They spent it on rocks. Rocks for the front yard.
The Robertsons of West Monroe, Louisiana have quickly become America's duck calling Kardashians of the South, but there's no "keeping up" for them. Though they reign over a massive empire, they rule with a strong sense of humor, humility, loyalty and love. The premier of Duck Dynasty's fourth season this year broke television records with 11.8 million viewers, making Duck Dynasty cable's most-watched nonfiction telecast in history. The Robertsons have grown from a multi-million-dollar duck-hunting mom-and-pop shop to an empire projected to earn upwards of $44 million in the coming year! My question, of course, is can there even be that many duck hunters for that demand?! Or even that many ducks! Never mind the profits from book sales (they've published multiple top sellers with more to come), an upcoming Christmas album, clothing lines, endorsement and development deals plus a hefty salary raise from the A&E network.
But when I asked their lovely matriarch Miss Kay about what, if anything, she's splurged on with their newfound super-fortune she said simply, "I bought rocks, for the front yard." Oh, and she enjoys getting to pick up the tab for other people when they're out to eat. And Phil, he likes to buy a little more land by the water to have more ground to cover while hunting.
West Monroe is like any other American small town -- quaint, peaceful, filled with hard-working and fun-loving people. Only this town has become the place of a pop cultural phenomenon. I arrived at the Duck Commander Headquarters to see crowds of people bustling off buses. The place has become its own Dollywood or Graceland -- hordes of people pack the store and wait outside, screaming just to catch a glimpse of the beloved Robertson clan. Willie showed me a video on his iPhone where hundreds, literally hundreds, of people stood behind ropes, screaming just to see him walk out of his office door to his car. Fans jump up to be seen in their office windows and poke their heads through doors and around any corner they're able to find.
But the Robertsons don't mind. Alan's lovely wife Lisa met me first, introducing me to Willie and Korie's adopted daughter, Rebecca, and the new family puppy. Then I met Willie, a DD fan favorite who's as down-to-earth as he is entertaining, on the show and in real life. We toured the store, the backrooms and the duck calling den where all the famous flutes are made. Its no wonder Willie leads the clan in their upcoming Christmas album. After trying to play one for myself, I realized you've got to have a good musical ear to get it right.
I left Duck Commander to have dinner at the Robertsons' home, where Korie, Phil and Miss Kay were waiting to meet me. The Robertsons live modestly -- they haven't revamped their home into a McMansion or 90210 compound.
They've added some closet space here and there and there's a few more knickknacks that adorn the walls (i.e. artwork sent by fans from across the nation and everything from their own bobble heads to camo carpeting).
Miss Kay welcomed us into her home with open arms and a table full of foods -- from stuffed peppers and mac-n-cheese to baskets of biscuits! Korie's known for her business sense, but not so much her prowess in the kitchen so she joined Lisa, Miss Kay and I in cooking our own fresh batch of biscuits, straight from "Miss Kay's Duck Commander Kitchen" cook book (hint: she uses a brilliant special ingredient: 7 Up!). Miss Kay couldn't be kinder and speaks with such heart she makes you miss home. When you're around the Robertsons you're reminded the true value of a loving family.
But back to the biscuits. Phil, the king of the kitchen alongside his wife, came over from watching the game to help us make sure they browned to perfection and we all sat down to talk about their extraordinary rise to fame and what's kept them all grounded and close. We had only planned to be at the house for a couple of hours but we stayed through the rest of the night, looking through scrapbooks, sharing heart-wrenching and heart-warming stories of their struggles and successes, all while gorging on fresh biscuits and dipping them in all of Phil's homemade jellies.
The Robertson family is truly amazing. They are seemingly un-phased by the gravity of their fame, commenting that they know these things can come and go and that the most important thing for them is they don't lose their wits. They'll share the spotlight with the many sides of Miley Cyrus as one of the most popular Halloween costumes of the year, but please don't be quick to judge or write them off. Fame may be fleeting, but for the Robertsons, they've got more than enough love to share and more than enough fans to share it with. Not to mention, duck hunting season has only just begun.
For more on my time with the Robertsons watch Extra TV Thursday (check local listings http://www.extratv.com/page/when-its-on/)