Gallos de Floyd and Other Memories

Getting the “Gallo de Cielo” painting below from Tom Russell jogged my memory and made me dig up some photos from the early 80’s of my late mentor Floyd Mansell, his proud roosters, and one of him hunting with me and his then teen- aged son Phil (whose daughter is older today than he was in the photo).

Of Floyd (who appears in many scenes in Querencia- the- book) I wrote to Tom:

“Found these 1984 photos by Betsy Huntington of my late mentor Floyd Mansell and his roosters I thought might be of interest– historically anyway!

“Floyd was unusual. Arkansas hillbilly by origin (though half Lebanese in addition to Scots- Irish– there is a strain of Irish gamefowl called “Mansells”), he ran off to war in the Pacific at 16. Then returned, went to college and got a master’s, “turned liberal, became a Catholic, and married an Indian. My family still doesn’t know what to think!”

“He moved here in the 60’s to work for the BIA, taught, coached, and was at one time or another mayor, principal, baseball coach, and guidance counselor. He was a Golden Gloves champ and a serious amateur boxer and taught that too. His politics if not culture never wavered from well to the Left of mine, but he remained not only a naturalist of daunting knowledge and skill– several academic papers cite him– but also a hunter, gunner, bowhunter, sighthound man (my real teacher there) and as long as it was legal and before the advent of brutal “slashers”, cockfighter. As a boxer I think he identified with the gallos.

“He raised ten kids– nine of his own, one a grandson he adopted– with his half- Navajo, half Choctaw wife Wanda who is still around and still a friend. I miss him.”

Phil was shooting a Mossberg pump with the casual ease, accuracy, and arrogance of a young natural; Floyd an Italian- made version of a 19th century caplock double. I had the kind of gun I never see anymore: an LC Smith Ideal grade 12 on the light frame that neither weighed much (even with 28″ barrels) or cost much. I shot it well; made a terrific long shot toward the end of that day that culminated in my wading an arroyo flood to retrieve the bird after a sudden thunderstorm. I sold it, of course…