Wednesday, September 30, 2015

On Taking Annual Relocation Intermission in Missouri - In the Winter

Winter Cycle #5

Last year, I ended Year One in South Louisiana after Thanksgiving, and sojourned in Missouri for two months before returning to Louisiana for Year Two.

The time in Missouri resulted in an Important Life Lesson. Which was:  No, no, no, no, and no.

Visiting Missouri in December and January:
  • Too cold
  • Weather too unpredictable
  • Days too short for local touristic activities
  • Everybody is busy with holiday preparations or going out of town, so it's hard to find mutually-agreeable times to meet
  • Flu season
  • I'm not sure I ever saw the sun while I was there

Thank the baby deity that I don't have to do that ever again if I don't want to. This year, I'll be in South Louisiana until the end of February, and then I'll spend March in Missouri. March brings spring. The days are getting longer then. Crocuses bloom, and daffodils aren't far behind.

Icy daffodils.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Taking a Budget Road Trip, Part 6: Road Trip Technology

Louisiana Road 3083

My biases

1. Budget
This is a series about budget road trips. Therefore, the recommendations reflect same.

2. New not always better
A new technology might be better than the old. And it might not be. Its value depends on the user's wants and needs, in addition to the road trip route and a reasonable risk management plan.

A new technology can actually result in an unintended consequence of engendering a false sense of security, which - at worst - can result in a trip disaster.

3. Hidden costs
Every piece of equipment carries a cost in regard to:
  • Safe-keeping from theft (think big-ass camera)
  • Protection from damage (think sizzling summer heat inside a parked car while you go for a hike)
  • Worry about forgetting it somewhere (motel room, hanging on restaurant chair, on a restroom counter) 
  • Practical portage (how much gear do you want to carry on your shoulder, around your neck, or in your pockets?)
  • Freedom to be spontaneous (Wow! A street festival! Let's stop! Wait. What about our stuff?) 

4. The joys of being out of touch
Some simple joys of a road trip are:

You deny yourself these pleasures if you tether yourself too closely to technology, including social media, texting, and phone calls.

Mule deer crossing, Bosque del Apache road, New Mexico.

Technical gear recommendations

Into this category, I place: 
  • Cameras
  • Phones (smart and dumb)
  • Laptops, tablets
  • Dedicated devices for listening or reading


Do you have a big expensive camera? If yes, think carefully about the pros and cons of taking it with you on a road trip.

Decision variables include: 
  1. What are the expected temperatures on your route - will it be too hot to leave the camera in your car for several hours while you do something without the camera?
  2. How anxious do you get about theft - will you worry too much about leaving the camera in your car on occasion? 
  3. How will the camera - if you have it on your person - affect your freedom of physical movement if you go on a hike, go dancing, walk through a museum, visit an amusement park, walk to the hot springs for a dip, attend a crowded festival? 
  4. What do you generally do with your photos? Post them on social media? Scan through them and then toss the SD card in a drawer? Produce creative work for personal or professional satisfaction?
  5. Do you feel confident about how to use your big, expensive camera? 
  6. Is photography a major component of your road trip or is it a visual footnote of your trek? 
  7. What are the photographic subjects you're likely to encounter on your road trip? Jaw-dropping scenery that you will stop to contemplate? Micro-beauty such as flowers or insects? Or mostly fun shots of people, places, and things you come across to document your trip?
  8. Depending on the answers above, is your phone camera good enough for your needs? Do you have an inexpensive point-and-shoot that you could take with you?


Do you still only have a dumbphone? No big deal.

If you want a mapping application, then you can buy a dedicated GPS device, although this is a financial investment that may not be worthwhile. Better to borrow a device, if possible. Or maybe you're bringing a tablet with you, and you can use that for your mapping.

But my experience is that a paper map works just fine. Plot out the trip's (or just a day's) route in advance and mark the route with a bright highlighter marker.

A mapping application is most useful when I'm looking for a particular address within a city, and when push comes to shove, I can call the destination point for directions.

