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A Night at the Museum, Literally
by Lisa Stewart
The Kaplan Museum hosts a patron’s night every three months featuring local artists from Kaplan and the surrounding areas. Appetizers and drinks are served as the public is invited and encouraged to meet and greet the chosen guest, view their art, listen to them speak and enjoy a night of conversation and diversion from an otherwise ordinary weeknight. On a wet cold Wednesday evening this past February, my son Micah, and I attended such an occasion which was featuring the works of Connor Frith, a 17-year-old Junior at Kaplan High School, and son of Sonia and Kirk Frith of Kaplan.
The museum was filled with its patrons, Connor’s family and friends and a few newbies to the affair at hand. Mrs. Betty Girouard introduced Connor, who spoke briefly about how he came to be inspired by the world of art, painting, sketching and drawing. He told the crowd about his muse and inspiration to his early beginnings and dabbling’s and answered a few questions from his audience. Afterwards, Connor took a few minutes to talk to me about his works and how it has all come about to him. He shares, “My grandmother is Gwen Frith, my dad’s mom, and she used to paint, and the walls in her house are filled with all of her paintings, and I was inspired by that at a very young age. I used to ask her how she did things, and she encouraged me to paint. She would give me tips and ideas on how to do things, and how to make a painting come to life by using shadows and just the normal basics of painting.”
It was at an early age that Connor asked his mother for painting lessons. “He wasn’t even in school yet,” Sonia, Connor’s mother told me, “but he wanted to learn how to paint, he was curious to learn as much as could.” She enrolled him in a summer workshop held by Mrs. Charlotte Broussard of Kaplan, and Connor said he enjoyed that time learning. He also continued to do this every summer until his 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Cathy Burdette, recognized his talent and recommended him for the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program. The TAG program accepted her recommendation. Connor was then tested and enrolled, which coincidently is taught by Mrs. Charlotte Broussard.
Charlotte was present for Connor’s show and I asked her about her job and Connor and how the two entwined. “I am the Talented Visual Art Teacher for the Vermilion Parish School Board,” Charlotte told me. “Essentially, I travel to the parish schools and I teach and work with the children on a weekly basis. I am only one part of the Talented and Gifted program,” she continued. “There is the art, music and theater part and the academic part. Once a teacher recognizes the talent in a child’s artwork, they will identify them and recommend the child for TAG program. For the arts, the children need to prepare a portfolio of 14 pieces of artwork for the parish level, and when they pass this, they continue on.” Charlotte said the children are then tested on a state level by a written test, and must draw something in the evaluator’s presence. “When it all comes together as it has for Connor and many children in our parish, I step in and work with the children, with a lot of focus on their drawing skills and the use of color. I encourage them to use their imagination in different mediums such as paints, pencil, charcoal, metals, clay and paper. The mediums are endless,” she told me.
Taking another moment with Connor he told me about his high school endeavors. “I was recently asked to do a mural on a wall in our high school.” He continued to tell me that he is a member of the Key Club, Vice President of his student council, TAG program, and a member of the National Honor Society, Rally, and Speech Clubs. He is also a member of the National Beta Club, where he recently placed first with a work he named “Red and Dreary,” a pastel he says which is a contrast to itself as it depicts a moth on a leaf with half of it burning in flames and the other half with dripping water. Connor plays a big part in the school plays as he is the one who sketches up the backgrounds, and props, executing the artwork by himself. He once attended a thespian conference in Natchitoches, La. where he learned set design, set lighting and special effects makeup. This information came in handy for Connor and was useful to him when his older brother, Reece, requested he be transformed into a wolf by the likes of a character from the television series “Teen Wolf.” Connor was able to use prosthetics, hair, makeup, spirit gum and other costume supplies to make the character come to life. Reece had to sit in a chair for the 5-hour transformation without moving, and afterwards he competed that night in a Halloween contest in Lafayette where he placed 4th, with the crowds really expressing their likes of the realistic wolf they were amongst.
“I always have supplies on hand,” Connor told me when I asked him about his inspirations. “I am always ready to draw, sketch or paint. I stay stocked up at home with everything I need, like canvas stretched on frames, sketchbooks, pencils, erasers, pastels, paint, and other things I might need. I only have about 40 minutes in class to work on a piece, so it may take me a few classes to finish something depending on how big the project is. A large piece can take me up to five hours to complete.”
Connor told me he has been commissioned in the past to paint for a few local people from Kaplan, and is currently in the works with Jason Vincent who commissioned a drawing of a pond from him. When asked if he has made any money with his work he told me he has sold about three pieces already, and I noticed his works at the museum are all priced and ready to go.
What does he want to be when he grows up? “I want to attend UL and major in Architecture and minor in Graphic Design, he quickly answered. “I have sketches of exterior house plans, interior house plans, backyards, pool and patio areas, a shopping mall and a couple of recreation centers,” he said. “I guess it is in our genes to draw,” he said. “Not only my grandmother is an artist, but so is her brother, Milton Fontenot. My dad used to draw wildlife when he was younger and he, too, attended USL and was majoring in architecture, but took a break to work with the Sheriff’s department, and he never returned, working his way up to Chief Deputy of the department so many years later.”
I told Kirk, Connor’s dad, I saw where his son got his talent, and he was quick to add, “Yes my mother is a great artist, but so is my wife Sonia.” “Connor gets it from both sides of the family,” he added. Mel Frith, wife of Chris, Kirk’s brother and Connor’s Nanny takes all the credit for her godchild’s talent. “He gets it from me!” she quipped, smiling like the Cheshire Cat. Waving his hand in a motion toward her, Connor added, “She just likes to joke and take all the credit for my talent, saying she is the REAL artist in the family,” as she hugged Connor tight and everyone broke out in laughter.
As the night concluded, Connor told me he simply did not believe his mother when she told him that Mrs. Linda Hardee from the museum had contacted her requesting a show of his work. “At first I thought they were joking, then I realized it was true when they called back and asked to set a date. I was really surprised and excited to be able to do this and am so happy that everyone came out to support me and I am encouraged to continue drawing and doing my work.”
Made with Love
by Robby Dardeau
Not all art hangs on a wall. Sometimes you can wear it.
Sheri Frederick of Abbeville has been making jewelry since 2007. She makes beautiful costume jewelry, keeping the cost low, so her work is affordable for everyone, but she is no stranger to custom pieces, sharing “I do special orders, too, bridesmaid’s jewelry, First Communion or just for birthdays.”
Some of her more popular pieces are her pearl and leather initial necklaces and the freshwater pearl necklace with the St. Benedict charm on it. Sheri likes to use freshwater pearls, leather, crystals, chain, and a wide variety of beads including turquoise. On request she’ll use sterling silver in her creations, too.
The time she spends on each piece is different. If it’s a new design she’s making for the first time, she’ll give it a few days. If she is remaking a piece that she has done before, her skilled hands and creative eyes need only a half hour.
If you know Sheri, then you know being creative is nothing new to her. She studied art all through her high school years. Sheri even wanted to be an art teacher at one time, but that got interrupted with a good job offer that she couldn’t pass up. But, her creative learning hasn’t stopped. She’s taken floral arrangement courses at UL and has continually made or painted things. Sheri has taught herself how to make jewelry through jewelry making books and information found on the internet. At one time Sheri even had a small gift/craft store in Perry called Adrien’s, named after her daughter.
Sheri has been married to Tony Frederick for 31 years. They had two children, one daughter, named Adrien Rene, who was born with severe cerebral palsy and lived with them until she passed away in June of 2008, and one son, Anthony “Chi-Chi” Frederick, who will soon be twenty-two years old.
After Adrien passed away, Sheri’s jewelry making truly began. Of this new artwork she shares, “It helped to pass my time. With every piece I make, I feel she helps me, so the name ‘Made with Love’ is really true. All of my jewelry is made with love from the both of us.”
Today, Sheri makes all her jewelry in Adrien’s bedroom at home. She’s turned this into her “jewelry room.” It’s a place where creativity flows, as she also does monogramming, sewing and painting in there. She shares, “When I am making jewelry, it is peaceful. It helps me in not worrying about things so much and at the end, someone has something really pretty to keep.”
Sheri’s jewelry, Made with Love, can be purchased at Thrifty Way in Abbeville, Kaplan and St. Martinville. For special orders, one can contact her at (337) 652-3813.
A Heart For Children
From Forked Island
by Robby Dardeau
Forked Island native, Ken Hargrave, leads a ministry in Lafayette called A Heart for Children where dozens of at risk kids are mentored each semester. Each day after school, kids are fed a hot meal and helped with homework. The program is structured with a heavy emphasis on reading and the ratio of kids to mentors is two to one. Ken and his team of volunteers aren’t just improving reading skills of these kids, they are teaching valuable life skills, too. Kids work for and earn “money” (fake money, or in-house credit) that can be spent at the annual Christmas store. Nothing is given to them. They learn responsibility and how to save. Ken also rewards the older kids with trips to the country, where they can care for and ride horses. This is something all the kids really look forward to.
These kids love “Mr. Ken” and their parents do, too. Proof of that is a long list of students waiting to get into this valuable afterschool program.
I asked Ken to share some of his story with our readers. His answers are below.
Tell us what it was like growing up in Vermilion Parish. I was fortunate to have grown up in South Louisiana in a small rural community called Forked Island. I had a hard working dad, Kenneth Hargrave, and a loving mother named Natalie Gaspard. I spent the first 11 years of my life living with and growing up with my parents and grandfather, Ozan Gaspard, on the end of Cuz Road. Having a dad, who was one of the hardest working men that I knew, taught me a lot about the value of hard work and once I started working for various local farmers, that life skill became very valuable. My mother, who would help anyone that had a need, taught me about having compassion and serving others, which is my main job today. To me, my grandfather, Ozan, was my hero. We lived on 80 acres of family land and had other family all around us that we were allowed to go fish, hunt and horseback ride on their land. My grandfather was a rock, he was fearless. I watched a huge Brahma bull charge him one day and he ran towards the bull making noise, throwing his hands up in the air and the bull went backwards. A couple of other times he would go in our chicken coup and grab egg eater snakes by the tail and pop their heads off, or go get a ladder, climb to the roof of the house and grab a wasp nest full of wasps and squeeze the nest to kill the wasps. Growing up in the country with my grandfather allowed me many opportunities to be outdoors. I had a Welch pony by my 10th birthday and every day after school I had a choice to go play with my cousins, ride my horse, fish in the local canal, go hunting or just explore the great outdoors, which are all things that I thoroughly enjoy today. I was also very active in sports in high school, playing football (when we had a team) baseball and FFA. My grandfather taught me how to enjoy God’s great outdoors and the value of keeping your word (if you tell someone you will do it then you need to do it and if for an unforeseeable reason you cannot, then ask to be released from that commitment) and the value of a good name. In a day and age where a lot of people are just looking out for themselves, the character qualities that my family instilled in me are priceless to what I do in ministry work today.
What did you do after high school? I graduated from E. Broussard High School in 1986 and went on to get a degree in Electronics technology where I got a job with Halliburton, starting my career in Lafayette, then moving to Houston, Tx. and then becoming a manager for Halliburton in Tuscaloosa, Al. overseeing operations for their special products division over four states by the age of 21. After a couple of years of being away from home I changed jobs and moved to Baton Rouge in outside sales. After a while I decided to pursue a career as a chef, which had always been a passion of mine. As an Executive Chef in Lafayette I met a man who had a disability, but had joy in the midst of his situation and did not allow this to get him down. I desired to have that joy, so upon asking him how he was able to have that much joy in the midst of his circumstance he introduced me to God and that is how I began to live for God instead of myself.
Tell us about your experience in Guatemala. After a couple of years of living for God, I was invited to go on a mission trip to Guatemala, which was life changing for me, to help at a children’s home. As I was there among the poor I understood what it really meant to serve another human being unselfishly. It is easy to help family and friends, because maybe they will help you one day in return or just that is what family and people from Forked Island did. But, when you get the privilege to serve another human being and it actually cost you time, money and inconvenience to do it and you get nothing back in return but a “thank you” and the satisfaction that you helped someone, my friend, that is truly living for God and living an unselfish life. After this trip to Guatemala, I returned for another week a few months later, and then felt a need to go live there at the children’s home for a year, which I did from August 1997 to August 1998. Living in a third world country is both rewarding and challenging. I did not know Spanish and I was put as a dorm parent of a boys dorm with 70 boys from age 3-17. But, this one year had taught me more about serving other human beings than any other areas of life. A lot of the lessons I learned while living at the home came from the children themselves that lived at the home. There would be days that the cops would bring additional children to the home to have them placed there and we had no beds for additional children. When the director would say that he had no beds for them a child would pull on his shirt tail and say “Do not let them go, they can have my bed, I will sleep with my brother or another kid, but please do not let them go.” Or, if you would give a kid a pair of skates he would automatically give his friend a skate and they would sit on the skate and go down the hill, each on their own skate. I have never seen so many acts of kindness than I did among those children.
Tell us about your time in Dallas. I returned to the United States and began doing medical construction throughout the southern coastal states. After doing that for a couple of years, I moved to Dallas, Tx. in January, 2001 where I attended a Bible school for more training on how to help people. After graduation, I spent four more months in Guatemala studying Spanish. After a month of beginning school I was introduced to a homeless ministry in downtown Dallas called Reconciliation Outreach. I started helping the children in the after school program and spent a total of four years helping in this ministry. I actually lived at the homeless shelter in the staff housing for two summers so I could understand how and why people became homeless. I spent time with 11-year-old drug dealers, ex-convicts, ex-drug users, alcoholics and a list of other criminal offenses that is just too long to mention. My second week helping at this ministry, when I arrived for the after school program, three children grabbed me by the hand and pulled me to the street corner in front of their apartment. The children showed me a red spot in the concrete where two people had been murdered the night before and they witnessed the whole thing from their upstairs window. I was in shock that 8, 9 and 11-year-old children saw a murder in their front yard. As I spent time with these people, mostly helping the children, I grew in my understanding of how to minister to people of all backgrounds without any prejudice, and I am still learning every day.
Tell us about the horse ranch. In my fifth year living in the Dallas area I went to volunteer at a horse ranch for troubled teen boys for a year. Since this is my desire to one day have a horse ranch where we can allow kids to come and experience the things that I was privileged to do growing up in Forked Island, it was only right that I experience what it would take to have a ranch. At one time I wanted a ranch where children could come and live, until I lived at one. It was a constant stressful situation as you were never sure of when one of the boys was going to pick a fight with another; I broke up fights it seemed weekly. We had boys run away in the middle of the night and we had to do manhunts for them and the list of issues was a mile long. We provided education to the boys, which were done by the director and his wife. I was the house parent, the maintenance person, the cook, the horseman and the construction guy. The boys had school 5 days a week, worked in the afternoon and on weekends and we rode horses once a week with an older retired veterinarian who donated his time to train our horses and took us to ride at his ranch. Seeing these boys and the attitude change that happened when they would get near the horses or just when they knew it was horse riding day, encouraged me that horses could help children have a better outlook and attitude about life. At the end of 2005, I felt it was time to leave the ranch for boys and see where I needed to be doing ministry, so I went to 5 countries in 3 months seeking where I needed to live to help children. After those trips, I went to a friend’s vacation home in Aspen, Colorado to spend time with God and seek where I needed to go. As I was there, on the fourth night I had a dream of moving back to Louisiana and starting the ministry that I presently have called “A Heart for Children” in a low income, high crime rate apartment complex in the Lafayette area.
Where are you now? And what are your plans? I actually live in the apartment complex where we have the ministry and I have been here for about 7 years. People are shocked to hear that I live in this apartment complex because it is known for high crime. But to tell you the truth, there are a lot of great people who live here just trying to make it through life and just a small handful of people who seem to cause a majority of the problems here. The kids are just normal kids who just need a little hand in school and life. They do think a little different than I did growing up, but to me that is the difference from being raised in the country as compared to the city and being raised in a different generation! In our ministry we have a community center located in the apartment complex which is where we help children by providing them a safe place to play and be kids, we also provide them with a hot meal and help them with homework and tutoring. For a little while last year, we started taking some of the older children to get horseback riding lessons in Maurice. Even though the couple who supplied the lessons wanted to donate the lessons, I asked if the children could work to pay for their lessons. The children cleaned stalls in exchange for their riding lessons and the children absolutely loved going to the ranch and spending 2-3 days a week after our after school program to work on the ranch and play with the horses until 7-8 at night.
