Jim Barclay remembers Harbor Beach Decoy maker Cecil Rollins

Cody Brown, Staff Writer

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  Along the east shoreline of Michigan’s Thumb lies the city of Harbor Beach. This city has many historical attractions and has a rich history of waterfowl hunting. Most of the decoy collectors and hunters of the the Thumb remember decoy makers from the west side along Saginaw Bay known as the “Village of Weale.” This area of decoy makers includes carvers such as Otto Mish, Bill and Hayes Finkle, Art Perry, and Frank Brogan.    

  Despite the fact the east side of the Thumb seems to be not as popular in decoy-making as the west side of the Thumb, one marker from the east side sticks out to many from the area.  Cecil Rollins is a name that many of the old-timers remember from the mid 1900s.

  Cecil Rollins lived in Harbor Beach, a city that is known for great fishing opportunities and travel. Many folks say that they remember an old sign that used to be out front of his house that said “decoys for sale.” All of Cecil Rollins decoys were carved in Harbor Beach, and he spent most of his time hunting the shoreline of Lake Huron. Rollins made his decoys for the purpose they were initially intended for, to hunt over. His decoys were on the smaller size but appeared as life-size decoys on the water. On his decoys he would use a coat hanger or a wire and bend it to the shape of a feather and then he would stamp it onto the decoy. Most of his decoys had keels on them and some would have different lead straps on the keel to help keep itself upright and ride like a duck in the water.

  Jim Barclay of Barclay’s Furniture Store in Harbor Beach remembers the days he would spend with his friend and mentor Cecil Rollins. As a youngster, Jim was introduced to the sport of waterfowl hunting at the age of 12 by his father Merle Barclay. Merle was a friend of Cecil Rollins and introduced him to his son Jim. From there Jim and Rollins hit it off and Rollins took him under his wing.

  Barclay stated, “Rollins was a master at fly fishing and he could cast exactly where he wanted to in the Au Sable River.” Barclay says that many of Rollins close friends would call him “Cease” short for Cecil. Rollins was a very different person, “If he didn’t like you, he didn’t like you,” Barclay said.

  Most of Cecil Rollins decoys were sold by word of mouth from hunter to hunter. His decoys became quite popular in the Western United States as many folks either bought them to gun over or for their personal decoy collection. The art of decoy making is still alive and many folks continue to make their own decoys to gun over, just like Rollins did. Cecil Rollins decoys are a great piece to add to the Thumbs waterfowl history. Thank you Jim for passing on this piece of waterfowl history and continuing the legacy of decoy maker Cecil Rollins.           

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Jim Barclay remembers Harbor Beach Decoy maker Cecil Rollins