gestures with his hands a wad the size of an orange. “It looked like it was all one hundred dollar bills. Then he said, “If that aint enough, I got some more in the other pocket, and if THAT aint enough, I got some more in the trunk of my car!” Ranger won the fight pretty easily in fifty-eight minutes, and Whitey had them all lined up payin’ him when it was all over!
The fight had been set up by a man named Huey Hicks, Jack Kelly would remember him, and a short while later Huey brought me a dog he wanted to match into the same people. I believe the night he brought him here, that dog weighed ninety-one pounds. We matched him at seventy-eight pounds, country style. What I didn’t find out until after the match was over was that this dog had been whipped six months before by the very same dog we were putting him on! That ole dog’s name was Duke. He was a big, black son of Big Boy who Huey Hicks owned, and the only way he’d fight was country style. Evelyn worked him for that fight.”
At this point Mrs. Hughes spoke up, “He was so big he could have dragged me off, but he’d been obedience trained and would just stand there while you put the harness on him. Then he’d jump up on the slatmill and work it like crazy. He was as big as a calf.”
“He was so well trained a woman or child could handle him.” Mr. Hughes adds, “Except when it was time to take him to the pit. It took William Cable, Bruce King and myself to bring him.” His wife chuckles, “They all three had to carry him, one his middle, one his back end and one his front. And the one that got the front had to hold his head real good. If his head was turned loose, he’d bite you.”
“He was making a kind of screaming noise deep down in his throat, it was scary to hear.” Mr. Hughes continues, “L.P. conditioned and handled the other dog, and boy, there was no way I was supposed to win. They were pretty confident; their dog had already beaten this one once, and had all kinds of odds on the fight. We turned them loose and Duke went across and grabbed that dog. I don’t think there was a hair of that other dog touching the ground for about a minute or so.”
Mrs. Hughes adds: “That old dog stayed in there over three hours, you know how long that is. It went so long they wanted to let Lester step out and change handlers, but the only reason Duke was stayin’ in there was because Lester was talking to him and encouraging him.”
“If I’d left, he woulda left too. At one point L.P. said “Why don’t you get out of your dogs way and let him leave?” So I said O.K., I’ll get out of his way, and I stepped to one side. That dog came over to where I was standing and looked at me, then looked back at the other dog who was layin’ down. Then he went back and grabbed that dog’s throat and started shaking him again.”
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“Another time, Duke was down and Lester was on his knees with his face right up to Dukes, talking to him,” Mrs. Hughes said. “Duke got back up, Lester must’ve talked him back on his feet and L.P. turned to the crowd and said “I don’t know what Mr. Hughes is telling this dog!”” Mr. Hughes and Duke won the fight at three hours and twenty-five minutes, the other side decided their dog was dead and gave it up.
“Old Ranger, I don’t know how many HE won country style, but he whipped everything we ever put on him. That son of a bitch would attack me, if I didn’t do what he wanted. I remember one time I had him on a twenty foot chain out behind the barn, I approached him and noticed as I came up he had a wild look in his eyes. I wasn’t really sure if he intended to be friendly or bite me, but as I got close he came at me wide open, and I saw he was going right for my face. At the last minute, I turned away. Evelyn had gotten me a new winter coat for Christmas and Ranger hit the collar of the coat and tore a big strip about five inches wide down the back. He had it on the ground shakin’ it for all he was worth.”
His wife makes a fist and imitates hitting someone with a right hook. “When Ranger lunged at him a second time Lester hit him like this, and that dog’s eyes rolled back, his tongue fell out of his mouth and he fell flat.”
“I knocked him out cold and thought I’d killed him. When he came to he was just as friendly as a puppy. I believe that dog had flashbacks or something. Most of the time he’d love me to death, but every now and then he’d look at me like who the hell are you?! One time I was coming along with the feed bucket, back then those five gallon pails were metal not plastic, and he went after me again. I swung that bucket and hit him over the head so hard I thought I’d killed him, knocked him out cold-AGAIN. He woke up and acted like nothing ever happened.
“Another time, I was working him on what we call “The Merry Go Round”. I’d put a chicken in a cage on it for him to chase. He ran it hard, got it going so fast the whole thing came apart in pieces. I beat him to the chicken, but he decided he was going to take it anyway. MAN! We had a terrible fight that day!”
Mrs. Hughes added, “You could never turn your back on Ranger, at least I never did. You never really knew what was going on in his head.” She turned to her husband, “Remember that night Ranger got loose and jumped on a dog down by the river?” Mr. Hughes nodded, “It was pitch dark and the middle of winter. Ranger had just about drowned the other dog. I waded into the creek and near froze to death getting them apart.”