Through this ministry, I have seen families change their lifestyles, by going from living from paycheck or government check to check, to owning their own homes and doing great. A majority of children in my program have gone from below grade level to ABC club and honor roll. Kids without common manners are now saying “Yes sir” and “No sir” and being so respectful to their teachers that when I see the teachers at school they are just amazed at the change! All of this is not because I am some great person; it is because we as a ministry (staff and volunteers) take the time to show the children that they have value in God’s and our sight and that they can make it and do well. We all need a helping hand from time to time and I thank God that He allows me to do it on a full time bases and can help people not only here but around the world. I have been to 10 countries helping children and I just absolutely love to travel. I may try to start a few orphanages around the world eventually before I die if the Lord allows!
We are expanding our ministry to include a horse ranch for children. I have a friend who is allowing us to use his property in the Crowley area to start taking children to horseback ride, hayride, fish and maybe hunt in the future. We have been preparing the land and have three horses on the property. I take some older boys from the community to work on the property and they absolutely love going out there to work. I recently took four boys to the ranch to work and when we finished one boy said, “This was the best day of my life. When can we come back?” I knew that once I exposed the kids to the outdoors and all the things that I was exposed to by living in Forked Island, they would love it like I did growing up! I hope to own land one day, so we can have a ranch of my own and hopefully it will be back in my home Parish of Vermilion. I truly love my roots and would not change it for anything. It has made me who I am today!
If anyone would like to donate saddles, tack, or even a horse that is gentle with kids, please contact Ken at (337) 349-7454. This ministry is supported by generous givers. If you’d like to be one, please visit the website for even more information at
By Lisa Stewart
With football in the air and the excitement of the road to the dome for State Championships and with a child on the football team, I have had the chance to sit and cheer on my team with friends sharing the exciting Friday night lights this 2013 season. Those football boys have practiced and practiced and practiced some more! They have filled buses for away games, and covered the field for home games. They return home late, exhausted, and hungry, but looking forward to the next game.
They know that the word team has no “I” in it and they play that same way led by some of the best coaches in our area, of course I am prejudiced! The support system of these football players is unbelievable. The parents, the booster club, the trainers, the coaches, the ball boys, the faculty, the student body, the water girls, the drum line, the dance team, the mascot, and the excited crowd of fans follow faithfully for each adventure, staying true to their colors, their coaches and their team! TV and radio stations have given coverage to some of the games and newspapers always make a final statement of how the game went with predictions answered and questioned.
And the cheerleaders? Well, those girls who jump high in the air, lift to the skies and cheer on the players keep the crowd excited, and motivated. They get the job done! They’re exciting, jovial, spirited and pretty as well. Pom-poms shake high in the sky and megaphones call loud to the crowd that is what team cheerleaders are all about. They keep the fans motivated, those soda drinking, popcorn snacking, nacho eating diehard fans who sat in the heat of the early games wearing shorts and flip flops and the wet rainy nights that found them huddled under umbrellas to these past few games of 30 something degree frigidness!
You can smell it in the air, you can almost imagine it as you read this, yes indeed, a Friday Night High School Football game and amongst those prideful fans sits the mother of my friend, a grandmother of a player, and a woman I have known all of my life. She rarely misses a game, no matter the sport, and I consider her a number one fan and cheerleader of the VC Screaming Eagles. She cheers on the team, sometimes with her own special words, or follows along with the crowd, but none the matter she is cheering, and “with experience” she tells me one night as we were talking. “I was a cheerleader when I was in high school,” she announced proudly. “We wore heavy 100% wool sweaters and long circular skirts half way down our legs,” she continued. “You talk about something heavy,” she said emphatically. Mrs. Lynn Simon Toups of Kaplan was a Kaplan High School cheerleader for 3 and a half years cheering on the Mighty Kaplan Pirates. Her senior year, 1959-1960, was her most memorable one she tells me. “Our skirts were black, lined in gold and we wore white bobby socks and black loafers,” she continued.
Her face lit up when I questioned her for more information. We didn’t have pom-poms back then she said, “We snapped our fingers and jumped and cheered.” “It was nothing like it is today,” she laughed. Mrs. Lynn told me her favorite cheer was “2 bits, 4 bits, 6 bits a dollar, all for the Pirates stand up and holler.” She told me how much she loved getting the crowd involved. Just as she stays involved in today’s games I noted. We used to scream, “Push em back, push em back, way way way back!” using her arms to illustrate the cheer. “I always liked to yell, “First and ten, do it again!” she said. As Mrs. Lynn remembered her cheers, I had to laugh at myself, because those were the same cheers we used when I was at KHS in the 70’s, and still to this day can hear the 2-bit cheer. “There was no flipping and doing cartwheels,” she said, “If that heavy skirt turned over on your head you would get lost, it was so big and long!” She attended high school in the same building, which is now Rene Rost Middle School. For the basketball games in the old gym, the cheerleaders would sit up in the bleachers. “You have no idea how hot wool is in this Louisiana heat” she exclaimed. “It is just how it was back then,” she continued.
Mrs. Lynn reminisced how much she enjoyed her high school days. “I loved school,” she told me. “I loved my teachers, and I don’t have a favorite one, but Mr. Ed Douglas sure stands out,” she said smiling, “He was such a fine man. Always happy!” Her favorite class was English, and she reports that she attended Rally in that subject. She was also co-valedictorian for her class, a class officer and was voted friendliest in her class as well as homecoming queen.
Mrs. Lynn is the oldest of four girls born to Mr. Dennis and Mrs. Velma “Tootsie” Simon of Kaplan. Velma “Teeta” Simon Vincent is 4 years younger than her, and 8 years later came her twin sisters Martha Simon Suire, and Marsha Simon Green. Mrs. Lynn has three children - Gina Toups Trahan, Robby Toups, and Shawri Toups Landry. She also has 6 grandchildren - Emily & Payton Trahan, Trey Toups, Madison, Molly & Mary Claire Landry. All of her grandchildren have attended, are attending, or will attend VC. “I am a Pirate alumni and a proud fan of KHS, it is just that my heart is in Catholic education and it is where my grandchildren attend school, and I support them 100% whether it is girls softball and basketball, which Emily played, or football, track or basketball that Payton plays. Madison is on the school dance team, and the two younger ones are involved in their schools as well.”
In closing Mrs. Lynn laughs aloud and remembered that Mrs. Maude Wiggins was the Pirette/cheerleader sponsor, “I loved her so much, but I have to tell you... One night I was standing on the field looking up at the cheerleaders in the stands and a gentleman walked past me, and without stopping leaned down and said, ‘I have never in my life seen such a small girl with such a big mouth!’”
I guess you could say she was a good cheerleader! I know her children and grandchildren know this because when the VC team takes the field or the courts she stands proudly and yells, “Fly High Eagles!” And the only thing missing is her wool sweater and long black cheerleader skirt.
Don't Let the Sign Fool You
by Robby Dardeau
It’s a woodworker wonderland in the
back of Willie Duhon’s Abbeville home. There’s his shop with all
the necessary tools, plenty storage for antique cypress boards, and a
large shaded patio with plenty of seating and space to display his
wooden creations. There are benches, chairs, and tables – with
some having the tabletop made from a crosscut of a large tree. A
trained eye may even notice the coffee table made with an original
outhouse door. It’s one of Willie’s favorite pieces as he says,
“I like to build stuff nobody else has.”
Growing up in Judice around the Duhon Road area is when and where Willie’s exposure to carpentry began. He shares, “I learned a lot from my father. We grew up on a farm and were always building barns and stuff. He knew a lot about carpentry and I learned a lot from him. I have a brother that had a construction company after World War II that built homes. I worked with him on summers when I was back from college.”
Willie graduated from LSU with a degree in Chemistry and Zoology and was also in the Air Force. When his schooling was complete he went to work for General Motors as an insurance adjuster, and received several promotions – each one requiring him to move to another location. So he has lived up and down the east coast and even in Canada. By the time he retired in 1989, he was a manager living in Macon, Georgia.
When his retirement began, so did the woodwork. Willie found himself volunteering to help repair homes of widows and the elderly in his community. He then started working with wood as a hobby, building stuff for his children like benches and tables. Eventually people saw his work, wanted it, and asked him to make something for them. Since then, he hasn’t slowed down. His favorite piece done is an altar he built and donated for the church he and his family attended in Macon. He explains, “The biggest project that started me off was an altar for our church. The priest wanted a new altar and asked me to do it. I had never done anything like that before, but I told him I would do it only on one condition – that he wouldn’t call me to find out when it’s going to be ready. This was because I’ve never done this before and I don’t know how long it will take to build it. It took me six months to build, and it’s still being used today.” Willie built the altar in his garage because at that time he didn’t have a shop. Shortly after the altar was complete, the priest asked Willie to make a podium and table to match, so he did. The small table legs were made from old redwood fence posts in Willie’s backyard. The before and after photos of that piece are amazingly different.
When his time in Georgia came to an end, Willie and his wife of 54 years, Hilda Hebert Duhon, moved back to Acadiana and found a home here in Abbeville. The two have five children, fourteen grandkids, and five great-grandkids. They’ve been here nineteen years now, and Willie’s has made countless pieces since then. One thing he can make, and make well, is an outhouse. Why build an outhouse? Willie explains, “I don’t know...I had some old cypress wood that wasn’t fit to do anything, so I made that.” Willie’s own personal memories of an outhouse helped him make it accurately. The piece was then put in his nephew’s store in the French Quarter of New Orleans where a German tourist saw it, loved it and bought it. That customer liked it so much, he had Willie make another one just for him. Photos of his rustic outhouses started circulating and word spread. Before too long, Willie had his handcrafted outhouses in California, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, and of course, in Germany. Outhouses...who knew? Wille says his customers like to use them as garden sheds to store tools and fertilizer (no pun intended).
Willie’s got range to his work. His family held on to an old ox-cart that was used in the Civil War as an ambulance. It belonged to his great-great grandfather, Lewis Whittington, and over the years, it began to fall apart. After Willie got his hands on it, it was totally restored and is now on display at Acadian Village in Lafayette.
According to Willie, there are similarities between insurance adjusting and working with wood. He shares, “Most woodwork is just common sense. It’s very simple – not that complicated. Adjusting is common sense, too. If you have common sense and good judgment, it’s easy. Both require patience and common sense.”
There’s a license plate hanging on the door of Willie’s shop that reads, “Retired,” but don’t let that sign fool you. Willie’s work can be seen at Sunset’s Herb Festival in May and the Master Gardener’s Show at the Horse Farm in Lafayette. He mostly does custom orders, and remains busy, so don’t rush him if you call him. He’s got enough work now for two months.
Great Job Amanda! You’re a Hero
By Angie Landry
If you Google the Internet in search of individuals with Down Syndrome that have acquired accomplishments, there is no shortage of the information you can find. From a high school football player that scored a touchdown and who, surprisingly, had BOTH teams cheering for him, to the MMA boxer, to a record breaking weightlifter, to a young lady that is a champion swimmer that received an honorary doctorate degree - There are lots of impressive stories if you search them out.
If you are looking for a local hero, however, you don’t have to search far. There’s one right here in Vermilion Parish! Her name is Amanda Quibodeaux and her quick thinking saved someone’s life. But not just anyone, it was the life of someone dear and most precious to Amanda, her grandmother Hazel Mouton (or Maw as she is mostly known).
On September 9, 2013, the 33-year-old Amanda was riding with her Maw to go for a doctor’s check-up. As Maw began to feel weak, she turned onto Bienville Road off of Hwy 82 and fainted. What happened next is nothing short of amazing. Amanda grabbed Maw’s cell phone and called 911. Amanda’s mother, Charmaine, allowed me the opportunity to listen to the 911 call and even when I hear it now, I get goose bumps.
Although obviously very concerned for her grandmother (you can hear her ask several times, “You ok, Maw?”), Amanda stayed calm and never panicked one time while on the phone with both Judy Stelly and Windy Lege from 911 and with Paramedic, Kelly Knoning with Acadian Ambulance. Even knowing in advance how this story ended (Amanda and Maw were found by the first responder on the scene, Nicholas LeBlanc with the LeBlanc Fire Dept., and Maw was taken to Abbeville General where she was treated for fluid around her lungs and hospitalized for 3 days), I was a nervous wreck. But Amanda wasn’t. She answered their questions as best she could and I can’t even begin to say how proud I am of her.
When I recently visited with her, I asked her if she knew she was a hero and she just covered her face and smiled. Charmaine told me that when asked how she wanted to celebrate, she chose an Oreo Blast (Great choice, Amanda!). When I asked her if I could check out her room I was surprised to find that she has lots of varied interests. There was an electric guitar and beads, posters and more LSU and UL memorabilia than I could fathom. I also have a terrible envy of Amanda’s artwork. Recently, during a ByYou art class, Amanda demonstrated a beautiful talent of painting by painting a UL fleur de lis. The painting was auctioned off at the Vermilion Parish Lions Club shortly thereafter with the proceeds going to The Handicap of Vermilion Parish and sold for $700.00. She was so proud and is ready to do it again.
From one mother to another I couldn’t help but ask Charmaine what she did that taught Amanda to communicate so well. She said that she didn’t do anything special; she just includes Amanda in everything.
As I visited with Maw, Amanda and Charmaine I realized something very important...I was in the midst of three amazing ladies. Unaware of the remarkable women they are only heightened the respect I felt for them every second I was there. It’s no small effort to have achieved successful parenting to the extent that your daughter can be called a hero. But a hero she is and I want to say, “Great Job, Amanda!”
NOTE: Charmaine would like to thank everyone who played a part in getting Hazel to the hospital and keeping Amanda safe in the process. Thanks goes out to 911, Acadian Ambulance Dispatcher and Drivers, LeBlanc Fire Dept. Volunteers, and the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office.
By Shannon Neveaux
Cookers: Meetin’; Greetin’; Cookin’ an Eatin’
Wow, what a motto! How much more Cajun can you get than that? Gathering around food has served as a focus for all manner of occasions and has been an important part of life for the people of Louisiana. The motto above holds almost everything our cultural souls crave. I like so many things about this new group. #1 it’s FUN! Cooking in this manner is such an adventure. I wonder if it’s my imagination, or does the food really taste better. I also really like that this is an excellent way of keeping an old tradition alive (Not just the cooking, the visiting, too). I have no doubts that Dutch ovens have had a part in the evolution of Cajun cuisine.
Latanier Cookers … Pronounced lah ton yā, is the French word for Palmetto. The group organized in April of 2013 and hosted their first Dutch Oven Gathering at Palmetto Island State Park in June. Danny Meaux, president of Latanier Cookers says, “We promote Ducth oven cooking, but the name of the chapter is Latanier Cookers. That means ALL cooks are welcome. We encourage cookers to join the Chapter, but you can come and cook with us even if you’re not a member.” At this time only LA Dutch Oven Society Dues apply. The membership fee is $10 per family. Danny points out that the goal is “the gathering.” So whether you can cook in a Dutch oven or not, you’re welcome to share your food at a gathering. Cooking outdoors isn’t just for boy scouts and campers. Try something new, there is more than just Bar-B-Q for outdoor cooking.
Let’s talk about the D.O.G.s (a.k.a. Dutch Oven Gatherings). These gatherings are relaxed and informal. Families are welcome and there is often a little music playing in the area. Before lunch, cookers and visitors drift around the area and visit, discussing recipes, tips and techniques, and check out all the neat “tools” that cookers use in their outdoor kitchens. I was fascinated by the process the first time I saw how it was done. If you’ve never seen the cookers in action, I bet you too will have a lot of questions. Experienced cookers have gotten the process down to a science and love to talk about Dutch oven cooking. Latanier Cookers usually make arrangements to have a main meal, which is usually donated and prepared on site by a local sponsor. Cookers contribute the Dutch oven dish of their choice. Pots go on the table at noon and it’s a super cast iron buffet. We’ve enjoyed food from black pots like: corn breads, cobblers, bread puddings, beans, casseroles, jalapeno bread, sweet potato soufflé, biscuits, Holly Beach potatoes, rolled round steak, pork roast… and the list goes on. The cookers really enjoy testing their skills with new recipes, so the menu is always exciting and new.
Because it’s fun and the food often tastes better, an interest in Dutch oven cooking has grown. I’ve taken dishes that we’ve cooked in our family for years, cooked them in the Dutch oven and the reaction to the taste was amazing. It was like we’d cooked something new and special for the first time. How fun is that?
