A Quack in Time

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 25, 2010

which often centered on his houseboat. In time, the houseboat was landed and put on stilts and rooms were added. Beckhart's wife cooked for his guests.

The season back then was September through March, or as long as ducks were south. If the hunters were tired of shooting ducks, there were also turkeys and deer to kill, as well as black bears. Fishermen came in the summer.

It is thought that Beckhart carved his first duck call in 1890. McFarland points out that although waterfowl were the primary draw for hunters, back in those days duck calls were not necessary. They used live decoys, and ducks were so abundant it wasn't necessary to try to call them.

Beckhart's calls were more a memento, a novelty that sounded like a duck. And they were a work of art worth keeping in a special place once the hunter got back home. It would remind him of the great hunts in the swampy wilderness of southeast Missouri.

His health failing, Beckhart was unable to continue to accompany his guests on hunting and fishing excursions. So he turned to full-time call making about 1915. In Hornersville, hunters could pick up a call for $3 before they boarded the train to go home. This was at a time when skilled people were earning 50 cents a day, and Beckhart could turn out several calls each week. He died in 1922, about 30 years after making his first call.

Claude Stone, who was already making his own version of what was becoming known as the Big Lake call, or St. Francois River call, purchased Beckhart's call-making tools from the widow and he too turned out high quality calls based on the same raised check patterns.

Stone came from Tennessee and he and his family lived in a tent on the banks of Little River. Stone and his brothers seined fish and killed game and furbearers as a way to make money. Like many, they worked some in the timber industry, but that was part-time or seasonal work, and wildlife rounded out their employment.

Stone would take a small boat into the swamps and shoot ducks until the boat would hold no more, then return to Hornersville. The ducks were shipped by rail, iced down in barrels, to markets at far away St. Louis, Chicago and New York.

A jack-of-all trades, Stone was noted as a craftsman at woodworking, gunsmithing and blacksmithing. He applied these

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