Claude Wilkerson – Hikree Stick Bows
By Darren Haverstick
On one of my recent trips back to the family farm, I had the pleasure of visiting with Claude Wilkerson, proprietor of Wilkerson’s Archery Supply and Oriental Café. Located on the outskirts of Turtle, Missouri, Claude has been in business for over 40 years and is the maker of the locally well-known Hikree Stick line of traditional bows. After stopping in to get some supplies and a bite to eat, I thought you readers might enjoy a glimpse into the life of a true hard-scrabble Ozarks icon. What follows is an impromptu interview conducted over a steaming plate of sweet-and-sour possum.
DH: Claude, why don’t you tell the readers out there a little about yourself and your business.
Claude: Well sir, I have bin runnin this here famly bizness fer purtenear a half-century, meetin’ the needs of those who hunt and those who have a hankerin fer a taste of the Far East. I wuz born an razed in Dent County an except fer a couple of years when I wuz in Koreeuh, curtussee of Uncle Sam, I have lived here my whole life. I’ve always had a pashun fer bows and arruhs and I reckon that cums frum also have a pashun fer eatin’ reglar and growin up too poor to afford shotgun shells. I wuz a Depreshun baby, you know, and seein as how it didn’t end in these parts till about 1964, I lernt right quick that a man cud fill his belly with a sharp eye, a sharp stick, and a good stout hikree branch.
DH: So how did you turn this love for archery into something you could earn a living from?
Claude: When I got home frum the servuss I wuz wound tighter than an eight-day clock! I had seen the world and all it had to offer and I knew I wudn’t be satisfied hackin’ ties and splittin’ stave bolts fer a livin like evrybody else. I wuz itchin to do sumthin big but the only skills I had wuz makin bows and clearing out machine gun nests. Now lobbin grenades and runnin a flamethrower shore is a hoot but there wernt much call fer jobs like that round here so I had to fall back on what wuz left. But when yer young, full of piss n vinegar, and got a little money in yer pocket you figgure you kin do anything. So I bilt this store, set up shop, and the rest, as they say, is histry.
DH: So tell me about your bows. I understand your product line is quite unique among your peers.
Claude: Well, first off, the only wood I use is hikree. Lots of bowyers in this area are partial to hedge; or what you cityslickers call “osage”, but not me. Hikree lasts ferever, is easy to werk with, easy to cum by, and there’s always a good chance I kin bring home a gray squirrel or two fer dinner when I’m out pickin up my buildin supplies. Another thang I do differnt frum other bowyers is I only make one model of bow, the Hikree Stick. It cums standerd with a sanded bark finish, two strings, a gunny sack fer totin it and I garrantee the bow to be insect an fungus free fer two rainy seasons. The MSRP fer this item is $43.95, however, I have bin knowed to trade sum so if you have a good walker pup or a stringer full of hogsuckers we kin problee make a deal. Now fer the more discriminating archer, I also offer a whole passel of opshuns to dress yer Hikree Stick up with. But I always tell my customers that opshuns are jis like petticoats. No matter how many yer lady has on, she’s still the same old gal underneath it all.
Read the rest in the Summer 2015 issue of TradArchers' World magazine!