Archive for January, 2012

Razorbacks: 21 wins during two seasons

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

The University of Arkansas Razorbacks won a combined 21 games during the past two football seasons.

The last time that happened prior to 2010-11?

The answer is 1964-65.

Let’s be clear that Bobby Petrino does not quite have the Arkansas football program to the point where Frank Broyles had things in 1964-65. The Hogs played 10 regular season games in those days instead of the 12 that are now played, so the winning percentage was better back then.

There’s also the fact that the 1964 team won several versions of the national championship, and Arkansas would have been almost a unanimous pick for the national championship following the 1965 season if not for that upset loss to LSU in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1966.

That was the first of the 19 Cotton Bowls I’ve attended. I’ve written here before how I cried in the cab (I was age 6, but I’m sure there were grown men from Arkansas crying that day) we took from the stadium back to the Baker Hotel in downtown Dallas.

Still, Petrino has Arkansas back in the national championship conversation. Since the Cotton Bowl is the only bowl game remaining on Fox, the promotion the network provided in the week leading up to the game was extensive.

To be on Fox on a Friday night in prime time — and to win by a double-digit margin — was good for Arkansas’ national brand.

Those 21 wins during the past two seasons had me thinking back to 1964-65. I ran across two stories Dan Jenkins wrote for Sports Illustrated during the 1965 season.

Jenkins, a Fort Worth native who still does some writing at age 82 for Golf Digest and Golf World, long has been among my favorite writers.

Asked recently by Texas Monthly to list what he reads each day, Jenkins answered: “At my doorstep every morning I get the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (what there is of it,) The New York Times (although I’m under doctor’s orders not to read Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd, but I do enjoy Gail Collins’ wit even though she seems to represent the other team) and my lifesaver, The Wall Street Journal, best newspaper in America today. The Saturday WSJ has more good stuff to read — and enjoy or be informed by — than any single publication, magazine or newspaper in North America.

“When I’m done with all that and breakfast and coffee are over, I go to the computer and get on Drudge. Then I click on The Washington Post and see if my daughter, Sally Jenkins, has a column up that she hasn’t told me about. Then I check all the usual suspects — Noonan, Coulter, Steyn, Cal Thomas, Buchanan, Thomas Sowell and, of course, Charles Krauthammer, the smartest man in America. By now you may have guessed my politics.

“Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post is the best sports columnist in the country. Second best is Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com and third is Dan Wetzel on Yahoo!.”

Jenkins attended TCU and played on the golf team there. He was familiar with the Razorbacks from covering the Southwest Conference for the Fort Worth Press and the Dallas Times Herald (sadly, neither paper exists these days). He went to Sports Illustrated in the early 1960s.

Jenkins retired from SI in 1985 after having written more than 500 articles for the magazine. Jenkins — the author of novels such as “Dead Solid Perfect” and “Semi-Tough” — will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in May in the lifetime achievement category.

In a story titled “Arkansas On Top Of The World” that was published in the Oct. 25, 1965, edition of Sports Illustrated, Jenkins began by quoting from the song “Quarterbackin’ Man,” which was playing on radio stations across the state at the time.

“When John Brittenum was a little bitty boy, sitting on his mammy’s knee, well, he said to his mother, don’t you worry now, Big Frank’ll make a quarterback o’ me, Big Frank’ll make a quarterback o’ me.”

Jenkins wrote: “You hear it not only in Fayetteville or Little Rock or Fort Smith, but in Possum Grape and Poplar Bluff and Pea Ridge and Terrapin Neck, far along the leafy Ozark hills and then down in the river bottoms where a wild hog — a razorback — looks for acorns when he’s not listening to some barefoot fellow hollering at him … or when he’s not beating a Texan at football again.”

Maybe someone informed Jenkins at the time that Poplar Bluff is in Missouri, though close to the Arkansas border. Perhaps he meant Poplar Grove over between Marvell and Helena (it has been incorrectly listed for years as Popular Grove in the index to the official state highway map).

