Good Call: Reflections on Faith, Family, and Fowl
By Jase Robertson with Mark Schlabach
Excerpt from Jase Robertson's book, Good Call: Reflections on Faith, Family, and Fowl, available wherever books are sold, including the Duck Commander website. Excerpt used by permission of Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.
Chapter 7: Strange Creatures — Appreciating Frogs and Women
My absolute favorite thing in the world to do is frog hunting, and my favorite things to eat are fried frog legs. I've found that frogs are some of the strangest creatures on earth. Did you know frogs absorb water through their skin, so they don't need to drink? Frogs can lay as many as four thousand eggs at once, and in one species of frog, the male takes its mate's eggs into its mouth as soon as they show signs of life and keeps them there until they emerge as fully grown froglets! Some frogs can jump up to twenty times their own body length in a single leap, and frog bones form a new ring every year when the frog hibernates, just like a tree. Scientists count the rings to determine the age of a frog. When God created frogs, He made an exotic delicacy.
This might be a surprise to some people, but I like hunting frogs more than I like shooting ducks. A lot of people prefer frog gigging, but I've always used only my hands to catch frogs. In frog gigging, people use a four-or-five-tined gig to stab the frogs. I choose not to use a gig because a glancing blow can injure a frog without its being caught. I prefer "hand-to-frog" combat, which allows me to catch it — or it gets away for another try. I rarely miss one. When I go frog-hunting, not only do I try to think like a frog so I can find its hiding place, but I also physically act like a frog so I can catch it. If the frog jumps as I try to catch it, I jump along with it, no matter what I might be jumping into. I think it's much more effective and way more fun than using a gig.
My buddy Mike Williams, the lumberjack, was my partner in crime when it came to frog hunting. He scouted the best frog-hunting holes around West Monroe and even made maps. We frog-hunted most ditches, creeks, rivers, bayous, and, yes, golf courses in North Louisiana. I feel bad to this day about all of Mike's equipment that I totally destroyed while pursuing frogs. I viewed it as collateral damage for being the best frog hunter you could possibly be. Mike always seemed to find a way to forgive me, and every time I thought I had lost him as a friend, he would come pulling up in my yard with a new rig. Mike thought frogs were so delicious he wanted to travel to Africa because he read that's where the biggest bullfrogs in the world are. He was actually right — the goliath frog from Cameroon in West Africa grows to be one foot long. Its legs would look like king crab legs in a frying pan! We seriously discussed going but never did. Of course, we're not dead yet.
Mike discovered that the best bullfrogs in West Monroe were located in a pond on the fourteenth fairway of a private golf course. He cased the place for weeks from an adjacent neighborhood, and we waited for a stormy night. We figured no one would be out and about during a storm, and we didn't want to get caught on this swanky golf course. Our best route to the pond was parking at the end of a street on the edge of the neighborhood and carrying the boat by hand onto the golf course. The stormy night finally came and we parked my truck, got on each end of the boat, and made our way through cane thickets during a nasty thunderstorm. There was lightning and thunder as we made our way across the golf course, running with the boat and flashlights. The best way to catch a frog is to shine a flashlight in its eyes, which kind of stuns it, and then grab it quickly before the frog realizes what happened. We caught seventy-five frogs that night! We left our ice chest in the truck, so I was putting frogs in my socks and the pockets of my pants and shirt.
When we couldn't carry any more frogs, we made our way back to my truck. As soon as we arrived, police cars came from every direction. A homeowner in the neighborhood must have seen my truck and feared we were burglars. As the police questioned us, they must have thought Mike was drunk, because he couldn't stop laughing. They kept asking me what we'd been drinking and smoking and where it was. When a policeman shined a light on my shirt, I figured out what Mike was giggling about. I forgot I'd stuffed a frog into the front pocket of my shirt and buttoned it. Its legs were sticking out of my pocket and it looked like it was wearing a diaper! The police let us go but warned us to never sneak back onto the golf course because it was trespassing. We probably went back three or four times by a different route and never were caught.