The Louisiana Dutch Oven Society has chapters organized across the state. Most of them are connected to the state parks in their area. So no matter where you are in Louisiana, there is probably a D.O.G. within an hour’s drive of your location on almost every weekend. Visit www.ladutch.com <http://www.ladutch.com/> to find out where the D.O.G is this weekend. The society was formed ‘…To promote the opportunity for all Dutch Oven cooks to gather and better their skills through friendly Dutch Oven Gatherings (DOG). Promote the art of Dutch oven cooking through demonstrations and local DOGs. Engage in charitable, literary, social, educational and other activities that promote the art of Dutch oven cooking.’ Their Motto is: Good folks gathering for great food and great fun!
When I researched a little history for this article I found out:
· Historians don’t actually know when the first cast iron pot was made
· The name “Dutch oven” comes from when the Dutch were selling the pots
· Paul Revere is credited for adding the 3 legs on the bottom and putting a flange on the lid
· Dutch ovens have hung form fireplaces since the early colonial day.
So come on over to Palmetto Island State Park and enjoy the Louisiana outdoors, visit and share a bit of good food cooked the way your great-grandparents used too. Latanier Cookers hosts a D.O.G. at Palmetto Island State Park on the 2nd Saturday of each month and the gathering starts at around 9am. Stop by and visit while everyone is cooking, to see how it is done. Bring your chair to sit and enjoy the park. Pots go on the table at noon. There is no charge for tasting, but if you like it…donations are always welcome. To become a member or for more information about the events call Danny at 893-2470 or firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>. Find Latanier Cookers on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/LatanierCookers <https://www.facebook.com/#!/LatanierCookers> . To get information on all events at Palmetto Island State Park ask for Friends of Palmetto Island State Park’s free monthly electronic newsletter at firstname.lastname@example.org
From the Teacher’s Desk By Felice Mayard
With school out for the summer here is a look at a powerhouse person who is “behind the scenes” in our Vermilion Parish School System. Her dedication to our teachers and students is unwavering. She is someone who I have been proud to call friend, co-worker, and supervisor for 32 years.
Introducing Ann Hardy
My position is ... Elementary Supervisor for the Vermilion Parish School System.
I have had this position for ... 16 years.
I began my career teaching at ... Seventh Ward Elementary where I taught for 16 years.
One thing that makes me proud of our Vermilion Parish schools is...the absolute dedication of the Vermilion Parish teachers. The endless effort that they put forth toward educating the students in attendance at public school makes me very proud of our system. During the day, the role of teacher is expanded to include nurse, counselor, coach, and accountant. The Vermillion Parish teachers wear all of these hats and are very effective at their jobs. They are an outstanding group of individuals. They are the reason why the Vermilion Parish School System has reached the status of fifteenth in the state.
The most rewarding thing about working with elementary teachers is...the fact that teachers take their job very seriously and want their students to excel. Continuous education is a requirement for each successful educator. It is very rewarding when I provide professional development opportunities for teachers and I am able to witness the implementation of the strategy first hand. It is exciting to observe teacher and student success and realize that I have influenced teacher knowledge and student achievement.
A favorite memory I have of working in the school system is....being selected “Teacher of the Year” by my co-workers while teaching at Seventh Ward Elementary. Subsequently, I was chosen to be “Vermilion Parish Teacher of the Year.” My experiences as a teacher at Seventh Ward Elementary provided knowledge and training on effective practices in the classroom. It was an honor to be recognized as an effective educator by my co-workers at the school level and at the district level. During my tenure as Elementary Supervisor I have had the opportunity to present the successes of the Vermilion Parish educational system on a national level. I will never forget the day when Vermilion Parish was featured on a sixty-foot screen for a national audience of 5,000 educators. The memory and pride of the moment will remain in my mind forever.
If I had not become an educator I would have...become an attorney. My father wanted me to become a lawyer, but I chose to work in education because of the many outstanding teachers in our public education system who encouraged and guided me.
Favorite teachers I have had...were talented and gifted teachers who have influenced, guided and taught me during my educational journey. Third grade teacher, Florence LaBauve, intrigued her students with photos, songs, and stories about places throughout the world. She encouraged children to dream about places that were previously unknown. Mrs. Florine Suire taught her students to complete tasks, such as sewing and cooking, with pride and perfection while always taking the time to listen attentively and nudging them to make good choices. Mrs. Laura Gaspard presented literature as an artist painting the world in rich beautiful language. She continuously articulated to students her belief in them and assured them of their success in higher education. Mrs. Sandra Theall brought a group of students from a small rural town to Europe, allowed them to experience other cultures, and instilled in them the realization that education was a key to understanding the world and their place in it. These educators worked diligently to ensure that their students were knowledgeable in academics and took the time to guide and nurture their growth.
My favorite subject when I was in school was...social studies. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and studying about places and events of the past. I believe as a nation it is our responsibility to learn where we came from and the events that brought us to today. We must understand our roots, see our connections to the past, recognize the commonality of people across time, and appreciate the delicate balance of rights and responsibilities of being an American citizen. Learning about one’s ancestors provides a sense of pride and understanding of traditions and culture. History gives us valuable insights and provides tools which arm us for the future.
When I was in elementary school I ... enjoyed studying and learning new information, which resulted in good grades. As a reward for a straight “A” average, I was able to miss class twice a week. The assigned task was to wash all dishes for all students at Eaton Park Elementary. This was during an era prior to dishwashers in schools. Times have changed both in reward systems and technology!
I was educated at...the University of Southwest Louisiana, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in 1977. I obtained a Master’s Degree in Education and a Specialist Degree in Supervision from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
My family...and I are very close. My husband is very patient. He has always supported my career choices and my continuing education. We have two children-a son and a daughter. Our four granddaughters and two children are talented and successful.
When I retire I plan to...travel, spend more time with my family, and volunteer to work in the community. Traveling to the various places I read and studied about in school has always been my dream. Family is important to me and there is never enough time together. Surely, I must provide support and time to the people and the community because I am so fortunate.
I like to visit...the Gulf Coast region. It is very serene to sit in the sand, listen to crashing waves, observe sea gulls and dolphins, and embrace nature in its glory. The tradition of walking along the shoreline during the late evening allows me quality time with my family and reminds me of my youth with my father. Memories and tradition provide a sense of family and happiness.
In my free time I like to...shopping and cooking consume the little free time available! Bringing my grandchildren shopping is enjoyable. I take pleasure in preparing huge Cajun meals when time allows. Recently I prepared a feast for my son’s birthday. He invited several of his old high school friends. We gathered around the table, laughing and reminiscing. Everyone enjoyed the meal and the company. It was fantastic.
If I won the lottery I would...continue to work. Working with great teachers and students is great. Every day there is a new challenge and a new world to greet. I would, however, travel on extended vacations with my family. Ensuring that my grandchildren have sufficient funds for a quality education is a priority. Sharing money with charities is necessary. And, of course, my husband, son, and daughter would receive new vehicles. New homes for my children would be next on my shopping list.
Three people who I would love to have dinner with...include Pope John Paul II, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln. Pope John Paul II was a builder of bridges. He traveled the world exposing injustices and building relationships based on Christianity, always modeling humility, forgiveness, and dedication. Benjamin Franklin was a statesman, author, publisher, scientist, inventor, and diplomat. His actions still influence our country today. He displayed incredible foresight and the importance of wit during his many challenges. Abraham Lincoln was born in poverty in rural America. He faced many challenges in his personal and public life. However, he pursued an education, worked extremely hard, and dedicated himself to making a difference in the world. These men changed the world and I would gladly accept the opportunity to discuss life during a great Cajun meal.
Five words that describe me are...wealth (family and faith), hardworking, lifelong learner, persistent, leader.
by Robby Dardeau
About eight years ago
Donald Lacour was observing a chainsaw artist at the Cajun Heartland State Fair
in Lafayette when the artist’s wife asked him if he knew where they could get
some work done on their trailer.
Lacour told them he could repair the trailer, but warned them that his
tools at home were several miles away in Mouton Cove. No problem. The
next morning, this out-of-state chainsaw artist, Frank Russel, showed up in
Mouton Cove to get some repairs done on his trailer by a very helpful Lacour.
While there, Russel noticed a life-sized donkey head carving Lacour had done. Lacour explained that it took him too long to complete, somewhere around 60 hours. Russel told him he could do it in two hours with a chainsaw. The next day Russel showed up in “downtown Mouton Cove,” as Lacour describes it, and showed Lacour a few tips and techniques with his chainsaw. “He showed me how to carve a bear. It took him about 45 minutes, and a little over a tank of gas,” Lacour explained. After seeing that and hearing some encouraging words from Russel, Lacour went out and bought a $600 chainsaw.
With chainsaw in hand, Lacour got to practicing on old tree stumps and admits that it was almost addicting. He kept trying different techniques and methods getting better with each try. He learned lots from just practicing and from keeping in touch with Russel, gaining pointers here and there. He’s carved benches, chairs, furniture, bears, and all sorts of things, including a 7-foot tall liquor cabinet in the form of a Crown Royal bottle sitting on ice, purple bag included.
It didn’t take Lacour long to get beyond the beginner’s stage of chainsaw carving. With less than two years invested, Lacour won first place for most original carving at a competition in Ridgeway, Pa., where 200 carvers attended from fourteen different countries. Lacour is humble about that win saying, “I think they gave me the sympathy vote, because I was the only guy from south Louisiana there and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had just hit.”
After the competition, his friend and chainsaw carving mentor, Russel, asked Lacour to go on the road with him for a month creating and selling chainsaw art. Lacour is a sub-sea drilling engineer for an oil company, and was working one-month on, one-month off at the time, so he hit the road with his friend. “What started out as a month became a year,” shared Lacour. They had so much business and Lacour was having so much fun, that he left the oilfield for a year. The duo traveled state to state doing work together, well over a hundred pieces. Some of their most impressive pieces were castles made out of huge tree trunks in people’s yards. Can you imagine how excited the kids were who lived there?
Quitting your job to make a living by carving with a chainsaw is a risky decision. But Lacour is no stranger to risks. As a younger man, Lacour raced motorcycles, and in the early 1980’s it is believed that he attached a jet engine to his bike and jumped a ramp in the field behind his home.
Carving with a chainsaw is not easy. Lacour says “the big saws” weigh about 57lbs and have a 6-foot bar, while the smaller saws weigh about 14lbs. “I’ll start the day with a heavy saw and by the end of the day I’m hugging a small one to my body,” he explains. “It’s hard on the body.”
Lacour is still doing pieces at home for customers and loves carving. It’s like he says, “If the sun is up, a saw is running.” His garage is more like a showroom, and his living room is filled with artful creations. Lacour likes to leave wood in its natural color, only applying an oil or finish to bring it out more. Those pieces that are painted are done by his wife, Lynette. A visit of his home shows several different projects at different levels of completion, and Lacour admits that there aren’t enough hours in the day for his ideas.
Shooting for Comfort,
Aiming for a Cure
by Robby Dardeau
“Hey, I’ve got a story for you! It’s about my granddaughter, and she’s really done something special.” Those are the words of Al Laviolette, a proud grandfather, spoken to me a few months ago. “Big Al” has led me to good stories before, so I followed up on this lead and I’m glad I did.
Laviolette’s granddaughter is Brittany Hebert, a Vermilion Catholic graduate of 2003, daughter of Angie and Kevin Hebert and sister to Mark Hebert. She resides in Houston, TX with her NFL boyfriend, Justin Rogers and their 3 dogs, Bella, Bomber and Hunter. What’s remarkable is that she is the President and Founder of Sky High for St. Jude, Inc., an organization created to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (SJCRH) and the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis. Sky High for St. Jude is a 100% volunteer based non-profit organization that helps provide comfort to children undergoing treatment at St. Jude. To date, Sky High for St. Jude has donated $985,000 to St. Jude and the RMH. For those who may not know, St. Jude is a research hospital that treats up to 7,800 patients per year for 57 different catastrophic diseases - which a majority of these families are from the Gulf Coast. St. Jude is primarily an outpatient hospital, which identifies how important the Ronald McDonald House is to these families. RMH is a true “home away from home” where 51 families live while their child is undergoing treatment at St. Jude.
Leading the way for Sky High for St. Jude is not Hebert’s job, it’s truly her passion, and vocation in life. For the past seven years, Hebert has been employed as a Business Development Manager for Universal Pegasus International and she is presently employed with Extreme Energy Services out of Houston, as the Executive Account Manager for the South Texas Division.
How did this all get started? While in college at UL during the summer of 2007, Hebert was tasked with a fundraiser to help a local group, Beanies for St. Jude, whose founder, Billy Menard, originally introduced Hebert to St. Jude back in 2000. Three months later, Hebert’s best friend and mentor, Christl Pitre Mahfouz, along with several other local women, joined efforts in raising $50,000 for St. Jude at the 1st Annual La. Sky High Sporting Clay Shoot. Since then, their hard work and effort in fundraising has not wavered.
Mahfouz is Vice President of Sky High for St. Jude. She is also President and Founder of Ace Specialties in Lafayette, married to Alex Mahfouz, Jr., and is mom to one son, Alex, III. Mahfouz is no stranger to Vermilion Parish either, being a graduate of Abbeville High School. Her parents are Debbie and Louis Garrot of Abbeville. She is also no stranger to charity work, as she was nominated as Woman of the Year in 2009 for the local Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Chapter; and served on the Louisiana/Mississippian Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Board of Directors for two years.
If you visit Sky High for St. Jude’s website, www.skyhighshoot.org, you’ll see that Hebert knows she hasn’t done this on her own, giving credit to sponsors, donors, and volunteers. She acknowledges the hard-working team that makes up the Sky High for St. Jude Board of Directors, too. In addition to she and Mahfouz, they are: Marla Ratzlaff, Jill Prudhomme, Toni Guidry, Darlene Mouret, Melissa Salapack, Brittney Darbonne, Roz LeBlanc and Jenifer Tule.
How do they raise money? Through clay shoots, a golf and fishing tournament and live auctions in Texas and Louisiana. This year’s Texas Sky High Sporting Clay Shoot and Live Auction had a record number of 640 shooters and raised $538,000! Sky High’s fundraising goal for 2013 is $1million, and after recent events held in Lafayette in addition to the clay shoot in Maurice, they may be very close to achieving that goal.
Hebert and Mahfouz have also built a special friendship with Eric Trump, Founder of the Eric Trump Foundation (ETF), who also supports St. Jude hospital. Hebert says, “Together, Sky High and ETF are creating new ways to raise additional funds and awareness for St. Jude every day.” Sky High has recently announced their partnership with ETF through a $20 million dollar joint pledge to fund the new state of the art Eric Trump Foundation Surgery & ICU Center at St. Jude...and what’s Sky High’s portion? An astonishing $5 million towards the $20 million over a ten-year period. How will they accomplish this? Along with their current sporting events, Sky High has launched their .50 Cent Challenge Program. “For just .50 cents a day, you can help save lives from the comfort of your home or office.” Sky High is encouraging supporters to get behind the wheel and take the challenge today. You can sign up at www.skyhighshoot.org .
Sky High ends their fundraising year with the Anadarko Offshore Golf Tournament held at Glenloch Pines in Spring, TX, where Anadarko has been recognized as the backbone of Sky High since 2008 as the annual Corporate Sponsor. Anadarko has also stepped up to the plate in South Texas, announcing the 1st annual Sky High San Antonio Sporting Clay Tournament, which will be held November 16, 2013 at the National Sporting Complex.
To top off the year, Sky High, along with 70+ volunteers host an annual carnival at the RMH in conjunction with their donation & hospital tour, where families are bussed in after treatment to enjoy Texas brisket, Mardi Gras king cakes, face painting, an arts & crafts photo booth, Thomas the Choo-Choo Train, and a “smashing wig party.” Sky High personally delivers their donation each year and leaves a memorable experience for over 250 families.
Visit Sky High’s website and you’ll see that these hard-working young women from Vermilion Parish have a big heart for the kids and families who seek treatment at St. Jude Hospital. “Shooting for Comfort, Aiming for a Cure,” is more than their slogan. It’s what they’re doing.
From the Teacher’s Desk
by Felice Mayard
In this column you will get to know the wonderful, hard-working educators in Vermilion Parish and the awesome students they are educating.
Introducing Kathy B. Savant and Mason James Meaux
Kathy B. Savant is a 4th grade social studies and language teacher who has taught at Cecil Picard Elementary at Maurice for 23 years.
My family... consists of my husband Steven Savant and my parents Mr. and Mrs. Doris Bertrand.
One thing that makes me proud of our school...is the supportive “school staff” and parents of CPE at Maurice; the faculty and staff are always willing to help a staff member in any way possible.
I was educated at...UL-Bachelor’s Degree, McNeese-Master’s Degree, and UL-Plus Thirty.
