The Roots of My Raising by Dale Rollins

The past couple of months have been pretty rough around here. First, I buried Li’l Annie last December then on February 16, literally the Joy of my life passed away—my mother Joy F. Rollins. She was 83. It may seem strange to memorialize her here, in a quail newsletter and with reference to a bird dog, but hear me out.

Ever see the movie “Signs” starring Mel Gibson? The science fiction tale of crop circles, aliens, and a priest’s lost faith speaks of serendipity, fate, or a master plan—where things don’t “just happen.” With that backdrop I submit that had it not been for my mother, my quail quest might never have taken wing. So a few words of thanks here seem appropriate.

It started when I was five years old. We lived five miles south of Hollis, Oklahoma. One of my earliest childhood memories has Mama and I in our kitchen during the late-spring. The window over the kitchen sink was open, through which came the iconic song of a bobwhite. “Here that bird” she asked, “it calls its name—poor-bob-white.” And now 52 years later it still calls to me.

“If I have seen further than others, it is because I’m standing on the shoulders of giants.” - Sir Isaac Newton

Logic dictates that if one seeks a platform to see further, it would indeed be on a giant of physical proportions, and I’ve had a few of those in my life. To the contrary Mama stood tall at hardly five feet, and in the later years her back and shoulders became humped over. It’s been said that one can tell much about an individual when, if given an option, would they ask for a light load, or a strong back? Mama had the strongest back of anyone I’ve ever known.

Born in 1929 and raised during the Dust Bowl, she had a foundation forged in heat, and dust, and hard times. After marrying my dad “Wash” in 1947, she gave birth to twins, Randy and Cindy (although the doctors didn’t know she carried my sister Cindy at the time). Cindy was born a mute quadriplegic resulting from oxygen deprivation. For the next sixty-four years, Mama was her primary caregiver, until it got to the point, after a broken pelvis from a fall, that she could no longer care for her. Anyone who has a special needs child knows the special bonds that sprout from such a relationship.

Daddy died in 1992 from a debilitating case of lung cancer. The last twenty years were especially tough on Mama, but she hung in there—she had no choice. When she died, her weight and age had equalized; skin and bones, but still a huge heart.

Mama never cared for hunting, but as Daddy worked in the cotton gin (and hence was always busy in the fall) when I was a pre-driving teenager, she would drive me out to Sprout’s place, or Arthur’s eighty, then sit in the car while Peppie (my black poodle) and I scoured the mesquite pastures for blue quail, jackrabbits, or a consolation prize, e.g., a “felark.” She didn’t approve of my shooting things, but she tolerated it.

I undoubtedly got my love of dogs (and cats) from her. When my hunts were restricted to a Daisy B•B gun and house sparrows I had a legion of “bird cats” that would follow me from tree to tree, eyes fixed on the canopy and ears tuned to the sound of a B•B striking a bird’s breast muscle. My dogs, and anyone elses, were always welcome in her home.

Point No. 1 of “Suzie’s 12-point Plan for Success” stresses “always hunt with good dogs.” And so I have . . . for the past fifty-seven years. Indeed Mama and Li’l Annie had many similarities, but the common denominator was their ability to persevere, no matter what. May they both rest in peace.


“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
~ John Muir