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Raccoon: The Meal of Political Champions in Arkansas

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Congressman Marion Berry at the 1986 Gillett Coon Supper with Gov. Bill Clinton and pastor Don Eubanks.

After a foot of snow had fallen one January in the late 1980s, Clinton told Bumpers a county judge had a local airport runway plowed so they could land a plane and attend the dinner. But all the snow had been pushed to the front of the runway, and the plane clipped the top of the icy mound before crash landing and swerving off the pavement.

“Boy, I bet we never lose another vote in Gillett,” Clinton said as they exited the plane and ran across the icy field, as Bumpers once told it.

One year when Bumpers was up for re-election, he caught the flu and wasn’t going to make it to the supper. But David Pryor called him, told him Gillett voters would remember it on Election Day and then picked him up to drive him there. A local TV station planned to run a clip of Bumpers eating raccoon on the evening news, but, feeling sicker as he eyed the feast, Bumpers claimed to be too full for even one more bite.

For the weaker stomachs this year, there will be ribs and brisket served as well.

“Everybody has a different opinion on whether they like it,” Crawford said of raccoon meat. “It doesn’t taste like chicken.”

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