Smart phones
  • See Road Trip Apps below. 
  • Consider taking a spare charging cord and keeping it in your trunk, in the event you leave one behind in a motel room.
  • If you don't use a pass code to access your phone data at home, think about using one while you're on your road trip. When we're outside our familiar surroundings and routines, some of us get more alert, while others of us get fuzzier. If you fall in the latter camp, then you are more vulnerable to leaving your smart phone behind in your motel room or at a restaurant. 
  • Consider enabling the emergency alert feature on your phone, if it isn't already. You never know. 
  • Be a fanatic about charging your phone. If you've got the ability (see Power Recommendations below), think about keeping your phone plugged in while driving. 

Laptops, tablets
On a road trip, I do take my laptop. I've weighed the pros and cons and decided that having my laptop with me maximizes my enjoyment of a road trip.

But many folks are extremely comfortable conducting all of their online activities on their smart phones. They may have cameras with wifi capability that allows them to upload photos to their preferred internet destination.

As with the camera variables, think through if you really want to bring a laptop or tablet on your road trip. Remember that every piece of equipment you bring adds to your protection and portability "cost."

Dedicated devices for listening or reading
Currently, I diversify my gadgetry portfolio by having an mp3 player for my music and a basic Kindle for my electronic books. I bring both on road trips.

Dedicated device pros:
  • I don't drain my smart phone's juice when I play music or read an e-book
  • My mp3 player and Kindle have long battery lives
  • Arguably, I enjoy better sound via my mp3 player
  • It's easier to read ebooks on my Kindle than on my phone
  • I just feel generally better when I diversify my limited resources across several devices

  • The more gadgets I take on a road trip, the more I have to babysit
  • If I've got limited charging capacity in my car, then I've got to be assiduous about charging the devices at night when I've got access to wired resources
  • The assumption about better sound on my mp3 player is untested; it is possible the sound is just as good on my phone
  • Although I don't want to read an ebook on my phone, I could choose an audio book instead and listen to that on my phone

Highway 54 train between Corona and Vaughn, New Mexico. 2013.

Power recommendations
Source: Cable Wholesale

Three-prong to two-prong plug converter
You never know when your overnight accommodations will lack accessible three-prong wall outlets. A converter costs less than a dollar, doesn't take up much space, and you can find one at any big box store.

Surge protector power strip
Whether you're staying in a motel, at a friend's house, an airbnb or a couchsurfing place - outlets can be scarce. If you've got a travel companion, this could double your demand for outlet access.  If you don't travel all that much, just bring a power strip from home. Throw it in your trunk and only bring it out if needed.

If you decide to buy a strip: 
  • Check for roominess between the plug slots. It's annoying to have three or four plug slots on a strip, but the slots are so close together you can't actually fit two plugs right next to each other if one of the plugs is fat. 
  • Consider cord length. My power strip is designed as travel-friendly (with universal plug slots), so its cord is only ~ 13". This is great for packing, but sometimes it presents minor challenges in a motel room where the only available outlet is hard to reach. This writer uses this travel-size power strip. It has no cord at all.  
  • If you don't travel much, then a longer cord might be more practical for you. In that case, choose a power strip that you'll like using at home so you don't add to your special-occasion clutter load.

USB wall charger
USB wall charger. Credit: Philips
I've used this one for several years, and it's worked well for me. I like the blue light that glows while mine is in use because I'm less likely to forget it in a motel room. I also like the foldable plug. I can plug the charger directly into a wall outlet or into my power strip. In the latter, however, it falls into the category of a fat plug, so this sometimes affects my ability to plug in neighbors.

If I were to buy one today, I'd get one with two USB ports like this one.

Car lighter adapters
OK, yes, today's cars have handy USB ports and outlets stashed all over the place. If you have such amenities, then skip ahead.

My car is 20 years old, so I've got one power source for charging and playing music: My lighter.

I do have two lighter-based powering gadgets, but they are geezers.

Portable power inverter. Credit: ebay seller

One is a big, heavy, one-outlet power inverter that I bought back in 1990 maybe. I bought it for the road trip to Alaska I took with my daughter.

Upside: It still works. Downside: It's big, it's clunky; it has only one plug-in. I have to use my USB adapter to charge devices on it.  And while I'm charging something on it, I can't listen to my music player because I've only got the one lighter and the one port. 

FM transmitter device. Credit: ebay seller.
My other gadget is a Gigaware FM transmitter device to plug into my mp3 player. It's been a wonderful tool for me on road trips. In the past year, however, I have to place the player in just the right position to get the appropriate volume, so it's on its way out.