Mike and I currycombed the countryside for places to frog hunt. One night we found a ditch in the middle of nowhere and had the best frog hunt ever. We hunted all night and were so tired and hungry that we drove straight to a doughnut shop. We arrived thirty minutes before it opened, and after being informed they didn't open until six A.M., we decided to wait. We didn't say a word to each other as we took in the aroma of the fresh, hot doughnuts being prepared. We ordered a dozen each, but after we ate them so quickly we decided to do the same thing again. It was the perfect ending to an epic frog hunt, and it's one of the reasons I love hot doughnuts so much.
Catching frogs can take a toll on your body. I have repeatedly been battered and actually was knocked out cold when I dove headfirst into a cypress tree. One time, I jumped out of a boat to catch a frog in a thicket, and as I lunged to grab the frog, a purple poisonous thorn stuck me behind the ear. I vomited for three days and my face was badly swollen. If it had stuck me in the temple, I probably would have died. My greatest frog catch occurred after our boat ran aground. I saw the biggest bullfrog I've ever seen! The problem was, there were three snakes in between the frog and me: a cottonmouth water moccasin, a nonvenomous water snake, and then a bigger fish snake. Undeterred, I triple-jumped the three snakes and grabbed the frog in one swoop. Then I triple-jumped back the other way without getting bit. It probably wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done, but, hey, I got the frog!
I love frog hunting so much I actually skipped my high school graduation to go. I graduated from West Monroe High School in 1987, but I didn't actually receive my diploma until many years later. I really didn't see the point of having an event to declare that I'd graduated. Plus, the cost of buying a cap and gown was ridiculous! You want to dress me up in a cap and gown, say I graduated, and make me pay for it? Yeah, right. I thought my money would be better spent on something like fishing lures or ammo. In an act of rebellion, I persuaded one of my buddies to go frog-hunting with me on graduation night. We caught over a hundred and fifty frogs on the Ouachita River, and I felt it was one of the best decisions I'd ever made. I know it was way more fun than walking across a stage to receive my diploma.
Many years later, after much encouragement from Missy, I wheeled into the parking lot of West Monroe High School, walked into the principal's office, and asked a young woman for my diploma. She walked into a back room and returned with a stack of dusty diplomas. As she thumbed through them, I felt a sense of pride that there were obviously a few more frog hunters from my high school than I realized. The lady handed me my diploma, and I jokingly offered her an apology for being a little late but thanked her for not throwing it away.
While frogs are some of the strangest creatures on earth, they can't hold water against women. One of my dad's favorite sayings when we were kids was "Boys, when God made a woman He made a strange creature." I wasn't married for very long before I realized he was right.
Missy and I were married on August 10, 1990. To say our marriage got off to a rocky start would be an understatement. My brothers and closest friends took me frog-hunting the night before my wedding for my bachelor party. As we were searching for frogs, my oldest brother, Alan, gave me a lot of advice on marriage in general as we motored along the bayou. The main thing he reminded me of is that God is the architect of marriage. Having a great relationship with our Creator is the best thing you can do for your marriage relationship. Alan gave me an illustration of a triangle with the husband and wife on the bottom corners and God at the top corner. His point was that as each person moves closer to God, they also move closer to each other. I never forgot that and he was right. I was mainly the motorman that night and was filled with anxiety in anticipation of the wedding. As we moved along, we saw two big frogs mating on the riverbank.
"Whoa, there you go!" Al shouted.
It kind of broke the ice for a conversation about intimacy and sex. Missy and I had not seen each other much in the previous couple of months because we couldn't keep our hands off each other. Many times we had to remind each other of our commitment to stay pure and had had many prayers together. We were not perfect, but one of us would always stop things from getting too heated. Eventually, we decided to have only a long-distance relationship via telephone and our face-to-face encounters became limited to church and public gatherings. As our wedding was approaching, Missy and I were both a little bit nervous about having sex for the first time. I think that's the way it is when you're both virgins. We were both excited because we'd decided to save ourselves for marriage and our big night was finally here!
