“I may be only one man reading scripture and quotes, carrying his Bible, and blowing duck calls to crowds, but hey, it has to start somewhere. It’s what makes me happy, happy, happy.” – Phil Robertson
He’s a controversial figure – considered by some to be little better than an uneducated hick, by others, a redneck bigot. He’s plain-spoken, duck-hunting, techno-phobic and rugged; raised in poverty with guns and multiple siblings in a four-room cabin with no indoor plumbing or electricity and a single fireplace for heat. His bed was shared with three of four brothers and baths were cold-water only (heated water was for cooking and dishes). Whatever grew in the garden or could be hunted was what went on the table.
As Phil Robertson says, “Where I grew up, you practically went straight from diapers to manhood.”
He’s a low-tech man in a high-tech world, so it’s hardly surprising that the first chapter of the book contains an admonition to “Throw Away Your Cell Phones and Computers, Yuppies.” Frankly, I’m in awe of anyone who manages to live without either nowadays, as Phil does. And a tad envious. Just a tad. Because I’m also a computer-reliant animal-lover, raised in four-bedroom middle-class comfort, who dislikes hunting for sport, has held a gun only once in her life, and is fond of ducks. So it seemed rather odd even to me that the autobiography of Phil “Duck Commander” Robertson landed on my reading list. But I wanted to hear from Phil in his own words, and, as I’d rather expected, I found Happy, Happy, Happy enormously entertaining.
Granted, Phil and I have little in common aside from our Christian faith, but his innate penchant for doing nothing halfway earned my respect. This is a man who has always followed his passions, whether for his wife, “Miss Kay,” the land from which he has drawn his living since boyhood, or the Lord. The appeal of his story is not just that of a dream come true through years of struggle and uncertainty – and what American doesn’t love such a story? It’s in our DNA – but its undercurrent of love and full-frontal commitment.
Phil holds nothing back, from his mother’s manic depression and electroshock therapy to the oil drilling rig accident that left his father in a neck to hip cast for two years . . . the “outlaw” years that nearly cost him his family when he threw Kay and their three sons out of the house . . . the drinking, the prodigal son, the times of leanness followed by a plenty that occasionally befuddles him and led, among other things, to a popular A&E network television series. The voice is homespun but this is a man with a Master’s degree who could have played pro football but followed the deepest call of his heart, even when “100% convinced Duck Dynasty would never work.”
If the narrative occasionally slows in its detail of ducks and hunting techniques, that same call will resonate in the heart of anyone longing to pursue a dream or a purpose, or simply a less “connected” lifestyle. Phil’s story may be deeply American in its rags to riches, boot-strap self-reliance, but its greatest truths are universal.