Though Jimmy was well-known for the millions he raised for ducks, fewer realize he was instrumental in starting Pheasants Forever.
The year was 1982, and one day I was visiting Jimmy at his home in St. Louis Park, explaining the bird club’s concept.
Already on my annual trips to Delta, I had been stopping at his camp to chat. Usually this was after my friend Willy Smith and I had finished a morning’s hunt, and before we returned to our motel in nearby Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
During those visits, to my delight and Willy’s, Jimmy entertained us in the fireplace room, recalling hunts past and people known, often over a finger or two of tanglefoot.
Later, after hunting season, at Jimmy’s home, he interrupted my Pheasants Forever dissertation and reached for a phone.
“You’ll need money,” he said, and he called Bob Naegele, owner of a large outdoor advertising firm that bore his name, and a close friend.
“Ya, Bob, there’s a boy here who needs $3,000, and he needs it now. Make the check out to Pheasants Forever and mail it,” Jimmy said. Next he called Vern Aanenson, owner of Old Dutch Foods and, like Naegele, a duck hunter and friend, and issued a similar demand.
“That seemed easy,” I said.
Said Jimmy, “There’s more where that came from.”
• • •
On Thursday, I stopped again at Jimmy’s old camp, after many years away.
This time I was hunting Delta with my son, Cole, and his pal, Max Kelley, both 18, the three of us freelancing on the big marsh, just as Willy and I had done years ago.
In showing the boys Jimmy’s place, I wanted them to gain a sense of Delta’s history, and the history of all duck hunting, and of conservation.
And gain a sense as well how places and people can join to form important traditions worth retaining.
“Come on in,” David Reese said.
David, of River Falls, Wis., a retired Twin Cities law firm administrator, is manager of Jimmy’s old camp, which is now owned by Rick Wallin of River Falls.
Jimmy bequeathed the camp to Rick’s dad, Dick, for good keeping, and when Dick died, Rick took over.
As Jimmy did, Rick runs the Sports Afield Duck Club (www.jimmyrobinsonsducklodge.com) as a commercial operation, open to the public. And, this season, to great hunting, already including big flights of “da big bull seelver cans,” otherwise known as canvasbacks.