Badger fight time in McGill, 1940s

By  Keith Gibson

The day that McGill folks had been waiting and preparing for had finally arrived.  There was a large turnout on the main street.  The sheriff was there to maintain control and provide protection.  Several men had shotguns and other weapons at the ready.  There were several large dogs for additional safety.  The “dude” that had agreed to the match with the badger was being outfitted with some metal armor in the form of stove pipes around his lower legs as shown in the picture.  He is in the center of the photo with a white shirt.

The whole event was a masterpiece of planning and out and out cajoling, with a strong dose of not quite truthful conversations with the dude.  The town folks were able to keep the affair wrapped up in a tight bond of secrecy.

The dude was led to believe that a match was to be had between a dog and a badger.  The two animals would be tied together with a rope and fight to the death.  It was like a throwback to the old Roman Gladiator games. It was a well, known story that the dog was always torn to shreds and the only way to save the poor dog was for some manly type guy to take the place of the dog.

He was instructed to drag the badger out of the cage with the rope and then run down the street dragging the poor animal on it’s short legs, thus giving the dog a better chance of winning.  There was no sympathy for the badger.

I remember that in front of the McGill Club there were large blackboards resting on the benches.  The boards had the odds of who would win and the betting was heavy.  The whole scene was a masterful con job.  The guy with tripod and camera in the center was aiming at the club and I would love to find that picture and others he took.  Anybody know?

The sheriff called the crowd to order and cleared the area.  The dude was tied to the rope and given final instructions.  He had about 20 feet of rope separating him from the vicious animal and was told to run as fast as he could.

Several times a man would shake the wooden cage and make horrible growls as though they were coming from the cage.  Several times there actually was a badger in the box.

The sheriff would point his pistol in the air and fire a shot to start the fight.  The dude took off down the street in a dead run and then it happened.  Instead of a badger the rope yanked out a large chamber pot (for the youngsters a chamber pot was the original porta potty for use at night instead of trudging to the outhouse, especially in cold, snowy weather).  It clanked down the street for a few seconds to the delight and roar of the crowd, before the dude realized what had taken place.

Most of the time they were at first stunned and then started laughing with the crowd.  Many drinks were downed at the McGill Club and the Victory Club before the fun day ended.

You can see the high curb and the step I mentioned in last week’s column.  The scrawny urchin in the center with the suspenders is me and my brother Paul is just to my left.