I first met Jerry McKinnis years ago working Ray Scott’s Eagles of Angling event on his private lake in Pintlala, Ala. Of course that event featured President George Bush and first lady Barbara Bush. But I didn’t really get to know Jerry until the ESPN purchase of B.A.S.S. in 2001. From that point forward we became great friends.
The memories I’ll share are somewhat related to fishing but more about life in general. We know how he loved his “brown dogs.” If you ever saw Jerry anywhere in Arkansas whether it be Little Rock or Rea Valley on the White River, there was a good chance his dachshund was by his side. During the time I knew him it was Archie and Ollie. “Arch” was a great little companion for Jerry. I remember the dog was aging, and like all of us, Jerry was hurting. “That day” many of us face with our four-legged friends came and as expected it was tough on Jerry.
Along about the same time my wife, Mary, and I had the same scenario with our rat terrier Sweet Pea. Jerry was aware and reached out to me several times. But this is what I really want to share. Several months passed, and we were ready to welcome a new puppy into our lives. Jerry was excited for us as we went through the process.
Our new rat terrier’s first night home was good, but she was not eating or drinking. The next morning the veterinarian informed us she had parvo which for puppies can be fatal. Jerry called me from, of all places, a Little Rock hospital to see how things were with Josie. As we talked I realized he was waiting to be admitted into the hospital because he was experiencing a heart attack. True story. Both Jerry and Josie pulled through those episodes.
Speaking of his love of dogs, several years ago Jerry, Chuck Harbin, Angie Thompson and I were on a site visit to Chickamauga. We had to ride out to a marina and campground on the lake, and as we headed that way there were two cute, lively puppies having a big time together in someone’s front yard. About 30 minutes later we headed back and one of the puppies had wandered into traffic, and I need not say more. It totally ruined Jerry’s day.
Now, on to the Hogs. B.A.S.S. had a major event on the Arkansas River in Little Rock. Our weigh-ins took place in the convention center downtown. On the final day the place was packed to see if native son Scott Rook would pull out the win, which he did.
After I came on stage getting ready to weigh fish I looked around and here comes Jerry with this crazy looking hog hat that Razorback fans wear. He made a big deal of me, a staunch Bama fan, putting on that hat and commanded me to “Call the Hogs” in front of thousands of bass fishing fans including then Governor Mike Huckabee. It might have been the worst “Hog Call” of all time, but it was a lot of fun. That hat sits proudly in my office alongside my Bama stuff.
Occasionally during football season, Jerry would call to dissect and discuss games. With the outcome of the recent Bama-LSU game I would have most likely received a call from Jerry to make sure I was doing okay. He liked Arkansas football but was more into basketball and big time into baseball.
I remember talking to him several days after the Hogs dropped the foul ball in the College World Series that would have sealed the deal for them. Instead they gave Oregon State another out and lost the championship. Jerry was distraught for days.
We had a lot of good times together and in phone conversations. I appreciate all he did for my family and me, and I will miss him. There are so many things and accomplishments Jerry McKinnis achieved in life of which to be proud. These memories I’ve shared, along with many others, I’ll cherish forever, and I think they speak to the Jerry many of us knew.
Rest in peace, old friend.