Favorite teachers I have had... are my fourth grade teacher and my high school journalism teacher. My fourth grade teacher made our math lessons fun and in our art class every Friday she would sketch a drawing on the chalkboard and challenge the class to use their artistic ability to draw free hand as she had done...I loved the challenge and the confidence she had in all her students that they would achieve this goal. My journalism teacher would have students interview any person on school campus about different school issues, upcoming events, etc, then write an article on the interview. The article would be published in the bi-monthly/monthly school newspaper. The teacher encouraged you to use your creativity. She gave the students encouragement along the way-to never give up on any goal you wish to achieve.
The most rewarding thing about teaching is... observing the growth of knowledge from the first day of the school year to the final day of the school year.
One wish I would make for my students is...that all my students would have wonderful memories of their fourth grade school year and all their school years-I feel education is the foundation block for the rest of their lives wherever that journey may take them.
A favorite teaching memory is...watching the faces of excitement and relief when the fourth graders receive their LEAP test results.
If I had not become a teacher I would...probably have worked at a major airport like Houston or Dallas. I love the atmosphere in an airport. Planes have always fascinated my dad and me. I think working in the airport would be so fascinating and enjoyable, especially since you get to meet people from all around the world as they are going on their journeys.
When I retire I plan to...do volunteer work at a nearby hospital and church, travel more, and spend more time visiting my family and friends.
During 2013 I would like to...make every single day a “special” day-to live life to the fullest-not wait till tomorrow to enjoy the world around me.
One thing my students would be surprised to know about me is... that my husband and I show purebred cats around the USA and sometimes abroad.
In my free time I like to...travel, garden, read, go to the movies, go to the health club daily, play word games, and visit with family and friends.
Five words that describe me are...energetic, perfectionist, faith-filled, loving, and caring.
Mason James Meaux is a fourth grader at Cecil Picard Elementary at Maurice. His parents are Jeremy Meaux and Danielle and Brandon Alleman.
My special talent is...drawing.
I like to...sing, draw, build Legos, and play soccer.
My family...likes to do things together.
My pets are...a bearded dragon named Lobo and a pit bull named Mace.
At school I like to...talk to friends and help my teacher.
My favorite subject is... math because I like to do long work problems.
The best thing about my school is...that they have really good teachers.
Things I like to do with my friends are...playing kickball.
I look up to...my parents.
A place I would like to visit is...Washington, D.C. because I want to visit the White House.
One way I like to help others is...doing yard work for them.
In 2013 I would like to...get taller.
Something my teachers would be surprised to know about me is...I like to sing country music.
The Coca-Cola Collection
by Lisa Stewart
How do collections begin? How does one begin to gather, seek and find, receive, and purchase articles, collectibles and reproductions of one certain thing and make it their own? Is it on purpose? Or just a fluke started by someone else?
I guess each individual has their own story as to how they have come to own a collection of sorts, but I have Mary Smith’s story to tell you - about how she became a Coca-Cola insignia collector.
Before I begin my story, let me tell you a little bit about her. She is well known by so many, but I can’t write this story without first telling you she is the Godmother to my oldest nephew, Darius, thusly known as Nanny Mary in my family. Mary was born to Lillie Mae Baudoin LeMaire and John Guy LeMaire in Kaplan in 1952. She is number five of seven children and the first girl. The family lived in Nunez until Mary was in the third grade, then they moved to Kaplan for a few years when the opportunity to buy a home for the family happened upon her parents.
Mary tells me she started school at Rene Rost as a third grader, as the Kaplan Elementary School was in the process of being built. She remembers attending the new school and how she had to bring her fried egg sandwich lunch to school every day for a while, as the cafeteria was not finished, but they had the children attending the newly built school anyway. Mary returned to Rene Rost to graduate High School in 1970. In the summer of 1969 she began to take classes at Rice City Beauty College in Crowley. Mary did not have a car to drive back and forth, so she carpooled with other girls from Kaplan such as Katie Bell Trahan and Marsha Simon Green. She continued to attend the Crowley school on Saturdays during her high school days, as she had to keep going for her hours to stay activated and count toward her graduation. She also noted that she did not want me to say that she graduated in the top ten of her class at KHS, but I remembered this information, and she also reminded me that her principle was Mr. Ed Douglas and the asst. principle was Mr. Earl Comeaux. Senior trips were not popular back then, but Mary laughs telling me she and her girlfriend, Connie Sonnier spent the weekend at Connie’s brother’s house, which was a big deal. Mary finished beauty school and on December 8, took her state boards in Baton Rouge at the Capital House, which was a hotel that no longer exists. She started her first job was at Jeannette’s beauty shop in Crowley. Jeannette needed help and called the school looking for a new graduate and the school gave Mary’s name. She worked there for three years.
In the meantime, a woman’s softball league was forming and Connie told Mary that she was going to try out for the team. Mary joined Connie in the tryouts having never played ball before and both girls were chosen for the team with Mary playing second base. They played league ball in Crowley, and then in Abbeville at AA Comeaux Park, and that is where she met Richard Smith, aka Smitty. I asked her what attracted her to him, and she said, “He was a good second baseman!” Smitty is the son of Robert and Hortense LeBlanc Smith of Abbeville. They two dated and were then married on November 3, 1972. Mary left Jeannette’s Beauty Shop after working their 3 years, as she was now pregnant with her first child, Brady. The young couple was living in Nunez on Hwy 14, in Mary’s grandmother’s house, Sarah LeMaire Baudoin. Once Brady was born, Mary began to work at la Petite Salon de Beaute’ on Boudreaux Avenue in Kaplan which was owned by her cousin Diana Lormand Trahan. Mary and Diana worked together from 1974 to 1983 when Diana retired and Mary took over the shop.
Her second son, Jeremy, was born in 1978, and Mary continued to work until she retired in 2001. It was time to do things she wanted to do like garden, and relax, and not have to live by the clock. She was still playing ball in tournaments such as the alumni tourney in Kaplan, telling herself she would play until she was 50 years of age. She proudly reminds me she was 51 when she last played and that was only because they quit hosting them!
But, there was not much relaxing and resting for Mary. Hurricane Lilly taught her how to repair a roof, and she and Smitty totally took apart his grandmother’s house to help demolish it for his mother. Circumstances changed, and Smitty and Mary began to think she might have to go back to work as Smitty’s job was becoming unstable, and they needed to be prepared for whatever the future may bring them. It was fall, and the two of them along with the help of Glenn Michaud of Abbeville, began to close in their garage as Mary said she didn’t mind working but wanted to do it at home. She opened her shop, “Mary’s of Nunez” in January of 2006, thinking she would only work the hours she wanted, taking back only a few clients and even fewer new customers. Mary needed to equip her shop, and searching for used equipment she found what she needed in Lafayette. She purchased the washbowls, which were red in color, and three dryers and a stylist chair, all black.
Now, remembering that her shop is in her garage, the walls are covered in gray colored vinyl siding, she saw a theme coming together. Black red and gray worked for her! Mary’s brother, Michael, and his wife, Cheryl, gave her an old vanity stool, thinking she could use it in the shop. The seat needed covering, so Mary made a trip to Hancock’s fabric store in Lafayette, and searched for fabric to cover the seat. By no certain defined decision, she chose a fabric with the Coca-Cola logo on it, only because it simply matched her color scheme that was coming together. She covered self-adhesive shades with the same fabric and made a coverlet to hide her chest freezer in the corner. It is because of that fabric choice that she has become the collector that she is!
Coincidently, Jeannette had given Mary a set of Coca-Cola drinking glasses back in 1970 when she began to work for her. Mary needed a display case for her products. Smitty used the kitchen cabinet doors from his grandmother’s house and cypress wood from it and made her the case she has today. Smitty also revamped a computer desk that Kent Meaux had made for them years before. It is now her sink area for hair colors and washing supplies. There is a small petition that hides this area from the rest of the shop, and it was Smitty that used old center match and floorboards from his grandmother’s house to build this as well. Some of the things in the shop come from Smitty as gifts. He bought her a cast iron bench she had seen at a flea market. Smitty’s sister covered it in Coca-Cola fabric she purchased online and Mary was quiet surprised! There are so many objects de art in the shop it’s hard to start and end, but to mention just a few things are the puzzle pictures she has hanging on her walls. They were created by her sister in-laws, Jackie Langlinas and Martha Nell. Smitty had the cypress frames made by Kenneth Frederick. Mrs. Ann Meaux finished one puzzle for her as well. There is one ceiling fan that has been painted by Brandy Feverjean, and the other fan that looks like coke bottles for blades was a gift from Smitty. Mary’s cousin, Agnes Baudoin Hammer, who lives in Robertsdale, Alabama has given Mary a phone, a digital clock and much more memorabilia. Every time she sees something Coca-Cola, she gets it for Mary, including coke cans written in Japanese when she visits her son there.
But Agnes is not the only one. One of Mary’s first gifts is a whirligig made of coke cans. It was a gift from Mrs. Velta Meaux who had won them as a door prize at an event she attended in Maurice. Someone had offered her money for them but she already had Mary in mind, as she knew they would go in her shop. Mary’s sons have given her many items including a fish made of coke caps, and Lora Touchet who shared some replica tin trays she received from her aunt’s house. There are magnets on the fridge, plastic banks that look like replica bottles found in Alabama and Texas, lamps, and many clocks. Mrs. Wanda Latiolais gave Mary a figurine of one the Coca-Cola ladies that she also happens to have a print of. Pat Herpin offered an antique ice chest with the insignia on it and Mrs. Lillian Abshire also provided her with some shirts and a jacket that she proudly framed and displays on her wall. One of the posters on the wall is from the Angola rodeo she and Smitty attended in 2010, which has Coca-Cola in the background. There are umbrellas, caps, barstools, table and chairs, and an inflatable blimp that was given to her by Annie Vidalier when Mary and Smitty were visiting her at the Sunset Lounge she owns, as a venue for Mary’s 40th class reunion. The Blimp was hanging over the stage area and Mary was quick to offer Annie money for it. Annie denied it stating that she wouldn’t sell it, that Mary could have it. Mary laughs saying, “Annie didn’t have to say it twice before she was calling Smitty over to come and take it down!”
There is a beautiful collection of tin replica serving trays that Mary displays. They were given to her by friends, Darnell Guidry d’Augereaux, Mary Leblanc Harrington, Ruth Broussard and Brenda Hoffpauir. Rita and David Faulk gave her a replica ad that is framed and Joann Vincent Laviolette donated the plastic polar bear canister for the collection that continues to grow in the shop. Even my son, Micah, gave her a tin shaped like a bottle of Coke when he came across it at a flea market and thought of Mrs. Mary. Mary and Smitty like to visit flea markets when they can. They visit Canton Texas, Winnie and Foley. She goes with a list of things she will be looking for like door knobs and furniture handles, but they usually always come home with something Coke related.
I asked Mary what her favorite piece was and as she looked around for a while she told me she could not chose one because each and every one of them are special to her as they are gifts from friends and family.
What will she do when she retires again? “Well, I’m not going to retire until Smitty does, and then I hope we can take a nice long trip up the East Coast to Cape Cod and back,” Mary was quick to say. On her first retirement they took a road trip to California stopping to see the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. “Where we go depends on who you talk to,” Mary says, “ Smitty has one idea, and I have another!”
So there you have it, the Coca-Cola lady collector did not start out to make such a collection, it was just by a coincidence of choice, and her many customers and friends who love her, that have given her a collection that reaches out on many levels and shelves and table tops and ceilings and walls and porches and anything else you can put an item on!
I asked, “What are you going to do when you run out of space, Mary?” She replied, “Build more shelves and cabinets!”
From Abbeville to Pasadena
by Felice Mayard
“We have family in New Orleans, and we would regularly visit for Mardi Gras and the holidays when I was much younger. At that point, I realized that I liked being in a city, although it may have just been the fact that I really liked trains and my dad and aunt would take me on rides on the streetcar. I enjoyed the sense of community in Abbeville, but as I grew older, it became clear to me that I wanted to be surrounded by the bustle of urban life.” It is not surprising that Matthew Griffin is now living an urban life in Pasadena, California. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the chemistry program at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
After graduating from Abbeville High School in 2005, Matthew was preparing to start college life in August at Tulane University in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina delayed his plan and, instead, Matthew moved to New Orleans in January of 2006. While studying at Tulane, Matthew went to the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C. for a summer research orientation and participated in a summer research program in Strasbourg, France.
After graduating from Tulane, Matthew drove across the country to California. He had considered attending Caltech as an undergraduate but did not want to move far away from home at that time. After deciding to pursue a Ph.D. in science, Matthew knew that he wanted to attend one of the best schools in the nation. He applied to schools all over the United States before deciding on Caltech. “Caltech is not only tied as the number one school in the nation for chemistry by the U.S. News & World Report but has been ranked as the number one university in the world for the past two years by the UK Times Higher Education global ranking,” said Matthew. “Broadly, I work in the subfield of chemical biology, which aims to use techniques from chemistry to study biology. As a candidate, I conduct research in the laboratory of Professor Linda Hsieh-Wilson. We study carbohydrates known as glycosaminoglycans and their roles in regulating cellular processes involved in neurobiology. Our lab has shown that particular patterns of negative charges on the long polysaccharides affect the growth of neurons in development and after spinal cord injury, and I am working to find out whether these patterns can also affect other biological processes.”
When asked about his future plans, Matthew replied, “I would like to become a professor at a research university. This would allow me to conduct my own research program while also teaching. There are also many other possibilities for future careers, such as in national laboratories run by the National Institutes of Health or as an advisor on governmental science policy.”
Living only two blocks from the Caltech campus means that Matthew does not have the typically long Los Angeles commute. He does drive as much as he did while living in Abbeville, but he also takes advantage of public transportation and biking.
Urban life provides Matthew with many and varied activities. “It is nice living in such a large city because there is always something happening. If I ever do need time to relax, I am only a few miles from large parks with hiking trails and 45 minutes from the beach, traffic permitting.” Matthew also spends free time attending concerts and visiting museums. “There are also a lot of farmers’ markets as well, so I buy a lot of fresh produce directly from the growers. Although not as famous as Hollywood, California’s Central Valley is one of the most productive farmlands in the United States, producing over 200 different crops.”
Pasadena reminds Matthew of Abbeville because it is very family and community oriented. He lives across the street from a park with a baseball diamond where children play little league on the weekends. Like in Abbeville, the mode of transportation is driving.
When asked about the differences between Pasadena and Abbeville, Matthew said, “It can be quite amazing to see how many people actually live in the greater Los Angeles area (and how surprisingly nice and laid-back they tend to be). The city spreads out for miles in all directions. Also, when I say ‘cities’ here, they are a bit different than Abbeville. Most of the communities here have grown so large that there are not real breaks between them. You happen to cross a street, and you’re in a different city. The freeways here are also very large, and the traffic jams are even larger. The traffic jams are worth it, however, to see all of the different parts of the city. There are so many different areas, Chinatown, Silverlake, Culver City, Echo Park, Koreatown, Manhattan Beach, Hollywood, and Santa Monica, just to name a few, that each have their own personality.”
Another difference Matthew finds in California life is the weather. “I hate to say this, but California has Louisiana pretty much beat when it comes to weather.” Summers are mild, with average temperatures 75 to 85 degrees, only climbing to the triple digits for a week or two in September or October. The heat is dry, with rarely any humidity. “We rarely have rain-this year, I think I went for about five months without as much as a sprinkle. One thing I do miss is thunderstorms. I have heard thunder only once or twice since in the past two years.” Unlike Louisiana weather, Los Angeles weather is not uniform. “In Los Angeles, the mountains and valleys cause different areas of the city to have incredibly different weather. It can be 90 degrees and sunny in Pasadena, but if we take a short trip to the beach, it can be under 70 and foggy. In the winter, I can usually see snow on the mountaintops, and we are about an hour away from skiing resorts.”
The main thing Matthew misses about Abbeville is having his family nearby. “My mom’s mother was at my house nearly every other day when I was in school helping to clean and cook, and we would often have large family dinners or crawfish boils at my dad’s parents’ house on the weekend. Going from having my immediate family five minutes away to five states away made me realize how valuable my time was with all of them-and coming from a family of great cooks was not all that bad either.” Matthew’s main goal is to get his family to fly to California to visit him.
