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Peckerwood is the inverse of the word woodpecker. In most parts of the country where the word originated, the woodpecker is considered to be a pest and or nuisance. Like other words sharing a similar context (a nuisance, bother, pest etc.), it quickly became a common retort in most social circles and groups of friends. It can also be used as a derogatory term referring to southern whites, similar to "rednecks".
In the 1940s, the abbreviated version "wood" entered California prison slang, originally meaning an Okie mainly from the San Joaquin Valley. This has caused the symbol of the woodpecker to be used by white power skinheads and other pro-white groups. Some white supremacist groups call male members "peckerwoods" and female members "featherwoods". It is usually drawn with a long beak, sometimes drawn to resemble Woody Woodpecker or Mr. Horsepower. Sometimes the letters "PW" or "APW" (Peckerwood and American Peckerwood) are used.
The term peckerwood has been adopted as the name of a street gang. The Peckerwood gangs are concentrated in California, where some trade in methamphetamine. In the East Bay Area of California (Contra Costa County, Martinez, Richmond, Pittsburg, Antioch) the peckerwood gang members are identified by the CO. CO. County (contra costa county tattoo, usually in but not limited to the abdominal/stomach region). The tattoo and Co. Co. County "WhiteBoy" gang trails to the prison California gang F.A.I.M. (Family Affiliated Irish Mob) affiliates of the Aryan Brotherhood. Peckerwood was originally a street gang, founded in the early 1940s by an excon in the south.
Under Peckerwood law, members are required to physically harm any other white person who has had a history of child molestation. On May 4, 2013, Charles Gaskin, who was a member of the gang according to his probation report, was sentenced for 26 years to life for the murder of registered sex offender Neil Lee Hayes.