Ties that bind

PRINCETON, Ill. — The Princeton Game and Fish Club is ripe with tradition, which comes as no surprise for a duck club that has been in continual operation since 1884.

There are strong family traditions, among members as well as among the people who have kept the place up and running over the last 124 years.

One family tradition is being upheld by Betsy Morgan, 74, a constant presence at the Princeton Club for the past 73 years. Her father, Harvey Lester, the club's caretaker for decades, brought his young daughter to the club for the first time when she was 9 months old. Morgan never left.

"My father took care of this place for 50 years," Morgan said.

Morgan's mother, Faye Lester, cooked breakfasts at the club throughout her husband's tenure as caretaker and even after his death. She worked at the club until she was 81 years old.

Morgan is known to club members and their guests as "Mother" for obvious reasons. She feeds them every morning, and she's the person who draws for blind assignments, too.

"I love the commotion around here in the morning," she said. "They're all my boys. My mother used to say they were all her boys, and now I say they're all my boys."

Morgan's adult daughters, Vicki Chamness and Tammy Schlosser, are carrying on the family tradition, cooking breakfasts and generally taking care of the Princeton members and guests in the early morning hours before each day's hunt.

When the ESPN Outdoors Duck Trek crew visited this week, all three women were busy in the kitchen, frying eggs and bacon for a packed house of hungry duck hunters.

"I think the buck stops here," Schlosser said. "I don't know if our daughters will do this. They're not crazy people like us."

Morgan has seen a lot in 73 years at the Princeton Club.

"I've seen a lot of changes," she said. "The biggest change is the amount of ducks they can get. They used to come in here with 15 ducks apiece. Now it's six, of course. That's the biggest change."

The Princeton Club has even seen some romance over the years.

Shannon and Heather McAnulty of Ashdown, Ark., who were guests at the club this week, told ESPNOutdoors.com about how the club played a role in their engagement and marriage.

Shannon, a native of Monroe, La., and a former duck guide in Arkansas, guided Heather's brother, Chad Bohnsack, on a duck hunt in Arkansas several years ago. Bohnsack, a Princeton member like his grandfather and great-uncle before him, returned the favor by inviting Shannon to Illinois for a Princeton hunt.

Heather and Shannon met after the hunt, Shannon noticing the duck band that Heather wore on a necklace.

"The rest is history," Heather said.

The couple dated for several years before marrying a year ago. They now reside in Arkansas, but return frequently to Illinois to hunt the Princeton Club as guests.