Terrapin Neck is not on the map but apparently was on the route of the old Reader Railroad in south Arkansas between Reader and Waterloo.

Jenkins went on to write, “You could hear this song about Jon Brittenum, who beat Texas last week, 27-24, and another one about Harry Jones, who helped Brittenum simply by being fast and being there, and songs about last year’s unbeaten team. There is, in fact, very little you can hear about in Arkansas now except Coach Frank Broyles’ Razorbacks, who may be long gone toward college football’s next great winning streak.

“If the song, as sung by groups called The Rivermen and Cecil Buffalo and The Prophets, did not have you convinced in the last few days before the game, the signs did. Like the songs, they were everywhere, at food markets, real estate offices, bank buildings, restaurants, service stations and theater marquees. They said, ‘Go, Hogs, go. Beat Texas. Fryers 29 cents a pound,’ and ‘Beat Texas, Apples $1.99,’ and ‘No Vacancy. Beat Texas,’ and one of them was even on a church — the First Baptist Church of Fayetteville — and it said, ‘Football is only a game. Eternal things are spiritual. Nevertheless, beat Texas.’

“The people who made the signs wore red hats, red vests, red coats, red dresses, red ties, and the red banners were dangling down from high windows and roofs just everywhere, and the songs — instant folk songs — kept peeling all these layers off your brain, so how were even the amazing Texas Longhorns supposed to win a game in that atmosphere? They weren’t.

“Even after the Longhorns came from a stunning 20 points behind to lead by 24-20 with just four minutes left and Arkansas back on its own 20-yard line, Texas was not supposed to win last Saturday because of all this belief that had been mustered from the hills and river bottoms and given to Jon Brittenum and the fastest team in the land.”

Just two weeks later, Harry Jones (who now lives at Lowell and will be inducted Feb. 3 into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame) was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and Jenkins had another feature on the Razorbacks.

This story had a headline that read “The Man For The Next Few Seasons.”

Jenkins wrote: “Aw, yew bet. There’s White River channel cat — Frank Broyles likes it better than steak; ask anyone — and strawberries as big and red as Harry Jones’ helmet, and fried chicken so tender and flavory it makes a man want to weep. There’s good duck hunting and better fishing. You mean you’ve never throwed a hook in Bull Shoals? There’s the Watermelon Festival in Hope, the Grape Festival in Tontitown, the Diamond Cave in Jasper, the Bracken Ridge Lodge Doll Museum in Eureka Springs and the Oil Jubilee in Magnolia.

“Gen. Douglas MacArthur got himself born in Little Rock, of course, and there was Fay Templeton, the actress, Bob Burns, the comedian, and Albert Pike — he wrote something or other. You also got to consider that Mr. Winthrop Rockefeller, sitting up there on his hill, likes it pretty good. It isn’t as though the state of Arkansas never had anything to be proud of before Frank Broyles taught the Razorbacks to bristle and snout. But God love Frank Broyles, and don’t cash his personal check. Frame it.

“There is a special kind of hysteria in Arkansas now. It is the kind that comes only with a winning college football team. It dabs small, rosy blotches of pride on the cheeks of everyone. And it spreads like measles. It happened in Oklahoma with Bud Wilkinson, in Iowa with Forest Evashevski, in Mississippi with Johnny Vaught, in Texas with Darrell Royal and in Alabama with Bear Bryant.

“A man comes along — the right man at the right time — to organize things, rally the people, put fire in the athletes, build a winning tradition and, suddenly, there is an empire. Arkansas is the newest, and those old familiar cries — ‘Boomer, Sooner,’ ‘Hook ’em Horns’ and ‘Roll Tide’ — are being drowned out by a curious new one: ‘Whoooo, pig, sooey,’ And Coach Frank Broyles — you will simply have to forgive this — is the sooey with the fringe on top.”

Jenkins went on to describe Broyles as a “tall, talkative, excitable, evangelistic native of Georgia” who had caused “hysteria” to reach out “in all directions. The banker, the farmer, the mechanic, the housewife, the grade-school student — they are all afflicted. They wear red, the university color, almost all of the time, but especially to the games.”

