COLUMBIA, SC — My editor marched over to my desk earlier this week and slapped down the media release for Saturdays football game between South Carolina and Coastal Carolina.
The Gamecocks are playing the Chanticleers! Lets tell the readers about the differences between the two, he barked.
At first I figured he wanted my expert football analysis, but then I slowly realized that he was referring to the poultry angle of this story.
Now this may come as a shock to many of you, but I am not very well-versed in barnyard birds. The only farm Ive ever visited in my life is the Music Farm in downtown Charleston. The only time that I checked out the livestock exhibits at the S.C. State Fair, my olfactory system got so overloaded from the pungent odors emanating from the barns that I nearly passed out.
I quickly realized the need to find primary sources of information about these various types of guy chickens. I immediately called my old pal Satch Palmer Krantz, the longtime president and CEO of the acclaimed Riverbanks Zoo. Certainly, he would be able to tell me everything that I needed to know, especially since his facility also houses a Riverbanks Farm.
Boy, was I wrong. Heres the transcript of our phone conversation.
Me: Is there a difference between a Gamecock and a Chanticleer?
Krantz: I dont have a clue.
Me: You dont have a clue? How did you get to run a zoo?
Krantz: I dont know how I got through 40 years in the profession without knowing that.
Me: Are they different from a rooster? Do you know that much?
Krantz: I think a Chanticleer is a rooster. Im pretty sure.
Me: Well, whats a Gamecock?
Krantz: Thats a rooster.
Me: So theyre all roosters?
Krantz: Theyre all roosters.
Thanks a lot, Satch. With that kind of insight, I can see how you won the Association of Zoos and Aquariums highest honor, the R. Marlin Perkins Award for Professional Excellence. I could have called Marlin Perkins, but Im pretty sure that hes dead.
Krantz did believe, however, the Chanticleer had something to do with English history, and as it turns out, he was sort of correct. According to the CCU athletics website, the Chanticleer comes from Middle English poet Geoffrey Chaucers The Canterbury Tales in the late 1300s, which described the Chanticleer as a proud and fierce rooster who dominates the barnyard. (I probably should have known that, too, but I slept through much of my college English class on Chaucer on the days when I didnt skip.)
That description also fits the Gamecocks, who got their nickname from one of The States illustrious sportswriters back in the early 1900s for their feisty play on the field.
Still, I needed a second source for this column (or least one better than Satch) so I called Hugh Weathers, an actual dairy farmer who just happens to be the duly-elected commissioner of the S.C. Department of Agriculture.
Promising total transparency from his agency on this important issue, Weathers told me that he has around 550 cows on his farm, and his wife has a couple of chickens in the backyard. But they own no Gamecocks or Chanticleers.
I dont know if that counts, Weathers said.
No, it doesnt.
Next Weathers insisted that he could tell me the technical difference between the two before he began rambling on about Gamecocks and their fighting heritage and the way in which theyve served mankind for years.
Weathers then addressed the Chanticleers by saying, Ill be honest. For the longest time, I thought they were the Chandeliers down there, and they just hung around.
Good grief, I call the agriculture commissioner for information and all of a sudden he turns into Bob Hope.
This search for fowl facts was clearly going nowhere. Finally, I called one last source as a way of both informing my beloved readers and getting the boss off my tail. That expert was none other than Foghorn Leghorn, the legendary cartoon rooster whos now in retirement at the Looney Tunes Assisted Living Center.
When I posed my query about Gamecocks and Chanticleers to Mr. Leghorn, he loudly responded: I say, boy, what kind of question is that? Youre about as sharp as a pound of wet liver! Thats a joke, I say thats a joke, son!
OK, Im just going to give up.