As children, we all dream dreams.
On a scale of one to ten, the smaller the number, the more likely they’ll come true; nines and tens seldom do. Some youngsters imagine playing baseball in Yankee pinstripes, others catching the game-winning last play touchdown pass; some making the shot “heard ‘round the world” and others playing in Carnegie Hall. You’ve got the picture — a long shot, million to one dream come true.
Growing up in a waterfowling family, I was given required reading, stories to be committed to memory, not only to enrich my outdoor skill but to remind me of the time-honored tradition of ‘fowling I was entrusted to continue. The most revered writer of my childhood was Nash Buckingham; most would say the father of modern outdoor writing. Thus, stacks of Mr. Buck’s work covered my bedside reading table. Many nights, Nash’s stories would come to life and my dream recall the next morning would be a limit of Mississippi mallards taken from the cypress “hides” of Beaver Dam. These dreams registered on the come-true scale at a ten; in other words, no way.
In the mid-’90s, my son, Todd, presented me with a copy of Dr. William F. Andrew’s book, “Nash Buckingham, Beaver Dam and Other Hunting Tales.” Dr. Andrews (affectionately known by friends as “Chubby”) was a friend, hunting companion and physician to Mr. Buckingham in his senior years. After reading the book, I felt compelled to let Dr. Andrews know how much pleasure the book had given me as well as the childhood dreams that were rekindled. De Shootinest Gent’man, Mr. Buck’s signature story was again alive and well.
After exchanging correspondence and phone calls, “Chubby” and I laid plans to trade duck hunts; he’d come to Illinois and later in the season I’d head to Beaver Dam. Wow, what a deal! Of course, Beaver Dam, located three miles south of Tunica, Miss., is not only one of the oldest duck clubs (founded in 1882) but the site that Nash Buckingham made a legend. Mr. Buck thrilled his readers for decades by writing about happenings at the club adjacent to the mighty Mississippi River.
Mid-December found myself, along with Winchester Ammunition Public Relations Representative Mike Jordan, leaving the St. Louis area for Tunica by way of Memphis, Tenn. My traveling companion, Michael Jordan, not only shares the name with number 23 of the Chicago Bulls; but, as good as M.J. is with a basketball, my friend M.J. is with a shotgun. Thoughts of Mr. Buck, Horace Miller, Bo Whoop (Nash’s famed double gun), and my new waterfowling friend, Dr. Andrews, raced through my head as Jordan pointed out crow-hunting spots along the way in southeast Missouri. Could this all be another childlike dream?
Around dark on that rainy, wintry evening, Mike’s vehicle lights lit up the legendary Beaver Dam clubhouse with Dr. Chubby Andrews waiting patiently to give us the agenda for the next few days. There would be a stop at the Blue & White Diner (catfish and hush puppies), a visit to Tunica Landing (now grown up in weeds), where Mississippi casinos first appeared before moving down the road to Robinsonville (the Las Vegas of the South), and naturally, the duck-hunting plans were laid out for our Beaver Dam adventure. Stories of Mr. Buck and the legion of waterfowling guests were told by our host until the clubhouse clock chimed midnight. Tomorrow, a kid’s dream comes true.
Mike and I awoke well before dawn from the short night to the aroma of sausage and eggs, and the sound of a gentle rain pinging on the tin roof. After breakfast, Dr. Andrews suggested that Mike and I would spend the morning in the legendary Tunica Stand, located in the Beaver Dam area where Mr. Buck and guests would travel by mule and wagon from the river landing to spend a morning of “sport.” If you could only imagine the thrill, mystique, nostalgia and almost reverence that Mike Jordan and I felt as we stood on wooden planks attached to the same cypress trees where, for more than 100 years, hunters had come to hide, call and shoot their ducks. The gentle breeze rippling the cypress swamp and the fog added to the almost eerie morning as I truly pinched myself to make sure all was for real.
Due to the heavy overcast morning, action was minimal but a single gadwall and a lone mallard hen became ‘fowl added to the century-long list of birds that fell to the magic of Nash Buckingham’s Tunica Stand. During our morning hunt we tried to imagine the series of canvas-clad warriors who had enjoyed the same pleasure we were now accorded.
Before lunch, Dr. Andrews returned by boat to the Stand to fetch us with ducks in hand and to proclaim the beauty of another day — God’s great gift to us. His comments were a testament to his life and character. I’m certain no truer words were ever spoken from a man afield.
The following two days continued to be special. We visited Ducks Unlimited National Headquarters, where Dr. Andrews’ contribution memorializes Beaver Dam and Nash Buckingham’s famous double gun, Bo Whoop No. 2. Mike and I were also privileged to see Chubby’s home museum, where he displayed beautiful mounts of every waterfowl native to North America, all mounted by the doctor himself.
Of course, we hunted each morning, again at Beaver Dam, with fair success, and then at the Berry Farm, where it took only a couple of hours for our host, Charles Berry; his son, Curtis; Doc, Mike and me to fill our limits of Mississippi mallards.
I often think of Beaver Dam, the hunts, the history and the friendship with Dr. Andrews.
His book, “Nash Buckingham, Beaver Dam and Other Hunting Tales,” begins with a beautiful painting by artist Zettie Jones. The work is a pictorial history of the legendary club, titled “Beaver Dam Legacy.” And forever etched in my memory are Chubby’s parting remarks; “Boys, now you’re part of the legacy. You see, dreams do come true; sometimes it just takes awhile.”
Larry lives in Alton and since 1987 has hosted “Outdoors with Larry Reid,” a weekly one-hour radio program, Sundays at noon on WBGZ, 1570 AM/94.3FM.