Matthew shared a memory of growing up in Abbeville. “Now that the holidays are coming around, I remember walking through Magdalen Square to look at Christmas lights and staying with my dad one cold evening there while he was helping to sell Christmas trees for (I think) the Kiwanis Club when I was younger. We would drive around town to look at Christmas decorations, and I remember the town always looking quite nice with lights strung up in the old live oaks, I had always hoped it would snow, but we would only get a few snowflakes every couple of years that would melt before they hit the ground. The best part about the holidays was always the family get-togethers. We spend Christmas Eve with my mom’s side of the family and Christmas morning with my dad’s side. It is great to see everyone together, and I am looking forward to seeing everyone again this year.”
It Started with a Bench
by Robby Dardeau
There are some nice cypress patio chairs at Thibodeaux’s Town & Country in Abbeville that I’ve been eyeing for a while now. The oversized rocker is my favorite. It’s just plain Comfortable. That’s right, I used a capital “C” right there. Go sit in that chair, and you’ll probably spell it like that, too. And, when I learned it was all handcrafted by a local Vermilion Parish man I began liking it even more.
That local man is Sidney “Bubba” DeMarcy, and when he’s not operating a crane at the Grande Isle Shipyard here in Vermilion Bay, he is doing something he loves – building quality, and functional pieces out of wood. DeMarcy claims he is not a carpenter, which makes his story even more interesting. His work experience is in heavy equipment operation, not woodwork.
His love affair with sawdust began about fourteen years ago, when his daughter brought him an old bench that was in need of repair. With just a Skill saw and a hammer, he got to work and ended up making a new bench. Since then, DeMarcy hasn’t stopped. He explains, “I’m the type of guy who always has to have something to do. So, I got more tools.” He has learned the way of woodworking by trial and error, and will tell you that he is still learning, with a wish that he would have started as a younger man. Today, he’s got a workshop filled with saws, tools, and wood patterns. It’s so much more than what he started with.
Since that first bench, DeMarcy’s created well over one hundred pieces. He’s made thirty to forty different items over the years and has done custom work, too. Chairs, benches, desks, garden tables, cabinets, swings, and glider swings are just a few of the things he’s made. He even makes prayer kneelers, and says he has made two for Governor Blanco and one for Fr. Hampton Davis.
DeMarcy describes his building style as “craft furniture – not refined.” From what this writer has seen, a DeMarcy piece is a strong piece made to last. The majority of his pieces are made with cypress, and the sweet aroma of that wood surrounding his workshop is wonderful. Someone needs to bottle up that fragrance and sell it.
The feedback he gets from his work is good, as DeMarcy explains, “I’ve got repeat customers.” What DeMarcy likes most about building things from scratch is seeing the finished product. He likes seeing customers appreciate his efforts, and that’s understandable, because just one of his rockers takes 6-8 hours to make. He puts lots of heart and sweat into his work, and it shows. There’s no cheap mass production going on in DeMarcy’s shop.
DeMarcy does have some pieces that are closer to his heart than others, and they are his Birdhouse Rockers and his glider swings. When pressed about his secret to building really comfortable swings and chairs, he proudly smiled and said, “I took some time modifying here and there to make them comfortable. An inch here and an inch there makes all the difference.” Another reason his chairs and swings are so easy to sit in with a smile is because he has different sizes to fit just about anyone. DeMarcy shared his frustration about once seeing a beautiful swing that was as uncomfortable as could be. He asks, “Who wants to sit on that?”
DeMarcy has a son, Heath, and daughter, Davelyn. He is also a proud granddad of four: Taylor, Blake, Etienne, and Elliot.
If you are interested in some of his work, DeMarcy can be reached at 337.319.6715. The name of his business is Bub’s Cypress Creations.
By Felice Mayard
C’est difficile a croire...It’s difficult to believe! This is a phrase that Todd Meaux sometimes uses when speaking to French people, especially when he doesn’t quite understand what they are saying. It is also a phrase that can be used when speaking about Todd. His father, Richard Meaux, has often said that he never thought Todd would leave Abbeville, travel the world, and live in foreign countries because Todd was such a homebody when he was growing up in Abbeville. Todd and his wife, the former Heather Crouch, along with their three children, Lauren, Cade, and Madison, are presently living in St. Nom la Bretèche, a village located on the west side of Paris. Since moving from Abbeville, they have also lived in Houston, New Orleans, and Scotland.
Todd is Division Strategy Manager for Schlumberger. He is responsible for developing growth strategies across four major business units under one of the Schlumberger Business Segments. He identifies strategic directions the company will take in the coming five years and develops plans and choices to take in order to achieve these growth ambitions.
According to Todd and Heather, life in France actually has similarities, as well as differences, from life in Abbeville.
“Paris is very different from the small villages and suburbs,” said Heather. “Paris is like any big city; people are very busy and focused on getting to work or their next stop and things move fast. In the small villages, life is a bit slower and friendlier, just like Abbeville.”
“Cajun French is different from modern-day French and they don’t have gumbo here!” said Todd. “People tend to walk more, so there are fewer cars, and people tend to use motorized scooters to get around. Scooters are cheaper to run (gasoline is almost $9.00 per gallon!), easier to park, and faster to get around when traffic is bad.”
Todd explained that small grocery stores and specialty shops still exist in France. Although they do have big grocery chains, the small businesses have not been run out of town.
“This makes the villages feel more historic and gives character and ambiance like in the old days,” said Todd. “If you remember Abbeville before the 1980s when we still had small corner grocery stores and local butcher shops, this is what a typical French village still looks and feels like.”
“One of the many things we enjoy about France and living in a small village is the local shops,” said Heather. “We enjoy walking to the local specialty shops to buy fresh bread from the Boulangerie, or meat from the Boucherie, and on the weekend going to the open markets to buy fresh local produce and fish.”
The Meaux family finds many aspects of France similar to the culture and way of life in Abbeville.
“There are French words used in Abbeville that are the same in France, so we get to hear and use some of the words we learned as kids,” said Todd. “People in France love family, food, and having a good time. Wine, cheese and fresh bread are favorites for everyone. There are many festivals, called Fetes, throughout the year in the local villages, which are similar to the many festivals in and around South Louisiana...food, music, games, where people gather to enjoy the time together.”
In St. Nom la Bretèche there is an annual flea market, called a Brocante, in the downtown area streets. They sell many items, old and new, in small booths. There is also a yearly “La Fete du Village” where food, music, games, and fireworks are put together for the enjoyment of the local people. This is similar to the Cattle Festival and the Omelet Festival held in Abbeville.
If you asked the Meaux children “Qu’est-ce que tu fais?” they would have plenty to tell you! Lauren, Cade, and Madison attend the American School of Paris in St. Cloud. It has approximately 800 students in grades K-12. The American School of Paris was established after WWII in 1945 at the American Church of Paris. The school provides a high quality of education while exposing the students to the different cultures around the world under one roof. There are nearly 60 different nationalities at the school. The students have many opportunities to travel and see Europe. The school takes students on field trips which expose them to new languages, food, and history.
Lauren is in 12th grade and is a member of the Romaina Club. The club raises money for the orphaned children who are at the hospital in Bucharest, Romaina. The Romaina Club visits the hospital twice a year. The students get to interact with the children by teaching them some English, and hugging them, playing with them, feeding them, and giving them lots of love. The student volunteers learn a little about the Romanian culture and language. During fall break, Lauren will make her second trip to Romaina. Lauren enjoys taking the train into Paris to shop and visit with friends. Lauren’s after school activities include playing softball for the school.
Cade is in 9th grade and will be going to China during fall break in October. On this school-organized trip he will visit the local villages and schools as well as learn about their culture and language. The group will see the Great Wall of China and visit the outskirts of Beijing. To prepare for this trip, Cade has been learning Mandarin Chinese. Cade enjoys playing baseball for the school and St. Nom baseball club, as well as basketball for the school.
Madison is in sixth grade and will be going on a week- long field trip to Savoie, France. In the winter, she will be going on her second school ski trip to Switzerland. In addition to skiing, Madison will experience the Swiss culture and explore the local villages and sites. Madison’s after school activities include horse riding and piano lessons.
During sports events the Meaux children compete with schools around Europe, many of which are American schools. They not only get to play sports, they also get to travel to countries such as Holland, England, Belgium, and Germany to play.
Heather spends her time outside of their home by volunteering at the children’s school. She helps new families on orientation day and is involved with the sports booster program. This year, Heather is on the Senior Parent Committee, which will organize prom and senior treats, photos, and luncheons. Their goal is to make the students’ senior year the best it can be. Heather takes a walking tour of Paris once a month with other parents from school. She also goes out and about with friends as they explore Paris and the surrounding area.
Living in Europe has provided the Meaux family with many opportunities for travel. They have visited England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Malta, Germany, Belgium, and South Korea, as well as France.
They have many memorable experiences from living in France.
“Just seeing the Eiffel Tower almost every day,” said Heather.
“Going to museums, visiting Normandy and seeing the D-day landing site and field of white crosses honoring our brave soldiers who helped free France, and experiencing France with family who have come to visit us. And there is something to be said for the fresh bread!’” said Todd.
“And the wine!” added Heather.
The Meaux family made a memory which many visitors and residents of Paris have made. They had a lock engraved with their family name and locked it on the Pont de l’Archeveche, a bridge which crosses from Notre-Dame Cathedral to the Left Bank of the Seine. Pourquoi? Their lock symbolizes love for their family.
Family, friends, and food are what the Meaux family miss about Abbeville. When asked if they ever imagined their life would take them to France, both Todd and Heather thought they would have lived in Abbeville for the rest of their lives. They never dreamed they would live the life they live and never thought they would live in France! They both agree that they would not change a thing.
Todd would like to retire to Abbeville and enjoy a simpler live...and never get on an airplane again! Heather, on the other hand, wants to retire to Italy.
“I will more than likely have to retire where my better half is since he won’t get back on an airplane after he retires!” said Heather.
C’est difficile a croire!
by Robby Dardeau
There’s a new running group in
Vermilion Parish and its popularity is growing. The group is called
Sole2Soul and its purpose is to “strengthen bodies and souls by
running with a Christian focus.”
In February of this year, Anne Sagrera
planned to get 5-6 women to meet once a week that would seek to
discover the parallels between enduring the sport of running and
enduring one’s own walk of faith. After a Facebook post, an
overwhelming response of 40 women took up Sagrera’s offer, and now
there are two groups meeting twice a week. Group member, Tricia
Massey, suggested the name, Sole2Soul, as it relates to how running
is both a physical and spiritual activity. At each meeting, there is
a time for warming up and stretching, a spiritual devotional, prayer
intentions and a running workout. Information on running gear,
technique, nutrition, and injury prevention is also provided. The
group is open to all fitness levels. Some members have never run
before, while others have completed half-marathons and marathons.
Sagrera explains, “Using the Run for
God devotional by Mitchell Hollis, we trained for a 5k over a three
month period. Twenty-four women, many of whom had no prior history
of running, completed the Volunteers of America Run Like You Mean it
Walk Like You Care 5k race on May 19. We proudly wore race shirts
with the Sole2Soul logo across the front and a list of inspirational
running mantras on the back.”
She continues, “Each runner
experienced success in finishing their race, but the real victory was
in the compassion, inspiration, encouragement, camaraderie and faith
displayed during the course of the race and the training process.
Through it all we celebrated, laughed, cried, moaned, groaned and
experienced just about every emotion under the sun. We were driven
with the knowledge that with God all things are possible. We honored
Him through our efforts whether it be walking, jogging, shuffling or
crawling. These qualities that make us not just better runners, but
better people; the lessons learned during this process cannot help
but transfer into everyday life. As one of the posts on the groups
Facebook page declares, ‘Running is such an analogy for life-
sometimes we are light on our feet and feel like we can go on and on.
Other times it’s hard and we have to slow down, but we still keep
going. In both cases we glorify God and thank Him for this gift of
The following is an excerpt from a letter Sagrera received from one of their group supporters who also made note of this transformation:
“What I see are women, many who had
the I Can’t or I Could Never attitude. They were given a safe,
unintimidating place to slowly begin to realize that I Can. This
quickly turns into What Else Can I Do? To some on the outside, it
may just look like a 5k, but to those women, it has opened up their
possibilities. No telling how many other lives will be touched
through their examples. THAT is how to enact positive change. For
these ladies, it is a future full of opportunities they never
Even though the initial target race has
been completed, Sole2Soul will continue to serve as a means to
connect with Christian runners in Acadiana. Members continue to meet
weekly at various times, and have participated in the Erath Fourth of
July 5k and have future plans for The Color Run 5k in New Orleans
this November. A few runners have also set their sights on longer
races, including the Gulf Coast half-marathon this fall.
Sagrera shares, “New members are welcome at any time. Resources for all fitness levels are provided. Participation in the training sessions is not necessary to be a member of Sole2Soul as the workouts and devotionals can be done on one’s own time. The only requirement is that participants have an interest in running and a desire to bring God along for the journey. Running is loosely defined as walking, jogging, shuffling, or any kind of forward movement. Communication about group details and organized runs occurs mainly through email and the Facebook page.” The group’s own Facebook page was created to help keep members connected and motivated and to provide a forum to share their experiences and celebrate successes. For more information, contact email@example.com or visit their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/abbeville.run
A Vermilion TV Celebrity
by Cindy Luquette
Growing up in lower Vermilion Parish,
Kristi Broussard never dreamed that one day she would be a television
celebrity. Thanks to her love for the outdoors and not being afraid
of hard work or 800-pound alligators, she is now a national and
Recently Kristi greeted fans at a local
retail store. Her down home personality, unassuming nature, smile
and welcoming demeanor were evident as she met fans of all ages.
During the meet and greet, which ran from 10 a.m. to two p.m., a
steady stream of fans walked up to say hello, take a picture of
Kristi and get an autograph. Several people informed her that they
have relatives in Virginia, Ohio and Texas who never miss an episode
of “Swamp People.”
Kristi Broussard is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Broussard. She was born and raised in Forked Island. She attended E. Broussard Elementary School for First through Eighth grades, then attended and graduated from Abbeville Senior High School. After graduating from high school, she served four years in the United States Navy as an aircraft mechanic.
Growing up in Forked Island Kristi
reports she has always preferred being outdoors. “I began following
my father around as soon as I was out of diapers. I was riding
horseback at age five on my own helping to pin up cattle. I had no
desire to stay in the house with my mom and do house work.”
Kristi achieved fame when she teamed up
with Liz Cavalier Choate on the popular reality TV show. “I have
been friends with Liz’s husband and Pecan Island native, Justin
Choate, for years. After working with Troy Landry for a season, Liz
asked if she could have her own boat. The producers agreed and she
began looking for a helper. I was available because I have a
flexible schedule. Alligator season runs the month of September and
you have to be able to take the month of September off. My schedule
is flexible and I was available. So Liz offered me the job”.
One of Kristi’s duties is to shoot
and kill the massive beasts. She learned and honed this skill from
an early age. “I started out with a bb gun and then a 22 rifle. I
hunted ducks with my dad, too.” She utilizes her skills as she not
only hits the “kill spot” on alligators that are churning in the
water just a few inches away from her, but she has also hit the mark
from a moving boat several yards away.
The team of Liz and Kristi are featured
in the Pecan Island area. Kristi reports this past season they
tagged 200 alligators in that area including a 13.5-foot gator, a
record so far in the 2011 TV season. “Liz and I make a great team.
We work well together and enjoy each other’s company.” This is
a must as the two share the close quarters of their boat from sunrise
to sunset for the month of September.
Inquiring minds asked Kristi what they eat during their long days of hunting season. She reported they eat vienna sausage, crackers and water. Also, she was asked how she and Liz get 800 and 900 pound alligators in the boat. “Well, the trick is to get the gator’s big head and jaws in the boat. Once that is accomplished, it is easy to get the body and tail into the boat.”
Kristi takes her being a celebrity in
stride and reports there are other women hunting alligators
professionally. She stated, “There are other women in Forked
Island hunting gators, in fact there are entire families, children
included who hunt gators during the season.”
Kristi Broussard is a humble, down to
earth young lady. She may be famous, but she is still doing what she
loves to do, raising cattle and training horses in Forked Island.
The morning of the meet and greet at the local retail store, Kristi
had been hard at work on the family ranch. “My family is putting
up 4,000 feet of fence today. I helped this morning from about seven
until nine when I had to leave to get here,” she reported.
Kristi Broussard never dreamed she would ever be starring in a TV show, but thanks to skills learned at her daddy’s side, she has become one and has put Forked Island, Louisiana on the map. (“Swamp People” is aired on the History Channel on Thursday nights.)
