Way out Jonesboro Road in West Monroe, Louisiana, past all the Baptist churches, past the Jack Fluck realty signs, past the Guns & Gifts store, past the dog playing dead in the middle of the road, you will find Phil Robertson in the ramshackle house where he's lived with his wife, Miss Kay, for the past 37 years – a born-again, God-loving, God-fearing bayou couple if ever there was one – and maybe his gap-toothed brother, Si, too, and his boys, Willie, Jase, and Jep. One thing is for sure: They'll mostly all be dressed in full duck-hunting camouflage regalia and wearing headbands to restrain their long, knotted hair but letting their long, freaky beards fly free. All of them will probably have gotten ready for the day the same way Phil has – "There's not a lot of personal hygiene going on," he says; specifically, no brushing of the teeth (that being reserved for nighttime), no combing of the hair, no flossing of the teeth, no shower, no face washing, no deodorant – and they will all look slightly dazed and bewildered by the success of their A&E TV show, 'Duck Dynasty,' which is about them, their wives, and their incredibly lucrative duck-call business.
Phil, 67, flips up the footrest on his camo-patterned, extrawide La-Z-Boy recliner, wiggles his toes in the air, tells the rat terrier named Bobo to hush, and says, "We're trying to infuse a little good into a culture in which gentleness, patience, kindness, self-control, love, joy, and peace have become abnormal."
Si, 65, is sitting next to him, sipping tea from the blue Tupperware cup his mother sent him while he was serving in Vietnam and that has since become nearly as famous as he has. "Sad," he says, shaking his head.
"Very sad," says Phil. "I go out into America and I am literally navigating a minefield. Godliness has become abnormal. I just left California, where I spoke to 40,000 altogether. I told them I was a Bible man. I told them I believe that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. 'What's he trying to say? That I can't sleep with anybody I want? Is this guy crazy?' Then they see a little family structure on TV – us – and the show goes ballistic. Thousands and thousands of people have thanked us. Isn't that right, Si?"
Si bobs his head and says, "Yeah."
This past February, the third season of 'Duck Dynasty' debuted with 8.6 million viewers, the most in A&E's 29-year history, double the number from the previous year and second only to AMC's 'The Walking Dead.' Their catchphrases – Phil's "Happy, happy, happy," Si's "Hey, Jack" – have entered the vernacular. They've appeared on Leno, Conan, and Jimmy Kimmel, which was also going to feature the singer Morrissey, until he canceled after learning who his co-stars would be, calling them "animal serial killers," a slur to some but not, of course, to the Robertsons. On their show, they are portrayed as fun-loving and happy-go-lucky. They get into nutty situations – racing lawn mowers, sucking bees out of a hive with a vacuum cleaner, getting busted while nighttime frog hunting on a private golf course – ending each episode with a sweet resolution, a family united in prayer and a meal, all while Willie, in voice-over, enumerates the sundry moral lessons to be derived.
It's good and clean and there's no swearing, no sex, and no broken marriages. It's gone over so well that when it came time to renegotiate their contract for the fourth season, the clan was able to demand and receive substantial raises, rumored to be around $200,000 each per episode. "Certainly we asked for more money," says Phil. "Look at the ratings!" And then there are the ancillary benefits. Both Phil and Willie have books on the New York Times bestseller list. Duck Commander, their company, sold 160,000 duck calls last year, for as much as $200 each; so far this year, it's at least 800,000. In fact, the operation's warehouse has become a bona fide tourist destination, with lines forming to enter the company store (Duck Commander "bling" hats, $34.95; cast-member bobbleheads, $24.95) and girls from New Jersey easing up to Jase in the parking lot and saying, "We've got a hotel room down here. Thought you might want to come over and have some fun," an invitation, needless to say, that he declined.
It's seriously crazy. Born poverty-level poor, each of the Robertson men is now a multimillionaire. Phil takes a giant slug of his coffee, nods at Si, and says, "Me an' this ol' guy here been running together since we were this tall, and we just can't figure it out. We had no idea the bang was going to go out the roof. We said, 'What in the world?' I mean, I just do not understand why it went whew." He goes on (as he tends to do): "The scary part is that hundreds, if not thousands, of women want to marry Si. 'Course, he's already married now about 40 years, but womanhood has dropped to a new low in America if all those women want to marry Si."
He and Si chuckle about that, then Phil turns sideways in his La-Z-Boy and pulls on his beard, peering into the distance. "The only plausible explanation for what's happened," he says, "is divine intervention." You'd expect him to smile after saying something like that. But he doesn't. He just looks straight ahead, adamantly, like it's not only his truth but also the only truth, and it makes you wonder. But then he needs more coffee, and Si needs more tea, and they both get up, and a little mallard-duck-head plush toy hanging on the end of a light cord begins to drift lazily in the soft morning air, and the world seems pretty right, at least while you're here.