Up to this point Mr. Hughes had been smiling and chuckling as he reminisced about Duke and Ranger, but now he turned serious again. “I didn’t used to see much danger in one that was vicious, I knew a Bulldog could hurt a man but I don’t think I realized how bad, I wasn’t afraid of one. Now I’m a lot more wary of a maneater, they really can hurt you, even kill you. I honestly don’t believe that a grown man could get a sixty-five pound Bulldog off without a weapon, if it decided to attack him.
We asked Mr. Hughes about some of the famous pit dogs he’s seen fight, and how he would rate them starting with CH Rascal. “Man, he was a Bulldog! He won five contract matches, and several more off the chain, but he couldn’t be recognized as a Grand Champion because he lost his first fight. I refereed that fight, it was a hundred and five degrees that day and Rascal got hot and didn’t scratch. He didn’t quit fighting, in other words, he did NOT cur. I’ve seen a lot of dogs do that and a lot of people holler he’s a cur. But if one don’t scratch it don’t necessarily mean he’s a cur, there’ve been many dogs destroyed as curs that weren’t. I never did see a dog that could put Rascal behind, even the one he lost to died less than a half hour after the match. I put a dog on him once, a real hardbiting dog out of Big Boy that I’d never seen ANY dog put behind. Rascal put him behind, and kept him behind for over an hour until he quit. Rascal fought any style but liked to work the head. He could overcome any style of one that was put on him. I think that there are as many good dogs going back to CH Rascal as any dog that’s been bred in the last twenty-five years.
The Stomponato dog was supposed to be very closely related to Rascal, same sire and their dams were bred about the same. I know that the two bloodlines seem to go real well together. Susie was off Stomponato and produced some good ones bred to Rascal Jr. Stomponato was a well built, good looking dog. I never saw him rolled; in fact I’d heard two different stories on the dog. One was that he had won two in Mexico, and the other was that he was cold. I don’t know whether he was cold or not, but a lot of good Bulldogs today carry Stomponato blood.
Buster was another one I heard two different stories told about, that he’d won one and that he was cold also. John Shivar bought him from Maurice Carver for a fifth of whiskey, I heard. He kept Buster either two weeks or two months and then he died. Loposay got the dog and he died after keeping the dog for about the same length of time. I bred to Buster when he was very old, but didn’t get any pups. He sure produced some good ones, his daughter GR CH Miss Rage killed every dog she went into but one. And she killed that one too, the second time she beat it.
I saw Midnight Cowboy go. He was a little black dog, short and kind of bowlegged. He was a really good dog, one of the best in my opinion. I’d put him in the top ten of all the dogs I’ve seen fight. He bit good and hard, not as hard as some dogs I’ve seen, but hard enough to win.
I saw Chivo kill a dog of Billy Collins’ in less than thirty minutes, God, he was a Bulldog! I’d say he was also about one of the best I’ve seen.”
Mr. Hughes also named GR CH Boomerang as one of the best, “He was an Ace” he said, but he feels the hardest biting dog he ever saw was GR CH Zebo.
“CH Homer was a hard biter, but Zebo was the hardest. His fights never went very long, which tells you he was biting hard enough to kill his opponents. They claim Greaser didn’t die, I don’t know if he did or not but I never did hear anyone more tell of him, even though they say he was retired to stud. There wouldn’t have even been much competition in that match if Greaser hadn’t had a three pound advantage.
I saw the old Tramp Red Boy dog go, he beat me one time. He was a good solid Bulldog. Some people say he couldn’t bite, that he won because he had no real competition. Huey Hicks brought a big bitch to me that he wanted to match into Red Boy, and I did, and for about forty minutes it looked as if she was going to kill Red Boy right there in the pit. Then he got to biting on her head real hard, and he could bite HARD. He stopped her in one hour and seventeen minutes. That was the only time I matched a female against a male, and it wasn’t my match. Even back then it was unusual, and I don’t believe in it. It isn’t fair to either one; there are times when a male won’t fight a female as hard, most of the time the female would have an advantage because of that. And a female won’t always fight a male as hard as another bitch. That’s just my opinion, someone else might feel different.”
Mr. Hughes also saw the great CH Honeybunch in action, and told us “I believe she was one of the best bitches I’ve ever seen. In her first match she beat a dog that I conditioned and handled, killed it. I refereed her next match against a bitch named Bonnie, she killed that one too.”
We were somewhat surprised by his answer when we asked him about Finley’s GR CH Bo, if he’d seen him fight, and if he was a very game dog. “No” he replied, “He refused to scratch in front of between seventy-five and a hundred people when he lost his second fight to Vindicator. I wouldn’t say he was a rank cur; in fact Vindicator was probably the only dog that could have beaten him. Bo got on Vindicator’s head for the first fifteen minutes or so. He had a very good mouth and was biting hard. But then, Vindicator started to work on his front legs real bad. He’d work on the first one, then the other, then back to the first and so on, and Bo did start singing a little. L.P. bet Bob a hundred dollars that he wouldn’t scratch, but he did make his scratch and Bob picked him up. He refused to go across on his courtesy scratch. When he stood the line, my exact words to Bob were, “Bob, walk over to the other corner and see if he’ll follow you.” He did, but Bo just turned and faced into the corner of the pit. Bo went on to win five or six more matches after he quit that time.
I didn’t see GR CH Snake fight, but James Crenshaw told me he was a hell of a dog. CH Jeep was a good game dog, but I’ve seen better. I don’t want to take anything away from him, he just wasn’t “the greatest dog of all time” like some people say he was. He was real game, any dog that will go three hours and forty-five minutes is. I know some people have said that he couldn’t have taken the same abuse he dished out in that match. He was ahead in that one right from the start, but he had proven in his match with the Weiner dog that he could come from behind to win. I didn’t see that fight, but I heard “Weenie” had him confused for a good part of that match. “Weenie” was a funny looking dog; he was “one dog high and two dogs long”. I’ve seen a couple of dogs built like that, which could really bite hard and had a lot of driving power to them.”
We asked Mr. Hughes who was the hardest biting dog he’s seen since GR CH Zebo, and the hardest biting bitch. “The hardest biting dog I’ve seen in the past ten years or so would be CH Homer. As far as I know, no dog ever went a half hour with Homer and lived. He also killed several dogs in rolls before I matched him. The very best and hardest biting bitch I’ve ever seen is GR CH Spookie, out of Homer and Susie. I bred Spookie and schooled her out before selling her to Ricky Jones. During that time I got rid of several dogs I don’t think I gave a fair appraisal of, I had rolled them with Spookie and they looked bad. But Spookie was so good she made every dog she went into look bad. The only dog I ever saw look good against her was the bitch Bobby Hall matched into her, Jeanette. She fought even with Spookie for over an hour. Spookie took a terrible head chewing, but was in the other bitch’s chest most of the time. She did stop her though; she refused to scratch at one hour and forty-two minutes. I’ve heard people say she couldn’t scratch, but she could have gone across.”
“The very first time I saw Zebo, he bit me” Mr. Hughes began. “Me and William Cable had come to Lonzo’s house to look at his dogs. Lonzo had his dogs tied along a narrow path, and if you got one step the wrong way, they could reach you. I started walking along the path behind Lonzo towards the dogs and stopped and asked him if any of the dogs could get to us. “No, and they wouldn’t bite you no how” he answered, and we kept walking. We went a few steps further and a black dog hit the end of his chain and grabbed me by the arm. I swung my fist and punched him in the jaw, knocking him off, and that was the very first time I laid eyes on Zebo.
Willie Brown was there with his wife and daughter, he and Lonzo were rolling out a bunch of dogs. They rolled one of Willie’s bitches on Lena, that was Zebo’s sister and then they rolled Vindicator and Zebo. It was a short roll the way those dogs were hurting each other; it couldn’t have gone very long without them killing each other. Vindicator was really punishing Zebo’s front legs, but Zebo was hurting Vindicator’s nose, putting holes in his muzzle the size of my little finger and the blood was running all over. Vindicator was Lonzo’s favorite, but I asked Willie privately which dog he liked better, and he said he’d seen them both rolled before and he liked Zebo the best. I liked the dog real good, but I didn’t buy Zebo that day.
I went back a couple of months later and Lonzo had rolled Zebo on a dog that weighed about eighty-five pounds, I believe. His shoulder had been messed up really bad.”
Mrs. Hughes adds, “His one leg was just sort of hanging there, it looked like it had near about been tore right off.”
“I bought Zebo and took him home. William Cable took him to his vets and had his shoulder reconstructed. The surgery cost seventy-five dollars, which was a lot of money back then. Lonzo let me have Zebo on time; I paid him so much one month, then so much another month until it was all paid. He still leads people to believe I still owe him for Zebo, but I paid him every penny.
At a later date I went back and bought four female pups from Lonzo, off Mike and Angie, and paid for those on time too. But I held back twenty dollars on each pup when I paid him because Willie Brown told me I’d never see the papers on them, that Lonzo wouldn’t spend the money to send for them and that’s the story of the eighty dollars I owe Lonzo Pratt.
Out of the five dogs I bought from Lonzo I got three really good ones, I give him a plus for that. Any time you buy five dogs from a man you’re more than likely to get five curs than three good dogs. Lonesome won two, and another bitch was dead game and died in a kennel fight. Of the two that didn’t work out, one was cold and the other one fought fifteen minutes and then quit.
