Duck Dynasty's Robertson Family
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Credit: Photograph by Andrew Hetherington
The modern world has often enough arrived at Phil's doorstep, mainly in the form of long lines of well-wishers and fans, so many that, just last week, he finished installing a siren-festooned electric gate on his road to ensure privacy for himself and his neighbors. Nonetheless, he is still very much a throwback. He wears no rings, not even a wedding ring, and no watch; doesn't own a suit; has never fired up a computer; has never held a cellphone to his ear for much longer than a split second, meaning that the BlackBerry charging in the bathroom must belong to another family member, not him. He does not spend his days thinking about all the bang and whew that Duck Dynasty has brought into his life. His home is small and plain, and he has no plans to change anything about it. "This place is probably worth $100,000," he says, "but I consider it a mansion."

Si grew up in the same circumstances as Phil, but Phil got a football scholarship that enabled him to go to college and thus avoid the Vietnam draft. Si was drafted into the Army and shipped off to fight, during which time he, too, was a sinner. "I kept a fifth of whiskey in my pocket everywhere I went," he says. "I tried dope one time, okay, like marijuana, but why would you smoke something that makes you feel 100 years old? So, drugs wasn't it for me. In my mind, it was alcohol and whoring around." He takes a sip of tea and continues, "Look, I worry that people put us on a pedestal now. We're human beings. We make mistakes just like everybody else."

Si found religion after Vietnam, left the service after 24 years, and immediately went to work for Duck Commander. He's probably the most popular Robertson on Duck Dynasty – mainly because he'll do anything (he eats coon poop in one episode) and says the funniest things, like "First it's pretty tires, then it's pretty guns . . . next thing you know, you're shavin' your beard and wearin' capri pants" and "I sting like a butterfly and punch like a flea" – and his newfound fame has led to a few problems. "The other night," he says, "it's 12:03 in the morning, and somebody is knocking on the door, and I'm like, 'You've got to be kidding me,' and I look outside and there's 25 people standing in my yard. You know, He's the reason this show has gone on like it has, but I have to ask Him every day, 'Give me strength to deal with this.' "

In the flesh, Si seems somewhat more reserved than he does on the show, and he often defers to big brother Phil. When Phil takes off on a long spiel about the pitiful state of the world, Si waits until the very end to offer his two cents.

"It ain't gun control we need; it's sin control," he says.

"Self-control," Phil says.

"Self-control," Si repeats.

"Self-control and sin control," Phil says, getting the last word.

It's almost lunchtime. Phil steps into the kitchen, tells everyone to gather round, and says a prayer. After that, his boys and Si heap spaghetti onto their plates, and pretty soon a few long beards are showing evidence of tomato sauce.

Phil isn't in any hurry to eat. He's talking about the "many, many, many" times a woman has come on to him since Duck Dynasty hit it big.

"They walk up with a pair of little bitty, bitty bikini underwear and say, 'Will you sign these?' Well, my first question is, 'Are they clean?' But, see, as I move forward on my travels, I make sure I take two things with me, my Bible and my woman, Miss Kay. You see what I'm saying? I've put my heathen days behind me. I'm not going down that path again. Drunkenness, smoking dope, being immoral. But be alert, because your enemy, the evil one, is prowling around like a roaring lion. With these chicks, Miss Kay is seated right beside me. You never sit down with a woman alone. Never, ever."

Then he goes and fills his plate and sits with his family and eats, and it's not long before the talk turns to ducks again and the great coming migration of ducks from north to south.

"We go down every morning starting mid-August, waiting to see the first ones cut the air," Phil says. "When they do, I say, 'Boys, that's the first arrivals from the prairies of Canada. They got Saskatchewan written all over them.' " Willie, Jase, Jep, and Si are chewing and nodding, all of them lit up with happiness over what is yet to come and what has caused so many changes in their lives. "I long for that first sighting," Phil says, and all of them nod just a little bit more.

Contributing editor Erik Hedegaard profiled Gordon Ramsay for the April 2013 issue.