With everything from a former president to the world’s largest retailer to the top new art museum in the world, Arkansas has a lot more to hang its hat on nationally these days than it did in the early 1960s.

One thing hasn’t changed: Nothing unites Arkansans like a winning Razorback football team.

21 wins in two seasons.

Not bad in 1964-65.

Not bad in 2010-11.

Not bad at all.

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Tide vs. the Tigers in NOLA

Monday, January 9th, 2012

For those of us who love Southern football and its history, it doesn’t get much better than tonight: Two of the region’s traditional powers meeting for all the marbles. And they’re doing it in New Orleans, not in some outpost outside the region.

Last week, Ted Lewis of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans (which still does as good a job covering sports as any newspaper in America) had a fascinating story on how the state of Alabama’s self-image was closely tied to the Crimson Tide during the civil rights era.

“To the white citizens of the state, Bear Bryant’s undefeated 1961 national champions, his first of six at his alma mater and the school’s first in 20 years, were a source of esteem and self-respect in ways that went far beyond what transpired on the football field,” Lewis wrote.

Of course, the same was true across much of the South in those days.

Consider the 22-game winning streak posted by the Arkansas Razorbacks that included several versions of the national championship in 1964 and an undefeated regular season in 1965. Many of you have seen the film footage that KATV sometimes shows of the end of the Jan. 1, 1965, Cotton Bowl victory over Nebraska.

An Arkansas fan is on the field waving a large flag.

It’s not an Arkansas state flag.

It’s not a flag with a Razorback on it.

It’s a Confederate battle flag.

In his story, Lewis quoted from a letter Congressman Frank Boykin of Mobile wrote to Bryant the day after Alabama concluded its 1961 season with a 10-3 victory over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl: “The Alabama football team showed the world, the whole wide world, what our men could do. There was so much joy, there was so much pleasure that you gave all of the home folks and people all over the South, and people all over the nation that want us to keep some part of our way of life.”

“Our way of life”: We know what that was code for.

U.W. Clemon, a retired federal judge from Birmingham and a civil rights activist, told Lewis: “Black teams didn’t get a chance to play at Legion Field, and it was located right in the middle of the black community. That stadium and the Alabama football team were symbols of segregation, and you would have to say they were very bitterly resented.”

Lewis wrote: “Just in that spring of 1961, the Freedom Riders had been attacked in Anniston, Ala., and Birmingham en route to their planned ultimate destination of New Orleans. State troopers and the National Guard were required to escort the buses to the Mississippi state line where most of the Freedom Riders were arrested, never making it to New Orleans. And fairly or not, events like that, as it turned out, contributed to the reasons why Alabama’s season ended in Louisiana instead of California and the Rose Bowl, where a rare opportunity for the Tide’s participation had occurred. Unfortunately for the Tide, that opportunity coincided with a time when the national perception of the state couldn’t have been much worse.”

Alabama has played six times in the Rose Bowl, more than any school outside of the Big Ten or what’s now the PAC 12. It was, in fact, Alabama’s success in the Rose Bowl that first put the Crimson Tide — and to a certain extent Southern college football — on the national radar screen.

On Jan. 1, 1926, Alabama shocked Washington, 20-19, in the Rose Bowl.

The Crimson Tide returned a year later and tied Stanford, 7-7.

On Jan. 1, 1931, Alabama defeated Washington State, 24-0, in the Rose Bowl.

The Crimson Tide was back on Jan. 1, 1935, to defeat Stanford, 29-13.

Alabama fell to California, 13-0, in the 1938 Rose Bowl.

The Tide won the 1946 Rose Bowl, 34-14, over USC, making them 4-1-1 in the game.

In 1961, the faculty council at Ohio State voted 28-25 against allowing the Big Ten champion Buckeyes to play in the Rose Bowl. Sports Illustrated headlined the story in its Dec. 11, 1961, issue this way: “Agony Instead of Roses in Columbus.”

