March 26, 2017
After enjoying a wonderful time experiencing the culture in southern Louisiana, we turned north and headed to West Monroe, Louisiana. (Check out “Mardi Gras” and “Crawfish Dip” for our time in the south.) We are one of the millions of “Duck Dynasty” fans, so we had to check the area out. In addition, this was also a good home base to have a day trip back into Mississippi to visit the Vicksburg National Military Park. (See “Mississippi” for more details on this.)
As our family travels, we try to find local churches to visit. This is a wonderful opportunity to see different ways fellow believers worship God in different parts of the country. As parents, we also feel it is important to show our children that getting together with other believers is still necessary without becoming legalistic if we miss a Sunday here or there. Knowing the Robertson clan are Christian believers, we took the opportunity to visit the church many of them attended.
Sunday morning, we attended the WFR Church service in West Monroe. I was not sure how people would receive us, being yet another tourist family. We were greeted by a friendly gentleman at the door and then directed another lady to talk with us and hand us some information. Meanwhile, we saw Phil Robertson walk by. We were inwardly ecstatic to see one of them in person just walking by. This was their home church and was fun to see them be a “normal” person attending a service.
Shortly after we sat down, we were greeted by other people and had good conversation with them as well. Missy and her kids sat down towards the front and Mountain Man sat in the back. A couple other people also looked vaguely familiar as they also must have been on the show as well. I did make it clear we would not ask for pictures from anyone on a Sunday. I felt they needed to be able to worship God without fans pestering them. But if we saw any of them somewhere else, that’s a different story.
The service started. A lead singer was in the center with around eight other singers at his side. He was full of animation and feeling as lead the congregation a cappella style. I quickly realized no instruments were on the stage. NOTHING. The song leader skillfully changed rhythm, song genres, and keys for the medley of worship songs sung. The others sung harmonies and echoes, diversifying the music and adding much more depth. Wow, impressive. I would have enjoyed singing along and listening all afternoon, if not longer.
Worship was not the only unique aspect of the service. Before the sermon began, the children were dismissed to their children’s program. I assumed only a couple of moms would dash out briefly to make sure junior would get to the right spot. To my surprise, everyone started greeting each other, conversing and walking all around the aisles. A timer on the screen was set for ten minutes. This was a true intermission. The moms did not have to be concerned about interrupting or missing any part of the sermon. The elderly had their chance for a bathroom break. Everyone enjoyed talking with fellow friends casually in the sanctuary in the meantime. People even included us in the conversation time as well. Such a warm and inviting church, I was well impressed. It really proved to me how supportive they were of the ministry opportunity they had with the “Duck Dynasty” reality show.
When the time was completed, everyone found their seats again. One pastor spoke a sound Biblical message. We discovered that they used to have two pastors speaking on the same Biblical passage at the same time. One person would say his piece, and then the other pastor would give his perspective on the same passage. They would share the message time going back and forth providing more depth. It would have been interesting to experience that.
When the pastor finished preaching, they had a series of microphone hand-offs. Various people who needed corporate prayer were prayed for. Health issues, missionary trips, three baptisms, and announcements of conversions bounced back and forth quickly among various elders. This happened so efficiently and fast, they must have done this frequently. I was impressed to see such a living, active church. People who needed help with life also had others come alongside of them. The weekday schedule had a boatload of discipleship groups as well. No wonder God decided to use this church to bring in so many outsiders. May God continue to bless their work!
Besides attending the church, we spent the next few days looking around the town. Many places within the community were mentioned on several different episodes. The first place we had to try was Haskell’s Donuts. This tiny shop makes their own donuts. We saw signatures of the Duck Dynasty guys on the chairs and counter top as well, which made the experience even more fun. The boys tried to persuade me that we needed to go there every day because they were so light and fluffy. These do put Krispy Kreme donuts to shame any day. They almost had me convinced as I enjoyed how they virtually melted in my mouth.
We also tried to check out the Duck Diner and Miss Kay’s Bakery. Duck Diner had been sold since that was not working out well and thus shut down for the transition. Miss Kay’s Bakery is run by her granddaughter, but was unfortunately was closed on the day we tried to visit. It looked like a cute shop from peeking in the windows.
In addition to visiting different establishments within the community, we also drove by a few of the houses of the Duck Dynasty guys. Phil and Miss Kay lived outside of town so we passed on their neighborhood / home. Jase and Jep lived near each other in an older, but still nicer community. A gate blocked people from driving past their houses, but you can see the back side from the other side of the pond they lived on.
The most impressive house, or should I say mansion, was Willie’s home. He is right across from the university in a neighborhood of tiny, modest homes. A brick wall surrounded the estate with wrought iron gates and lavished gardens. It looked like a garden nursery was in the corner of the yard as much more intensive planting still needed to be completed. The grounds looked easy to access if you found a parking spot along the busy road. People were walking around the grounds taking photos of the mansion. I felt that was very intrusive and refused to be a part of their activity. With the ranch house built, I don’t know if people still lived in there, but I would be annoyed if I woke up every morning to see strangers walking along my front yard taking pictures of my house. One day I would enjoy walking through the place if they ever offered tours though. What an absolutely beautiful residence!
To finish the hometown tour, the whole family visited the Duck Commander Store and warehouse. The store showed a fun personality and sense of outdoorsman humor along with a deeper spiritually reflective side with the various family members’ books. Different props used in the filming, history of the various duck calls, and memories from the family were also displayed throughout the store. They also just started offering the Ultimate Duck Commander experience. This included a tour of the Duck Call room, building a duck call, and then receiving a bobblehead, hat and your duck call when all was said and done.
This tour was short, but that was because not much was ever really needed other than a warehouse. The place was bought from Korie’s side of the family because one year Phil’s place was being flooded and they needed to store the product. Automation was never necessary even in the boom time. All they would do was have “Packing Parties”, inviting high school students and relatives to assist filling those orders. Still to this day, the guys we see on television are the ones who still build the duck calls. Because of so many speaking engagements, they all come in occasionally and build up the stock and then head out again.
After seeing and experiencing the “duck culture”, my oldest made a comment about wanting to try his hand at duck hunting one day. My youngest could not resist blowing the duck call all the way back to the fifth wheel. He announced he could wake everyone up in the morning by blowing the call. I told him to pack it away or only blow it down on the other side of the camp. They also tried to imitate a deer call sound from the object as they played around with their new call.
These short few days in West Monroe were very memorable as the family was able to experience firsthand the culture and community the Robertson family is a part of. If the boys did not have to do their homework during that time, I’m sure they’d say it was perfect.
Until we meet again,