Stage set for 181st Peters Hollow Egg Fight

By Rozella Hardin
STAR Staff
rhardin@starhq.com

   Mike Scott apparently knows a good egg when he sees one, and he, for sure, knows a good fightin' egg. Scott has won the Peters Hollow Easter Egg Fight five times, and will be back this year to defend his title. Scott, who is a teacher at Unicoi County Elementary School, won his first title in 1979.
   "I saw him the other day and he's getting his arsenal of eggs together," said Ernest "Gebe" Ritchie, emcee of the event and uncle of Scott.
   Scott is the son of Wayne and Mary Lou Scott of Scott's Farms in Unicoi. "My sister, Mary Lou, will not be able to attend this year's event; the first time she has missed in years if not a lifetime," said Ritchie. Mrs. Scott suffered a stroke this past year and is now in a nursing home.
   The 181st Peters Hollow Easter Egg Fight will be held Sunday afternoon at the home of Norman and Patsy Peters, Peters Hollow. This is the third year that the Peterses have hosted the event. Prior to that, the egg fight was held for a number of years at the home of Norman's parents, Buster and Maggie Peters.
   The egg fight is an Easter tradition, dating back to 1823 when the men of Rome Hollow and Peters Hollow challenged each other to an egg fight to see whose hens laid the hardest eggs. "I like to tell people that long before the Civil War, there was already a battle being fought between the north and south on Stoney Creek, since Rome Hollow lies on the north and Peters Hollow on the south," said Ritchie.
   The uninitiated may have some vague idea of what an Easter egg fight is. "I fight you" is the challenge of one participant to another. An egg in the cupped hand, the challenged lets the challenger hit his or her egg with one of his or her own, point on point.
   The competitor whose egg gets cracked, hands their egg over to the other. The cracked egg is placed in a basket, bag or some kind of container, no longer to be used in the fight.
   As the fight progresses, the number of cracked eggs out of competition increases. One by one the contestants run short of eggs and fall by the wayside until the last two are left. The crowd following them crane their necks to get a glimpse of the proceedings until it is all over. Whoever has the last uncracked egg emerges as a winner of the fight and its champion.
   The head judge of the egg fight is Ritchie, who has served in that capacity for more than 30 years. "I've never won the fight, but some of the old-timers figure I'm a pretty good judge of eggs," he explained. However, Ritchie noted that his grandson has won the children's division three times and both his son and daughter have won the adult division once.
   "We have three divisions, one for children 0 to eight years old; another for children 8 to 12 years old and the adult division is for children over 12. There is a limit of six dozen eggs for the adult division," Ritchie said.
   Although Ritchie won't be fighting eggs this year, he has been experimenting with some Arancana hens, which lay green eggs. "Jerry Peters has some of the hens, and he and I are experimenting with them," Peters shared. "We have some real tough fighters, and Jerry Peters is one of them. He takes it seriously as does Mike Scott."
   Ritchie said he learned his trade from old-timers like Ray Lowe and Buster Peters. "They took me aside when I was just a boy and taught me the skills that every egg fight referee should know," Ritchie said, noting it is his job to verify that the winning egg is legitimate. "Using a duck or buzzard egg will get a contestant disqualified from the event."
   Ritchie said for many Stoney Creek families, the egg fight is like a family reunion. "Lots of folks who have moved away come home for the event. We'll have two or three hundred persons if the weather is good. They come with their eggs and lawn chairs, and they stay until the last egg is cracked. Some stay the entire afternoon," Ritchie said.
   The egg fight will begin after Sunday dinner, and will continue until 4 or 5 p.m. "When the fight is over, the egg fight participants will gather up their eggs and take them home, and the eggs will be pickled or made into egg salad," Ritchie said.
   Peters Hollow is located about 10 miles north on U.S. Highway 91 in Stoney Creek. The Stoney Creek Fire Department is located at the Peters Hollow turn-off. "Just continue up the hollow until you see a lot of cars and people, and that's where the fight will be. You can't miss it," said Ritchie.