Here’s how the story began: “Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes did not hear the news until he arrived at the Hollenden Hotel in Cleveland to make a speech. When reporters told him, he dropped his bag and walked out. For an hour and a half, he roamed the Cleveland streets, trying to compose himself. But back on the campus, the Ohio State students were making no such effort to count to 10. They burned members of the faculty in effigy, snake-danced down the main street, surrounded the Capitol building, broke windows, besieged and insulted their professors and generally raised the most hell that has been raised in Columbus since V-J day. Over what? Over a faculty decision not to permit the football team to go to the Rose Bowl.

“Such matters are not taken lightly in the capital city of Ohio and the home of the finest grind-it-out college football team in business. The local TV and radio stations, without exception, joined in denunciation of the anti-Rose Bowl faculty members, some of them in violent terms. The Columbus Dispatch, in an act of dubious public service, printed a list of those professors voting against the joyous trip to California, complete with addresses, salaries and amounts of money spent this year on out-of-state travel at state expense. The result was that the offending professors were jeered, scowled at, browbeaten, telephoned day and night and greeted with messages in Anglo-Saxon monosyllables on blackboards all over the campus.”

The story went on to note that Ohio State was “ripped and torn by an internal battle over football, a battle which has been going on for several years and will most likely continue for many more years. Ultimate control of the athletic program rests, by Big Ten law, with the faculty, and more and more the faculty has become exercised.”

Faculty members felt football had become the tail wagging the dog at Ohio State.

This created a rare opportunity for Alabama to return to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1946. Bryant, as a lanky kid out of Fordyce High School, had played on Alabama’s 1935 Rose Bowl team. He always considered it a highlight of his playing career.

He began to lobby hard to secure an invitation for the Crimson Tide.

But lobbying just as hard against him was one of the nation’s top sports columnists, Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times.

“The University of Alabama just about wrapped up the all-white championship of the cotton picking world,” Murray wrote after Alabama beat Georgia Tech during the regular season.

He also wrote this: “In Alabama, evening wear is a hood with eyeholes.”

Students at UCLA, which would be the Rose Bowl opponent, planned a massive protest if the all-white Alabama team were invited. Bryant decided not to subject his players to such criticism, choosing to go to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

The Alabama president, Frank Rose, explained that “the boys voted to go to the Sugar Bowl.”

Lewis wrote, “Uncharacteristically, Bryant had no comment, but a half-century later, Paul Bryant Jr., said: ‘I think he kind of told them how to vote.’ So Sugar Bowl president George Schneider, former president Sam Corenswet and his son, Sam Corenswet Jr., who was the bowl treasurer that year, attended the Alabama-Auburn game at Legion Field in Birmingham to make the official invitation after the Tide’s 34-0 Iron Bowl victory.”

Alabama and LSU had not played each other during the regular season that year. Sugar Bowl representatives wanted No. 4 LSU to battle No. 1 Alabama. There was a problem: The LSU coach, Paul Dietzel, was still bitter about being forced into a Sugar Bowl rematch with Ole Miss two years earlier. He decided that the Tigers would instead go to the Orange Bowl to play No. 7 Colorado.

Dietzel told LSU athletic director Jim Corbett: “If you want this team to play in the Sugar Bowl, you’re going to have to take ’em.”

With LSU out, members of the Sugar Bowl committee wanted to invite No. 5 Ole Miss, which had lost to LSU, 10-7. Rebel Coach Johnny Vaught, who had taken teams to the Sugar Bowl the previous two seasons, instead decided to play No. 3 Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

“The remaining choices were limited,” Lewis wrote. “In 1956, the Louisiana Legislature, over the opposition of the Sugar Bowl, had banned racially mixed sporting events. That severely limited the Sugar Bowl’s options, and Jacksonville’s Gator Bowl, plus the new Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston, with no such restrictions, were challenging the Sugar Bowl’s primacy.

“It was another three years before the Supreme Court, in a case argued by future New Orleans Mayor Dutch Morial, would declare the Louisiana law unconstitutional. In 1973, Morial became one of the Sugar Bowl’s first African-American members. No. 9 Arkansas, the most attractive available team, got the invite.”