I remember standing at the front of the church auditorium when Missy came out in her white wedding dress. Before that moment I was really nervous and was thinking about whether I was actually ready to get married. But then I melted when I saw her. She looked more gorgeous than ever, and I felt a sense of calm come over me. The ceremony was great, and as it went along I think we both became even more anxious about our first night together. After we left our wedding reception, I asked Missy what she wanted to do. I was pretty much ready to see what I had been missing.
"Well, I'm hungry," she said.
We went to a burger joint, and as we ate I could tell she was nervous about what was going to transpire. We'd planned to stay in a hotel the night of our wedding and fly to Hawaii the next day for our honeymoon. I'll be perfectly honest: our first night together was more of an exploratory expedition into the human anatomy than a blissful adventure. It felt like a biology experiment. Missy doesn't care for the way I describe it, but that's what happens when neither one of you has had sex before. You find your way through it and figure out what's going on. Then you go from there, and it becomes much more enjoyable.
I remember meeting a man who gave sex seminars to students at various college campuses. To get people to come he passed out flyers that were entitled "How to Have the Best Sex on Earth." Of course, his lecture attracted a huge turnout. He spoke about sex between two virgins on their wedding night being disease free, guilt-free, comparison-free, and shame-free, as well as being pleasing to God. It is the best sex you can have on earth. He explained that many people fall short and that is why Jesus died on a cross. In Christ anyone can start over. As 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 says: "The sexually immoral...will [not] inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed…sanctified…[and] justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." The forgiveness found in Christ doesn't take away from the fact that God's way is always the best way for a marriage and our world. Hebrews 13:4 says: "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure." That is exactly what Missy and I did.
As awkward as our first night together was, our honeymoon was even worse. As soon as we arrived in Hawaii, I became ill with strep throat. I mostly slept and lay in the bathtub in our hotel room for a week shaking violently with a fever. Missy looked out the window at the beautiful beach and Pacific Ocean and cried. It was miserable. I was sweating profusely and thought I was going to die. We'd saved our money for months — about eight hundred dollars — to go to Hawaii, and it ended up being the worst trip of our lives. My getting sick actually saved us from the embarrassment of realizing that we couldn't do much on eight hundred bucks anyway. We laugh now at being so naive and young. When we went back to Hawaii for the season finale of Duck Dynasty last year, Missy was determined to make up for a lot of bad memories. I did everything she wanted to do. We went on helicopter rides, boat rides, romantic dinners, and everything else you could do in Hawaii. She got her money's worth the second time!
Missy cried during our first week of marriage because I was so sick, and I couldn't blame her because my illness wrecked our honeymoon. But after we went home to West Monroe, I woke up on the twenty-eighth day of our marriage, and she was crying again! I realized then that I had a few things to learn about marriage. You're living in a different environment, you're away from your parents for the first time in your life, and you're sharing a bed and home with someone new. It's a different life than what you had when you were single, when you could get up and leave if things got tough. More than anything else, women are generally more emotional than men. When I give newlyweds in our church advice, I tell them, "Look, when you wake up on day thirty of your marriage and she's crying for no reason, don't panic. It's normal. It's going to happen. Most women are going to cry from time to time. It's the way God made them."
One of the biggest adjustments for Missy during the early part of our marriage was her husband's being away from home so much. During duck-hunting season, I was gone from about four o'clock in the morning until dark. One of the great things about Missy is her independence, and she immediately realized that I needed my space. She knew I wasn't going to find another woman in the woods. She knew I wasn't doing anything wrong. She realized it was good, clean fun, and that's why she has always encouraged me to do it. In all the years we've been together, she has never raised her voice or complained about my hunting or fishing.
Of course, Missy had to get over her initial fears about the dangers of hunting. I gave her a set of rules early in our marriage. I told her, "Look, if I go hunting before daylight, you can expect me back at dark. I might come back at noon, but don't panic unless it's an hour after dark and I'm not home yet. If I go frog-hunting or scouting for ducks at night, don't expect me back until daylight. If it's an hour after daylight and I'm not home yet, then you might ought to call somebody." I told her there was some risk involved with hunting, but I didn't want her calling every hour wondering where I was and what I was doing.
