The boys down at the soybean, rice and mallard capital of the South thought about checking the rafters before the world champion duck-calling contest commenced last weekend.

They were worried that Washington's entrant in the 42d annual competition might blow the roof off the contest stand in Stuttart, Ark.

If anybody could, it would be John Taylor of Lorton, who toots tube for the Army Band for a living and quacks away at his collection of hand-made wooden duck calls for fun.

Taylor earned the right to represent Delaware, Maryland and Virginia in the No. 1 duck-calling contest in the nation by taking top honors at last month's Easton Water fowl Festival.

His Easton showing earned him the title of Mason-Dixon champion, which is a long row to hoe from the farmlands of Northern Illinois where Taylor first learned to call and shoot at his father's side.

Fact is, Taylor was flat born to call. He didn't take up competitive calling until he met world champion Mike McLemore three years ago at Easton. The next year, armed with a McLemore special, he swept the Mason-Dixon honors and this year he came back to repeat.

The world championship? "Let's just say I was a contestant. I finished something like 12th out of 21."

Modesty, modesty. What Taylor doesn't talk about is the fact, according to other sources, that he brought the Stuttgart crowd to its feet with cheers for his rendition of a lonsome hen's call.

He will take about the hunting he and the others got in around Stuttgart, where the rice fields serve double duty.

"They flood them in the spring and grow rice all summer. Then they drain them and harvest the crop, and as soon as that's done they open up a dike or pipe water back in to draw the ducks."

Some mighty good hunters have developed out of Arkansas rice-field shooting, but even the most hardened feathered veterans of shotgun seasons had their webbed feet full last weekend.

Taylor was shooting four to a blind with Wisconsin, New York and Tennessee champions, plus the fellow who ran the hunting camp.

It gave Taylor a chance to test out one of his favorite theories, which is that with a number of good callers in a blind, they ought to all call at first to attract distant birds, then cut back to the one best caller as the ducks start to fly in.

The only problem was figuring out who was best before the contest was over.

No matter. They got in plenty of shooting, nostly mallards and pintails, and Taylor came back with eight ducks to feed to his family.

It was a pleasant interlude for the Army sergeant, who sonceedes that service pay doesn't put him in hig-priced private blinds on the Eastern Shore and elsewhere around the area very often.

Instead, he works on his calls in the house when he isn't tooting the tuba. "My wife says she has callouses on her ears."

And sometimes even he gets confused and finds himself squawking red-white-and blue plastic bicentennial call he picked up in Pine Bluff. Ark. Or "Dixie" on a Chick Majors walnut and cedar model, or "When You and I Were Young, Maggie" on a McLemore.

Truth be known, Taylor has a startling confession. "I can double-tongue a duck call better than I can a tuba. I'll probably get fired for saying that."