Chicken Polygyny–An Excerpt from The Soviet Union and Lincoln County USA

We tried raising chickens. A young rooster decided to challenge the old man. We watched them fight. The old one had more power and experience but the young one was quicker, he could jump over the old guy to get away and attack from the other side. Later, after dark, Jeff wondered about the final resolution of the fight. I said lets go look. Out we ran to the barn. I turned a flashlight beam on the roosting chickens. They were all perched on a long pole that went across the barn. The two roosters were in the middle with an equal number of hens on each side. On another day, I watched little Luke toddled out the path toward the barn. He leaned over and picked something up and put it in his mouth. He spit it out because he didn’t like the taste of chicken shit.

I claim to know who guarded Wilt Chamberlain when he scored one hundred points in a professional basketball game. I also claim to know why hens cackle after they lay an egg. I watched them in the barnyard at our family home place at Emmons over in Boone County. The hen lays the egg and starts cackling, the rooster starts his own cackle in response. They circle around cackling until finally the rooster mounts the hen and fertilizes the next egg. It is all about sex. Oh, and it was Darrell Imhoff who held Chamberlain to eighty points before someone else tried.

To head off fear of the dark I took Luke for walks at night like it was no big deal. We listened to frogs and crickets and locusts and an occasional Owl hooting off to the reply of a potential mate.

I told all the kids that if they were afraid there was someone or something outside at night that pulling the blind was not going to protect them. We went outside and walked around the house to show that no one was there, that we owned the outside.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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