Award Winning Carving
by Robby Dardeau
6’1” tall, Micah Dronet may not look like a fourteen year old,
but he is, and he has just graduated from Maltrait Memorial Catholic
School in Kaplan. There he was involved in Jr Beta Club, played
basketball, and was an Alter server. Micah is an excellent student
and was awarded the American Legion Award, and the Father Maltrait
Award, which made his parents, Lisa Stewart & Tony Dronet, very
This month, Micah has the chance of winning another award, but this one has to do with a duck carving he made. I questioned him about the piece by email, and his answers are below.
Describe your carving.
The duck is a generalized version of a blue winged teal. The body is made from Louisiana Tupelo wood, and the head is carved from Texas mesquite. The wings are (antlers) from a white tail buck.
Where did you get the idea to make this?
Well, every summer I like to go to the hill country and spend some time with my Aunt Lottie and my Uncle David. That’s my mom’s older sister and her husband. They live on lake Buchannan in Burnet Texas and Uncle David is the owner of Big Lake Duck Calls, so he has this really nice wood shop where he makes his duck calls for sale. They have 8 grandchildren and each summer they get all the kids there at the same time, and would invite me to join along. They would call it Camp Mallard, and each day we did crafts and went camping and swimming in the lake and would go fishing, and wear matching t-shirts, and Uncle David would give us each a project to do in his woodshop. My first year at camp, I did a duck call, and the second year I did a walking staff, and my third year I did a wooden airplane. I knew there was a category in Jr Beta club for woodworking, so I asked him to help me make something to compete.
Last summer I was there again and I talked to Uncle David, and told him I needed to do something really special, as I saw what they were competing with in Jr Beta woodworking, and I needed something that was worthy of competition. He told me to put my thinking cap on and he would help me with whatever I decided, but that it had to be my idea. You have to understand Uncle David is an avid hunter and his shop is really awesome, it is filled with deer antlers and deer mounts and ducks and so many things you would be amazed to see it all. So I was sitting there one night and I was playing with a white tail deer rack practicing how to make rut sounds and the idea came to me - the deer antlers look like duck wings. I showed Uncle David the antlers in wings position and said, “These look like they could be wings on a duck,” and he agreed, and then we both got to thinking, why not make a wooden duck and use the antlers as the wings. Uncle David carves ducks and paints them and they’re really nice, but I wanted something more like a piece of art, and a duck in flight not sitting. What you see is the finished product. The wings set just the right way looks like it is lighting, or coming in for a landing.
Did anyone guide or show you how to carve? And how long did it take for you to create this piece?
We got started with Uncle David handing me a block of Louisiana Tupelo wood. Using a band saw, I started cutting the rough shape, then used various files in different sizes to make the rounded shape and smooth it out. There was a lot of sanding involved. A lot! I felt like that was all I did for some days. I would sand it then show it to Uncle David and he would say, “Nice, now go sand some more!” The holes were drilled using his drill press and the antlers were screwed on. I had to cover up the holes on the screws using wood glue and sawdust. I could not have done any of this without my Uncle David’s help. He has the knowledge and was very patient showing me and guiding me to do this. The more it went along the more excited I was to hurry and finish it, and he kept me slowed down so I would do it right and not mess it up.
What awards has this piece won, and what future competitions will it be in?
I brought the duck home and it was placed by the fireplace in our home. When Jr Beta competition came around this year, I told my teacher, Mrs. Ricky Parker, that I wanted to compete in the woodworking section at convention, so I showed her my duck and she agreed. I placed second at the state convention this year at the Lafayette Cajun Dome, and I will be going to Nationals to compete on June 24th this summer. I was really surprised when I found out that I had placed. We were eating lunch when Mrs. Parker told me. I called my mom as soon as I found out, and if you know my mom she was 100% excited for me!
Has anyone offered to purchase this art from you?
When I got home, naturally my mom was filled with excitement for me so she posted a picture of it on her Facebook timeline and right away men started asking her if they could buy one. I even got offered $500, which I turned down, as I have special plans for it when I return from Jr Beta National Convention in Greensboro N.C.
Do you plan to continue carving or making more pieces?
I have three orders already, so I will be busy this summer making more.
Do you have any other artistic talents?
I like to write poems and stories that are non-fiction, and I like to write about patriotism. My teacher, Mrs. Dawn Camel, encouraged my writing and making poems, and Mrs. Parker inspired me to write about patriotism.
In the fall, Micah plans on attending Vermilion Catholic High School and hopes to make the basketball team, and continue in Beta Club. Let’s hope he doesn’t give up carving.
The End of an Era
by Elizabeth Dardeau
May 5, 2012 marks an end to an era that started 13 years ago. Back then a bunch of little kids decided to go out and try to learn how to play baseball. Some wanted to play because older siblings played. Some of them wanted to play to make their dads proud of them. Again some of them had seen pictures of their fathers as young men and they wanted to be just like them. Regardless of the reason, some of them stayed because it was the thing to do until that first ball hit them however gently it may have been. Most of them survived the summer while learning that you were supposed to hit that little ball on the tee. It seemed that a basketball would have been much easier to hit but they knew there were rules and they wanted to be as tough as their peers. The summer was a long one.
The next year when talk turned to baseball most of the braver young lads thought they would give it another try. This summer they learned that the coach was going to “pitch” the ball to them and they were supposed to hit it. Then what??? Did Coach say run to third first, or first, first? There were trials and many errors, none too life-threatening unless you count all those scraped knees, which burned like heck. Crying was against the rules also.
If memory serves me right, the dreaded pitching machine came next. Darn, but it seemed like those balls were coming at you 100 mph. Easy does it - close your eyes and swing. Sometimes you managed to hit the ball and did it ever feel good. High fives all over the place. The next year brought news that your opponent was going to be aiming for you or so it seemed. That little old batter’s box seemed ever so small.
“Coach, what do you mean I have to put on all of this
equipment and stoop behind that crazy kid swinging that big bat and try to
catch that ball?” Aaron, you know you can do it. OMG!!! Mark, you gonna try out as pitcher? OMG!!! “The rest of you guys grab a
base and PROTECT it.” The trauma
was not over because then it came time for you to go up to bat. Man, why don’t they let you swing about
10 times; I bet I could hit it then.
Losses were frequent and wins were to be cherished and bragged about.
The summers began to give way to falls and the return to
school. About this time football
season for the big guys was beginning and so it must follow for the little guys
also. “Drafting” named their teams and the schedules were made. PRACTICE! Not too bad except when you had to go home then do homework
or study for tests the next day. Much
rather be in bed cause of tired, achy bones. This was the way it was until this same group of guys was
suddenly in 7th then 8th grade. Here the games became a little more serious and
practice a little more grueling.
There was always a “support” team in place consisting of dads, moms,
etc. who always came with the ice chests of cold water and cold drinks for the
“warriors.” No road game too far,
no inclement weather kept the fans at home. Their boys were playing and they were going.
At this time the bonds began to get stronger between players
(and cousins), coaches and parents.
These were the good times because even if we didn’t win this time, they
would be ours next time. Rivalries
formed both during baseball and also football. They were so anxious to play some teams (we gonna whip ‘em)
and dreaded others. Oh, but those
were the sweetest victories when we were underdogs and came out on top.
Going into high school meant that you would be dressing out
next to those “big” guys. They
would USE (and abuse) you at practice.
You made up your mind that you were here for the long haul. No matter how many times you had to sit
the bench or sit in the dugout, you wanted to prove that you really were (or
were going to be) a Screaming Eagle at the same school that your parents and
most of your family had attended.
You wanted to make them proud.
Your hard work was beginning to pay off because now even the coaches
knew your names.
I, being a very proud grandparent, am referring to the too
short, but great careers of the 3 Musketeers (and cousins) namely Mark LaPorte,
our grandson, cousin Aaron David, and Ryan David. These kids, now grown young men about to graduate from
Vermilion Catholic High School in Abbeville, are the guys who have been
together since even before kindergarten.
Certainly I would be remiss in not naming the other senior boys whom we
have grown to love and will miss terribly during the sports seasons. Baseball and/or football athletes are:
Andrew Bernard, Derek Broussard, Emile Chiasson, Aaron David, Ryan David, Ryan
Domingue, Stephan Guidry, Blair Landry, Mark LaPorte, Jordan Lattier, Justin
Lattier, Caleb Luquette Eric Patout, Benjamin Primeaux, Christopher Stakes,
Etienne Trahan, Joshua Wilson, and Caleb Zaunbrecher. The coaches over the years are too numerous to name but you
know who you are and we thank you.
I must name Coach Trev Faulk, Coach Danny McMurtry, Coach Roch
Charpentier, Jared Duhon, and Howard Landry. We must also include Coach Veazey and our 12th man. Whether it was a game or a practice,
Father Theriot was always there rooting his beloved Eagles upward and
onward. Thanks Father
Theriot. It meant a lot to us.
I began this article with a sad note as the Screaming Eagles
of VC did lose to Central Catholic of Morgan City on a hot May 5, 2012. The score is not important now. The Eagles lost to a better team on
that day. We had beaten them
before but as they say “Any great team can lose on any given day.” It seemed that the day had come all too
This indeed is the end of an era and it was very painful
yesterday, but Monday, May 21, 2012, graduation day, will begin a new era. As we older folks know nothing lasts
forever and you can’t go home again.
There are many new “games” to play, new people to meet, new mountains to
climb and many new challenges to overcome. You will miss the security of a small, close-knit school,
the many friends from eons ago.
The bottom line here is that each of you can be successful, as you have already proven that you can “hang” with the best of them. You are our Champions!
Big Boy Scout, Big Volunteer
by Shannon Neveaux
Mr. James Menard, a native of Kaplan, may have retired from Mobil, but he didn’t retire from life. In my opinion, he’s a model retiree. When he’s not traveling, camping or spending time with his family and grandchildren, he’s helping others. Mrs. Yvette, his wife, also remains active by volunteering her time line dancing at the local Kaplan Senior Center. I hope I have their passion and energy when I retire.
This spring Mr. James spent forty hours clearing out and cleaning up what will soon be the Primitive Group Tent site at Palmetto Island State Park. It’s much larger than the individual sites cleared in February and I think his grandson’s scout troop has every intension of using it as soon as it is ready. He also did a fantastic job putting the finishing touches on the individual primitive campsites. I think all you ‘tent’ campers will appreciate the spaces that have been created.
Friends of Palmetto Island State Park will benefit from Mr. James’ volunteer hours also through a grant from the Mobil Retiree Volunteer Program (MVP). MVP has a volunteer program for retirees, their spouses and any children ages 12-25 who volunteer their time with non-profit organizations of their choice in the community. Retirees can participate individually or as a team of five. When the retiree, spouse or child, completes 40 volunteered hours of their time in support of a non-profit organization, ExxonMobil Foundation grants $500 in their name to that charity. In 2011 ExxonMobil and Mobil retirees and surviving spouses donated more than 303,800 hours to 2,400 non-profit organizations. In recognition of these efforts, ExxonMobil Foundation contributed more than $3.6 million to the organizations where they volunteered. Companies create programs like this to: increase employee moral, encourage retiree volunteering in the community where they live, promote philanthropic programs, improve public relations, and allow the company to be seen in the community.
Pretty sweet deal! So, if you’re passionate about Palmetto Island State Park (or another non-profit charity) you might want to check with your employer and see if they have such a program. If not maybe you could make a proposal for a program such as this.
This is the second year that Palmetto Island State Park benefits from Mr. James’ volunteered time. In 2011, he volunteered 40 hours to the park. I was thinking that Mr. James’ motivation for choosing to volunteer his time at the park was probably twofold. His first motivation may be camping. He and his wife seem to enjoy spending time at the park. It’s not too far from home, but it’s just far enough. His second motivation surely may be his family. His grandson participates in a local Boy Scout troop, which makes our park exciting and important to them both.
I think the Boy Scouts and state parks go together like bread and butter. You see...Mr. James was a Boy Scout in his youth and while the organization has probably changed much since he was with them, he still holds a tremendous amount of respect for what they stand for. Scout troops can really bring lots of benefits and enhancements to a park they are passionate about. Several scouts have already completed and/or planned projects at the park, like the outdoor classroom, making wood duck boxes, benches, clearing primitive tent sites and building outdoor message centers. To their benefit they have a brand new property to do what scouts do. There are plenty of opportunities to earn all sorts of badges. It’s really a mutually beneficial relationship. If you’d like to find out how you can support the local Troop 85, contact Thomas Gaspard at 501-6734.
I can’t help but think that as the years go by, these boys grow into men. Every time I get to visit with Mr. James I recognize those ‘good ole’ Boy Scout qualities. I learned plenty about all the opportunities and experiences scouting gives these kids. I can see why Mr. James is so passionate about them. He is a testament to his time spent in scouting. The lessons he learned about community service and volunteerism back then haven’t seemed to wear off. Better yet for us all, I think they’ve grown into something special. His time has been a gift to Palmetto Island State Park and the friends’ group.
As I end this article, I struggle to find the appropriate words to express our appreciation and gratitude for what he’s done, cause to simply say “Thank You” doesn’t seem to be enough. In true James Menard fashion, he shares, “I would like to thank the park staff and camp host for helping with the group site, thank Marcelle for her support and thank Friends of Palmetto for supporting the park.” He’s still putting all of us first. What an AMAZING volunteer, Hard Worker and plain ole good Cajun man. Merci Beaucoup, Mr. James!
by Lisa Stewart
In the northern part of Vermilion
Parish, on Bayou Que Tortue, within the Leleux community, sits a farm
that has been there since the 1800’s. It is the Adam farm, handed
down from generation to generation until present day where it
continues to be a working part of the agricultural business and
cattle ranching industry.
In the early 1900’s Mr. Alcide Adam bought the property, which had always been used as a working rice and cattle farm, from his father-in-law, Pierre Bertrand. Pierre had three children, Frank, Preston and Camille Adam. Grandpa Frank had 5 children: Norma, Charlotte, Harold, Edward and Charles.
Photo taken by Paulette Adam
Harold was the only child to take an interest in the farm and to keep to the ways of farm life. Harold married Rita Villejoin and together they had three children: Craig, Sandra and Marie. Harold passed away at a young age when Craig was only 13 years old. At 16, Craig was farming right along side his mother, and it was 1974 when Craig officially took over the farm.
Craig married Paulette Gaspard in 1977 and together they brought to their marriage their children, Melanie Adam and Steven Wimberley. Later on, Angela and Marla completed their family and they continued living off the agricultural land that was handed down to them. Cattle prices were depressed during this time and they eventually sold off all the cattle, but in the 1980’s, Craig was able to slowly rebuild his herd of cattle by buying and producing more and more cattle.
Of all the children, Marla was the one
to take an interest in the animals and the workings of the farm. She
spent lots of time with her father and learned the ropes from him.
The other children worked on the farm and helped out, doing their
part, but it was Marla who asked her dad to show cattle in 4-H. She
was in middle school when she began showing and with the help of
Craig at her side, she continued for seven years earning many awards,
including the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Beef Production in
Louisiana, after showing a cow straight out of Craig’s own herd.
When asked what was the best part about raising his children on the
farm, Craig was quick to answer, “It’s an avenue we use to keep
the children active in the farm business. It gives them good work
ethics, life skills, and shows them how life abounds and helps them
to understand things in real life. It teaches them good stewardship
of the land, and helps them understand that beef does not just appear
in a plastic package on the shelf, it is produced. There is a
responsibility to have all that we have, but it is a blessing, too.”
Craig added, “Life is not easy or fair, and it goes the same with
life on the farm, whether it’s a favorite horse or cow, sometimes
they have to be put down, and this helps the children understand life
and death in reality. It teaches them early how to handle such
With Marla off and married, there was a
lull in the show ring, and during this idle time Craig used it wisely
to continue building up his herd knowing he had grandsons coming up,
and, soon the second generation came of age, and it was time to do it
all over again. His oldest grandson, Nathan Sistrunk, Angela’s
son, asked his Paw to help him show cattle when he was old enough to
do so. Nathan spends lots of time with his Paw watching, learning
and helping with the workings of the farm. Vaccinating cattle,
castrating calves, breeding and calving, its all part of life on the
farm and Nathan is right there learning the confirmation of animals
and understanding what makes a good cow to build the herd. Craig has
taken him on trips to buy bulls, and brings him to events that
include anything to do with cattle, instructing him to work
responsibly, and confidently, knowing that these lessons in his
growing maturity will build a strong character in his grandson.
There are other grandchildren who are coming up in age and they are
showing just as much promise of loving life on the farm, working with
the horses and cattle. In fact, Nathan’s little sister, Molly
Claire, is anxiously waiting her turn to show horses when she is old
I asked Nathan what was it he liked so
much about 4-H and showing his cows and he replied, “I like it!