When I replace the above two devices, I'll get an FM transmitter that also has a USB port. This one, perhaps. Consequently, I'll be able to listen to my playlist and also charge my phone. Evidently, such a device would allow me to talk on the phone hands-free if I receive a call. Nice, if true.

Pearl Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado.

Road trip apps

I offer my recommendations below. Manage your expectations. It is a humble list.

Road trip planning and management
Evernote is a well-designed application that you and any road-trip companions can use like a file cabinet. Toss into Evernote screenshots, websites, photos, articles, lists, links - a repository of information that helps you plan and manage your trip. Here is a list of articles about how to use Evernote for a road trip. Set it up on your desktop, laptop or tablet, and sync it to your phone.

I use Google maps.

Gas price app
I'm trying out Gas Guru. It seems straightforward. Gas Buddy is more popular, but seems to have too much interaction.

Road attractions
Roadside America has an app that looks very cool. Alas, it is only for iphones or ipads.

Related links:

Updated: Taking a Budget Road Trip, Part 5: Loose Ends
Updated: Taking a Budget Road Trip, Part 4: Pack List
Updated: Taking a Budget Road Trip: Part 3: Food and Drink
Updated: Taking a Budget Road Trip: Part 2: Lodging 
Updated: Taking a Budget Road Trip: Part 1: The Basics

Or click on the Take a Road Trip tab at the top of this blog. Or click here.

Friday, September 25, 2015

South Louisiana Musicians: Mary Tweedel

Mary Tweedel at Vermilionville, Lafayette, Louisiana. June 2015.

Mary Tweedel has been playing her accordion in the public eye for a long time. Since she was five, in fact. When she was only 10, she was a "Young Ace of Cajun Music," performing on stage with other talented young'ns, a protégé of Helen Boudreaux.

A sidebar on Helen Boudreaux. She is a Cajun singer and songwriter, a former over-the-road truck driver, a traiteuse, and the mother of eight kids. 

Now 25, Mary Tweedel fronts her own band, Mary Tweedel and the Louisiana Cajun Mixers. I saw her at Vermilionville back in June.

Give a listen to Mary at a 2014 gig in Baton Rouge below:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Lawtell, Louisiana: Zydeco History: Richard's Club

Former Richard's Club, now Miller's Zydeco Hall of Fame, Lawtell, Louisiana. 2015.

".... for a few years, it felt as if the earth shook under Richard’s Club ..."

Richard's Club is now Miller's Zydeco Hall of Fame, but back in the day, it was one of the epicenters of Zydeco. Before that, it was on the Chitlin Circuit, hosting Big Mama Thornton, Fats Domino, and Ben E. King. B.B. King played here, and so did John Lee Hooker. When Zydeco became the club's focus, Boozoo Chavis, Clifton Chenier, Beau Jocque, and John Delafose reigned.

Former Richard's Club, now Miller's Zydeco Hall of Fame, Lawtell, Louisiana. 2015.

Some descriptors: 

From Bob Kiser in 2006: "The definitive rural Zydeco Club: unpolished; spartan; smoky; and dimly lit. .... Smooth and springy dance floor with low ceilings. ..... Ladies not prepared to dance close and get sweaty should pass this up." 

From a 2008 tripadvisor article: "Located on the highway a short distance from Lafayette in Lawtell, Richard's is a road house that features some of the best zydeco music in the region.  Things don't start heating up until after 10:30.   The music is lively and you will feel very welcomed by everyone, even if you are tourists."  

Richard's Club poster, October 1976, Lawtell, Louisiana. Source: Jean Lafitte Acadian Cultural Center, Lafayette, Louisiana.