Though the Razorbacks lost 10-3, they scored the first points on Alabama in six games. The Tide had given up just 25 points all season.

Jim Murray called the Sugar Bowl “the Syrupy Sweet White Supremacy Bowl.”

He had praised the UCLA students for “announcing that under no circumstances that they were willing to waive the Emancipation Proclamation for a single New Year’s afternoon. … This hit as hard as Fort Sumter as if Sumter had retured fire after all these years.”

Minnesota ended up with the Rose Bowl invitation and defeated UCLA, 21-3.

Meanwhile, Bryant would bring Alabama teams to the Sugar Bowl seven more times, winning six of those games. Among those wins was a game against Arkansas on Jan. 1, 1980, that secured the Tide’s second consecutive national championship.

Tonight, the Tide is back in New Orleans.

Though it’s just an hour from the LSU campus, it’s a city that has played an important role in Alabama’s football history and the football history of the South.

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Bayou Meto: The Scatters to Buckingham Flats

Friday, January 6th, 2012

In its nomination narrative to have Wingmead, the noted private duck hunting mecca in Prairie County, included on the National Register of Historic Places, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program noted the proliferation of private hunting clubs in Arkansas.

Here’s part of what was submitted: “In the early years of duck hunting in Arkansas, private duck hunting clubs were the center of the action and one of the most prevalent ways to hunt. In fact, by 1956, Arkansas had 1,820,921 acres in private hunting areas that were not available to the general public. This amount of acreage in private clubs in Arkansas ranked second in the nation, only being surpassed by the 3.5 million acres in Louisiana clubs.

“Since many of the best duck hunting grounds were privately owned, it was often considered a sport for the rich, and a Nov. 26, 1935, article in the Arkansas Gazette illustrated the fact that Arkansas drew the wealthy for duck hunting: ‘Herbert Pulitzer of New York and Joseph Pulitzer of St. Louis, sons of the famous New York publisher, have gone in for duck hunting in a big way. They have rented the ground floor of the Riceland Hotel (in Stuttgart), also two houses in Stuttgart and leased a 1,500-acre tract, including a large reservoir on the rice plantation of Frank Freudenberg, six miles east of Stuttgart. It is reported that the brothers have installed a retinue of attendants, including a hairdresser, in the hotel while they and their wives and guests are occupying the homes that they have rented.’

“However, Joseph Pulitzer was not the only wealthy person from St. Louis who made the trek to Arkansas to take part in duck hunting in the 1930s. Edgar Monsanto Queeny, president of the Monsanto Chemical Co., also came to Arkansas beginning in the 1930s and would play an important role in the Arkansas conservation movement.”

It was Queeny who built Wingmead.

In the years between World War I and World War II, Americans began spending more of their earnings on outdoor recreation.

This is how Paul Sutter put it in the book “Driven Wild: How the Fight Against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement: “To many Americans, nature, once a raw material to be transformed by ceaseless labor, became a place of relaxation, therapeutic recreation and moral regeneration. For many, nature offered psychic accommodation to a changing world.

“Outdoor recreation became more intimately connected with consumerism during the interwar years. Certainly Americans had more leisure time, and with the automobile they were more likely to head out into nature to enjoy it. More strikingly, outdoor recreation became a decidedly commercial phenomenon after World War I. American expenditures on recreation during the decade increased by 300 percent. Among other effects, this created anxiety among those who saw nature as a bulwark against commercialism. Finally, with the growth of both a car culture and a consumer culture, Americans turned to recreational nature with a new set of acquisitive habits in mind.”

More Arkansans than ever before began to hunt ducks in the first half of the 20th century. But as tens of thousands of acres became part of private clubs, the common man found it difficult to find decent places to hunt.

Enter Bayou Meto.

When we hunted together recently at the Piney Creek Duck Club in Monroe, Steve “Wild Man” Wilson of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission gave me a copy of a fascinating little book titled “From the Scatters To Buckingham Flats: A History of Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area.”