After his shoulder was all healed, I matched Zebo. His first fight was an easy one; the match was against a friend of mine that I’d been in the service with at forty pounds. The dog he brought was really about a thirty-five pounder that weighed forty pounds, and Zebo killed it in seventeen minutes.
Bob Finley had a two time winner called Pete, and we matched at forty-two pounds. Pete had won his fights at a higher weight, and Zebo came in at forty-one and three quarters, which was too heavy for him. He was a good, strong, hardbiting dog or he’d have been in trouble. Zebo killed Pete in twenty-six minutes.
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His next was into my friend from the service again, and that was a pretty good fight, but Zebo won in about thirty minutes and that dog died too. His dog was real game and would have scratched at the end of the fight, if he could have. I don’t believe that man messed with anymore Bulldogs after that, he was into the law pretty heavy, still is if he hasn’t retired. And I don’t mean he’s a deputy sheriff or anything like that, he’s up in the top bracket of the law.
Junior Bush called and said he had a match for Zebo in Alabama, against a feller by the name of Eslinger that was into the dogs pretty heavy at that time. We turned em’ loose, and when that feller seen what was happening, I saw he kinda felt like he’d been set up. He walked over to where I was standing and said “That one can kill a dog, can’t he?” And I replied; Yeah, just recently he killed two. And if you don’t pick yours up, he’ll kill him too. And Zebo did, winning the fight in twenty-three minutes.
Dave and Roger Adams had saw Zebo the day he fought in Alabama. Dave looked him over, pointed to his back end and asked me why he didn’t have any scars there. I answered; as far as I know, no dog has ever got to his back end. He called me after the match wanting to buy Zebo and I told him that I didn’t want to sell the dog. He made me an offer, and I made him an offer that I did not believe he would pay for the dog, and that was the end of the conversation.
I was eating breakfast the next morning and looked out the window to see Dave Adams’ car pull into the yard, he’d come for Zebo. He wanted to get Zebo off the chain himself, a few moments later I saw him running away from Zebo’s spot. Zebo had almost bit him and ran him off. I had to load Zebo in their car myself. They hadn’t brought a box or crate with them, and when they left Zebo was riding in the front seat between them, looking out the window. I was wondering if by the time they got to Ohio either of them would have any face left!”
Mr. Hughes shakes his head, laughing and continues; “They matched him into that Greaser dog, who I believe was a four time winner. And there was a good story behind that, each side trying to set the other side up. I was supposed to drive up to see the match, but my car broke down somewhere in Virginia so I just turned around and went back home. About three in the morning, the phone rang and it was Dave Adams. I thought Zebo had quit and jumped the pit, and he must have been really mad at me to call at that hour. He said; “You’re never gonna believe what ole Zebo did!”, and before he could say anything else, I told him; Well, I like him, so just send him back to me if you don’t want him! What he’d called for was to tell me that Zebo had gone three pounds uphill and won in just under two hours.
After that was when Dave Adams’ son got hurt, and Zebo did bite that boy. I saw his face and Zebo bit him pretty good and he sold Zebo to a feller named Johnson. I believe Zebo won two more after that; One against a nephew of his out of Cush, in eighteen minutes.
Zebo was about the hardest biting dog I ever saw and liked the chest. Once he’d get in the chest one wasn’t gonna get him out of there, and if they did, it would be so weak from the punishment it couldn’t do much of anything else anymore. When a dog was going down Zebo would get on the front legs shake so hard it would look like the dog wasn’t even touching the ground. He could adopt any style a dog had; if a dog fought the mouth it wouldn’t stay there for long, Zebo bit so hard the dog would get out of the mouth pretty fast and try something else.
When I got him, Zebo’s teeth were worn down flat, but his cutters were as long and thick as my little finger to the second joint, and I’m not exaggerating. He’d kill a dog, and there wouldn’t be a drop of blood. I don’t remember seeing much blood in any of his fights.
I don’t believe there would have been much competition in the Greaser match if he hadn’t had so much of a weight advantage over Zebo. They say he survived and was retired to stud, and maybe he was. But I never did hear anyone much more tell of him or any pups off of him.
Zebo would bite, he’d bite you or he’d bite a stranger. Not every time mind you, there’d be times he was just as friendly as a puppy. But if you walked up to him and his eyes got real wide and round, the only way to keep from getting bit was to get the hell away from him fast! When he bit, he didn’t just chomp and turn the hold loose. He’d work it like he was on a dog, hold and shake.
One time some big ol’ boy from South Carolina was here to look at the dogs with some friends. I guess he weighed about two hundred and fifty pounds; big, all muscle, you know? We started to look at the Bulldogs, and he went right towards Zebo. Back then we had him chained out there by the old apple tree. I called after him, “Don’t touch that dog, he’ll bite you!” He answered, “I train dogs for a living, and there aint a dog in the world that I can’t pet.” And I told him; well, you can’t pet THAT one. He looked at Zebo and said “this little dog is friendly, look at the way his tail’s a waggin’!” I said; he’s just anticipatin’ how good he’s gonna enjoy biting you!
