As I may have mentioned before, I don’t like reality TV shows. They glorify rude, crude, tasteless and tacky people, regardless of income, and present a skewed view of life and morality. I didn’t like them, until I stumbled upon “Duck Dynasty.”
If you’ve ever watched the series, you are probably familiar with the main characters: Willie, CEO of Duck Commander; Phil, patriarch and founder of the company; uncle Si, who can’t get past Viet Nam and Jase, Willie’s totally laid-back older brother. There are many others, but they are truly supporting cast.
With the advent of “Duck Dynasty” on A&E television network, the company has gone mainstream, out of the confines of the hunting and fishing world into living rooms of everyday America. A good idea just keeps getting better.
Willie and his wife Korie, have written a memoir of the business and their life together, titled The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family, and Ducks Created a Dynasty. Willie and Korie have known each other since they met at a camp when they were kids, but they are from very different worlds. Korie’s family was wealthy, Willie’s was poor. Their dads obviously had differing parenting skills as well. Korie’s was more inclusive and welcoming. Willie’s…not so much.
He describes the many places they lived when he was growing up, before settling in the house where Phil and wife, Kay, still live. His parents married young, but Phil went to college and played football with a fellow student named Terry Bradshaw. He had been a star in high school football and was on track to head to the majors when he had an epiphany—he’d rather be hunting. With that, he left the football program, but finished college, with the intention of teaching.
Along the way, he and Kay had three sons. Unfortunately, like too many men, he decided that he no longer wanted the responsibility of a family and took off. After a time of carousing and drinking, he returned to the family and slowly brought God into his life. And everything changed. Channeling that determination shown earlier in his life, Phil invented, made and sold a little duck call. The rest, as they say, is history.
About half way through the book, Korie comes in with her recollections of life with the Robertsons. Back and forth, they tell us about their life together, their children, their “takeover” of the company and the ideas they have instituted to make it even more profitable.
For another view, Phil Robertson has written Happy, Happy, Happy, using a phrase for which he is well known. Of course, his account is more detailed of his own life and the struggles of his childhood, in which his father was laid up in bed for years with a broken back and his mother was in and out of mental institutions.
Each chapter is titled with a quick Bible verse, then an additional sentence that connects it to the following text. It’s Phil’s philosophy for being happy, happy, happy. The details of quitting football in college, leaving the family for several months, having religion forced upon him (he was not a willing recipient at first) and the steps that lead up to the forming of Duck Commander are all spelled out. He is a better writer than Willie, but just as entertaining.
He doesn’t shy away from the mistakes he’s made in his life and business, but illustrates that each was a learning experience and ultimately lead him to the life he has now. His wife of almost 50 years, Miss Kay, as she is called, is shown as a strong, supportive woman who helps keep him in line and lead him to God.
Don’t misunderstand. This book is not preachy in any way, but none of the Robertsons are hesitant about their faith and how it has helped shape their lives and business. The business is made up of family and friends and the loyalty and respect is almost a living entity between them. They may kid and torture each other, but it is done with love.
After the early years where he hawked all hand-made calls to individual stores and eventually to retail chains, like Wal Mart, and being received with skepticism and derision, he began to see results from his hard work. Money taken in was money spent on producing more product. Miss Kay kept the books and was eventually overwhelmed. Profits were finally realized, but it was not an overnight sensation, but the result of perseverance and belief in the uniqueness and market for his duck call.
Phil was more than ready and willing to turn over the business to Willie, when the time was right. With the transference of responsibility, he’s been able to get back to that passion of his, hunting, and watch his company evolve from a profitable one to a multi-million dollar one that enjoys fans from all over the world. Of course, television has not hurt at all.
Both books are worth a read, but if you only want one, I would suggest going with Phil’s. After all, it is his story.