The book was written by the late Carol Griffee and edited by Jim Spencer. It was published by the Game & Fish Commission in 2002, but I had never seen a copy until last month.

The book describes the decades-long struggle to build what many experts consider the finest public duck hunting area in the country.

I agree with what Hugh Durham, who was the director of the Game & Fish Commission at the time of publication, said: “Almost from its inception, the acquisition, management, flooding, drainage, user group conflicts and other problems associated with Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area have bedeviled the succession of area managers, district biologists, wildlife division chiefs and agency directors who have come and gone since the first deed transfer in the late 1940s. But, as practically everyone who has ever set foot on this WMA could agree, it has been worth the effort.”

Spencer, one of the nation’s top outdoor writers, moved to Stuttgart with his family when he was just 7 years old.

“Dad hunted Bayou Meto WMA and the White River bottoms,” Spencer told Keith Sutton in an interview last year. “It was tough hunting, poor-boy style, with no boat and lots of walking through flooded timber. I was too little for that sort of stuff, but that didn’t keep me from wanting to go.

“Finally Dad told me I could go when I got big enough to wear a size-five hip boot, the smallest they made. I think I grew to fit those boots when I was 10. They were still too big, but I told Dad they fit just fine. Those black gum boots didn’t have any insulation, and I remember my feet would get so cold I couldn’t even feel them. I rarely wanted to call it quits, though, and even when I did, I never said so because I was afraid I wouldn’t get to go next time if I wimped out.”

Asked his favorite public hunting areas in Arkansas, here’s how Spencer answered: “First, Bayou Meto WMA, mostly because that was where I learned to hunt ducks but also because even with the crowding, it’s still one of the world’s best public areas.

“Second, the Maddox Bay area of what is now the North Unit of the White River National Wildlife Refuge. My family had a cabin at Crockett’s Bluff when I was a kid, and I hunted Maddox Bay a lot.

“Third, Dagmar WMA when it’s flooded because it lies right where the White/Cache/DeView drainages all converge and is therefore under a tremendous flyway junction.

“Finally, the Arkansas River when cold fronts freeze everything else. Hunting conditions can be brutal, but there’s a wide variety of ducks and lots of them.”

Spencer, who has hunted ducks all over the world, added this: “There’s better teal/pintail/gadwall/widgeon hunting in south Louisiana, and it’s going to be hard to forget hunts I’ve had on the Platte in Nebraska, on the upper Mississippi near Prairie du Chien, Wis., and in the Lake Erie marshes. But when you’re talking about mallards, the best hunting is here in Arkansas.”

So the best mallard hunting in the world is in Arkansas.

And the best public hunting area in Arkansas is Bayou Meto.

“Bayou Meto is a product of nature — a wetlands wilderness where bayous and sloughs draining an unusually large watershed begin to say ‘howdy’ to each other en route to the Arkansas River,” Griffee wrote. “During high flows, the water in the streams intermingled across the flat terrain, causing natural but intermittent winter and spring flooding that lasted for days, weeks or months.

“Because the area was so wet for so much of the year, and because of its reputation as superb trapping and hunting grounds, particularly for ducks, what is known now as the Bayou Meto WMA was last on the list of places settlers and early-day farmers planned to clear and convert to cropland.

“The area was heavily logged, and the higher parcels of land were cleared for cotton farming in the early decades of the 20th century. The biggest ‘cash crop,’ however, was moonshine whiskey, and this fact caused residents of the more refined settings of Stuttgart and DeWitt to ridicule the area.

“Before landowners could march their bigger, better, post-World War II clearing machines into the Bayou Meto area, three fortuitous changes occurred in quick succession. First, the voters of Arkansas reconstituted the Game & Fish Commission as a constitutionally independent state agency by adopting Amendment 35 in 1944.

“Second, on its staff at the time was Trusten H. ‘Trut’ Holder, who was deeply troubled about the rate at which wetlands in eastern Arkansas were disappearing and who became obsessed with saving as many of them as he could.