Me and the other fellers walked up the hill towards the other dogs, and we didn’t get but about ten feet before I heard that boy scream. He was holding his arm up and there was Zebo hanging from it, shaking. I had to get a breaking stick to get him off, I don’t believe there was any way that boy, big as he was, could’ve got Zebo off and eventually Zebo would have gotten him down.”
We all laugh and Mrs. Hughes talks about Zebo. “Zebo was our house dog, that was before we had any children, and he used to ride with us in the car. I’d put him in the back seat, but he’d never stay there. He’d jump into the front seat and sit in my lap, looking out the window and popping his jaws, you know how they do that when their excited or nervous? He’d scare me sometimes doing that, his head a few inches from my face and those jaws just popping and quivering. It would get so I couldn’t stand it anymore, and would just throw him back in the back seat. But he’d just jump right back up between us and climb into my lap again.
One day we were on our way somewhere and I was throwing him back, and he was jumping back into my lap, over and over again. Lester got so mad at the two of us fightin’ so, he hit the brakes, turned around and went back home. He let us BOTH out of the car and drove away!”
“I don’t believe you could have reached out with your hand and touched me on the shoulder before Zebo’d have your finger,” Mr. Hughes goes on, “I was walking him in the parking lot before the fight in Alabama and Junior Bush came up to shake hands with William Cable. When their hands met, Zebo had both of them by the hand, didn’t put much pressure, just grabbed their hands quick.” Mr. Hughes turns to his wife, “What match was it I brought Zebo home and put him up in the room in the barn, and he tore everything up and ate the telephone?”
Mrs. Hughes thinks about it, and answers; “I don’t remember, but I do remember the time you brought him back from a match with his head swollen up like a melon and his eyes swollen about shut. We had a little black cat at the time, and it was somewhere ion the house when Lester carried Zebo in. We didn’t think Zebo could see at all, but as soon as Lester sat him down, he was off!”
“Him tearin’ after that cat, and me after him, tryin’ to catch him before he caught the cat!” Mr. Hughes adds. “Another time a bunch of us were driving back from a match with Zebo. Everyone but the driver fell asleep, and we’d left Zebo loose, figuring he was hurt so bad he’d just lay there and rest. When we woke up, Zebo had chewed his harness and ate part of it. And chewed my belt right off me while I was asleep and ate part of it. It tickled William Cable to death; he thought it was really funny till he looked around for his sweater to put on. He had one of those expensive sweaters with the leather patches on the elbows. Zebo had ate every bit of the leather off, and ate the collar off it too. William wasn’t laughing anymore after he found his sweater!
One time I didn’t have much bet on one of Zebo’s fights so I gave Evelyn all the money to bet. I knowed nobody was gonna bet against me, and you know how people are, they see a dumb lookin’ woman trying to bet and they’ll take the bet.” Mrs. Hughes continues, “I’d never bet on a fight, and didn’t know how. Everyone was calling out bets and I just stood there. Zebo won in less than half an hour and I hadn’t got a single nickel bet!”
We asked Mr. Hughes what Zebo produced while he had him, and why in his opinion, Zebo is not known as a very good producer. “I never bred Zebo to any outside bitches while I had him, but I did breed him to two or three bitches here. I bred him to a bitch of Bruce King’s and we got some good ones. One got poisoned, one hung itself, and two accidentally drowned. I believe they would have been winners. I bred him to Lonesome, and got a bunch of good dogs that I never could get matched. They were all about his size. Gator was one of them, and he was about the closest thing to Zebo that I ever saw as far as mouth went. I rolled him on his brother Blue, who was another good one, but Gator ruined him. He literally tore off part of his muzzle; teeth, bone and all. Blue never recovered and I finally had to put him to sleep. I didn’t match Gator because he got loose and got on a dog on a chain down by the river. I had a broken leg at the time and couldn’t get there fast enough to break it up before Gator’s teeth were ruined.
I believe there was another one in that litter I called Little Zebo, a real good little dog that I sold to someone in the vicinity of Lenoir, North Carolina. But I lost track of that one. I got five males off Zebo that I thought would be really good dogs but never did get a chance to match, and I got a good percentage of cold dogs that wouldn’t hit a lick.
Jack Swinson had that Zebo Jr. dog that you see a picture of in the big Stratton book, he was a really rough dog, but from what I understand he didn’t turn out. I have pictures of him somewhere, fighting a Boomerang dog, and you can see the blood just pouring down that dog’s leg from his shoulder where Zebo Jr. was biting him. But I believe Jack Swinson told me the dog quit.
