By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – John Kirk’s life is a tale of two cities.
He grew up in Tupelo, and graduated Tupelo High School in 1976, but he’s also tied to Coffeeville.
“It’s an hour and a half away,” the 55-year-old said. “It’s a long way to commute.”
During the week, he lives and works in Tupelo. His business is Quail Hills Construction, and he does residential and commercial remodeling work throughout Northeast Mississippi.
The company’s name is a reminder of his dual citizenship. Quail Hills Plantation in Coffeeville is his ancestral home, even if his family has owned it for only a few generations.
“It’s a great story,” Kirk said. “My grandfather was John Bailey. He was a young cotton buyer in Coffeeville, not a well-off person, not a lot of money, but he loved quail hunting.”
Bailey’s hunting prowess earned him numerous write-ups in Field & Stream magazine, and he was featured in books by noted outdoors writer Nash Buckingham.
“Field & Stream wrote he was the best quail hunter who ever lived,” Kirk said.
Bailey wanted to find hunters who would buy land that he could manage. Jerry and Tom Webber ran J.L. Hudson Co. in Detroit, and they came to Coffeeville for a hunt.
“My grandfather’s dog, Belle, found 21 coveys that day,” Kirk said.
The Webbers gave Bailey money to buy some land. He purchased 1,200 acres and sent half their money back. He became their land manager and hunting guide.
“When they died, they left him the land, which had grown to 2,000 acres,” Kirk said. “By the way, Hudson Co. eventually became Target.”
Kirk’s brother, Bob, eventually bought their mother’s share of the property, then sold Kirk 20 acres.
Kirk got to work.
“I put in a sawmill and logged the cedar to build my A-frame house,” he said. “I gathered stones on the property to make the fireplace.”
He’s building a zipline with a 139-foot drop, and plans to put in a computer-controlled telescope. He’s also working with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks to build up the quail population.
“I’m working all the time,” he said. “I’ve always liked to build things.”
That’s not exactly how his grandfather operated.
“He knew how to get things done without breaking a sweat. I’m not as good as he was at that,” Kirk said. “He wasn’t particularly hard-working but he was a doer. He knew how to get things done.”
Kirk makes his living by getting things done for his customers in Tupelo and surrounding areas. That’s how he pays the bills.
Most of his “off days” are spent working his grandfather’s plantation. That’s how he feeds his soul.
“Keeping up that farm is probably the most noble cause of my life,” he said. “I’m honored to do it.”