ELIZABETHTON — Norman Peters is getting his home and yard ready for the annual visit from the world. Every Easter one of the oldest sporting events in the state of Tennessee takes place in his back yard. It will be the 191st Peters Hollow Egg Fight.
People up and down the hollow and from around the United States have been gathering chicken eggs for the battle. Some raise their own chickens to produce the weapons of the egg fight war, feeding their hens a diet to increase the calcium in the eggs. These families routinely “fight” the eggs for months before the battle to field only the hardest shells. Others resort to purchasing their eggs from the grocery store and hoping to get some hard shells.
It is a tradition that goes back to the ’20s. Not the Roaring ’20s of the 20th century, but the “Era of Good Feelings” in the 19th century. “It all began when the farmers of Peters Hollow and the farmers of Rome Hollow got to arguing about whose chickens laid the hardest eggs,” Peters said. It was decided the best way to decide the argument would be to hold the first egg fight.
The object of the fight is to crack the shell of an opponent’s egg. Once both the top and bottom of the egg has been cracked, that egg is discarded and the battle continues with a new egg. Once an opponent has no more uncracked eggs, he or she withdraws. The fight finally boils down to two competitors who tap away, trying to crack their opponents’ final egg.
Peters said the farmers held their first fight in 1823 at the mouth of Peters Hollow in a section now called Pinhook. It is where the Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Department now has its station.
Peters said the tradition has changed through the years.
“At first, there was no limit on how many eggs you could fight,” Peters said. “Sometimes they brought in wheelbarrow loads.” Now the maximum number of eggs allowed a competitor in the adult division is six dozen. The number of eggs allowed decreases for the three small fry contests for the older children, younger children and toddlers.
Peters said the time for the fights has also been regulated. “At one time they started in the morning. Since that was Easter morning, the practice was frowned upon by the preachers and deacons. “Now we start at 2 p.m.,” Peters said.
The location for the contests has also changed over the decades, but for the past three generations there has been a steady migration toward the head of Peters Hollow.
“For a long time they held it at the home of Uncle Ray and Aunt Lattie (Lowe).” Some of the most memorable egg fights took place on the Lowe battleground.
“Uncle Ray had a little red hen that laid real hard eggs, Peters said. “But she hung herself. She fell out of a roost in a tree and caught her neck in a fork.”
It was also at this location that the most famous egg won the egg fight. That was the “Blue Blocker” which was wielded by Brooks Taylor, Lowe’s son-in-law. Peters said Taylor used the Blue Blocker to disarm dozens of challengers and win the fight.
The site of the annual event moved up the hollow to the home of Peters’ parents, Buster and Bets. He lives next door and he bought two adjoining fields to provide more room for the fights.
Even though there is more room, there are fewer people attending the event nowadays. Peters still field plenty of calls from reporters all over the world who are looking for an unusual angle for Easter stories. He calmly takes callers from as far away as Australia.
Peters said everyone is welcome to spend Easter afternoon in his backyard watching the fights or taking part. Just make sure your ammunition is appropriately colored, hard boiled chicken eggs. It is one of the few places where the “Era of Good Feelings” continues to exist.