They bred Zebo a lot in Ohio, and I guess for the number of bitches he was bred to he didn’t produce all that well. I know that I’ve had more Zebo dogs disappoint me than any other line. Though one of the biggest problems I had with them was weak teeth, at least one out of every three Zebo dogs I rolled would lose its teeth. Bill Stepp had some dogs off Zebo, Willie and Ruby that were really good. And Larry Combs told me that if he’d turned in all the wins he’d had with Zebo dogs, it would have put Zebo at the top of the Register of Merit list.”
We asked Mr. Hughes if he thought there were any Zebo bred dogs still alive that he thought were of Zebo’s caliber, and his reply was; “I never saw McGee’s Panther fight, but from what everyone has told me of his ability, that did see him go, I believe he’s the closest thing to GR CH Zebo that’s around today.”
The conversation turned to Mountain Man’s CH Homer R.O.M. and we asked how he came to own Homer. “Homer started his life on Wayne Huneycutt’s yard. Wayne repeated a breeding that Tony Marks had made; Little Rascal to Midnight. I went down there to look at his dogs and he had twenty to thirty puppies on the yard at the time. And Homer was one of them, another was Festus, one was called Snooty and one was Munroe. I bought a couple of them, then sometime later I bought another one, Festus. I traded Festus back to get Snooty. By this time the dogs were grown and I was trying to get Snooty matched into a dog in this area a fellow was bragging up, a Zebo bred dog. I was trying to match at forty-five but they wanted to go forty-three. I had traded Homer back to Wayne Huneycutt at some point, and I traded Snooty back for Homer.
The other side changed the weight again on their dog, and I never did get matched into them. I believe I kept Homer this time and rolled him on a Zebo dog, he ruined it in about five minutes, took part of its jaw out. I let Wayne take him back and breed him some, then I rolled him on a dog out Gator bred to a daughter of GR CH Art. That dog looked the best out of any dog I ever saw Homer fight, but he ruined that one too, broke his teeth out.
Both of those dogs had been dogs that liked to fight the mouth, and that was their mistake, going mouth to mouth with Homer. His jaws and his teeth were so strong he could tear another dog’s teeth right out. That’s the advantage of a dog with a good strong mouth; they can ruin another dog’s mouth without getting their own teeth damaged. I used to have all sorts of pieces of bone from dogs jaws, and teeth that Zebo and Homer had tore out of other dogs mouths. I believe I gave them all away to some feller who wanted to make a necklace out of them.
Homer was matched seven times, four times by me. His first one wasn’t much of a fight, some boy down in South Carolina had a dog he had worked for a match, and I’d matched into D. Holcomb at forty-three pounds. It was one of those Yellow John dogs, one of the two brothers that both later made Champion. I believe it was a week before the fight that the feller who was conditioning the dog called and told me Homer was sick and I’d better pay forfeit. I did, and picked Homer up and brought him home. When I was walking him to put him back on his chain he kicked leaves from here to the river bank and his coat was shining like new money. I decided that if he’d been sick, he’d recuperated awful quick. I remembered the boy in South Carolina that was wanting to match his dog and we went ahead and matched Homer into him. He killed the dog in under twenty minutes.
His next match was into Johnny Johnson, he said he had a dog he thought would whip Homer, a Zebo/RedBoy cross. Boy, he was one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever seen, he had me worried for the first twenty minutes. He got Homer by the ear and he’d be backin’ up so fast it didn’t look like Homer could run fast enough to keep up with him. Homer would be driving, and him abackin’ up. As soon as his tail would touch the side of the pit, he’d maneuver in the other direction.
After twenty minutes of that, Homer got to catchin’ him more and more and getting in the dogs chest. You could see the dogs eyes dilate every time Homer would get him in a corner and jack him up. One of the Indians there owned the dog, and it was his family pet. I told him “He’s killing your dog.” Johnny laughed and told him “He’s just wantin’ you to pick up because he’s afraid he’s gonna lose this dogfight.” So I said “That’s your choice boy, let ‘em go.” I believe it went fifty-eight minutes, their dog fell and couldn’t scratch, and died shortly afterwards.
He won one in between that match and his next that he never did get any credit for. I let Ken Murray take him and get him ready to go into a dog that had beat one of his brothers. Ken called a few weeks later and said “We’re going to have to pay forfeit; Homer went through a glass window after a chicken and got his head all cut up.” I was kind of suspicious that he didn’t go through no glass door especially when he offered to pay the forfeit for me. About a year later, one of his friends had a falling out with him and called me up. He told me that one of Ken’s friends had a dog over there that they were getting ready for a match and he thought the dog could beat Homer. Ken put him down with the dog for eight-hundred dollars and he killed the dog in eighteen or twenty minutes.
