the Minnesota Darkhouse & Angling Association
West Ottertail Chapter
A FAMILY OF CARVERS - THE BEIGHLEYS’
Family traditions have been handed down from generation to generation since the beginning of time. Some are short lived and go by the wayside as time goes on. Some are discarded because of new technology taking over and making old ideas and practices obsolete. And those that can be called “hobbies” are passed down only if the heirs enjoy the hobby and the hard work that is involved in learning and practicing its process.
In the area of carving fish decoys, there has long been the tradition of the Native Americans passing this down because of necessity -the need to provide food for the family. Making a working decoy out of wood, bone or anything to lure a fish in under the ice was not a hobby to them. It was a tool to take food. Today, one doesn’t need to use a decoy to feed his family. We have technology in the form of GPS; ice fishing gear, etc… to catch our fish. But many of us, including myself, can’t let go of the old tradition, now a hobby so to speak, to continue to make and refine our sport by using our own hand made decoys to lure in and take our fish through the ice.
Again, traditions are handed down and fathers can take great joy in seeing a son or daughter become interested and motivated in decoy carving and spearing. But it is rare to see a family of more than two be involved in this great sport and hobby.
MEET THE BEIGHLEYS
David H Beighley is the father also known as T.O.G. –(which stands for “The Old Guy”0- also signs his decoys as T.O.G.
David C. Beighley and Christopher Beighley are the sons and Alissa is the eight-year-old granddaughter of T.O.G. and daughter of Christopher.
This is their story...
David H. (T.O.G.) got started carving in the 1940’s. He was around 10 or 11 years old when his Dad Charles taught him how to carve, lead, and paint a decoy. “The decoys back then weren’t the decorative stuff we do now, but they were made for the purpose to bring fish into the hole, that’s it”. They were not made to win beauty contests. Their function was to put food on the table.
David C. stated, “I guess we grew up kinda the same way. Dad taught us early when we lived on Wall Lake, how to make decoys to go spearing with. It was in the early 1970’s and I too was about 11 years old when I started carving. Nothing fancy- just something to bring in the northerns. It was fun, since being a kid and doing something with your Dad is a very special thing. Christopher replied” Yeah it was fun to make something with your Dad and get excited to see a big northern pike come in on something you made yourself. At that early age, I thought everybody made their own decoys.
Alissa says her Daddy taught her how to make decoys. She squeezes Christopher’s hand and says, “And I’m eight years old”.
The Beighley’s each have their own carving shop and do get together to cut patterns, shape decoys, airbrush and anything else related to their carving. Sometimes they just sit and brainstorm about their next batch of decoys. All of them use many kinds of wood from oak and pine to basswood and walnut.
David H. always signs his decoys with T.O.G. It’s an easy way to distinguish himself from his sons work. T.O.G. got into competition because of his sons. He lives near Underwood but grew up in Perham where the John Jensen Nationals are held every year. He gets to see old friends from his younger days and meets new ones and winning a few ribbons doesn’t hurt. David C. says his competition started with his friend Paul, had him carve a decoy to put on E-bay. Paul also introduced David to Rod Osvold who coordinates the National show. Christopher got back into carving when David C. asked him about E-bay. Christopher had been selling on E-bay for years and helped him sell some of his decoys. After hearing how his brother described the Nationals, Christopher had to see it for himself. He said he was blown away. “Everything you experience about spearing is relived every time you go to the show, the camaraderie, the people that share the same passion is fantastic. It’s like no other atmosphere you could ever hope to find” Chris stated.
T.O.G. says his inspiration to carve comes from his boys and Grand Daughter Alissa. “ I don’t take orders on what to carve. If I did, it wouldn’t be fun anymore, and it would become a job. I retired from one of those. I don’t want another one. David C. agrees that his inspiration comes from his family and Christopher says his inspiration comes from his family too, “ It is so nice to have this family tradition that I can pass on to my daughter and I also have a very supportive wife Holly. It makes us a closer family all the way around”.
Here are their comments on some of the highlights in their carving hobby.
T.O.G. says its still going on. “watching my two sons take this craft to new levels, and letting me come along with them, as well as getting together with friends at Nationals every year. Also that spot we got on National Geographic Today Channel. When they arrived at my house, I thought we were doing a photo shoot, until the photographer pulled out this huge video camera. What took eight hours to film became a nice five-minute spot on National TV. David C. says its gotta be the National Geographic spot, winning Decoy Carver of the Year and winning 1st and 2nd at the Whitefish Open. Also winning ribbons at National and World competition is always a rush. Christopher agrees with the TV spot and watching his daughter finish her first decoy and winning a first place ribbon at Nationals.
They all stated spearing with the family. But Alissa sums it all up about this great family, “Being with my Dad, Grandpa and Uncle Craig; I love them very much.
Written by - Roger Goeschel for the MDAA News
If you would like to contact the Beighley's to order a fish decoy, or just to say hello...
526 West Cavour Ave.
Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Home Phone (218) 739-4324
Cell # (218) 205-1521