“Third, Ducks Unlimited and the Arkansas Wildlife Federation began to speak up for sportsmen who were being squeezed out by the proliferation of private, exclusive hunting clubs being established where waterfowl flocked to feed and rest during their Mississippi flyway migrations.

“As a result of these three factors, the Game & Fish Commission decided to get into the land-ownership business. In 1948, the first deeds were recorded and Bayou Meto WMA came to be.”

It was a wise move, one that has now provided dividends for duck hunters for more than 60 years.

Mention Bayou Meto to avid duck hunters across the country, and they’ll know the place. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to put Bayou Meto on the list of the world’s legendary hunting areas.

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Winter at Wingmead

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

My grandfather from Des Arc, who died during the hot summer of 1980 at age 96, was once the Prairie County judge. Having served in several county offices — and having owned both a funeral home and a hardware store — there was a time when he knew everyone in the county.

One of the county’s most prominent part-time residents during the previous century was Edgar Monsanto Queeny, who was born in September 1897. When he was 4 years old, his father — John Francis Queeny — founded the Monsanto Chemical Co.

Edgar Queeny served in the U.S. Navy during World War I and then earned a chemistry degree from Cornell University in 1919. He married Ethel Schneider after graduation and began working for Monsanto in St. Louis. He became a vice president of the company in 1924 and Monsanto’s president in 1928.

In a previous post, I wrote about Wingmead, the duck hunting retreat and farm Queeny established in the southern part of the county. My grandfather told me of being invited to dinner with Queeny at Wingmead.

The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program picks up the Queeny story in the extensive narrative it prepared when successfully nominating Wingmead for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places: “Although his father was concerned that Queeny was ‘going to ruin Monsanto’ because he ‘wants to change everything,’ the opposite was the case. By the time Queeny retired from Monsanto in 1960, it had become the third-largest chemical company in the United States and the fifth largest in the world. It had 44 plants in the United States that manufactured chemicals, plastics, petroleum products and man-made fibers.

“After Queeny retired from Monsanto, he spent much of his time involved in civic projects in the St. Louis area. Queeny served as a director for the United Fund of St. Louis, chairman of the board of trustees of Barnes Hospital, where he and his wife also donated funds for the construction of the Queeny Tower, and as a member of the St. Louis Symphony Society. Queeny died in St. Louis on July 7, 1968.

“Queeny’s success at Monsanto allowed him to indulge in duck hunting beginning in the 1930s. Queeny would drive a trailer down to Arkansas where he would join up with Tippy LaCotts to duck hunt on Mill Bayou near DeWitt. It was also through LaCotts that Queeny was introduced to Jess Wilson, one of the state’s best duck callers and hunting guides.”

Queeny later wrote about Wilson in his book “Prairie Wings”: “I met Jess for the first time about 10 years ago when he was guiding near DeWitt on Elmer LaCott’s Mill Bayou flats. The moment he stepped out of his tent to greet me, and before he had spoken a word, I knew I would like him, for there are silent voices between men also. A man’s face is a chart of his soul. One look at Jess’ face and I decided instantly that we would get along well together. I have shot with him ever since.”

“Prairie Wings” was published in 1946.

The plans for Wingmead in Prairie County were drawn in 1937 by a St. Louis architect, Frederick Wallace Dunn. A Yale graduate, Dunn was a well-known figure in St. Louis who had his own firm and taught architectural design at Washington University. The main home was built in 1939.

The National Register nomination narrative notes: “The Queenys came to Wingmead in October and stayed through March, which encompassed the height of duck hunting season. Guests to the estate, which included outdoor writer Nash Buckingham and Walt Disney, were always weekend guests and the routine never changed.

“The routine, as described in the ‘Arkansas Duck Hunter’s Almanac,’ was ‘arrive on Friday in time for cocktails and a formal dinner; hunt ducks Saturday and Sunday mornings, with a quail hunt possibly on Saturday afternoon; depart Sunday.’