From a 2008 Ind article, The House That Zydeco Built, by Nathan Stubbs: "People of all ages, and from all across the country, hang out on tailgates in the parking lot and around the front step’s of the Zydeco Hall of Fame. A giant smoker churns out barbecue pork sandwiches, while a film crew from Denmark conducts interviews. About 40 people are lined up outside the front door waiting to get in, but the line doesn’t move. The doorman’s not letting anybody through. The club reached its capacity crowd of about 350 an hour ago. By night’s end, 620 people will have passed through the club’s front doors. ... "

From a 2015 article on WXPN, by Scott Billington:  "Historians can look back to several junctures of time and place in American music when it was clear that something significant was happening. ... For zydeco, I would argue that it was Southwest Louisiana in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Boozoo Chavis came roaring back onto the scene at Richard’s Club in Lawtell. .... Richard’s Club, a long, low-ceilinged building that seemed in danger of shaking loose from its foundations when the music got loud and the dancers filled the floor. Shiny pickup trucks packed the parking lot and the shoulders of Highway 190, while Creole couples made the scene dressed in matching Western outfits with pressed jeans. Boozoo’s simple, relentlessly driving music was a sensation. .."

Richard's Club plays a role in documentaries and books, such as:

1994: Movie: Kingdom of Zydeco, directed by Robert Mugge
1998: Book: Kingdom of Zydeco, by Michael Tisserand
2015: Public TV series (WXPN in Philadelphia): Zydeco Crossroads

Here's a song performed by Beau Jocques, called "Richard's Club:"

Monday, September 21, 2015

Opelousas: Evangeline Downs - An Evening at the Races

Evangeline Downs, July 4th, 2015, Opelousas, Louisiana.

When I lived in Alamogordo, I was close to Ruidoso Downs, but I never went to a horse race there. I did go to Ruidoso Downs for the Cowboy Symposium and also checked it out when a sibling came to visit.

Evangeline Downs, July 4th, 2015, Opelousas, Louisiana.

On the 4th of July this year, I spent some time at the Louisiana Legends race(s) at Evangeline Downs. My first horse races. Glad I went; not especially enthusiastic about going again. I think I expected to see the movie version of such - rousing audience participation, with everyone in bleachers and box seats, arms in the air, exhorting their favorites to win. Fortunes won; fortunes lost.

Of course, there's way more to the horse racing world than what I saw. 

Evangeline Downs, July 4th, 2015, Opelousas, Louisiana.

There are so many stakeholders in horse racing, all with money or glory (preferably both) shimmering on the horizon. The actual winning of races. Horse owners. Jockeys. Jockeys' agents. Vets. Handlers, trainers. Track owners. Stable owners. Criminal agents. Stud services. Broodmare services. Breeding, in general. Feeding the horses. Real estate. Bettors. Handicappers. Vendors. It is an ecosystem.

I imagine horse racing - and betting on horse racing - has been going on since the time humans first domesticated horses. In Britannica's article here, we're taken back to Roman times, around 700 BCE. According to this source, horses were domesticated in the Middle East about 7000 years BCE. There's a good chance, then, that horse racing has gone on for almost 10,000 years. 

In North America, modern-day horses didn't arrive until the 1500s, brought over by the Spanish. I'm willing to bet that horse racing was already a practice among the Spanish and that Native Americans folded horse racing into their already-existing competitive sports.

I am of Swiss Mennonite stock on my father's side. One might think Mennonites are a staid group of people for the most part, and in some respects, I suppose that's true. But I hear tell my paternal grandfather, in his wastrel youth, raced horses in rural Ohio, probably around the time of the first World War.

The great Zydeco forerunner, Boozoo Chavis, grew up in a horse racing culture. From his 2001 obituary in the New York Times: " ...  Mr. Chavis invested winnings from a horse race on a calf and sold it as a heifer; he bought his first accordion with the profits. .." 

So horse racing is a cross-cultural tradition with a long history.

As with most activities, when gold or glory is at stake, devilment enters the picture. Three jockeys were arrested following the 4th of July races I attended, accused of race fixing.  More specifically: "willful rein pulling, and cheating, and swindling."

There's the subject of drugging race horses, with two examples here and here.

Here is a meaty article about stud services in Ireland: The Super-Studs: Inside the Secretive World of Racehorse Breeding. Although stallions can "cover" a hundred or more mares a year (if done the old-fashioned way), a mare can produce only one young'n a year. I say "only one," but the investment in the mare's physical and quality-of-life resources to get pregnant, support the pregnancy, feed her foal, and recover sufficiently from that to start the cycle over again, is prodigious. Here is an article that addresses a broodmare's quality of life: 5 Easy Ways to Improve a Broodmare's Life.

