Everything I said last summer that I would get done in winter has not yet gotten done. When the roses were still in bloom, I had plans to strip down and then paint a corner cupboard for my dining room, clean out the big closet in the living room, and organize my shoe closet. There are just been too many distractions, one of which is watching reality television at night.
It’s odd how you can fall in love with people who you don’t know, and even stranger when you feel sorry for someone you’ve never talked to. I happen to love the Robertson family, that grizzly bunch from “Duck Dynasty.” It took awhile, and I never expected it to happen to me, a person who hates reality shows and prefers reading to watching television, a person who loves animals and hates to see them hurt, much less killed. I often have to look away from some scenes.
My love affair with the Robertsons started out of jealousy. While cleaning up after dinner I would hear my husband and son laughing, hysterically at times, while watching the show. I’d roll my eyes and settle in with a good book or magazine. But their laughter became intrusive, and I had no choice but to turn my attention to this wacky bunch of duck hunters who remind me of the Waltons, the redneck version. I wanted to laugh too.
They pray before every meal and are vigilant about eating what they kill. When Phil Robertson, the family patriarch, got into trouble a few weeks back for some racist and homophobic statements he made during a magazine interview, I actually felt sorry for him. And though I’ve fallen for this family, I don’t think I’d ever eat a meal with them.
Their menus include fried frog legs and squirrel brains, which Miss Kay, the family matriarch, proclaims to have loved since she was a little girl. “I don’t know why, but I’ve just always loved those little squirrel brains,” she says in her Southern twang while wiggling between her fingers a de-furred squirrel, readying it for the batter and hot oil sizzling in a pan.
For Phil Robertson to knock anyone else is like someone with nicotine stains still on their fingers saying, “Oh my God! You still smoke?” three days after they’ve quit. When his remarks got him in trouble, the network decided to put Phil on hiatus, which I imagine he got a good chuckle over. He couldn’t care less about being on television. He’s all about hunting and fishing, and they often have to go hunting for him when he’s scheduled for an appearance.
This family has made their millions, and he would rather be wrestling with the alligator that’s sunning itself on the river bank that runs near their home — a mobile home that has all the coziness of an all-American home, complete with white lights strung through the trees and frequent visits from the grandchildren — or trying to get rid of a beaver that’s causing damage on his property, deep in the woods of Louisiana.
Except for the addition of another doublewide trailer attached to it, it’s the same house that the “Dynasty” boys grew up in, the same house where Papa Phil used to beat their behinds with a belt when they acted up during childhood. They used to pad their backsides when they knew a “whupping” was coming. Yes, Mr. Robertson was a mean alcoholic and at one time threw Miss Kay and the little boys out to fend for themselves. That man has demons rattling in his brain.
But Miss Kay wasn’t much better back when the boys were young, and one of the brothers, the youngest of four, blames his balding head on her for all the hair-pulling she did to him.
I don’t think there could be any crime worse than beating a child. The closest I ever came to corporal punishment was when one of my children was given a smack on the side of the head, really a swift pat, for driving in cars with boys that the child was forbidden to drive with. The child, I should add, had quite a full head of hair, so it was really more a matter of messing up the child’s hair. The child smacked me back! That’s how things go in this house.
I learned about the family’s early years from the book Phil (supposedly) wrote called “Duck Commander,” which I picked up from the library hoping to learn how I, too, could make a million dollars. My thought was if this group of hooligans could do it, I should be able to do it. But the only thing I learned was that Mr. Robertson was a mean young father — and good looking, actually, before he let all that facial hair get in the way.
It turns out that they made their money by creating a distinctive duck call. How does one who lives in a fishing community emulate that? Do fish even respond to the noises made by other fish? Could you imagine the havoc we could create if we developed a fish call that makes fish rise to the water’s surface?
It’s something I’ll have to keep working on. But while I remain focused on becoming a millionaire, I will keep watching this family. And before winter fades you might want to catch an episode. Even if you can’t laugh with them, you will laugh at them. That is, if you can get past the grizzle.
Janis Hewitt is a senior writer for The Star.