Editor’s Note: Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland was one of the first members of the Mossy Oak family, besides Toxey Haas, the creator and founder, Bill Sugg and Bob Dixon.
When I discovered Mossy Oak camouflage, I was working in a sporting goods store in Natchez, Mississippi, and I was also writing a syndicated outdoor column titled, “Rolling around Outdoors.” One of my jobs at the sporting goods store was to attend the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show each year. Toxey hadn’t been in business but a few months when I met him at a SHOT show. I had my wife, Pam, with me. She was looking down one aisle while I was looking down another aisle. Suddenly Miz Pam came back to where I was, grabbed me and said, “Some guys from Mississippi are over there, and they’ve got a camouflage pattern.” So, she took me to see what Toxey Haas had brought to the SHOT Show.
The best I remember Toxey’s booth was about 10-feet deep and down in some kind of dungeon-looking place. Toxey had a big column in the back of Mossy Oak’s booth that they he had wrapped with Bottomland camo. I spotted that pattern when I was about 30 yards away from it and said, “Wow! That would be a good pattern for the turkey woods.” I walked up to the people in the booth, and I wrote an order for some of that Mossy Oak camouflage to sell at the sporting-goods store.
When the Bottomland camo was delivered to the store, I started showing it to some of the turkey hunters who came in the store before turkey season to buy calls, shells, turkey vests and all the stuff that turkey hunters carry with them turkey hunting. Once I’d shown them the Bottomland camo, they just had to have some. So, I sold lots and lots and lots of Bottomland camouflage. I was so impressed with the pattern that I took some of the clothes out of the store, hung them up outside to lay the camo against the trunks of the trees and made pictures to show people what the camo looked like in the woods. One day I got a phone call from Toxey Haas. He told me, “Man, you're selling more camouflage out of your store than we’re selling out of the plant up here. Come to West Point, and let me talk to you.” So, I drove 4-1/2 hours from my home in Natchez up to West Point. Within a month, I was working for Toxey Haas.
About the same time Toxey hired me, he hired Bob Dixon who worked in a sporting-goods store in Birmingham, Alabama. Bill Sugg was already working for Toxey selling camouflage in Mississippi. So, Mossy Oak gave me all the states, except Alabama and Mississippi, to start selling Mossy Oak camouflage. Back then, not very many people knew about Mossy Oak camouflage, and I was struggling to sell it. I can remember very clearly stopping at a pay phone, calling Toxey and saying, “You're not going to believe this, but I sold $200 worth of Mossy Oak camouflage,” I was so excited about even that small amount. Also back in those days there wasn’t any money in the Mossy Oak budget for travel expenses. So, Bob Dixon, Bill Sugg and I made up a game – who could stay in the cheapest motel. I'm pretty sure I never lost one of those contests that we had every week. I even stayed in a hotel in Florida once for $9 per night. The phone in the room was a dial phone, and the 9 and the 1 numbers were rubbed off the face of the phone, apparently because, people had called 911 so much from that hotel room.