Now, there were a couple of times in my life when I wished she'd called. One time, I was alone in rising backwater caused by the Ouachita River flooding on my dad's property and was going too fast in a boat. The water level was high, and it's easy to lose your trail. I tried to jump a big fallen tree and the boat went airborne. I landed between two saplings and was stuck! My motor was out of the water and it was screaming! I spent a few hours between those trees. I found a piece of knife in the boat and began to whittle down the trees to release the boat. I knew Missy wouldn't be worried about me until after dark, and right before dark I got out from between the trees. Of course, I was lost and didn't know where I was. I eventually made it home before Missy called Phil for help.
Another time I was hunting squirrels at Tensas, which was one of my dad's favorite hunting spots. I was on foot, and somehow, I got turned around and came out eight miles down the road in the wrong direction. During the journey back to camp, I had an up-close encounter with a Louisiana black bear that I managed to get away from. I walked all night, and when I finally reached our camp right before daylight, Phil was gone! He had forgotten I was with him and was already gone for the next day's hunt. Missy was worried sick but refrained from having the Louisiana National Guard out looking for me.
During duck season I would leave before daylight, and Missy would often get upset because I'd forget to turn off the carport lights. It was about the only thing she nagged me about. One morning, I got up to leave to go hunting and it was raining. I'd backed my truck into our carport the night before to load up my hunting gear. As I pulled away, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw that I'd left the light on again. I jumped out of my truck and ran into the carport to turn the light off. As I turned back to run to my truck, I realized I'd put the gearshift in reverse instead of park! As the truck was racing backward, the open door hit Missy's Pontiac Grand Am and bent the door back. I jumped on Missy's car, dove into my truck, and slammed it into park.
Sitting there among crumpled metal and shattered glass, I pondered what to do next. I couldn't go in reverse because there was a big hill behind our carport. I was pinned between the side of the house and her car. I decided that since I'd already wrecked the driver's side of her car, I was going out the way I came in. I put my truck in drive and swiped her car again on the way out. I was determined to go duck-hunting no matter what! The problem was that my door wouldn't shut and was barely hanging on to the frame of my truck. I drove on the shoulder of the road the entire way to Phil's house.
About a mile and a half from Phil's house, I turned a corner and there was an eight-point buck standing in the middle of the road! Boom! I hit the deer head-on, and it flipped over my truck. I thought it was going to hit the windshield. Fortunately, it hit the hood of my truck and bounced over the cab. I climbed out of my truck and immediately smelled antifreeze pouring out of my busted radiator. One of my buddies who was going hunting with us pulled up behind me. He helped me throw the dead deer into the back of my truck and then followed me to Phil's house. Phil and my brothers were already on four-wheelers ready to go to the duck blind.
"What in the world happened?" Phil asked me. "Did you flip your truck?"
"It's a long story," I said. "Let's go duck-hunting."
We ended up having one of our best duck hunts of the season. When we returned to Phil's house, I filled up about twenty bottles of water. My busted radiator leaked the entire way home, and I had to stop every couple of miles to fill it up with water. There was a body shop close to our house, so I pulled in there before going home.
"Well, whatcha think?" I asked the mechanic.
"Well, we can fix it," he said. "I can get you a radiator."
"What's it going to cost me?" I asked.
"Well, what are you going to do with the deer?" he said. "I can get you a radiator for the deer."
About that time, the mechanic's assistant walked up to my truck.
"What are you going to do with the rack of horns?" the assistant asked me.
"Hey, if you can fix my door so it will close, you can have the horns," I told him.
There's nothing quite like good, old-fashioned redneck bartering.
Unfortunately, I didn't get off so easy with the damage to Missy's car. In all the excitement of the day, I'd completely forgotten to tell her that I'd wrecked her car. When I got home, she told me somebody pulled in the driveway and sideswiped it. I couldn't tell a lie.
"You remember how you scolded me about forgetting to turn out the carport light?" I said.
"Yeah," she said.
"Well, this is what happens when you start worrying about small things like that," I said.
A big argument ensued, but Missy took her car to the body shop, and it cost us several hundred dollars to fix it. Two days after we picked up her car, I was driving it to Phil's house. Wouldn't you know it? Another deer jumped in front of me in the road. I totaled Missy's car. We had to buy her a new car, and my truck never drove the same after it was wrecked, either. I sold it for — you guessed it — a thousand bucks.