His next match, the feller that made the matches name was Hensley I believe, but it was Larry Jarrett and Irish Jerry that came with a dog they called Bar Room. He was a good dog, he was never ahead of Homer but he fought from just a little behind for over an hour. I told them if they picked up their dog, I’d but him from them and they said they’d do that; they’d pick him up in another five minutes. They waited too long, the dog tried to scratch and fell. I picked Bar Room up myself and tried to see if he would try to scratch, he started forward and fell again. I tried to save the dog but he died anyway.
Next I was supposed to match into Eddie Frederick; he had a dog named Poison that had won one. He called me and said, “I believe I got one that can beat Homer.” I told him there was only one way to find out and we set a date. About two weeks later he called me and told me that everybody he’d talked to said that Homer would kill his dog quick. He said there was some boys up north that wanted to match two dogs, and I could match Homer on one and he’d match Poison on the other one, if that was alright with me. I said it didn’t make any difference to me, a dog was a dog.
It was the Wreckers, and they showed up with a dog out of Woods’ Snooty and a Bullyson bitch. Man, he was a biter! He was biting hard but they hadn’t been fighting ten minutes before I could see Homer was hurting the dog pretty bad. He was working the legs and chest and driving pretty good. The other dog got to screaming, he was really singing but still fighting. Odds in that fight were five-hundred to two-hundred and we still couldn’t get any bets.
Eddie Pickard was standing beside me and he said, “Boy, it looks like that dog is biting.” I answered “I SEE he’s biting.” He’s the dog that wrecked Homer’s face so badly, you could see the dog’s back bowing when he bit, he was biting so hard. Homer didn’t act like he was hurting him at all, and Homer finally got him turned upside down. He quit in twenty-eight minutes. He’d been three quarters of a pound heavier than Homer, I didn’t take the forfeit because they said they wasn’t gonna fight if they had to pay the forfeit.”
“One of Homer’s matches was just before Cole was born,” Mrs. Hughes says. “All the smoke in the room was making me sick so I couldn’t stay in there. Homer was getting so deep in the chest of the dog he was on, you couldn’t even see his face. He’d jack that dog up in the corner and just keep digging deeper in the chest till you couldn’t see much of his head but his ears; I don’t know how he managed to breathe. His face had only just healed from that fight with the Wreckers’ dog and he got his nose chewed half off again that night.”
“I never saw Homer bit past the shoulders,” Mr. Hughes goes on. “There was one big scar on one of his shoulders; I believe Bar Room did that. I sold Homer to Ricky Jones, for what seemed to me to be an unreasonable amount of money. He matched him into a dog that had beat him at forty-seven pounds. If I’d known he was going to match him that high, into that much bigger of a dog, I’d have never sold him Homer. It took him two hours and two minutes to kill that one. There was always a rumor that Homer was a rank cur that would quit if he got into trouble, in that last match he got to prove just how game he was; as he was behind for over an hour.
It would be hard to say what was the best dog he produced, there were a lot of good ones. I’d have to say GR Ch Spookie. Spookie was from the first breeding of CH Homer to Susie, CH L’il Bill and Spider Bitem were from the second time that breeding was made. It was repeated a third time, but we never did get no pups that last time.
I did both of those breedings, the first time I’d sent Susie to Wayne Huneycutt. He was to take her and breed her to Little Rascal, as we’d really liked what we’d seen of Homer and his brothers so far. Last time out I’d bred her to Buster, but it didn’t take. As it turned out, James Crenshaw had already sold Little Rascal to W.D. Watson and Lavada Peeler, and nobody knew where to find them at the time. So when Wayne called me I told him to go ahead and breed her to Homer.
Tony Marks got one of them, and I got Spookie and another female. I don’t remember what I called her, but she was a real good one and I always thought she could beat Spookie. Tony didn’t like the one he had, and told me to come and get her. But he decided to take one more look at her first, and after that he wouldn’t let her go at any price; She got killed in a yard accident and a tree fell on the one I thought would beat Spookie and killed her.
There was a big male in that litter that I called Bull, he would’ve matched about the same weight as Homer but he got off his chain and got on a dog called Reno, out of Homer and Goldie. Another dog out of Sparky got loose, and the three of them fought until they all died. Both Evelyn and I were both away working, and I came home and it was a mess. All three of them laying there not quite dead, but dying.
I believe the breeding of Homer to Susie was one of the best breedings that was ever made; there was something really good in every litter. Though there’d always be one with bad stifle joints or some other deformity, and I reckon there was a cold one in every litter.
I bred Homer to a bitch Patricia Roberts had, and there were three or four females and one male in that litter. Every one of the females eventually curred, but the male was an Ace. You don’t see many of that caliber. I called him Holmes; he’s called Little Homer now.
