Appalachia Through My Eyes – Rooster Fighting With Violets

My life in appalachia - Rooster Fighting With Violets

The violets have been blooming around my house earlier than they usually do this Spring (along with everything else). A few years ago I did a series of violet posts here on the Blind Pig, everything from making violet jelly to using the flowers for medicinal purposes. I also shared the details of a game I played as a child-fighting roosters with violets. Here’s what I said:

I can’t remember who showed me how to play, maybe an older cousin, maybe an Uncle, maybe even Mamaw. I do remember exactly where they showed me. We were on a little bank that ran near the bottom of Pap and Granny’s driveway the bank isn’t there now its been bulldozed away as driveways were needed for new houses.

It only takes 2 people to fight chickens with violets. Each person picks their rooster. Then you link/cross them over each other and pull. The toughest Rooster wins when the looser looses his head in the fight. Did you ever fight violet Roosters when you were a kid?

If I remember right, two years ago when I asked the question only one person said they knew about rooster fighting with violets. It was Lonnie Dockery.

Recently while thumbing through my Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English I found this:

Rooster fight-A children’s competition of various kinds, esp to pull the stems of violets against one another to determine which is stronger.

1978 Smokies Heritage 146 To mountain children the violet was known as “roosters.” A favorite game resulted in “rooster fights”, in which two violets were hooked together in the crooks of their stems and pulled; the winner pulled off the flower of the opposing violet.

I was so excited when I found rooster fighting in the dictionary. I was beginning to think mine and Lonnie’s family were the only ones who played the game and since we have a family connection I wondered if one of our ancestors made it up.

Playing the game makes me think of children sitting along grassy banks. Children who are supposed to be sitting still while grown ups do whatever it is grownups do. Children who find a way to entertain themselves with what they find around them. At least that’s how it seemed back in my violet fighting days.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    November 13, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    I realize this post is several years old, but my mother-in-law just told me about calling violets “rooster fights” and I had to look it up; Google brought me here! Thanks for the explanation!

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    April 28, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    I love this story..and the memories you have….ohh I wish I could be out and see all the plants ..coming to life after their long winters nap. I love violets..they are so delicate…thank you tipper for sharing this with us..sending lots of love and ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    April 28, 2018 at 10:48 am

    I’ve never heard of Fightening Rooster/ violets. I used to pick bouquets of them from Grannys bank. Now I’m digging them up, the yard and beds are full of violets.
    Cindy was a little brat wasn’t she!! -)

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette-Dean
    March 30, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    My grandma taught me how to fight roosters with violets when I was just a little girl. I was always excited every spring when the violets started blooming and then I would bug her to play with me. There was a big bank of violets that we had to pass on the way to and from the garden where we spent so many hours everyday and bless grandma’s heart, she always took the time to play with me.
    Thank you so much for bringing this memory back!

  • Reply
    April 12, 2012 at 11:17 am

    I’m slow as usual Tipper! It’s good to know that some other people know about fighing roosters! Kind of makes us legitimate doesn’t it? Mother taught us that, as she did most everything else we learned. Every spring, if we forgot, she would start a fight! We did the button and string thing too–we called it a “Zizzer Button”! I had Mother show me again a few years before she died. I had forgotten; she had not.

  • Reply
    April 12, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Wish I had some violets around here. I would love to show my children how to “chicken fight”!

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    April 11, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Oh I love doing this and we did it with clover to, thanks for the memories.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    April 11, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    How funny-we used Clover, too, but with a twist. The winner didn’t neccessarily behead the most clover. It was how far you made your opponent’s blossom fly that determined the winner. Don’t remember calling it Fighting Roosters, though.

  • Reply
    Jeanna M
    April 11, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    I have never heard of rooster violet fighting either. You would have thought I would have living over here in Franklin my whole life! Of course I had never heard of violet jelly until a couple of years ago. I actually made a run of it a couple of weeks ago. I am still not sure about the taste yet. I has a bit of a twang to me.