“When Queeny was having Wingmead designed, he incorporated knowledge of duck flight into the design. In fact, Queeny hired aeronautical engineers and biologists to study the duck flyways. Their findings helped Queeny employ sound conservation methods at Wingmead, methods that were later used along the entire Delta flyway.”

East Arkansas proved the perfect spot for what many people considered the nation’s premier club for hunting ducks. Keith Sutton writes in his book “Arkansas Wildlife”: “In the 1700s, a French explorer complained that ducks were so thick on the Arkansas River he could not stir the water with his paddle. Two hundred years later, market hunters were taking as many as 25,000 ducks a day from Big Lake in Mississippi County for meat markets in St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans and Chicago.”

Rice drying in the fields in shocks provided food for ducks, as did the acorns in the river bottoms.

“In addition, in 1925 when rice farmer Arthur Tindall conceived of impounding water in fields to lessen the need for irrigation, it caused the ducks to flock in,” the nomination narrative notes. “It led, in 1933, to Frank Freudenberg building artificial lakes specifically for duck hunting. Others trace the beginning of big-time duck hunting to the building, in 1923 on Jacob’s Lake, of a rough-hewn camp with mess hall, bunkhouse and ‘outdoor facilities.’ The owner charged $5 a day for lodging and shooting rights.”

In 1942, Queeny added a levee to his property to form a 4,000-acre reservoir known as Peckerwood Lake.

“The lake’s name came from the thousands of woodpeckers that tapped on the acres of standing dead timber created when the lake was impounded,” the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program writes in the nomination narrative. “Although Queeny used Peckerwood Lake for irrigation on Wingmead’s farmland, it also provided a great rest area for ducks and other waterfowl. Also, because of the location of Peckerwood Lake in the Mississippi flyway, there were plenty of ducks to hunt.

“As Queeny wrote, ‘Whoever is unfamiliar with this region may consider words picturing prolonged swarms of ducks to be extravagant language. However, Fish & Wildlife Service officials counted 135,000 ducks on one flat of 300 acres; 500,000 on another of 640 acres; and more than 1 million on a third of 1,600 acres.’

“In addition to Peckerwood Lake, Queeny built three green-tree reservoirs (forested bottomland that is shallowly flooded in the fall and winter) on the property — Wingmead, Greenwood and Paddlefoot — but he did not allow outboard motors on the reservoirs, only wooden boats and canoes that were paddled or pushed through the shallow lakes. Carl Hunter, who became manager at Wingmead, believed that Wingmead was the first green-tree reservoir on the Grand Prairie, and it was at least one of the first in which wooded areas were temporarily flooded to attract ducks.

“The thought and care that Queeny put into the siting and construction of Wingmead and Peckerwood Lake with respect to the Mississippi flyway illustrates the interest that Queeny had in nature and conservation. Queeny had a lifelong passion for nature, and he was a recognized authority on wildlife.”

In “Prairie Wings,” Queeny wrote: “The great Mississippi flyway is shaped like a funnel. Along the Grand Prairie it narrows into the tube. Officials of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimate that 40 to 50 percent of all North America’s wildfowl use the Mississippi flyway and pass through this tube. Most of this great number pour out of its mouth upon the Mississippi Delta and spread over the marshes of the Gulf Coast. The remainder winter in Arkansas.”

Carl Hunter left the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission to work for Queeny in 1957. He returned to the commission following Queeny’s death. In addition to managing the farm for ducks, he also worked to increase the population of geese and quail at Wingmead.

“Hunter built up a population of 30 quail coveys at Wingmead,” the nomination narrative notes. “Queeny was always willing to invest money to try something new, whether it involved geese, quail or crops. Interestingly, Hunter’s programs with geese and quail at Wingmead were not the first bird-related conservation program undertaken in the Roe/DeValls Bluff area. The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission started a three-year quail habitat demonstration project on 960 acres near Roe during the Depression in the 1930s.”

Unfortunately, hunting wild quail is almost a thing of the past in Arkansas. But the ducks and geese continue to flock to east Arkansas this time of year, and Wingmead, now owned by the Lyon family, continues to welcome guests.

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