These days Stan Jones lives his life around Clover Bend, farming his rice and soybeans, running his hunting lodge.
But that is really nothing new. Jones and his roots are as deep in Clover Bend as possible.
“Our family has been here for five generations,’’ says Jones, owner-operator of popular Stan Jones Mallard Lodge, located in nearby Alicia. “You could say we are pretty indigenous. We have always been just Clover Bend.”
Clover Bend is an unincorporated community about six miles south of Hoxie on U.S. 67. It has a deep history of farm life in early Arkansas going back to the 1800s.
The community got its name from the original settlement location on the east side of the Black River, where the path of the waterway appeared to outline a clover. The Jones family has been part of the community for more than 100 years.
And Jones never left, even though his plan after college didn’t include returning to his roots.
“That was the last thing I wanted to do,” Jones says of returning to Lawrence County and the farm. “I had no intention of going back to farming. I was going to work for a corporation somewhere or maybe even go to law school. My dream was to become the CEO of a corporation someday. But sometimes God takes us and puts us where He wants us to be and not where we want to be.
“Some opportunities opened up for me in farming. Until then I had not thought about farming.”
Jones was a football player at nearby Arkansas State, when the mascot was still the Indians and not the Red Wolves as the team is known today, and he wears a lot of hats now. In his 60s, he still farms the land that has been in his family for more than five generations.
And he still hunts, although not as passionately as he once did when stalking ducks in the low bottom Black River lands and flooded fields. As a youth it wasn’t just ducks; he loved to hunt deer, pheasants and quail all over northeast Arkansas. Later in life he experienced big game hunting out of state but in recent years he has devoted more time to giving others the thrills of his youth.
“I just love being outside and always have,” he says. “That is one thing I like to share. I want to see others experience that.
“Now I could never shoot an elephant. Just could not do it. I could not shoot a giraffe or a lion. Killing one of those big creatures would be like chopping down a 200- or 300-year old sequoia. Those things are just too magnificent to destroy.”
While former college athlete, farmer and hunter are all sides of his personality, Jones is just as proud of his actions as a conservationist, an advocate who is all in for protecting the environment and the fertile farm land of east Arkansas and being a strong subscriber to sound hunting philosophies.
“I think you should take care of the land and leave some for wildlife habitat,” he says. “We do that on my land. I don’t farm it all. I leave some of it in timber, let some of it grow. The wildlife needs it to survive and to grow.”
Like hunting, football was another early passion.
After attending the first eight years of school at Clover Bend, Jones transferred up 67 to Walnut Ridge so he could play football. And he played it well for the Bobcats, earning a scholarship to Arkansas State.
“In 1970, I was about 6-foot and weighed 200 pounds and started at nose guard,” he says. “In those days we would do a lot of stunts and shoot the gaps and I was quick enough that I could get in the backfield. The last three years they moved me to linebacker because I could run and everyone was running the Wishbone back in those days and the linebacker had to go get the pitchman on the option. You needed to be able to run.”
Jones was part of one of the best teams in school history. The 1970 unit under head coach Benny Ellender finished 11-0 and defeated Central Missouri in the Pecan Bowl to claim the College Division National Championship.
“We were good,” he says. “We had five or six guys get a shot at the pros. I played with some of the best players ever at the school.”
Jones earned a degree in business in Jonesboro and made his plans for bigger and better things that did not include Clover Bend.
But once he returned home and started thinking farming, he started buying land, including the original family acreage.
“My Dad worked in a factory and Mom was a beautician,” he says. “I think we had about 40 acres and later my dad was able to buy some more and it was 80. But he worked and never made any money. He would make enough to pay off the interest each year and that was it. I was eventually able to pay off the balance.”
Those early years of farming, Jones also started a family, worked as a hunting guide and opened a small hunting club, Cat Tail Hunting Lodge, on his property.
Heartbreak And Growth
Jones now has 10,000 acres that in the summer grows rice, Japanese millet and soybeans and in the winter is a haven for duck hunters. He pursed additional acres, land that was prime for rice, which in turn provided a feeding area and water supply for ducks. In all there are around 67,000 acres.
“I was told I was the largest landowner in Lawrence County,’’ he says. “All I know is I sure do pay a lot of taxes.”
There is also Stan the family man, having two married children and one grandson.
But the family life has not always been easy. Two decades ago Jones’ wife Kathy was killed in a car accident. Ten years later he lost his son Blake to a sudden illness.
“It took a lot out of all of us,’’ says son Britt Jones, who was a little more than a year older this brother. “He was a big part of our operation here and it was not the same without him. We did not want to duck hunt. Dad leased a lot of his land and had no interest in hunting.
It was about three years later when things changed, Britt Jones says. A farm next to the property came up for sale and the owners called the Jones family first to see if they were interested in buying.
“It was beautiful land and ideal for farming and hunting,” Britt says. “Dad decided we were going to build a lodge here. We went to Stuttgart and saw a lot of the nice duck lodges down there. He wanted to make it four or five times nicer than any of those. He wanted to have the best.
“Once he decided to do something he is all in. And he wants it to be first class and make sure things are done right. It does not matter if it is me or if it is a hired hand, you do something halfway he will get you and tell you to do it again. There is always the time to do it right, if you didn’t the first time.”
That life-changing experience tells you all you need to know about what is going on in Stan Jones’ life now.
Recovering from one of life’s heartbreaks, Jones turned back to the joys of his youth. Once again he is hunting, and from that he decided to build what is not only one of the best hunting lodges in the state, but in the Mid-South.
“I started hunting when I was 5 or 6,’’ Jones says. “I had a little, .410 single-shot shotgun. My dad would take me duck hunting. I would get to tag along with his friends. For some reason they all liked me and enjoyed having me around. I remember I was 8 or 9 when I got my first deer.
“I did a lot of hunting. Now I just enjoy letting others enjoy that experience.”
The Stan Jones Mallard Lodge opened in September of 2012. The first event was a wedding. And while it called a hunting lodge, it is much more.
“It is first class all the way,’’ says Arkansas State athletic director Terry Mohajir. “We use it all the time for meetings. I have been there for skeet shooting and other events. I have not hunted yet but I hear it is first-rate.
“It is just an incredible facility.”
The Lodge is 15,000 SF with private bedrooms, large televisions, entertainment area, a group-sized hot tub, a waterfall, outdoor fire pits and an outdoor amphitheater.
“I was going to build it for about 10, but I had a lot of corporations asked me to build it larger,” Jones says. “They would rather have it for 20 than 10.”
Clients have come from all over. Arkansas State University is a regular, St. Bernard’s Medical Center in Jonesboro; Stephens, Inc., out of Little Rock; groups from Fayetteville and one from Mississippi State, as Jones recalls.
The lodge is located in the heart of the Mississippi Flyway and the property runs for about eight miles along the river.
It is the perfect spot, Jones says, to share the love of the land that has always sustained him.
“I want people to be able to see nature and enjoy it,” Jones says.