RSS

Category Archives: cajun

Louisiana 1927 & 2011

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, Randy Newman’s Louisiana 1927 became a familiar anthem for New Orleans and was performed regularly by various artists at various benefits and performances. For a few years, the song couldn’t be performed without producing teary eyes throughout the audience.

While the song talks about flooding, it’s a bit ironic that it became an anthem for the City of New Orleans. You see, in 1927 levees south of New Orleans were actually blown up to divert flood waters AWAY from and out of the “bowl” known as New Orleans where the levees were being pressured from 14 inches of rain inside of New Orleans and the swollen Mississippi River on the outside of the levees.

What resulted was The Great Flood of 1927, an event that was to paralyze the Deep South for nearly six months and leave nearly 1,000,000 people (mostly poor farmers) homeless and penniless just before The Great Depression would deliver a similar blow to other areas of the country.

My father was a year old when “the flood” created tent cities throughout South Louisiana. My grandmothers referred regularly to the flood mostly in terms of before and after. There was a certain disdain for the “city folk” of Baton Rouge and New Orleans who were saved and protected while the poor Cajun farmers were sacrificed. It took decades to recover.

I was nine years old in 1973 when flooding that year caused the new Morganza Spillway to be opened, again flooding millions of acres of “country” land. While the spillways relieve pressure on the levee system and save the cities, they are the equivalent of blowing up the levees in 1927. Today, May 14th, the Morganza Spillway was once again opened to relieve the levee system. Evacuations have started and the wait begins…

Say a prayer or two for the people of South Louisiana. This is what they face in the coming weeks…

After Katrina, then the Oil Spill, and now an epic flood it’s getting harder and harder to keep getting up after the body blows. But, somehow I know that the enduring spirit of the Cajun spirit will prevail….yet again.

For now, all I can do is listen to my favorite rendition of the ode to that great flood over 80 years ago and pray that they actually don’t “wash us away”.

 
 

Good News…

Happy to report that the Youngsville Heritage Oak has been saved!

Through the hard work of concerned citizens (present & past), Guardian of the Oaks, TreesAcadiana, a generous property owner and artist George Rodrigue, the City Council was convinced to adopt an alternative that will allow the tree to remain in its current location as a link from past to present.

It has been thrilling to be a very small part of such a passionate cause and one that has such a connection to my own, personal history. $200,000 still needs to be raised to cover the cost of the alternative, so if you have always longed to have a Rodrigue print (signed & numbered), please purchase this one. All proceeds go to TreesAcadiana and the Youngsville Heritage Oak. Also, any monetary donation helps.

THANKS!!

Buy the Youngsville Heritage Oak print, here.

TreesAcadiana.org

 
1 Comment

Posted by on February 13, 2011 in cajun, inspiration, Louisiana

 

My Life as a Tree

TREES
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree

A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray,

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair

Upon whose blossom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems were made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree.
­–Joyce Kilmer

Recently, it came to my attention that an old oak tree in my hometown of Youngsville, LA was going to be sacrificed for a TEMPORARY by-pass road to build a much-needed road improvement project. However, the tree was never threatened by the new road and intersection “round-about”, just the temporary road needed to keep the intersection opened for the 30-60 days for the project to be completed.

The "Young" Oak

To put this in proper context, you have to understand the value of the live oaks of Southwest Louisiana. They are not only steeped in history, as many of them supercede the existence of the state of Louisiana and even the country of the United States itself. The live oak in question is estimated to be at least 150 years old and could be more than 250 years old, based on its’ 14 ft. thickness.

It’s just a tree, right? True, enough. However, it’s also a symbol. A symbol of a strong and proud heritage. That tree stood when Attakapas Indians still roamed the plains of Louisiana. Generations of Cajuns (and visitors) passed that tree over its history. When Dr. Young, who the town is named after, searched for a homestead, no doubt this tree attracted him with its protective branches from the un-air-conditioned summer heat. No doubt, my grandparents passed that tree in their horse and buggy on the ride they took when my grandfather proposed to her. Both of my uncles likely looked back at that tree when they went off to war, and lovingly gazed upon it when they returned.