The Jockey is an engrossing piece of work (2013) from the New York Times, focusing on Russell Baze, a jockey in who has spent most of his career in Northern California. A couple of quotes: 
  •  Jockeys are easily replaced transient workers who frequently get blamed when a horse underperforms.
  • The winning owner collects 60 percent of the purse, with the next four finishers getting smaller slices. The winning jockey receives 10 percent of the owner’s share and gives his agent one-fourth of that. In a $10,000 race, a typical purse at Golden Gate Fields, the owner would get $6,000 and pay $600 to the jockey, who would in turn pay $150 to the agent.

In the video below, the horses leave the warm-up paddock and head for the gates:


 Slideshow below of my evening at the races:

And, of course, a race:

Related post: 

Louisiana: Plaisance: The Step 'n Strut Trail Ride, with reference and link to Connie Castille's documentary on Cajun and Creole history with horses (including racing) in South Louisiana, T-Galop.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Opelousas: Bottle Gourds at the Creole Heritage and Folklife Center

Bottle gourds in tree, Creole Heritage and Folklife Center, Opelousas, Louisiana. August 2015.

I was mighty impressed by the bottle gourds growing in this tree in the Creole Heritage and Folklife Center's back yard.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Louisiana: Only the Freshest Chicken

Only the freshest chicken is served at this McDonald's in Louisiana:

Fresh chicken at McDonald's. Louisiana.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Louisiana: Behind the Door

The Joker. Krewe Gabriel. Lafayette, Louisiana.

When I emerged from the Jean Lafitte Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette one fine morning, I glanced to my left and ..... what?

In the nondescript warehouse across the road. The doors normally closed, but today wide open ...

Who were those masked men?

Spider-man. Krewe Gabriel. Lafayette, Louisiana.

Captain America. Krewe Gabriel. Lafayette, Louisiana.

The Hulk and Captain America. Krewe Gabriel. Lafayette, Louisiana.

Shazam. Krewe Gabriel. Lafayette, Louisiana.

Krewe Gabriel. Lafayette, Louisiana.

Superman. Krewe Gabriel. Lafayette, Louisiana.

Tarzan. Krewe Gabriel. Lafayette, Louisiana.

 It was time for their touch-ups. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Louisiana: Creepy-Crawly Day at Chicot State Park

Eyed click beetles, Insect Day, Louisiana Arboretum 2015

From back in July, some photos below from Chicot State Park's (more accurately, the Louisiana Arboretum within Chicot State Park) Insect Day.

Rhino beetle grub, Insect Day, Louisiana Arboretum 2015

Why do I feel compelled to look at things that make me go "ewww"?

Rhino beetle, Insect Day, Louisiana Arboretum 2015

I suspect I'm not alone in the morbid fascination.  

Wheel bug, Insect Day, Louisiana Arboretum 2015

I'm remembering my trip to the Arthropod Museum in Las Cruces, New Mexico. 

Giant water bug, Insect Day, Louisiana Arboretum 2015

These remind me of my good friends, the toe-biters:  

Insect Day, Louisiana Arboretum 2015

I don't want to know what they are up to.

Insect Day, Louisiana Arboretum 2015

Thanks to What's That Bug for the wheel bug identification and to Hilton Pond for the eyed click beetle identification.

Insect Day, Louisiana Arboretum 2015

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Flashback to September 2010: Untethering from Desktop

Golly gee, I still have this laptop that I bought a little more than five years ago.  As I re-read the 2010 post, I am amazed that I actually paid a THOUSAND dollars for the desktop PC I had before the laptop. The extravagance! Of course, it did serve me for eight years, so a good investment, I think.  I handed it off to a brother, who continued to use it until a year or so ago. 

So, back to this laptop that I bought in 2010 and still use. Forty percent of the keyboard keys are naked, the original white letter identifications worn away. I have to use the keyboard without thinking because if I look down to think, I'll not be sure which key is for which letter.

I'm still using Windows 7. ....  Hehehehe, for that matter, I'm still using MS Office 2003.

That cool fingerprint swipe function is defunct. The optical disk drive is persnickety, especially with DVDs. The factory-installed battery has been replaced once, and is due again. The folding hinges need to be tightened up.

But other than these things, she's lookin' pretty good. I use the laptop every day.  I still value her light weight and her sleek metallic style.