By the second or third year of our marriage, Missy had pretty much adapted to my peculiarities—or at least most of them. After one late-night frog hunt, I came home and skinned the frogs in the kitchen. I left them on ice in the sink and climbed into bed. When Missy saw the frogs in the sink later that morning, she literally passed out! She thought I was a barbaric mountain man for eating frogs, and she could never stomach even tasting them — at least not until I tricked her into eating them!
I have always enjoyed the process of catching, cleaning, and cooking my food. In my family, cooking has always been an honorable thing, with some people having more of a talent for it than others. Since Missy's parents were on the road a lot as missionaries, they rarely cooked at home. Missy's mother never taught her how to cook. So from the very beginning of our marriage, I told Missy I would do the cooking — but she wanted to learn how. One morning, she even called Kay and asked her how long you have to cook an egg before it's soft. "What are you talking about?" Kay asked her. "You do know you have to remove the shell from the egg, don't you?"
One night, before Missy came home from work, I made a batch of my world-famous sautéed frog legs. I got the recipe from a Cajun man from South Louisiana on a duck-hunting trip. I soaked the legs in lemon juice, battered them in flour, and then cooked them in butter in a frying pan. When Missy walked into the kitchen, I told her, "Taste this."
She took a bite. "That's the best thing I've ever tasted!" she said. "How did you get chicken to taste like that?"
"It's not chicken," I told her. "You just ate a frog."
The frog legs tasted so good that she wasn't very upset with me for tricking her into eating them. For the first few years of our marriage, Missy refused to eat venison because she didn't want to eat Bambi. Now she loves deer steak. She said she could never eat dove because they were so peaceful, but now she loves them, especially when they're wrapped in bacon and stuffed with cream cheese and jalapeño peppers. I used to have to pick the meat off the bones for her, but now she eats it right off the bone! She also couldn't stand the smell of fish, but now she loves mustard-fried or blackened crappie.
While Missy has acquired a taste for frog legs, she still doesn't understand my fascination with catching them. One night after church, we were stopped at an intersection while driving home. Our two sons, Reed and Cole, and our daughter, Mia, were in Missy's car with us. It was raining, and I saw one of the biggest bullfrogs I've ever seen sitting in the middle of the road. I put her car in park.
"What are you about to do, Jason?" Missy asked me.
"I'm going to catch that frog," I said. "Y'all want to flag traffic for me?"
"Don't you dare get out of this car," she said.
Before she could finish her sentence, I'd jumped out of the driver's seat and was maneuvering my way to the frog. I moved toward the back of it, assumed the frog position, and then leaped on him! Missy and Mia were screaming in the car, and my boys were laughing. As I got back in the car, I explained to everyone that I probably saved that frog's life by catching him at a busy intersection. I held the frog in one hand and drove with the other the entire way home.
When I walked into the kitchen, Missy asked me, "What are you fixing to do?"
I cleaned the frog on the kitchen table and fried its legs in a frying pan.
"I can't believe you just did that," Missy said. "I thought you saved his life."
Hey, but I gave him a noble death.
Despite our differences, Missy and I built a foundation for our marriage in Christ. Before we were married, we were mocked by some of our friends and acquaintances for being virgins. I remember one of my friends constantly belittling me and saying I needed to experience sex before marriage just to know what to do and how to do it. I saw him years later and quickly told him, "I've got three kids. I figured it out."
Marriage is about so much more than sex. It takes a lot of work on a daily basis to have a successful relationship. Missy and I are spiritual partners and best friends, despite the constant changing of circumstances. I have realized that my dad was right, women are strange, but the differences we have keep life interesting. The righteous acts we commit in overcoming our differences are what make marriage exciting. It does not matter to me where we live or what we drive; what matters is the person I have chosen to be with and how long we reside together. My number one goal in life is to help my wife and kids get to heaven, where we plan to live together as part of a forever family. While we are on this earth I try to live out on a daily basis the words of Joshua 24:15: "But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."