If you live in Union Parish and you never heard of Peyton McKinnie, you probably don’t know there’s a big lake up there in Farmerville, either.
Peyton is a one-man traveling promotion team for Union Parish and its rich outdoor resources. Hardly a week goes by that he isn’t out going somewhere, organizing something or helping somebody with an outdoor project. It would take a book to list it all. And he does it on his own dime.
“Why do you do that?,” I asked him.
“I don’t know”, he said after a fairly long pause, one of the longest times I’ve ever known him to go without having something to say. “Because I like it, I guess.
“I enjoy the outdoors and doing all I can to keep a heritage alive for our future generations,” he said, fresh back from the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame annual awards banquet in Springfield, Mo. He is a Board Member of that organization and started a Louisiana Chapter as well, the only state to do so. He never hesitates to hit the road to learn more about the outdoors and spread the news of what he left behind back home. And invite people to come see.
One of the folks he visited with is Boyd Duckett of Major League Fishing. He thanked Duckett for bringing an event to D’Arbonne this year and encouraged him to come back. MLF has millions of followers and broadcasts its tournaments on livestream all around the world. You couldn’t pay for the publicity that event brought, or could bring again.
“I guess I have learned something and I wish others would, too,” he said. “We’ve got to get more of our people who are trying to do things here to get out of Union Parish and see what things other people are doing and how they are doing them. And then we’ve got to use that to get people and events here. Tourism should be an industry here almost on the level of timber and chickens.”
The 48-year-old Union Parish Sheriff’s Deputy takes his day job very seriously. When he is out of uniform, he’s still out working, putting in the time and effort to make things happen. At the Legends Show in Missouri, he was talking to anyone that would listen about our outdoor resources. Working at a booth at the Louisiana Sportsman Festival in Gonzales, I looked up and there’s Peyton, glad handing people he never met befoe and photo taking and talking Union Parish. I could cite dozens of other examples.
He does have his weak moments, though. He somehow let a picture or two show up on Facebook and he was actually smiling in them, with the corners of his mouth actually curling up. Peyton doesn’t smile, or so people say. I don’t ever think I’ve seen it in person.
“I broke protocol,” he said, not smiling. “People tell me that all the time. Hey, I smile, it just doesn’t show. People tell me that I look mean, but they know I’m not. I guess it’s because I’ve been a cop since I was a kid, going on 27 years now.”
He also broke down and went crappie fishing a few weeks back. And he even caught one. I think it’s the first time in his life he’s done that, even though he lives by one of the best crappie lakes in the world. He would rather wash dishes than fish, I think, but he knows how important it is for the community.
“That’s why I did it, to help out,” he said. “Besides, I figured if you can catch one, I can catch one.”
He also stays busy working at his Tiger Bend business, where he and his partners and dad have built more than 5,000 deer stands in the past 30 years. And he helps others, too. It isn’t unusual to see him on a Saturday night boiling crawfish or grilling sausage with his friend, Kyle Green, at the Dubach Deer Factory and Smokehouse. Or he’s out setting up a Big Buck Contest or an outdoor banquet for the chamber. He also helps start and manage about a zillion Facebook pages for people to help promote what they are doing.
His real passion is deer and turkey hunting, but he has also become one of the leaders in trapping and removing hogs in this region. In fact, he said he likes that more than deer and turkey hunting these days.
Peyton is always tooting other people’s horns, and he doesn’t toot his own. So I decided it was time that I did.
I posed two more questions to Peyton. “If you could be granted one wish for hunting, what would it be?” Again a long pause. I wondered, would his answer be to kill a 20 point deer, sell a million deer stands, go black bear hunting in Marion?
“I guess it would be this,” he said. “I wish people would just work harder at getting along and quit judging each other on how we hunt or what we kill or what we do. Let everybody do his or own thing and not be so critical about everything everybody else does. And work together. Really, work together.” What an answer.
Next question. “If you could be granted one wish for fishing, what would it be?” Again, a long pause.
“I would take those stupid video games away from kids and lock them up in a closet. Then get the kids on the lake and out and about in the outdoors,” he said. “We all need to work on that. And I’d like to see us do the same thing that I said about hunting. We should let everybody go out and have their own way to fish and be happy about it and be happy about what they catch, as long as it is legal.” Wow, another great answer.
But what would you expect from a man who has, and continues to do, all he can to serve others. Even if the corner of his mouth doesn’t move when he smiles.