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    April 11, 2012 at 3:47 am

    We didn’t have violets, but we used clover and clover blossoms. We also made beautiful wreaths from clover and blossoms for our hair, necklaces, and rings. Like Ethlene, we did the Daisies tell all, but with wild sunflowers and brown eyed susans. We would keep picking flowers until we got one to actually tell us, He Loves Me. : )

  • Reply
    April 11, 2012 at 3:02 am

    Hi I live in England and am loving reading your posts. I have never been to Appalachia but love rural cultures and especially those in hills and mountains. Keeping alive the stories and traditions of the past helps us know where we all came from.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    April 10, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    I hadn’t heard of Rooster Fighting Violets. I could tell of the rock fights and soppy corn cobs fresh outa the hog lot but I won’t since the battles bordered on assualt with a deadly weapon which is a felony and as such there is no statute of limitations in N.C. so I’ll just plead the fifth and thank you for the memories of more innocent pastimes. Keep up the good work.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Majik47 did you ever let your button on a string “hummer” toy get wound up in your sisters hair? And did she cry for the whole half hour it took your mama to unwind it? And did your mama speak softly about it to you?

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    April 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I enjoy the violets, also!

  • Reply
    April 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Such a sweet and exciting game!

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    April 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    tipper ohh how i love hearing all your stories and the heritage of the appalacian mountains.
    as for violets.. i have always loved them because they are purple and my favorite color… and well they were always growing around our house..
    dunno about spring here.. as we had snow showers last night and was in the 30s.. brrrr
    have a wonderful week.. sending big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    April 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Seems like I remember ‘fightin’
    violets some when I was growing
    up. But I sure can remember
    snowballin’ cars from a housetop
    on a Full moon and after dark. In
    our neighborhood some tourists had
    dozed out a bank close to the road
    and built a house. They weren’t
    there in the Wintertime, too cold
    I recon, but that made the perfect
    spot to ambush cars coming up the
    highway. It’s a wonder folks
    didn’t wreck seeing all them
    snowballs coming at ’em. One night
    we pelted a car and it stopped
    right in the road and out jumped
    a bunch of Big Boys, and they were
    from Robbinsville. One almost caught me, Lordy I could hear him
    a breathin’ hard. But I was a lot
    lighter than him and I was headed
    to the top of Munger’s Mountain.
    Luckily we heard their car start back up and we decided we had done enough snowballin’ for the

  • Reply
    Dale Anderson
    April 10, 2012 at 11:17 am

    This post reminds me of my mother teaching me the “rooster and violet” game many years ago.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    April 10, 2012 at 10:52 am

    We didn’t have violets growing in our yard when I was a young child…but we did have white clover and a few patches of daisies around by the fence next door….I remember playing a game like that with daisies and clovers….The girl who started it at my house…had violets growing in her back yard, so I guess she just made do. LOL She lived in a shady wooded area…and I remember going to her house when the violets were blooming and I thought they were beautiful…
    We picked clover blossoms and put in little pans and pots….along with plantain leaves…made mud pies and cakes and piled blossoms on the tops for icing and decorations…We would make daisy chains and clover chains for our wrists and hair…It was dangerous back then due to the many honey bees in the yards….not today….
    Speaking of which….All you hunters and roamers of the mountains and and bee keepers…African bees have been found in Monroe County, Tennessee… They were aggressive per the keeper…and by having the hive genetically tested were found to be 17% African so the colony was destroyed….The article was in the Knoxville News Sentinel yesterday..
    I hate to bring such bad news to a wonderful post about the violets. I just hope we can get these dangerous pesky critters under control…They were supposed to not survive our bad cold winters…but we had a very mild winter…
    Thanks Tipper, I love my violets purple, purple and white and in the woods some yellow and white ones….although they can be invasive in the flower garden…

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette-Dean
    April 10, 2012 at 9:56 am

    We used to fight using violets when I was a child too! I always loved it when they started blooming. 😀 Grandma was the one that taught me the game.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2012 at 9:49 am

    never heard of this one, but then i have not seen wild violets either. it could be fun with daisies to

  • Reply
    Sherie Rowe
    April 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Never played this game, but I will be sure to show it to Bekah since there are plenty of violets in our yard!

