Black History Month profile: The Dirty Dozen


Andrea Morehead/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis, Feb. 11 - You may be surprised to find out where you can feast your eyes on nature without going to the woods.

"You gotta' use lights going into the woods."

Some avid anglers hope to catch the attention of young people, encouraging them to jump in the game.

Welcome to the Dirty Dozen Hunting and Fishing Club.

Dirty Dozen President Joe King says, "We're not dirty guys." It's just a name after the movie.

But the real life mission is to "Broaden horizons and make them more rounded people hopefully," says Donnell Brown.

Part of that vision was born out of need and a desire to have a club reflect the African-American experience.

King explains, "I had no doubt in my mind, I had no doubt in my mind that this could not be accomplished."

With King leading the way, five other men helped get the club off the ground. In 1989 they bought a former machine shop and transformed it into a fishing and hunting lodge.

Some of their big catches from years ago are still hooked on the wall.

Ronnie Horton says that a barn was "torn done and brought from Virginia and reconstructed in the back of our clubhouse."

It's easy to feel like you're actually in the heart of nature thanks to a local African-American artist. He's created the colors and characterization of a fishing and hunting paradise.

Then there's the full-size tank stocked with fish.

King calls it "a well-kept secret."

You might be surprised to find out that the lodge is located right in the heart of the city, one block north of 38th Street off Keystone Avenue. Some would say an unlikely location. But the Dirty Dozen would have it no other way.

King was "raised on Fall Creek. I'm obligated to take care of Fall Creek because Fall Creek took care of me. I hustled, I caught fish, I sowed fish, that was my way to make money and it kept me because there were gangs at that time too.

"It kept me involved in something constructive and I know it works."

It's their life work to give African-American children exposure to what some consider a lost art in the community.

Nine-year-old Matthew Marsh says his great-grandfather "was a fisher and he loved it before he passed away. He always fished almost every Wednesday."

The lessons are proof positive that the winning experience makes them feel "Happy, because I like to have fun," says Tazhi Medaris.

And fun is had by everyone, adds 12-year-old Andy Denecke. "It's fun to go out in the wild and hunt."

Brown says you can see "people from all races, different communities and they come together with something in common and it helps foster teamwork and build relationships."

The kids are building their portfolio, some working towards their fishing and hunting license thanks to the Dirty Dozen.

Snapshots tell the story that began two decades ago with a vision to give back. It's a story they hope is told over and over again. It's a story that never ends.

"You can have anything you want to," says King. "Don't talk about what you've been denied. Let's go out there and go to work."

The Dirty Dozen plans to expand with an underground gun and archery range and classrooms, with the help of private and public donations.

For more information about the club you can call 541-0271.