The original post is here, and reposted below: 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Untethering from desktop

I've never owned a laptop. My desktop is a Compaq Presario 6000z that I bought in 2002 for mas o menos $1000. Windows XP Home plus Microsoft Office 2003 Professional. It has served me well.

Until 2009, I operated on dial-up internet connection because I just couldn't bring myself to give one penny to the spawn of Satan Sprint, and his demon seed, Embarq. I finally succumbed when I could no longer stand the speed disparity between home and work. Not to mention I couldn't watch youtube

Back to my big untethering --> To go rootless, I needed to get a laptop. My criteria: 
  • A screen between 14-15"
  • Portable (thus 5.5 pounds or lighter)
  • Long battery life (4+ real hours)
  • $800 or less (ruling out Macs)
  • At least three ports, preferably four
  • Power and speed - but not what's needed for gaming
  • All-around good performance (working with Microsoft Office products, photo work, email, movies)   

Here's where I looked:

  1. Reviews on places such as cnet and pcworld
  2. Once I got a bead on their recommendations, I went looking for customer-rich sites such as Amazon and Best Buy to get the customer ratings. 
  3. I also put out a query to my family members for their experience. 
At first, the professional reviews lured me to a flashy Gateway (talk about old school), which I threw out for comments by family members. No one deigned to discuss the Gateway. Several family members expressed fondness for Toshibas, but when I did due diligence to check them out, I felt underwhelmed. There were a couple of cheers for HP. (There is the one wayward Mac user in the bunch, but that's just out of my price range, so no point in looking.)   

What made up my mind were the customer reviews on Best Buy. The seductive Gateway was all flash and sass for the professionals, but too many customers hated a specific set of features, and I knew they'd probably drive me nuts, too. I did a search of best ratings at Best Buy, and an HP came up with consistently good reviews, which I found the professionals backed up. 

So what I bought: An HP Pavilion dm4-1065dx

I'm happy with it. And once I transfer my stuff from the Compaq Presario to the laptop, I'll be untethered from that desk.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Peculiar Blindness, Part 3: "You Don't See What I Don't See"

Four o'clocks, Rustavi, Georgia.

"You don't see what I don't see."

The quote is from Ernest J. Gaines' book, A Gathering of Old Men, based in 1970s Louisiana.

From the chapter narrated by one of the "old men," Joseph Seaberry (aka "Rufe"):

[Sheriff] Mapes looked at Clatoo the way white folks know how to look at a nigger when they think he's being smart.

"Isn't it a little late for you to be getting militant around here?" Mapes asked Clatoo.

"I always been militant," Clatoo said. "My intrance gone sour, keeping my militance down." ....

"I kilt him," Ding said, thumping his chest. "Me, me - not them, not my brother. Me. What they did to my sister's little girl - Michelle Gigi.

"I see," Mapes said, looking at Ding and Bing at the same time. "I see."

Johnny Paul grunted out loud. "No, you don't see."

He wasn't looking at Mapes, he was looking toward the tractor and the trailers of cane out there in the road. But I could tell he wasn't seeing any of that. I couldn't tell what he was thinking until I saw his eyes shifting up the quarters where his mama and papa used to stay. But the old house wasn't there now. It had gone like all the others had gone. Now weeds covered the place where the house used to be. "Y'all look," he said. "Look now. Y'all see anything? What y'all see?"

"I see nothing but weeds, Johnny Paul," Mapes said ....

"Yes, sir," Johnny Paul said. ... "Yes sir, I figured that's all you would see. But what do the rest don't see? What y'all don't see, Rufe?" he asked me. ... "What y'all don't see, Clatoo? What y'all don't see, Glo? What y'all don't see, Corrine, Rooster, Beulah? What y'all don't see, all the rest of y'all?" 

"I don't have time for people telling me what they can't or don't see, Johnny Paul," Mapes said. ....

Johnny Paul turned on him. He was tall as Mapes, but thin, thin. He was the color of Brown Mule chewing tobacco. His eyes gray, gray like Mapes' eyes, but not hard like Mapes' eyes. He looked dead at Mapes.

"You ain't got nothing but time, Sheriff. .... you still don't see. Yes, sir, what you see is the weeds, but you don't see what we don't see." 

