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Today is April 8, 2020


Timber ducks and the teddy bear

By Tony Kinton

Timber ducks and the teddy bear

Theodore Roosevelt is not only known for his title as president, but also for his love of the outdoors. In 1902, Roosevelt came to Onward, Miss., to hunt bears in the big woods with an equally extraordinary man, Holt Collier. Collier was a former slave and Confederate soldier and maintained quite the reputation as a hunter. He would guide Roosevelt.

The story is often told, but a fragment of it deserves repeating here. After days of hunting, Roosevelt was still unsuccessful. Collier, with the assistance of his hounds, managed to catch a bear and tie it to a tree, whereupon he delivered Roosevelt to that tree. Roosevelt refused to shoot, and a cartoonist replicated the scene with a drawing. That drawing eventually spawned the production of a stuffed toy bear, and now we have what is perhaps the most popular cuddle toy known: the teddy bear.

Recently, I found myself in the midst of the long-vanished footsteps of Roosevelt and Collier — a block of woods just off Highway 61 and quite near a Welcome Center that will soon feature a Roosevelt exhibit as well as other exhibits and historical displays. It will also serve as a gateway, of sorts, to the Mississippi Blues Trail. This center will be a must-see and should be open soon.

I was hosted and joined in these woods by avid and skilled duck hunters Nick Tarlton (, Conrad Gilmore and Josh Miller ( The noxious, but somewhat pleasant, smell of wet Delta soil greeted us as we navigated circling trees to gain access to an open hole. There, we threw out decoys and took stations beside big oak trees. I stuffed Kent® Fasteel® 2.0 Number 4s into a Mossberg SA-20, my preference for the 20-gauge enhanced by the fact that there is less recoil to jolt aging shoulders and this shotgun fits me perfectly. A grand day began to unfold.

That orange glow of an emerging sunrise was promptly followed by airy whistles just above treetops. A tiny shiver trickled upward from submerged toes to eager fingers. Ducks rushed this way and that, some few with cupped wings in preparation for splashdown. Shotguns thudded. A limit was collected, this later to become poppers consisting of duck breast, cream cheese, jalapeno pepper and smoked bacon grilled to perfection. Best not tell my cardiologist.

So, should you go and retrace Roosevelt’s footsteps? Absolutely. Some affable duck hunter is likely to offer an invitation. But even if not, the Delta is too good to miss. Start by visiting the Welcome Center and then following the Blues Trail northward. Entertainment and history will be waiting.    


Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. He lives in Carthage and is a Central Electric member. Visit for more information.

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