Today my father is 91 years old, so we celebrate his life by remembering a few of his stories about his father, Daniel Augustus Kinsella who lived in Waterloo, NY. This cousins blog is about family on my mother’s side, but since we are remembering stories about Waterloo and Cayuga Lake, places important to both my mother and father’s side of the family, I hope I will be forgiven.
Over the years, Dad has written memories about his father, Dan Kinsella. Here is a story about Dan Kinsella duck hunting over one hundred years ago:
My father was a good shot with a rifle. In his backyard at Clark Street, he would put up large blocks of slate as a backstop and then placed bottles and cans in front and shoot at them by the hour. He said he used to place something like a coke bottle with the small end facing him. His intention was to place a bullet through the small open end of the bottle. When he did this successfully he said, “It took the end of the bottle off slick as a whistle!”
Daniel Kinsella, Father of Jack Kinsella
Before he got married (Dan Kinsella and Margaret Ferguson were married in 1917), Dad spent quite a bit of time at Jakie Burroughs farm in Canoga (the farm extended all the way to Cayuga Lake and included the property that Harold’s cottage and all those on his road now stand). During duck season, Jakie ran a duck hunt business. ‘Hunters’ mainly from New York City, paid him money to hunt ducks on his land. He would position them at various spots on his property and as the flocks came in and flew over them they were to shoot the ducks.
Dad said the problem was that none of them could hit the broad side of a barn so the ducks usually would fly harmlessly through the fuselage of shots. As this greatly disappointed the ‘hunters’ Jakie than got the idea of having Dad spotted at the end of the line. When the unharmed ducks flew over him, Dad would always bring them down. Jakie would then distribute these ducks among his customers who would go back to New York City bragging to everyone about what great hunters they were!
Jakie Burroughs duck hunting business wasn’t a fly by night operation. He had a business plan he followed. As he had lots of competitors-- other farmers along the lake wishing to do the same thing-- he had to find a better way to attract ducks to his farm. Everyone knew you had to have something to draw the migrating ducks in and the preferred method was to anchor wooden ducks, called stoolies, in their bays. That worked reasonably well but Jakie had a better plan —he would use live ducks! Here’s how he did it:
When the early migrations of ducks arrived at Cayuga lake, Jakie would have piles of shucked corn sitting on his land just for the taking. The ducks couldn’t resist that. After the initial piles were eaten, he then put new piles of corn up near his barn. The ducks found that and greedily ate it. Then he put piles just in front of the barn door and again the ducks couldn’t resist it. The final step was to open the barn door and put piles of corn inside the barn.
“Ducks are smart,” Dad said, “and they were wary of that corn at first. But in the end they couldn’t resist so they went into the barn to get their food and that’s when Jakie closed the barn door.” After much chasing, he would catch the ducks and clip their wings so they couldn’t fly and he was now ready for the major duck migration with REAL stoolies. As Dad said, “Ducks are smart” and the incoming flocks would ignore the wooden stoolies and head right for Jakie’s farm to join their live buddies already there! No wonder his business was much better than that of the other local farmers.
Dad often told me, “You would never believe the amount of ducks that were around in those days. Often the sky was just black with ducks.” He said often after a good day of shooting his arm was black and blue for days. My older brother, Dick, told me he remembers seeing a picture of a boat at Jakie’s dock that had just come back from a successful shoot ant it must have contained 200-300 ducks. Jakie used to sell the ducks to local restaurants for 75 cents apiece. (The government passed a law in 1918 outlawing commercial selling of ducks.)
When Mom and Dad (Margaret and Dan) were first going together, no doubt Dad often mentioned hunting ducks at Jakie’s. I doubt if Mom was excited to hear about all the ducks being killed but when she realized that Dad often stayed at Jakie’s over weekends she asked the obvious question, “Where did you go to church on Sunday, Dan?” He quickly answered, “McDuffietown” knowing this was a place she would never ever visit. Never say never.
Paul Pontius, who married Dan’s aunt, was one of the first in the area to buy a car. One day he invited Mom and Dad out for a drive. They were driving along the back roads near Canoga and as they went through a very small hamlet, Mom asked Paul what was the name of the place. When Paul replied, “McDuffietown,” Mom said, “Back up, I want to see the Catholic Church.” Paul replied, “Catholic Church! There’s no Catholic Church here. In fact, there’s no church in this entire area!” The Chronicles are silent about Mom’s reaction to this. Incidentally, today McDuffietown has 8 residences AND one church!
Jakie also had a fishing business. He provided boats and a guide. Dad was one of his guides. This turned out to be a real benefit for him because he made great friends with some of the powerful men in the area. One was Norman Gould, the owner of Goulds Pumps and another was Billy Mayers who was the Comptroller of New York State. In later years he called on Billie for several favors and when he was desperately in need of job in the heart of the depression he went to Norm Gould and told him he really had to have a job. Norm made one call and Dad started work the next day.
-----------------So, John Joseph Kinsella, Thank You for passing along these stories about your father, and about his great friend Jakie Burroughs who we so often hear about. Life was certainly different on Cayuga Lake one hundred years ago!