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A patgo (also spelled padgo, pad-gaud, and other variants) was a Pensacola tradition dating back to the Spanish era. It was similar to the Old World sport of "popinjay" wherein participants take turns shooting at an artificial bird atop a pole.

In a letter dated November 22, 1822, U.S. Major General George A. McCall provided an account of a patgo he witnessed, hosted by Juan de la Rua at his estate (Gull Point) overlooking Escambia Bay:

It is an amusement of ancient origin, and even at the present time seems to be held in high esteem in pensacola. The preliminaries are conducted in this way: a few days before the entertainment is to take place, the Host, having procured the figure of a fine chicken cock, of large size, fashioned out of a tough knotty block of wood, through which passes vertically an iron rod, whereupon the figure lightly whirls about like a weathercock. He sends this emblem of the gallant bird, mounted upon a staff, by a gayly dressed servant to the houses of the invited fair ones; and each lady presenting a bunch of ribbons or a feather for his toilet, soon his varied honors floating from his sides clothe him with a plumage of the brightest dyes.

Not less admired, in his own estimation, is the highly costumed negro, who bears aloft his brilliant banner through the streets, with the air of a hero leading his followers into battle. This amusement, I am told, is not by any means so common as it was some years ago, since the families of the older inhabitants have become merged into the mass of the American population. On the day appointed for the fete, the Patgo or Game Bird, is mounted on a high flag-staff, and the gentlemen who are to contend for prizes, are assembled with their lady-loves under a spacious arbor erected for the occasion. This is at the distance of about sixty yards from the mark, at which the gallants are to try their skill with their rifles. Whenever a ribbon is cut down, the fortunate marksman brings it into the bower, where it is acknowledges as her offering by the lady who had placed it on the bird; the gentleman thereupon claims her as his partner for the first dance to succeed the final destruction of the Patgo; he is likewise entitled to wear the trophy of his skill at this button-hole during the day.

When all the guests had arrived, the doors of the breakfast-room were thrown open, and the disclosure of a plentiful and rich repast regaled the senses of the company, on whom the fresh air of morning had not failed to exercise its appetizing influence. A joyous hour was passed at the breakfast-table; and in the course of another hour the sound of a bugle called together the scattered groups, some of whom were wandering in the garden in quest of bouquets, while others were strolling under the oak-trees, or seated on the terrace in contemplation of the scenery in front. This was the signal to repair to the field of action. All parties speedily collected at the house; here our host and hostess, followed by a large bevy of gallants and belles, led the way to the grounds, where a long arbor, composed of magnolia-branches, open on the north side, had been erected. Here a band of music was playing a martial air; seats were placed for the accommodation of the ladies, affording them a view of the Patgo, which was already elevated on its tall staff, sixty yards in front.

Immediately in front of the centre of the arbor was a little projection, which shaded a post, into the sides of which wooden pins had been driven for the purpose of affording a "rest" to those of the aspirants for distinction as marksmen who chose to avail themselves of such advantageous aid; though, to the credit of the hunters of Florida, it must be acknowledged that but very few of them deigned to ask the aid of a "rest," — "off-hand" shooting being the common practice amongst those whose martial tastes led them to prefer the rifle.


  • George A. McCall. Letters from the Frontiers, 1868.