I got the little Gee Whiz bitch from Dr. Lutz and bred her to Homer. In that litter were Homer Jr., Buford and a bitch called Miss Homer. I sold Homer Jr., whose registered name is Lutz’s Little Homer, and Miss Homer to Larry Miller. I kept Buford, but he had a bad stifle and I gave him to Ken Triplett on the condition that he have his stifle joint fixed, which he did. The surgery cost him one-hundred and seventy-five dollars. The stifle never was a hundred percent; I’d say it was about ninety percent. Buford had enough put on him to make any dog quit, but never did. When he and Homer were both on Bruce Mathes’ yard, Buford got off his chain and jumped on his daddy. Homer killed him, and of course that’s the only way that fight could have ended, as Buford was only a thirty-six pound dog, six pounds smaller than his father.
Miss Homer had shown to be a really good bitch before I sold her, and Larry Miller went ahead and matched her into Fat Bill’s Bolero bitch. Bolero beat her in fifty-six minutes. Bolero killed a sister to the bitch that beat Gee Whiz, and the one she beat was supposed to have been the better of the two sisters. Mona, the one that went into Gee Whiz, fought from the bottom for the first part of the fight. With Gee Whiz doing pretty much whatever she wanted with her. Mona stayed on her head and nose for the whole fight, and literally tore part of her face right off. That’s the worst I’ve ever seen a dog mutilated and live, everyone who saw Gee Whiz after the fight said there’s no way she would survive. Mona’s sister, Lady, was supposed to be an even better dog, but Bolero completely dominated and destroyed her in nine minutes.
I traded Gee Whiz to Bruce and she got killed in a yard accident too. I had repeated the breeding to Homer before I traded her and one of those pups I sent to Ricky Jones. He called him Little Buck and said he was one of the best dogs he’d ever seen. He won two or three; he beat the CH Toad dog and died after the fight. Someone else had a male off that litter that hung himself on his chain, and Bruce shot the one he had; it never did start. Dr. Lutz got a couple of them, but I never did keep track of what happened to them.
I did the breeding that produced GR CH Shady Lady; she was one of the two pups I sent to Ricky Jones. I kept her brother Elwood, but later traded him for a pup off of Homer and Amanda because his jaw was crooked. The pup I traded him for died of parvo a couple of weeks later, and the next time I saw Elwood was when he was grown and ready to roll. His mouth was perfect, it had straightened out as he grew I guess. He’s a good, game dog that has been tested hard, though he doesn’t have anywhere near the ability his sister Shady Lady has. I never saw her go, but from what I hear, she’s one of the best. Not all of that litter turned out, about half of them were stone cold; wouldn’t fight and won’t fight, not even to defend themselves.
It just goes to show, you can never tell which pups are going to be the good ones. I wish there was a way; I would have kept Shady Lady. If all the pups in a litter look strong and healthy, I just reach out and pick any one and hope for the best.”
Ch. Homer ROM, is a well known dog from a well known dog man, Mountain Man. Ch. Homer ROM won a total of 9, although some say 10. Not all were recorded. He never had to show much gameness as he bit through all of his opponents. When asked who was the hardest biting dogs he’s ever seen, Mtn. Man replied Zebo was the hardest and Homer bit just as hard. It is evident by Homer’s face that he took a lot of head chewing to get him off, which is a sign of a hard biter.
Homer was by J. Crenshaw’s CH. Rascal, Jr., a.k.a. Little Rascal or Tojo and out of Mr. Marks’ Midnight, a.k.a. Hughes or Mountain Man’s Midnight. Ch. Rascal, Jr. was by J. Crenshaw’s Ch Rascal 5x, same breeding as Carver’s Stompanato, and out of Irish Jerry’s Ch Honeybunch ROM, all bred by Maurice Carver. Midnight was by John Shivar’s Buster, later known as Loposay’s Buster ROM, also bred by Maurice Carver, same breeding as Holt’s Jeremiah and Carver’s Belle, and out of Loposay’s Queen, a Boudreaux / Lightner cross by Grady Cummings’ Eli III and John Shivar’s Beanie, a.k.a. Loposay’s Beanie.
He produced some great dogs in his time. For example, Homer’s Ch Junior Hughes 4x, Miller’s Ch Homer Jr, Mountain Man’s Ch Homer Jr, P & M’s Ch Homer, Rebel’s Gr Ch Hazel, Plummer Ron’s Ch Yo Yo, Mountain Man’s Ch Lil Bill, along with other winners.
Mtn. Man has bred or owned many famous dogs including Hughes’ Gator, Mtn. Man’s Deadwood, Elwood, Festus, Ch. Homer, Jr., Lugar, Midnight, Gr. Ch. Shady Lady, Spider Bitem, Gr. Ch. Spooky, Gr. Ch. Zebo ROM, etc