Category Archives: Roman Catholicism

Lent and the Return

This is now fairly deep into Lent and it is also near the time of the time change when we will all spring forward an hour, and most of us will find our waking a bit cruel for a while.. The Wednesday that is the seventh of March I spent  some time working on a gutter system and I have been otherwise preoccupied with a variety of little things but I am also aware that it is Lent — deeply aware that it is Lent although not as deeply as I might like to be. President Donald J. Trump gave his first address to the Joint Session of Congress on Mardi Gras and did not mention that the next day was Ash Wednesday nor that the Louisiana delegation had to neglect a major regional holiday to be present there and absent from Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday commitments at home. It is not that I recommend such recognition as a Federal Duty but then again I do not recommend scheduling such an event on Mardi Gras. So that is how my Lent really began — although I left off watching the speech at my parents house and went to a friend’s house for a last glass of sherry and a last slice of King Cake before midnight. But there was a dissonance between what I wanted and had on my mind and what the national scene was doing.Now the party of carnival season is truly over and my life is Lenten although not in every ideal sense. Perhaps not very holy but very austere in some ways.

Amid the other duties, noise and goings-on of life I am going over one of my unpublished novels. I wrote it online and printed two copies several years ago. So this set of marginalized, copy editors marks and other small and medium size changes are the first writing done on paper. For me writing novels has always been objectively better than self amputation, maintaining street heroin, or robbing convenience stores. But it probably feels much worse and is less rewarding.

However, it keeps my natural effervescent and exuberant qualities in check.  But the point of all this is that if ever one feels unable to control one’s giddy inner child then writing long novels can be excellent therapy…. However, most readers probably are not afflicted with excessive joy.

Nor is is impossible see that Washington faces real and austere challenges. A recent email from the White House says.

It’s been seven years since Obamacare was passed, and now, more than ever, we are seeing the harmful effects of this disastrous law.

Obamacare has led to higher costs and fewer health insurance options for millions of hard-working Americans. Independent analysis found 41 states faced higher average healthcare deductibles last year, with 17 states facing double-digit rate increases. Nearly one in five Americans have only one insurer offering Obamacare exchange plans.

In just the past year, Obamacare premiums have increased by 25 percent on the typical plan and coverage choices have dropped by 28 percent as insurers have left the market.

Things are only getting worse. This past year, nearly 20 million American citizens opted not to get healthcare insurance, with 6.5 million paying the penalty and millions more asking for a hardship exemption from the penalty.

Now, not nearly everyone will agree with Trump’s tone and take on this issue but I am relieved that he is trying to end the individual mandate. We all have sacrifices to make for America to make it and those sacrifices are Lenten enough in nature to deserve some thought in that regard. I think Catholics often have a variety of struggles as regards Lent. But it is a time to try and take our medicine with or without sugar to make it go down. America could use a little Lent just now.

I went to mass the morning of the first day of this Lent and received my ashes for Ash Wednesday. There was quite the crowd at church at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church.  I am very much aware of all that I am not doing for Lent and all that it might be better for me to do.

In the distant times when elves abounded on Middle Earth….
Actually no that is in no sense descriptive or proper — but a long time ago — I did a lot of penance and then at other times I did a lot during Lent . Then in recent years I have more often than not failed to give up anything for Lent. I have lacked the generosity of spirit necessary to add another sacrifice to the wearisome burdens of my daily life and the lacks I feel so keenly. But I have received the Ashes and kept a decent fast. There was another period in my life when I was often in a blur and sometimes forgot what day it was and violated fasts publicly in a huge way in Catholic towns on a few occasions. My sin there was running around in a chaotic state rather than consciously breaking a fast. But this year I did give up something for Lent — nothing huge and not smoking which anyone who hangs out with me lately would be likely to suggest but I did give up something.

Back in the days when I often prayed for hours alone or in a chapel AND wore a knotted cord that bit my flesh in secret AND gave way more in alms than a normal percentage AND volunteered for lots of ministries that few wanted and some everyone did — Back then I found it easy to add on a Lenten Penance. Lately, as I aim at catching the bottom rung of the safety ladder hanging out of purgatory in the knick of time any sacrifice seems heavy. But I have small ministry in the church and it seems fitting. So as I went for Ashes I decided I would do something. I also have noticed that since Mass was early and I had a priest who is not a real brander and stainer in his approach I once again have fading ash syndrome by the time I get out into the world — that is good and bad. The pros and cons go beyond this little post. But I have Fading Ash Syndrom in both Ash Wednesday pictures here, quite a few years apart. I sometimes envy those with Strong Ash Condition late in the day. But I used to wear a cross a whole lot all the time and it sometimes irked me. Now I am an annual fading ash guy.

A Fading Ash Guy scheduling in his liturgical ministry in a busy week. Life brings us places we did not expect to be posting almost undetectable ash crosses and musing about minor penances. I am not the publican or the pharisee in the famous parable of Jesus. Maybe I am the guy not mentioned in the parable who would like longer phylacteries and a more lawful beard, a little more booze and gold and a little more repentance. Beware of being lukewarm we are warned. Those who know me would say there are parts of my psyche that always run very hot and others very cold. But perhaps the lukewarm has found much of the central region.

While I certainly know that my flesh shall turn to dust it is less clear how much I will repent and believe the Gospel this Lent. But Lent does not depend solely on me. God is God however unworthy or indifferent I may be….



