As you read this, Carl Geisler, 79, is headed for dialysis, a treatment he receives three times a week. One day recently, Carl sat down with me to reminisce about the olden days at his son's business in Wheatley, Ark. — Geisler Brothers Irrigation. With passion in his eyes, he began.
In the early 1930s, a man named Edgar Queeny drove a trailer down to Arkansas for duck hunting. Hunting with Tippy LaCotts on Mill Bayou near DeWitt, he was introduced to Arkansas duck hunting and the legendary Jess Wilson, one of Arkansas's best duck callers and hunting guides. After several years of living in a trailer while hunting, Mrs. Queeny told Edgar that if she was to continue hunting, he was going to have to do better than a trailer.
So Queeny hooked up with Roger Crowe, Stuttgart businessman, who found some land on LaGrue Bayou near Roe in 1939. Queeny then formed an irrigation company, and through imminent domain gobbled up 11,000 acres, which didn't win him any friends. A levee was built, forming the 4,000-acre Peckerwood Lake in 1942, and at Wingmead, he built his 8,000 square-foot, colonial-style mansion.
He then hired Jess Wilson to be his personal hunting guide. Whenever and wherever Queeny hunted, Wilson was by his side, each shooting a Model 21 Winchester. Queeny allowed no pumps or automatics.
It just so happened that Queeny took Carl's father's land through imminent domain, and his father was none too happy. However, in 1943 when Queeny asked Carl to work as a farm manager during the planting season and to be a hunting guide during the duck season, his father agreed.
Working alongside Jess, Carl, 17, quickly learned the tricks of the trade. He didn't need much tutoring, for he had hunted ducks on LaGrue Bayou long before Queeny built Peckerwood Lake. No slouch himself was another guide named Clyde Hancock.
Carl's favorite caller was an Olt; that was until Hancock made him a caller the year Hancock won the World Duck Calling Championship in 1943. One year before this, Carl came in second in the calling championship, winning a $50 U.S. Saving Bond. Jess was in the contest but failed to place. Queeny was one of the judges.
These three, with Harvey Slaughter, provided the calling for Queeny and his guest, and they enjoyed some of the finest duck hunting that Arkansas had to offer.
In December 1944, Carl received another call, not a duck call, but a call from Uncle Sam. Set to sail from South Carolina for the war zone in 1945, the war ended. Arriving home, Carl was once again back with friends, Clyde and Jess. Queeny, proud of his young soldier, increased his pay from $5 to $8 a day.
Carl often paddled for Richard Bishop, a famous waterfowl artist, who sat in the bow with his canvas and brushes. Bishop was a quite man, and one not easy to please, but Carl soon learned when scenery dictated that he needed to stop the canoe so Bishop could work his magic on canvas.
Carl and Jess were with Queeny when he filmed with his 35mm camera, from which he published Prairie Wings in 1946 for DU. With explanatory sketches by Bishop, this is the classic, beautiful study about the migratory birds in flight over the Arkansas Prairie.
All this ended when Carl's father died in 1956, necessitating his return to their Brinkley farm to manage the homestead. Although he had an invitation to hunt at any time, he returned to Wingmead only twice.
It was obvious as I finished my chat with Carl that he would love to hunt one more time at Wingmead, for it was a special place to him.
In his mind, at least, he was able, this day, to relive many hunts at Wingmead.
Oh! what a beautiful gift memory is.
Wayne Capooth — outdoorsman, writer, and physician — has hunted extensively in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas for 50 years and has written four books. On the Internet, go to www.waterfowling.org.