Ferry honors avid hunter’s memory|[12/27/05]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Jim Warren talks about how his grandfather, like many avid hunters, conjured up any excuse to enjoy the outdoors on the hunter’s haven known as Kings Point.

His grandfather Melvin &#8220Dolly” King was a well-known figure on Kings Point, a land mass created by the many twists, shifts and turns of the Mississippi River through the years and once a substantially populated part of Warren County.

For the past 100 years, Kings Point, almost due west of the downtown area, has been an island during higher water stages, served only by a ferry making the short jaunt across the Yazoo Diversion Canal.

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King, a longtime towboat company owner until his death in 1988, gave the county the ferry barge and push boat that tracked along a steel cable and delivered hunters across the water.

When it came time to dedicate a new vessel, the choice was obvious.

The Kings Point Ferry II was delivered in June and dedicated to the memory of King. Once the U.S. Coast Guard gave its approval as to its seaworthiness in October, Warren and his son, Mason, 10, were among the first to ride.

&#8220It’s a night and day difference. The old boat’s cable would break a lot,” Warren said, adding more than a few riders would end up taking impromptu excursions several miles downriver aboard the old boat, struggling against the current.

Warren, 41, said his grandfather took him hunting on the island at 9 years old, the same age Mason first took to watching his father hunt deer, squirrel and other usual game.

Thanks to his love for hunting, King’s truck would often double as his office space between frequent trips to the area where he was born and raised.

&#8220He’d park up near the river in his truck and he’d say something like, ‘I gotta check on that stray dog I found last week.’ He was just wanting to spend time on the island,” Warren said.

The pace of life at the hunting camps on the island was simple, like today, minus the trappings of such modern technology as electricity and satellite television.

King was always ready with deer meat or beverages for the men who operated the original ferry boat

&#8220He’d have some whiskey on the table. There was a sign on one of the camps he owned that said, ‘Leave it the way you found it,’” Warren said.

These days, when he’s not busy at his job in Jackson as operations manager for KLLM Transport Services Inc., Warren is spending summers there with his wife, Gina, and daughter Mary, 3.

Come deer season in winter, though, Warren grooms the next generation of hunters in the family.

&#8220Other than riding four-wheelers around, he’s in charge of the armadillos and skunks right now,” Warren said, looking down at the fourth-grader who gets to come hunt with his father as long as his grades are up.

During high river stages, the Kings Point Ferry has been the only reliable way to reach the 18,000-acre Kings Point island since the 1903 completion of the Yazoo Diversion Canal. The canal was dug to restore a waterfront presence to Vicksburg after the Mississippi River’s flow diverted in the 1870s.

As the old ferry wore out, the Warren County Board of Supervisors spent years exploring options, losing a lawsuit by farmers that commanded continued operations and encountering delays due to the lack of bids or prices for the new equipment.

Options considered included a bridge and an Army Corps of Engineers study that showed a levee could be raised and a road atop it could be open to vehicles year-around, but the board stuck with the ferry option.

The county hired Tensas Machine and Manufacturing of Newellton, La., to build the new vessel for $623,100 in May 2004. The county provides fuel and maintenance and pays a contract operator.

The Brown’s Point hunting club and camp, of which Warren is a member, is one of about seven active hunting clubs on the island, Warren said, with some having membership from Louisiana.

&#8220It’s full bore right now with the deer season just starting,” he said, with Mason eager to start following in two generation’s footsteps.