It’s really fun. I mean... you get to do things and fun activities
and even help the earth while having fun! I joined 4-H not because
my Pawpaw asked me to, I heard that 4-H was a lot of fun, and you
could show your animals, and do projects and other stuff.” “I
show two commercial cows,” said Nathan, “Lucy and Annabelle are
their names. It’s hard for me to come up with a name for my cows.
Me and Paw go ride through the herd and find what we think will be a
good show cow, then we bring it into the farm yard where we work with
it, groom it, and break it so it will behave in the show ring. It’s
a lot of hard work, but we do it together.”
“Lucy is pregnant right now,” says
Nathan “and I can’t show her any more because she aged out, I
have to stop because that is how things are, but we didn’t sell
her, we put her back in the herd. Paw is building up his herd; he
has about 200 hundred mama cows on 1000 acres. Last year I showed a
cow named Midnight, and not long ago, me and Paw were riding through
the herd and he pointed her out to me. It was nice to see her again,
but I don’t miss her, she never did break right and she was hard to
handle.” Nathan says Lucy is a great cow. “She is easy and she
listens to me in the ring. When I am about to get in the ring I get
nervous and start jumping with excitement and then I get butterflies
in my stomach. I talk to Lucy and she listens, I tell her, ‘Good
girl Lucy, your doing great,’ and it’s like she looks at me and
says, ‘Okay Nathan, I am going to listen to you,’ and we do good
in the show ring.” Nathan pointed out that Annabelle is not so
good. “She is still hard to work with, and me and my Paw are
working hard to break her. She does not listen like Lucy does; she
is more like my old cow, Midnight, a little crazy. One time she
flung me like a helicopter and I flew in the show ring. All the men
and my Paw had to go after her. I wasn’t hurt, she is just hard
work!” He continues, “The best thing about showing my cows is
that the whole family comes out to support me. We are all together,
my mom and dad and my sister and my grandparents and my cousins.
Everyone comes to support me and that feels good. Farm life is about
family. It’s hard work at the barn everyday. You have to feed;
you have to walk the cows, water them, put their halters on them,
teach them patience and prepare them for the shows, no matter what
the weather is, hot or cold, you have to do it. The feeding part is
tough for me because Annabelle butts the feed bucket and runs off.
Lucy is so hungry all the time she butts the bucket, too, and I have
to put my hand out to keep her from knocking out the feed. When you
walk into the barnyard, the cows come running from the pasture and I
stay aware of Annabelle because she’s rowdy. But my Paw pets her
on the head and she calms down. If you walk slowly she is ok and
calms down. She’s one rough cow!”
I asked Nathan what was the best part
about doing all this with his paw and he quickly responded with
enthusiasm, “He’s the best Pawpaw I have! He does everything
with me! He is there for me no matter what I need. He’s’ funny,
he makes us kids laugh, and he’s nice, he’s my Pa, I love him!
Sometimes he fusses at me when were working, but I know it is just to
make me do things right. I get over it because I know he just loves
me and wants the best for me. He fusses to make me better, he’s
the best, and I plan on doing this as long as I can so I can spend
the time with my paw.”
Why should kids join 4H? Nathan answers, “Well, there are other things to do besides just showing cows, horses, pigs and sheep. You can have fun and learn at the same time. But it is their decision if they want to join or not. God gave us free will, so it’s up to them to use it the way they want to.”
After being asked about his philosophy
on life, he thought a bit then shared, “I live a great life, it
could be better but that is up to me to make it better, no one else.
I think everybody in life should be Christian, and I can only hope
that people use God’s free will to be good. To go to church every
Sunday and give that time to God and to help others, like if there is
an old man trying to walk across the road you should want to go help
him and not just pass him by. You know, help others, and the people
After hearing these inspiring words
come out of his mouth I asked him how old he was and he said matter
of factly, “I am 10 yrs old and a 4th grade student at Redemptorist
Catholic in Crowley.”
Back to Craig, I asked him about his philosophy on the farm and he responded to me, “If you teach them good responsibility, the benefits as they grow up will be good work ethics, confident adults who make the right decisions, and hopefully will continue the cattle business I have worked hard to build. Good health and good family makes for a good life!
"I Remember When”
by Lisa Stewart
During Christmas of 2011, Daniel Duhon wrote a letter to his family members stating, “I remember when,” reminiscing about sixty years of togetherness with his family, and leaving them with the message, “Yes we do come from humble beginnings, but always remember your roots.”
Daniel, the youngest child and only boy was born in 1944 at
the Villamez Clinic in Kaplan to Robley and Ruth Duhon. Mr. Robley was the
proprietor of a CASE tractor supply company on Hwy 35 just south of Kaplan.
Mrs. Ruth was a homemaker raising Daniel and his two older sisters, Jerone
& Linda. Jerone lives in Phoenix Arizona and has two children, Jude and
Ramone, while Linda lives in Slidell and is mother to Michelle and Michael.
Daniel tells me he started school in 1950 and attended the one schoolhouse in
Kaplan at the time. He remembers the school being two separate buildings, one
housing grades 1-5 and the other 6-12. Kaplan High School is where he graduated
in 1962. He started college right away attending USL that fall semester,
residing in Richard Dormitory off campus. In the summer times he would carpool,
stating the kids just always seemed to find a ride, someone always had a car
that you could carpool with. Classmates and friends that joined him at USL were
Stan Hardee, Richard Abshire, Carl Comeaux, Rayetta Broussard Meaux, &
Patty Compete Doise. Daniel graduated in 1966 with a degree in Math and a minor
in English, but he didn’t start teaching right away. Instead, he went to work
with his dad at the tractor supply making a whopping $35.00 a week in income!
He lived at home so he was able to save his money to buy himself a car. Daniel
remembers going to Frenzel Motors in Abbeville with his dad and bought himself
a brand new Olive green Plymouth Fury III, for about $4500.
Daniel worked in the implement business for about 12-13
years when his dad decided it was time to retire after forty years of service.
Daniel knew he didn’t want to continue in the business his dad built, so he
began making plans to teach. Sadly, Mr. Robley died of a massive heart attack
in 1977, and December 20th was the last day the door was opened for business.
Daniel said it took about a year to close the shop and complete the tractor business. Once that was done, he returned to USL and received his teaching certificate in Education, still majoring in Math and English. His first years teaching were in Henry. It was during this time that Daniel began building a home of his own on some property that belonged to his father just off of Hwy 167 and Etienne Road outside of Maurice.
According to Daniel, his dad was raised on a farm and
enjoyed dabbling in odd projects and doing things in a different way than
usual. His dad raised pigs and sheep on this property and was one of the first
few to start planting soybeans in the area. He says how his dad enjoyed
experimenting with different fertilizers and such. He planted clover for feed
and the neighbors always knew where Mr. Robley had placed the fertilizer
because he would spell out the letters “RD” and the clover would grow higher
and bigger in that shape. Mr. Robley had a catfish pond, raised corn, peas, and
anything else that could tie him to his farming days when he was a child.
Daniel’s house was finished about the same time the new
school, North Vermilion, was ready to be utilized, and he began teaching there
its first year open as a Math & English teacher. He stayed at that school
until his retirement twenty-one years later. It was also during this time that
Daniel was the school tour guide bringing the children to Washington DC on
annual trips. By this time Daniel has begun traveling more and becoming
interested in tourism. He joined a group of people from Maurice and visited
Europe. It was on a twenty-day trip to England, Scotland and Ireland when the
travel bug hit him hard and began what he continues to do today - travel!
Daniel joined forces with Sandy Sagrera who owned Cajun Tours south of
Abbeville, and became an escort for about 12-14 years on those excursions.
Daniel remembers 2001 as the year he could have probably rented out his house
as he was away from it more then he was in it. It was in the fall season of
that year that he, his mom, and his two sisters decided to start taking a fall
trip as a family. The first adventures were Hawaii, Canada, Amish Country,
Niagara Falls, and the Fall Foliage tour. It was in 2005 that he lost his mom,
Ruth, but continued to travel to places such as Lake Tahoe, Cape Cod, San
Francisco and Nova Scotia.
It was while traveling to Europe that Daniel became familiar
with the David Winter collections of cottages. He bought his first one about 25
years ago and has been collecting every since. He owns hundreds of different
pieces of the collection and is even a member of guild of these famous valuables.
Daniel still considers himself a Kaplanite, even though he
lives in Maurice. He is actively involved in the Kaplan Museum, The Sam Guarino
Blacksmith Shop in Abbeville, the Maurice Museum - a work in progress, and the
Vermilion Parish Tourist Commission for about four to five years, holding the
chairman seat for two years. He belongs to the Kaplan Arts Council and Kaplan
Chamber of Commerce as well as the Retired Teachers Association and is a
current member of Krewe Chic A la Pie.
Last year, Daniel had the honor of representing the Krewe as
their KING GUMBO LVI, with his sister, Linda, serving as Queen Jambalaya LVII.
He will be relinquishing that crown this carnival season at the annual Mardi
Gras Ball in Kaplan on Feb 11th and invites all of you to come out and enjoy
the festivities. He will also ride in the annual parade that rolls down Cushing
Avenue in Kaplan on Mardi Gras day. About being King Gumbo, he says, “The best
part was the actual crowning. I really enjoy riding the floats and throwing
beads to the people on the street,” Daniel said with a twinkle in his eye. “I
just want to be a part of all the fun and activities I remember experiencing as
a child! I remember riding in a parade in 1951, although I don’t remember what
parade it was. I was on a mini-make-shift float, and I am still doing that to
this day.” He also remembers no one yelling, “Throw me something mister” like
they do today. “I don’t know what we said, probably just yelled ‘HEYYYYY’ to
get their attention!”
The best part of Mardi Gras? Daniel says the good family
oriented fun for all ages, young and old, that can be celebrated year after
year, a tradition that is steeped deep in our culture and carried on down the
The best part about teaching? He says that it didn’t dawn on him how much he really enjoyed teaching until the children he taught would come back to visit him and tell him how much they enjoyed his classes and thanked him for guiding them in school.
His philosophy on life? “Think positive and never negative!
I am thankful for all I have and am enjoying sharing what I have with others,
my family and my friends.”
He Ain’t Heavy...He’s My Brother
by Elizabeth Dardeau
The title of this article is borrowed from a song you may have heard a long time ago. As this article begins to unfold you may agree that this is a very appropriate title as we begin to meet the family of Mr. Rene LeBlanc, Sr. (dec.) and his wife, the former Jeanne Vigneaux (dec.). Mr. LeBlanc and his wife were the parents of 6 children: 5 boys and 1 girl. The names of their children were Wilson, Rene Jr., Edwin, Pervis, Velma and John Ira or simply Ira, as his many friends and relatives know him. Unfortunately, the first four sons are now deceased and the sole remaining members of this family are Velma LeBlanc who married Luce Frederick in 1951, and Ira. Many residents of Vermilion Parish will recognize the name of Luce, Velma’s husband, as he was one of the founding members of the well-known Fredericks’ Brothers Barber Shop here in Abbeville. Ira was born on January 2, 1936 and will have celebrated his 76th birthday by the time this article is published.
Ira was the youngest child in a family of six. When he was
born, his mother was 42 and his father 41. He was a seemingly healthy infant at
birth, but his parents began to notice his developmental skills were not
progressing at the expected “normal rate.”
He was slower to sit and stand in addition to all of the
other motor skills that we all take for granted. It is believed that he was
actually born with Cerebral Palsy although it did not become totally apparent
until later. Development was slow but Ira persevered. He began to speak at 4
years of age and to walk at age six. Since Luce was courting Velma, he visited
at the LeBlanc home frequently and grew fond of Ira, perhaps even viewing him
as a younger brother and even taught him to ride a bike. Ira began school at
Meaux Elementary at the age of 8 where he completed 6th grade. When it became
apparent that his condition made “regular school” too difficult it was
recommended that he attend the State School for Spastic Children in Alexandria.
For a child to leave family and friends at the tender age of 14 must have been
very difficult for all involved, but I have a feeling that his parents wanted
Ira to have whatever options available for a better life for their son. He
remained there until he was almost 20. Upon returning home for summer vacation,
Ira began having great difficulty walking with frequent falls. This made going
back to school in Alexandria impossible for him. Testing by physicians led them
to the conclusion that Ira had contracted polio which made it necessary once
again for Ira to leave his family for treatment at hospitals in Baton Rouge and
then later New Orleans. Polio caused rapid deterioration of first his legs and
then his arms. Having lived with Cerebral Palsy for all of those years, it
seemed that God had sent another cross to Ira and his family. At this point Ira
was wheelchair bound and needed complete one-on-one care. This was accomplished
by his parents at home, and was not an easy task for elderly parents. In the
meantime his father suffered a stroke at age 68, and also became
wheelchair-bound needing complete care himself.
Considering the fact that Ira and his father both needed
primary care, Mrs. LeBlanc became the sole caregiver. It was then decided that
the family needed to move to Abbeville and build a home next to Velma and Luce
who would be able to assist with care as needed. After the decision was made to
move and construct a home, Ira decided that he wanted to draw the house plans
himself. His brother, Wilson, constructed a special table for Ira that held his
papers in place so he could draw and measure. That most certainly was
physically difficult but a labor of love nevertheless. Upon completion, the
plans were brought to Mr. Rigsby Frederick of Abbeville Lumber. When he saw
Ira’s plans he knew his work was already done. No improvements were needed to
the plans. All measurements and specifications were put in correctly. What an
accomplishment for a 28-year-old “handicapped” individual.
The home was built and Ira and his parents were now in a new
home which was accessible to both wheelchairs. He had his parents and extended
family next door to help. Unfortunately tragedy struck again. Velma and Ira’s
mother passed away in 1972. It is times such as these that call for “heroic
measures.” The decision was quickly and unanimously made to move Ira and his
father both into Velma and Luce’s home next door. Times like these bring out
the true “heroes” in a family. There was no question about where these two
beloved family members would be cared for.
Now imagine yourself and your family looking into the eyes
of this situation realistically speaking. Velma and Luce were the parents of
three young children (now grown with families of their own). At that time their
ages were: Jeanne 18, Don 15 and Jude 9. A home with three young children can
be a really hectic place and it would soon become much more hectic. Their
entire lifestyle was going to change, with times when they would be called upon
to help care for their uncle. To say that these kids stepped up to the plate would
be an understatement. They learned how to perform basic care needed by their
uncle, and were also living the example their parents were exposing them to;
after all he was their beloved uncle. All of them adjusted very well and were
happy to be of help.
As I said before, Velma was married to Luce Frederick, so
there was to be no real problem with the situation because she is married to a
prince of a man (which I guess makes her a princess or maybe even a queen).
Neither one of them wavered in their decision to take both brother and father
in. Neither one of them considered a nursing home even though it would have
made their lives so much easier. Almost everything had to be turned
upside-down. New living arrangements, and new routines of care for their 77-year-old
father and 36-year-old brother, yet neither wavered. One year after moving in,
Velma’s father passed away. Forty years have passed since then and they are
still taking care of Ira.
Ira’s condition makes it necessary for him to have someone
in attendance at all times. He must be turned on schedule, given many
medications at certain times, and have his blood sugar checked as he is now
diabetic, although he is not on insulin at present. His oxygen needs
monitoring, too, and the list goes on and on. Being very hard of hearing, it is
at times difficult to communicate with him but if you get his attention away
from the TV, he is ready with a special smile. He has his own room equipped
with everything that could possibly be needed for his care. He has a hospital
bed, wheelchair, a Portalift with which to move him into and out of bed. He has
his beloved TV set on, which he watches soap operas every afternoon after his
lunch. He also enjoys action and sci-fi movies whenever they can find something
he hasn’t already seen.
Ira has a really good sense of humor and enjoys verbally
sparing with his brother-in-law, Luce, who enjoys nothing better himself. Ira
is fortunate to have wonderful outside caregivers who tend to him as if he were
their own. They are with him part of each day, which is a great relief for
Velma and Luce as well.
To say that Luce and Velma have devoted the last 40 or more
years to the care of Velma’s family, Ira in particular, would be putting it
mildly. They have been an inspiration to me ever since I have known them. They
have had to give up so much but have gotten so much more in return. You can see
the love as they care for Ira, as they speak to him and as they plan their
lives around him. What an example they have given their children. The most
impressive thing about Luce and Velma is the fact that they do not realize how
special they are. In their humility, they view their choice to care for Ira as
the only thing to do and they do it with loving hearts.