There is a certain love affair with trees, especially old ones, for the memories they invoke. Perhaps that’s why Cajuns are so tied to their old oaks. Like the Evangeline Oak in St. Martinville, helping a lovelorn maiden hold on to her long, lost love…

…or the majestic St. John Oak at the Cathedral in Lafayette…

…or the oaks that line the beautiful campuses of the University of Lousiana-Lafayette

and Louisiana State University (LSU)

The magnificient symbols provide the shadows of our lives. Celebrations such as weddings, like Charles Durand’s 1850 spectacular tribute of gold and silver dusted limbs at Oak & Pine Alley…

…to modern day weddings celebrated under the historic and loving arms of a comforting tie to the past at Jefferson Island…

These majestic creatures have endured the test of time to provide the backdrop of our lives. This past weekend, I traveled to my hometown and everywhere I went, the oaks seemed to remind me that one of their own needed help.

I did something that I’d been promising to do. I went to the place where I grew up…on seven acres, complete with ponds and wonderful, triumphant oaks. Growing up, there were a pair of oak trees on our property that were over 250 years old when we lived there. The property had belonged to my father’s great-grandparents and were likely rooted at the time they lived there. My grandfather did surgery on one of them to save it back in the 1930’s. I joyfully played make-believe among them as a child. My sister married beneath them in 1979. Luckily, the people who developed the subdivision recognized the value of these old oaks and chose to highlight them, rather than chop them down for another lot. They are simply…spectacular.

My cousin had us over for a visit and the one of the remaining twin oaks that graces her homestead (built on the site of her parents’ home), invited me in…

So many trees, so many memories, so much history.

It made me ponder how anyone could allow such a symbol and a living testament to God’s magnificence to be chopped down, murdered in affect. Now, hear me…I am not an activist nor do I consider myself an envrionmentalist. I get it. But, this time there is an alternative. The intersection at Hwy 89 and Hwy 92 in Youngsville, LA can be closed for a brief period of time to allow the road construction to be completed, or the temporary by-pass CAN be re-routed. However, the “City” Council and Mayor have chosen to be close-minded regarding the situation and now even claim that the citizens of Youngsville don’t even care if the tree comes down. If you agree with the city government, well…to each his own. But, if you don’t, PLEASE let your voice be heard. Call the City Council @ 337-856-4181 or click here for email addresses for the City Council and Mayor. Also, click here to sign our online petition to show your support for saving the tree so that City Government cannot claim that the citizens of Youngsville “don’t care”.

There is a possibility for moving the tree (not an overall preference, but a lesser of two evils). Helping to raise the more than $250,000 needed to move the tree, is artist George Rodrigue. He has graciously donated his talent to paint the oak and produce prints for sale for $500 each, with proceeds going to Guardian of the Oaks — an organization fighting to protect our leafy legends.

Renowned artist, George Rodrigue, painting the "Youngsville Oak"

George’s wife, Wendy, also has a great blog that highlights Rodrigue’s work and causes. He is a great testament to his heritage. Thank you, sir, for your support.

ETA: Here is Rodrigue’s finished art work of the Youngsville Oak. Visit his Foundation website for more information on purchasing. I’m already on the list. ;)

The doctor's buggy symbolizes Dr. Young, the namesake of Youngsville, who also built the historic home that is also included in the painting

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 4, 2011 in Artists, cajun, Calling Bullsh*t, Louisiana

 

“Home” Bound

I’m heading to Lafayette, LA for the weekend — my hometown. Well, technically, I grew up in Youngsville. Actually, I technically lived in the country between Lafayette, Youngsville, Milton and Erath. Both my mother and my father’s families have been in that area for hundreds of years and I’m about as Cajun as you can get. That’s why there’s always been such a magnetic pull towards “home”.

When I moved 60 miles down the road to Baton Rouge in the late ’80s, my Daddy lamented on my moving away. We lived there for 10 years, so he got used to us being just an hour from home, even though not having us within 10 miles concerned him. Then, we moved to Memphis and all hell broke loose. Both of our families were supportive of our move, but secretly criticized our living so far away to each other. What were we thinking? Why would we do such a thing? We needed to be closer, not farther from “home”. After six years of 7 hour drives and late night, expensive air travel, and not-so-subtle hints from family, we chose to move to Mobile, AL. With both of our fathers facing health problems, four hours seemed doable on short notice and within the cone of reasonable travel for visitors to well, visit us.

Still, our families cannot understand why not Lafayette? Why not “home”, for goodness sakes? Everyone needs to be together, after all. While we love our families, and love the area where we grew up in, once you’ve been away for so long, it’s hard to just “go back”. Maybe one day, it’ll happen. After all, our son (who has never lived there) is now going to college there. I know that my Daddy would be so glad. He always thought that David would never be tied to his Cajun roots and now he’s in the heart of Cajun Country. Might even find him a Cajun bride there. He says that Cajun girls are prettier than Alabama girls. HA!