  • Reply
    Rick Kratzke
    April 10, 2012 at 9:28 am

    That is very interesting, I have never heard of that.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2012 at 9:19 am

    I recently picked two violets while walking back from the clothesline and had a rooster fight all by myself. What a way to reminiscence! The simple ways we entertained ourselves…
    Remember the leaf dollars and rock coins we used to buy all sorts of treasures from the well stocked store on our front porch?

  • Reply
    April 10, 2012 at 9:04 am

    No violet violence here that I remember.. but I may not remember!
    We did make do with what was available to play with and made a lot of our own toys like a ‘hummer’ a big button on a string. Twist up the string and pull on the ends to drate a humming sound…

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    April 10, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Wow Tipper, that is something I have not thought about in many years but I did fight roosters with the flowers. I do not remember who exactly taught me but I think it was was an uncle, mom’s brother. They were raised in a place called Hell’s Hollow in Fannin Co.Ga.near Fightingtown Creek. I am amazed other people know about this little game. I am going home today and have a rooster fight with my son. Thanks for sparking a memory and now I’ll pass it on to another generation.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2012 at 8:41 am

    I haven’t thought about that game in a long time. I remember playing it as a child but I am not sure if we called it rooster fighting. Now that you have brought it to my mind I will have to show my Granddaughters how to play it.

  • Reply
    Bill Dotson
    April 10, 2012 at 8:33 am

    I have played rooster fight when I was a kid don’t remember if that was what it was called then and here but I have been known when there was no kids around to play with to play both parts to amuse myself. When we were alone we could find something to do to keep us from under foot as Mom used to say. Thanks Tipper for bringing that memory back, the first time you posted this must have been before I found you.

  • Reply
    Ed Myers
    April 10, 2012 at 8:32 am

    When it comes to violets, I tend to be violent.
    Sure, they’re a pretty, encouraging balm of early Spring. Sure they’re flowers and vitamin-rich leaves are good to eat (at least when their leaves are young).
    But, as a gardener, violets are one of the many enemies I face each day, along with quickweed, lady’s thumb and any number of aggressive weeds. They grow deep and long. They produce with abandon and they can crowd out more useful things, like other flowers and veggies.
    I would love to see a violet rooster fight, for at least I’d know that one has lost.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 10, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Nope, never heard of the Violet Rooster Fight.
    My cousin and I did, however, pick bunches of ripe Polk Berries. They had a long limber stem with the berries in bunches on the end, We would hide on the bank holding the stem and throw/sling them at the windshield of passing cars. It make quite a mess when it hit.
    The grownups were not too happy when they found out what we were up to. LOL
    Another game we did was find a tree/bush with long limber limbs two or three feet long. We cut the limb and sharpened the thin end. Then gathered a pile of apples, stuck an apple on the sharpened end and…well we got in trouble for that too. It was hard to control exactly where the apple would go when slung from the end of the stick.
    It really sounds like your Rooster Fight was a nice little game for kids and my games were more appropriate for little hellions! Oh well, the truth will out. Please don’t tell my granddaughters!

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    April 10, 2012 at 7:21 am

    I had not heard of rooster fights with violets before. I must have missed your first post on the subject! We did, however, do the “Daisies tell all”–“He loves me, he loves me not…” until all the beautiful petals were pulled off a field daisy and at the end, alas, “He loved you not” or, praise be, “He loved you!” If it came out the latter, we could continue our daydreaming about the tall, handsome fellow on whom we had a crush! But with violets–no roosters to fight at Choestoe!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 10, 2012 at 5:38 am

    We never fought with flowers. No violent violets here. We went into battle armed with rocks, corncobs, pine cones, apples(rotten and green), and the occasional cow pattie. I have battle scars to prove it.

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