In his own special way Ira is a very lucky individual even though some might see him otherwise. He has probably received more love than many other people. So I think I can speak for the Frederick family when saying “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” (and there is nothing I would not do for him).
A Bright and Shining Star
If some people are more interesting than others, then Bobby Broussard of Gueydan has to be grouped with some people. He’s a talented and accomplished musician, an antique bottle collector, and a cypress furniture maker with an eye for design and an appreciation for our Cajun culture. He enjoys history, creativity and people, and loves his roles of husband and father. The guy’s got range.
Many blues and zydeco fans know of Bobby’s musical talent. He’s been playing guitar, lead and rhythm, since he was sixteen years old. Bobby is self-taught on guitar and attributes his learning to watching Freddie Benoit, and just listening to albums over and over until he got it right. For most of his life he’s made a living playing his six strings travelling much further than the boundaries of Vermilion Parish.
Blues Guitarist, Bobby Broussard of Gueydan, is proving he's got talent and skills in building furniture, too.
He has always had a deep passion for the old time blues music. Some of his favorite blues artists include John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and Freddy King. Bobby’s first recording was on a gospel album called “Hymn for Him” and soon after, his career expanded in different fields of music including rock, Cajun, blues and zydeco. Bobby began playing zydeco at age 17. He has worked with Rockin Sydney, C.J. Chenier, Chubby Carrier, Rockin Dopsie, Bobby Charles, Paul “Lil’ Buck” Sinegal, Sherman Robertson, Harry Hypolite, Andy Smith Jr., JoJo Reed, Geno Delafose and Jude Taylor just to name a few. He’s also had his own group called Bobby B. and the Blues Coalition. Bobby also recorded a song with Bobby Charles, Willie Nelson, Eddie Raven, and Sonny Landreth called “Wish You Were Here Right Now.” Playing music has allowed him to travel to Hawaii, The Smithsonian, The National Mall in Washington, D.C., The 1996 Olympics in Atlanta Georgia, Belgium, Scotland, Spain, Amsterdam, the Bahamas, and Canada including Nova Scotia, Calgary and Vancouver just to name a few places.
Bobby has some good stories from his musical travels, but we only have room for two. He recalls a gig at age 19, playing with Sherman Robertson in Memphis when after a set, legendary blues man, Albert King, said to him, “You play good rhythm, son.” Humble and grateful for the compliment, Bobby says, “I could have quit right there. That...coming from him. That was good.” Many years later, at a casino in Mississippi, he and the band had just finished “playing a very bad version” of a ZZ Top song when Bobby realized Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top was sitting at the bar. According to Bobby, they spoke, and Gibbons asked Bobby to show him that last lick he had just played on the guitar, so he did. Bobby jokes, “Again, I could have quit right there.”
Before his music career ever began, Bobby has been collecting old bottles. He’s been doing this since he was ten, and got started because his late mother, Barbara Talley, who Bobby described as “very artistic in painting and sculpture,” would collect old bottles to cascade melted wax over, a popular trend of the 1970’s. “Mom would take me to look for old bottles around old farmhouses, old towns, railroad tracks,” he shares. Bobby loves the historical nature of old bottles and the stories they tell through their design, condition, and wording on the glass. Today, he still enjoys looking for them and wondering what’s hidden in the ground to find. He describes his collection of “3 to 4 hundred good ones” as a history lesson. Bobby loves looking for them, and has taken his probe and shovel with him on the road when playing gigs out of state. He says enthusiastically, “I even dug in Pennsylvania!” His collection is impressive and occasionally he will sell one to a fellow collector. One of his bottles dates back to 1790.
Bobby’s latest interest is growing in popularity, as he makes beautiful custom-designed cypress furniture. Give him a 100-year-old sinker log or some boards from an old house or barn and he will turn it into a piece of art. He mostly makes tables, benches, and cabinets, but has made many other pieces, too.
Bobby loves cypress wood, and likes to feature the character of each piece in his work. To him, each piece is different, with their grains, colors, and imperfections. He doesn’t go to the lumberyard for his wood, either. The cypress he uses can only be found on a river or in a pile of debris from a forgotten building of yesterday.
When asked what it is he likes about woodworking, Bobby says, “The process. Seeing it (the wood) with the mildew on it and falling apart, coming out of the mud, and seeing it come back to life.”
Bobby’s furniture is solid and strong with a style described as “sturdy, artistic-primitive, and Cajun flavored.” Although all of his pieces have a purpose, he says it’s “more about art and less about functionality.” As for the designs he’s come up with, he shares, “I let the pieces kind of talk to me. I look at them long enough to where they give me an idea of what they would best be used for.”
From looking at the quality of his work, it is hard to believe that Bobby has only been doing this for nine years, but he has. When he began, the only knowledge of woodwork he had came from his Gueydan High School Industrial Arts teacher, Ricky Hollier. Since then, he has learned much about construction, especially on older authentic Cajun homes, and credits AJ Primeaux and Brad Phillips for this knowledge.
What got Bobby started building furniture has to do with him collecting old boards from New Orleans and aged driftwood from the Lake Arthur area. Take a pile of fine lumber, add a request from a young lady he was dating who is now his wife, Jessica Meaux Broussard, and you have the beginning of Bobby Broussard, the furniture maker. She just wanted a plant stand, and he just wanted to impress her. So, he built one, and hasn’t stopped building things yet. Now, their home is filled with his work, and Jessica, an artistic and creative antique glass bead jeweler, lends a designer’s eye to many of Bobby’s pieces.
The need for a storage shed inspired the artistic structure that now stands tall in the Broussard backyard. Bobby and Jessica call it “the cabin” or “a glorified storage shed.” It’s made from, you guessed it, old cypress and is put together in an outdoor Cajun style. Bobby even laid the brick pillars that it sits on. It’s certainly unique. Bobby jokingly describes it as his most expensive work yet, saying, “Our insurance agent thinks it’s worth five grand.”
Bobby has incorporated salvaged metal into some of his pieces and is known to repurpose things. In their living room sits the iron base of an old Singer sewing machine topped with a smooth cypress board. What he loves most is when a customer shares their ideas with him and he has to come up with something he’s never built before. He enjoys the challenge.
There are differences and similarities in making music and making furniture. Bobby explains, “A good furniture piece is like a good gig where everybody danced and everybody was happy, and I put my heart in it. In music, you’re only as good as your last performance. I can always go back and fix a messed up furniture piece. I can’t fix a bad note.”
Just like Bobby’s musical career has been professionally complemented, so has his furniture. One of his tables was sold to an antique dealer, who then sold it to the set designers for the movie Secretariat. In the movie, after the dad dies, there is a scene with the housekeeper sitting at a table in the kitchen. According to Bobby, that table and bench were made and finished by his own hands. Jessica laughed saying, “We rented that movie just to see one of his pieces.”
One doesn’t have to rent that movie to see his work. Here in Vermilion Parish, you can see and purchase a variety of his pieces at Thibodeaux’s Town & Country in Abbeville. His work can also be seen at Good Fella’s in Crowley, and at the Lafayette Antique Market.
Bobby’s talents and skills have been passed down to the next generation. Bruce is Bobby and Jessica’s seven-year-old son, who loves music and woodworking with his dad. He even likes bottle collecting. Bruce plays the keyboard, harmonica, and the guitar, but he was quick to say, “I’m not that good on the guitar...yet.” The keyword is “yet.” It’s probably just a matter of time before he’s “good on the guitar,” because he’s very talented on the other two instruments. It’s understood that for Festival Acadiens, Bruce got on stage and jammed with Lil’ Buck Sinegal. Bruce spends lots of time with his dad and is known to be pretty creative with scrap pieces of wood, too. Last time Bobby pulled a log from the river, he let Bruce steer the boat. That should be a memory to last a lifetime.
There should be no doubt - Bobby Broussard certainly is one interesting man keeping his culture alive through music and woodwork.
Sean Gayle and his son, James, with Patti’s Book Nook in Gueydan.Many have found a solution to this problem in the small town of Gueydan. At Patti’s Book Nook, Sean Gayle and his son, James, have found a way to provide help for students strapped for cash. First, Gayle, with his vast knowledge of buying and selling new and used books, has found books for half the price students were paying in Lafayette Parish and online. Secondly, and most importantly, Gayle has taken the risk of purchasing the books and giving them to the students with no money down. This is done after a promissory note has been signed saying the student will pay for the books once his or her Grant funds come in. Gayle explains, “To my knowledge, we are the only ones allowing students to take books and pay later. This isn’t layaway, it’s good faith policy.”
by Robby Dardeau
Published in Bonnes Nouvelles of Vermilion Parish, July 2011
I’ve seen his YouTube video with the remote controlled rat. It’s funny. He catches people off guard and scares the graton out of them when his electronic rodent comes out from nowhere. So, while I visit with Cooyon Duhon, I’m ready, and I’ve got an eye out for his rat.
Cooyon Duhon is the creation of Kaplan’s own Keith Duhon. “Cooyon Duhon,” as Keith describes him, “is a clean, lighthearted, crazy, happy-go-lucky, Cajun guy.” For those of you who don’t know what he looks like, Cooyon’s got a straw hat, cover-alls, missing teeth, eyeglasses thicker than a Coke bottle made in 1977, and talks like he slept through every class in school. He won’t be winning a beauty contest any time soon, but there’s something about that ugly face of his that can make you smile.
This Cooyon madness all started because Keith designs t-shirts and sells them online at his website, cafepress.com/justthelook. Keith’s brother, Craig “Popeye” Duhon, was the one who talked him into putting Cooyon online to draw more attention to his site, without paying the high cost of internet ads. Since then, Cooyon has gotten some attention and Keith has sold some shirts, only now he’s selling more Cooyon shirts than any other.
Cooyon’s debut on the Internet began with him singing famous songs but with lyrics from Duhon’s own imagination. So far, some of the songs he’s torn up are: “Friends in Low Places,” “Staying Alive,” “Beat It,” “I Will Survive,” and several others. The most viewed online is “I Can’t Survive.” It went viral around the time DJ’s, Walton & Johnson, described it as “the video that won’t go away.” It’s Duhon’s message to President Obama all wrapped up to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
Keith isn’t limited to just songs. He writes, directs, acts, produces, and edits his own comedy skits and music videos. The filming is done with a digital camera that costs somewhere around a hundred bucks, and Keith is learning film technique as he goes. Check out “Cooyon Duhon Versus The Cajun Predator.” It probably won’t win an Oscar, but it is remarkable. Keith says he came up with the idea for Cajun Predator while driving home from his seven-day hitch offshore. That’s right, Keith has been working offshore for twenty years, and is now a lead operator for Apache Corporation. Who knew there was so much artistic creativity in the oil industry? Take away his hat, blacked-out teeth, and goofy glasses, and Keith looks like someone who would really enjoy being in a fistfight, so thank God he prefers making us laugh.
Many already know that Keith is a talented artist. He creates logos and illustrations, and he’s had his cartoons printed in national publications like The Globe, National Enquirer, Sun, Woman’s World, National Examiner, and more. He’s been doing “Bou & Thib” for this publication for many years now, too. Keith is self-taught when it comes to drawing, having no formal instructions, and is currently doing artwork for a greeting card company. Regarding his drawing ability, Keith says the late Earl Comeaux influenced him. The two of them got together on the book, “You Know You’re In Cajun Country If...” It was published in 1998 with Comeaux responsible for the text and Duhon doing all artwork.
Whether it’s drawing cartoons or playing a character, Keith enjoys making people laugh. “It makes me feel good to know I’ve made people laugh. Laura likes to laugh, that’s why we’ve been together so long,” Keith shares. Keith and Laura have been married for 33 years, and one would think that by now she would be immune to his humor, but she’s not. Keith can still crack her up. Laura was quick to share that this Cooyon Duhon character isn’t something that was just invented. Instead, it’s something Keith’s family has been living with for a long time. Cooyon is just new to the Internet world, but his antics, sayings, and silliness have been alive since Keith was a young boy growing up in Abbeville. Keith and Laura have three grown children and six grandchildren (two of them call him “Pawpaw Cooyon”). Laura is the owner and stylist of Just the Look in Kaplan. The two also own Cajun Storks and More, a yard sign rental company that helps announce the arrival of a new baby in the family, a party, and other fun events. Keith handles the creative side of this, too.
His uncle, Jimmy Duhon, was the one to first call him Cooyon. Keith admits, “I was always doing something...something to make them laugh.” As a kid, Keith took some cardboard and tried to fly off the roof of his home. He didn’t succeed, but he got some laughs. Keith and cardboard...He’s got another story that involves a bicycle, some cardboard, and his dad getting really mad, but he’ll share that one some time in the future. According to Keith, one word his childhood friends and family would describe him as was “crazy.”
Practical jokes and school seldom mix and Keith was a clown. Keith attended Abbeville High School and was always the kidder. He remembers once walking back in from P.E. class in front of his two coaches who had their hands full carrying softball bats. Keith, wanting to scare them, turned around, looked past them, faked a flinch, put his hands over his head, and ducked. This startled the two so much that they dropped the bats and covered their heads, too. As Keith remembers it, everyone got a big laugh, except for one of the coaches who called Keith some pretty bad words. Maybe somebody from the class of 1978 will remember that and get a laugh all over again.
After high school, Keith was in the Louisiana National Guard from 1978 to 1984. We’re uncertain whether his silliness was appreciated there or not.
Cooyon on YouTube isn’t the first time Keith goes public with a humorous performance. In 1983, at 52nd Street in Lafayette, Keith gave his first try at stand-up comedy and won the crowd over.
Keith’s wife, Laura, fighting back laughter says, “All the material he’s used, he’s used all of our lives. We live with that.” Many are familiar with the little backward skip Cooyon does in some of his videos. Well, according to Laura, Keith and his brothers were known to line up on the dance floor of the Star Mist Lounge in Abbeville over thirty years ago and perform that same backward skip for all to enjoy.
Some of Cooyon’s videos end with a conversation between him and an old Cajun lady. Well, if you didn’t know, that’s no lady. Keith can do some voices. Trust me, I have fallen for too many of them when I contact him by phone. The old Cajun lady voice is supposed to be Cooyon’s mama, and always concludes by telling Cooyon, “Oh, you so stupid, you.” Keith didn’t just pull that idea from the sky. The voice, tone, and that well-known line were taken from his own late grandma.
There are those who think it is wrong to make Cajuns look dumb and play up the “Cooyon” stereotype. To that idea, Keith says, “Cajun people are known for their humor and are the only group of people I’ve seen that can actually laugh at themselves.” Keith loves people, especially Cajun people. With a grin across his face he shares, “You know, my dad was like Troy Landry from Swamp People.”
All the publicity with Cooyon has been an experience for Keith. “We go into a parking lot and people holler ‘Cooyon’ – people I don’t even know.” For the Chic-a-la-pie Parade last Mardi Gras in Kaplan, they needed a police escort where there were no barricades because so many people were stopping the float to get a picture with Cooyon. “People were jumping in front of the float,” Keith says.
Keith’s parade experience was enlightening. He shares, “I realized how much children were watching me.” He saw how excited several kids were when he took the time and gave them just a little attention. It made him remember what it was like when he was a kid watching the Cattle Festival Parade in Abbeville and Polycarp (a fictional character played by John Plauche who hosted a local children’s show on KATC from the mid-60’s to the 70’s) was in it. Keith describes Polycarp’s celebrity and fame saying, “He was like Michael Jackson to us.” He continues, “So, if we were at a parade and I knew he was there, then that’s all I cared to see, and if he waved at me it was like I couldn’t believe it. ‘Polycarp was looking at me!’ I didn’t care for Santa Claus, but Polycarp was it!” Recalling this made Keith realize that he’s got a big responsibility being kids are watching him. That realization has purposed Keith to keep the Cooyon act clean.
Of all his videos, Keith’s favorites are “I Can’t Survive,” “Cajun Predator,” and “Prayer in School.” My own personal favorites are each and every commercial he did for Larry’s Super Foods in Kaplan. To be fair, I must warn you. If you are a really sophisticated person, and don’t laugh much to begin with, then Cooyon Duhon may not be for you. Also, if you’re ever at a crawfish boil with Cooyon and there is only one crawfish left, it would be wise to just let him have it. His latest video on YouTube explains it all.
At the end of my visit with Keith and Laura, I was starting to relax because at no time did a remote controlled rat roll out and scare me like I was anticipating. Then all of a sudden, Keith points behind me and shouts, “Rat!”
Thanks, Cooyon. It’s been a while since I jumped that
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