"Do you see it, Johnny Paul?" Mapes asked him.

"No, I don't see it," Johnny Paul said. "That's why I kilt him." 

"I see," Mapes said.

"No, you don't," Johnny Paul said. "No, you don't. You had to be here to don't see it now. You just can't come down here every now and then. You had to live here seventy-seven years to don't see it now. No, Sheriff, you don't see. You don't even know what I don't see."  

... "... Do you hear that church bell ringing?" [Johnny Paul asked]

"Are you all right?" Mapes asked him. ... "Church bells, Johnny Paul?"

"Y'all remember how it used to be?" Johnny Paul said. ... "Remember?" he said. "When they wasn't no weeds - remember? Remember how they used to sit out there on the garry - Mama, Papa, Aunt Clara, Aunt Sarah, Unc Moon, Aunt Spoodle, Aunt Thread. Remember? Everybody had flowers in the yard. But nobody had four-o'clocks like Jack Toussaint. ... "

... "That's why I kilt him, that's why," Johnny Paul said. "To protect them little flowers. But they ain't here no more. And how come? 'Cause Jack ain't here no more. He's back under them trees with all the rest. With Mama and Papa, Aunt Thread, Aunt Spoodle, Aunt Clara, Unc Moon, Unc Jerry - all the rest of them. ... Remember the palm-of-Christians in Thread's yard, Glo? ... Remember Jack and Red Rider hitting that field every morning with them two mules, Diamond and Job?" ...

... "Thirty, forty of us going out in the field with cane knives, hoes, plows - name it. Sunup to sundown, hard, miserable work, but we managed to get it done. We stuck together, shared what little we had, and loved and respected each other. 

"But just look at things today. Where the people? Where the roses? Where the four-o'clocks? The palm-of-Christians? Where the people used to sing and pray in the church? I'll tell you. Under them trees back there, that's where. And where they used to stay, the weeds got it now, just waiting for the tractor to come plow it up." 

... I [killed him] for them back there under them trees. I did it 'cause that tractor is getting closer and closer to that graveyard, and I was scared if I didn't do it, one day that tractor was go'n come in there and plow up them graves, getting rid of all proof that we ever was. Like now they trying to get rid of all proof that black people ever farmed this land with plows and mules - like if they had nothing from the starten but motor machines. Sure, one day they will get rid of the proof that we ever was, but they ain't go'n do it while I'm still here. Mama and Papa worked too hard in these fields ..."

[Mapes] was getting tired; he was getting tired fast. Tired listening, tired standing, tired of niggers. But he didn't know what to do about it ... He had already used his only knowledge he knowed how to deal with black folks - knocking them around. When that didn't change a thing, when people started getting in line to be knocked around, he didn't know what else to do. 


I have read the above passage many times. Each reading brings a fresh, sharp exhale of emotion.

At our cores, don't we all want to feel that we mattered? That we were seen, our history acknowledged? 

When I entered Mr. Gaines' excerpt into this post, I remembered quotes from a woman and a fictional little girl:

June Carter Cash: "I'm just trying to matter."

Six-year-old Hushpuppy, in Beasts of the Southern Wild: "In a million years, when kids go to school, they gonna know, once there was a Hushpuppy and she lived with her daddy in The Bathtub [in Louisiana]."


In many of the Dave Robicheaux books by James Lee Burke, protagonist Dave describes levees and fields and the banks of bayous that, just under the soil's surface, hold the bones and teeth and scraps of decomposing clothing of forgotten men, women, and children who worked the land as slaves or sharecroppers, and who died on that soil.

When I first stumbled on the Opelousas Massacre, and read of the dozens? hundred? hundreds? of fathers, brothers, and sons killed in the space of a couple of weeks, I wondered, where are they buried? How does a community bury so many people in such a short time? Almost a hundred fifty years later, are some of the dead still out there, laying in the woods, with families knowing they were likely dead, but not knowing the location of the remains?

What's not here that we don't see?

Related posts

Friday, September 4, 2015

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Flashback to September 2010: "I'm Going Rootless"

Gee whiz, it's been five years since I wrote my first post: 
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I'm going rootless. 

I've sold my house. Move-out day is October 15, and, as of today, I don't yet have a forwarding address.

I'm going rootless.