There’s just something in our DNA that pulls us there. It’s hard to explain, but it’s got the best people, the best food, the best music, the best activities and it all centers around family and friends. It’s the only place where I’ve ever felt true acceptance. Perhaps it’s the sincerity and honesty of the people or maybe it’s the joie de vivre in which they work hard/play hard. But, whatever it is, it’s strong.

So strong that Kansas City Royal pitcher, Gil Meche, has announced his retirement at 32 and forfeited $12 million of his last year’s contract to get back to his hometown of Lafayette.

He captures it pretty well, in this quote:

“I want to get back to what I remember as a kid, the way of life here in Louisiana,” Meche said. “We tend to think we live a little differently down here. It’s a lot of culture, a lot of French culture. Everywhere I’ve been in the country, for some reason, this is the place I can’t get away from.”

That’s another Cajun trait that I adore…money ain’t everything. Those who have family and friends are the richest people and whatever money you have just helps to pay for things that you can do with them. So, this weekend, I’m going to do just that. Spend a little time and money with/on friends and family, at “home”.

Another Lafayette native, Marc Broussard:

 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 28, 2011 in cajun, family, Louisiana, Marc Broussard

 

Free at Last…

That’s right! The Louisiana Lethario, the Riverboat Gambler, the Silver Fox, the Cajun Capon, is out of prison after serving over eight years of his ten year sentence for rigging riverboat gaming licenses (a little thing called bribery and extortion). The 83-year-old Edwards was released into a halfway house in Baton Rouge, but is likely to serve out his release conditions in Baton Rouge with his daughter, Anna Edwards.

Now, all you non-Louisianians are likely saying, “So what? Another politician caught with his hand in the cookie jar…glad he went to prison and he deserves the public shunning he’ll get for the rest of his life.” Ah, but this is Louisiana, people. And to understand the enormity of this news, you have to understand Louisiana politics and the maelstrom that is Edwin W. Edwards.

There are some monumental political figures in Louisiana’s history….Governor and Senator Huey P. Long, his nephew and renowned U. S. Senator Russell Long, Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Senator John Breaux, etc., but none are as renowned, celebrated and talked about as “Fast Eddie” Edwards.

You see, EWE hit the Louisiana scene when the state was going from a sleepy, backwater farm and seafood economy to the back room for the oil industry. In the late ’60s and through the ’70s, oil money was FLOWING, particularly in South Louisiana — home to one little cajun girl who shall remain nameless.

I have vivid memories of Edwin Edwards. He was the first Governor and yes, celebrity that I can recollect. Like many Louisiana towns, the small town that I grew up in had a fall festival every year that was part fund-raiser for worthwhile community causes and, in the Cajun way of life, a concentrated effort in celebration and party….you know, the joie de vivre. In Youngsville, that was the Festival of Beauties. We had a full carnival, complete with boardwalk, carney booths and amusement rides. My absolute favorite was the Tilt-A-Whirl, where centrifical force held you against the wall while the floor dropped out. I can still remember the thrill of the first time I mustered up the courage to ride “The Bullet”.

There was the Friday night Fais Do Do held outside at the old Elementary School that I attended and where my uncle was the principal — my Daddy’s best friend growing up was my 7th grade homeroom teacher. French music permeated the festive air where parents showed off their dance moves to mesmerized children waiting to ask for another two dollars worth of quarters for the rides. Then, on Saturday, the whole town (and then some) attended the beauty pageant to crown our queen. My Nanny (Godmother) usually played the accompniment on piano and many times I sat next to her, again mesmerized at her uncanny ability to playing everything by ear, simply hearing the song once.

Finally, on Sunday, the festival was capped off by a big parade, complete with various high school marching bands, floats and politicians pressing the flesh for votes in the next election. That’s where I was first exposed to the phenomenon that was Edwin Edwards. This particular year was an election year, so many politicians showed up to shore up their electorate. Edwards was running for Governor and need every Cajun voter to go out there and pull the lever for him. Of course, in my pre-adolscent mind, politics was a non-starter. This particular year, I was more concerned about my role as a junior maid for the festival and making sure that I got my “princess waive” down pat. (On the left…)

However, the irrepressible Edwin Edwards was not to be upstaged by a bunch of girls…young or old. He walked the length of the parade route (about 5 miles), basking in the adulation of his adoring Cajun public who dreamed of touching the cloak of their king. You see, in South Louisiana, there is no more adored thing than one of their own. Edwards was a product of Marksville — considered Yankee territory to most Cajuns –but his mother was a fluent, french-speaking Cajun Catholic. These two traits basically cannonized him in the hearts of the whole of South Louisiana. His savvy scrappiness and dedication endeared him to North Louisiana. So, one the whole, he was THE MAN for Louisiana.

