How Kingsmill was hooked on wood

Sixty-six-year-old Cal Kingsmill was born and raised in the Gentilly section of New Orleans, where he still lives.

His father Eddie, who operated a service station there, began taking Cal and his twin brother Bobby duck hunting on unposted marsh in Bayou Biloxi and Howze Beach when the youngsters were 8 years old.

About 1960, Eddie obtained a hunting lease in Orleans Parish near Bayou Platte off of Lake Borgne from Mirandona Brothers, a New Orleans fur trading company.

Cal, ever the traditionalist, still hunts on the lease, which is held by a friend.

New Orleans East remains a marshy wilderness, even though it is officially part of the city, which has incorporated the entire parish.

Cal is rich in the lore of hunting and fishing the area: Flynn’s Bait and Tackle Shop, Esposito’s Tackle Shop, the Talley Hoo Hunting Club roll of his lips as if they were still here today.

Best of all, Cal got to know the now-legendary wooden decoy carvers of New Orleans — Mitchell LaFrance, George Fredericks, Jr. and Charles “Numa” Joefrau.

All three lived near the Kingsmill family and were well-known carvers from whom New Orleans hunters regularly purchased decoys.

“All three regularly walked to City Park with cane poles to fish,” Kingsmill said. “One day, they turned up with a car. They would swap their decoys to my father for gasoline.

“Over the years, Daddy accumulated three sacks of them. I hunted with them until the 1970s. When Charles Frank came out with his first book (“Louisiana Duck Decoys,” 1979), the carvers became famous, and my father and I figured that their decoys were too valuable to hunt with.”

Kingsmill said he hunted with plastic decoys, but he didn’t like them.

“They floated on top of the water, like a balloon,” he explained. “Wooden decoys float down in the water, like a real duck. They move better. So I started chopping out wooden decoys with an axe. They were crude but inspired by the designs of the three carvers I knew.

“Today, all I hunt with are decoys I make.”

Kingsmill presently sits on the board of the Louisiana Wildfowl Carvers and Collectors Guild (which holds a festival in St. Tammany Parish each October) and is a member of the Cajun Heritage Festival in Lafourche Parish.

Kingsmill’s working decoys may be purchased through the New Orleans Historical Collection or directly from him (504-256-9708).

For more information about the Louisiana Wildfowl Carvers and Collectors Guild, contact Gene Hebert (985-790-9184) or Richard Reeves (985-892-2215).

The guild meets monthly in Metairie and welcomes newcomers. Some members provide carving classes.

About Jerald Horst 959 Articles
Jerald Horst is a retired Louisiana State University professor of fisheries. He is an active writer, book author and outdoorsman.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply