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Duck call makers will star in Memphis exhibit

Beginning in November and running through Jan. 7, 2007, Dixon Gallery and Gardens of Memphis will present an extraordinary exhibition — “the largest of its kind ever presented in the Mid-South” featuring more than 200 antique and contemporary decoys from the Canadian Provinces down through Louisiana, and representative decoys from the Atlantic, Midwest, and Pacific flyways.

The exhibition will include a wide array of hunting artifacts, a selection of antique duck calls, and more than 60 paintings, prints, photographs, and drawings by such celebrated waterfowl artists as John James Audubon, David Maass, Francis Lee Jacques, George Browne, Harry Adamson, Roland Clark, and Richard Bishop.

I met with Jay Kamm (director) and Jane Faquin (education coordinator) of the Dixon Gallery the other day and was impressed with their desire to make this truly a first of its kind in the Mid-South. I noticed they didn't have any decoys from Mississippi, so I showed them my Pascagoula decoys, and now they will be a part of the show.

Then I visited Memphian Henri Wedell and viewed his collection of decoys. You will be impressed with his rare and valuable decoys.

Howard Harlan, author of Duck Calls — An Enduring American Folk Art, will furnish rare, valuable duck calls, as will others from across the country. In Howard's book, there is no mention of duck call makers from Mississippi. For that matter, none of the other duck call books lists anyone from Mississippi, so I thought it would be a good time for the Dixon to highlight the Mississippi call makers.

Some 15 years ago, I visited L.L. Walker, whose plantation house was near Schlater, Miss. He was in his late 70s at that time. While sipping sweet tea with him, he showed me some of his duck calls, which he began making back in the late 1950s. He said he had made around 200 calls in his lifetime.

He also showed me some calls that were made by other Mississippi call makers: “Son” Jordan, R.R. McPherson, and Speedy Tharpe (all of Greenwood, Miss.). At the time of my visit, Jordan lived on Sixth Street, while McPherson lived on Grenada Blvd. Where Tharpe lived in Greenwood, I don't remember.

I took notes on each call maker, but I have since lost my notes, so I don't have any information.

If readers can help me out on any of these five call makers, I would appreciate it, so I can add it to the information I provided Dixon Gallery.

I do know that C.M. Jordan Jr. of Greenwood was a runner-up in the World's Championship at Stuttgart, Ark., in 1962. I suspect there is a connection between C.M. and “Son,” but don't have any more information than what I'm giving you.

A few months after visiting these five, I went to Leland, Miss., and met Gordon “Fritz” Hartley, who at that time was making the “Southland” call. Fritz was born in Skeen, Miss., and was a combat veteran of World War II, serving under Gen. George Patton. He received the Purple Heart for wounds received in France.

After his discharge in 1946, he made his home in Leland, where for 35 years he was a rural mail carrier. He coached Little League baseball and was a Scout leader for several years.

Fritz was active in conservation work and presented with the State Conservationist of the Year Award in 1968. He wrote the “Delta Outdoors” column for the Delta Democrat Times for many years. He died in Lake Village, Ark.

In his spare time, he made his “Southland” calls — I have several. I also need more information on Fritz, such as when did he start making calls, etc.

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 e-mail:

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