To properly understand his magnetism among the Cajuns and Louisianians as a whole, you have to understand the vehement loyalty that this society has for one of their own. Many a foible is overlooked if you are deemed to be “one of us”. There have been few too many Cajun heros, but those attaining that status can do no wrong no matter what wrong they do. A few Cajun legends with this status: Ron “Louisiana Lightning” Guidry – Cy Young Award-winning New York Yankee; WWII Hero Claire Chennault; Kentucky Derby jockey, Calvin Borel; 1996 Miss America, Ali Landry; and, Cleveland Browns’ QB Jake Delhomme, not name a few. Those attaining this status are pure Cajun gold — never paying for a meal or a new car…heh.

Cajuns are, by nature, a pragmatic and forgiving people, so a little malfeasant is tolerated, if not expected. Edwin Edwards had a perfect understanding of this and simply took full advantage of his legend status with the people of Louisiana.

Even after the first round of twelve years as Governor and law-bending, Edwards came back to the populus to return him back to the glory spot. I was among those who reluctantly held my nose and pulled the lever for EWE in 1991 when he ran against one David Duke. The choice was between a known philanderer/crook vs. a known racist. A popular bumper sticker of the time? ” “Vote for the Crook. It’s Important.”

To his credit, Edwards fully understood the public quandry and fully played it up. When asked about his chances of beating David Duke, he responded that the only way he could lose was “if he was caught in bed with a dead woman or a live boy”. Now THAT, is cahonas.

I still remember the day that we saw the cop cars screaming down Highland Road toward the Country Club of Louisiana. It was 1996 and it was the day we were moving to Memphis. Come to find out, they were headed to Edwards’ house to arrest him. At that time, I was elated that the crook was finally caught. He had brought shame to the Cajun Nation and failed to live up to his promise as the Cajun Redeemer.

However, now — after 15 years of bad politics and representation across the nation — I have to wonder…was he really all that bad? After all, he did more for Louisiana and its’ government than any Governor before or since. Good, bad or indifferent, Edwin W. Edwards was a leader, albeit a greedy one…and, he will always be — a CAJUN. Therefore, I say, live and let live. Let the old man play out his days in peace and freedom…unless I start seeing Edwards 2011 bumper stickers.

 

Eye of the Tiger, Haters!

Les “Fear the Hat” Miles lead the Bayou Bengals to an ass-whippin’ over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl last night, 41-24. The Aggies quick-tempo offense had the Tigers off balance for the 1st quarter, but the LSU speed, agility, and pure strength simply overwhelmed the puny Aggies. The LSU OFFENSE (Who knew?)
dominated the Aggie “Wrecking Crew” Defense.

The Mad Hatter's autograph on the Visitors' Wall at Cowboy Stadium

While our coach may not appear to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, he’s the only LSU coach to have FOUR 11 win seasons (in 6 years). Even the great Nick Saban doesn’t have that in his pocket. So, Coach, go ahead and mangle your words, eat Tiger Stadium grass, and keep going for it on 4th down — just keep winning and you’ll be a bigger Louisiana legend than Edwin Edwards!

My dear, old Daddy used to always say, “The smartest thing you can do is to let people think you are stupid and then prove them wrong.” Keep proving them wrong, Coach.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 8, 2011 in cajun, lsu, lsu football

 

Kings of Omaha

lsu champs

Mucho Congrats to the 2009 National Baseball Champion — the LSU Tigers! 

The Freshman from Lafayette, Mikie Mahtook, turned the tide with a run-scoring double in the 6th and the Tigers never looked back, beating powerhouse Texas 11-4.  Mahtook’s father, Mike, and his uncle, Robbie, both played football for LSU, creating a great legacy for the young Mahtook….particularly since Mike Mahtook died from a heart attack at 32, when Mikie was four and his twin sisters were only 2.  No doubt, Big Mike was an angel in the outfield last night.

  Calling All Angels, Lenny Kravitz

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 25, 2009 in cajun, inspiration, Louisiana, lsu

 

Tags: , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.