There is a lot going on in my life and yet not so much as to justify spending a blog only on what is going on in my life. Problems with Mexico, Russia, North Korea and Iran are not figments of our national imagination. We must address real challenges each day as a country — we must sober up from the carnival atmosphere of the election and do some good in the world. That can mean doing some good for ourselves as well. For example,  I think it’s time for everyone to realize that North Korea is able to withstand even the very most brutal diplomatic tongue-lashing. I don’t mean to trivialize the problem but maybe they know we dislike their weapons program by now…. Sobriety and a little fasting from delusion is in order. There is a real fact that our secrets are out in the world and the White House leaks like a sieve and the Academy Awards handed the Best Picture award to the wrong movie first.

I would like to thank the academy, my parents and everyone — but I am not receiving an Oscar. On the other hand, that may not have much to do with getting to give those speeches anymore…
Also not important for determining who is crowned in a huge international pageant. Steve Harvey crowned the wrong woman not long ago. these are little things compared to the open prey our secrets and promises to one another have become but they are not extremely small things. We see a continuity to our national political life. We could use a little Lent.

I have a suggestion for major televised award shows, go ahead and use whatever approach prevented these messes in the 20th century. Maybe don’t just fumble along like idiots on your program’s biggest moment. Just saying….

Then maybe we can run our country with some sobriety as well. I have been remembering two serious older Americans now deceased this week. I have been remembering Justin Jesss Spiehler the grandfather of my nieces and nephew. His obituary from years ago is linked here.  But in the spirit of such memories, I spent a few days this Lent looking for and not finding a report of the decease of Judge Marcus Broussard, known as Buddy Broussard, a jurist and attorney in Abbeville. I hesitate to post his name first although I knew him. He and I were for a few years the only two active, dues-paying members of Mensa in Abbeville. I knew his son as well and he was friends with my maternal grandparents. I look forward to seeing the kind of character I knew in those men come to the fore — they weren’t perfect but they were good solid Americans I admired, are we?

This month I am on schedule for ministry at early morning mass. I hope to keep a holy Lent there in Church but I hope to return from church with a little Lent to bring to my country as well.

“Keeping the Faith” and Keeping the Faith

There is a good bit of questioning about antisemitism in America and about the Jewish identity and experience in America if one is attuned to such discussions. The totality of the discussion would include a variety of relatively disinterested observers, Jews and also thoroughgoing antisemites.   However, this post is not primarily a post on antisemitism. Like a lot of posts on this blog it sort of meanders along –but it meanders more into being a discussion of Jews in America than being a discussion of antisemitism. However, for those interested in a more thorough discussion of antisemitism in America in recent years this article on the Huffington Post is a place to start.  But while there are no simple answers to the question, it is possible in a meandering way to ask “who are American Jews?” With all respect to Wrangler and Lee, it has always seemed to me that the most American garment is a great pair of blue jeans and the most American of the great blue jeans is also Jewish. The Levi Strauss company founded by a German Jewish family before Germany became known for the Holocaust and when Mendelssohn’s wedding  march filled both synagogues and Christian churches and was likely to be what one thought of in terms of the relationship of Jewishness and German identity. But this article is not mostly about Mendelssohn but mostly about another music maker — Billy Joel. (Still alive and more than welcome to comment on my little blog).

I like Billy Joel music and songs — in fact Piano Man is probably my favorite Billy Joel song, although this post is much more about Keeping the Faith. But in this post I want to discuss a particular aspect of my appreciation of his music. That aspect is how his music added, and still adds a certain something to American life and culture. Something which is Jewish, which is American and which is more profound than it seems.


The story of American life and the story of American Judaism is a complicated pair of stories that relate very definitely to one another. Some names that come to mind when thinking of the Jewish qualities and tones that are part of American life and the American qualities and tones that are part of some Jewish life are Billy Joel, Eli Wiesel, Albert Einstein,  J. Robert Oppenheimer, Gloria Steinem,  Adam Sandler, Gilda Radner, Billy Chrystal and Yasmine Bleeth among others. But in the matrilineal tradition of many parts of modern Judaism and Hebraica neither Bleeth nor Steinem or necessarily Jewish –only their fathers really are for sure. Some people like Jean Chatzky are not so open about it in all aspects of their life but they are still willing to reveal their Jewish identity in the right format. The connection of all Jewish life to the events of the Holocaust is a real and vital set of connections. That doesn’t mean that the terms “Hitler” and “Nazi” have not often enough been bastardized to mean whatever anyone might want them to mean. Nonetheless, the Third Reich was real enough. The nation of Israel has shown Jews fighting for their own people and doing so effectively. There were few such successes in direct Jewish resistance to the Third Reich. But a Jew from Germany ‘s First Reich (named J. Robert Oppenheimer) with the support of a Jew who refused to return to the Germany during the Third Reich (named Albert Einstein) designed and developed the atomic weapons that would have defeated the Third Reich if we had not already beaten them a bit earlier. These same Jewish based technologies secured America’s place in the post-war world. As much as these varied people have contributed to American life and greatness I still am drawn to think about Billy Joel.


I am where I am in my own journey through life. There is not much I have to write that does not matter in some significant way to me but I am aware of the limits of its import to the larger world. But as I begin this post I have a particular song on my mind — Keeping the Faith, by Billy Joel. The video features his real life wife playing a character in the song. Christie Brinkley is the only woman to bear him a child that I or the general public know about for sure — Alexa Ray. Although he would be married several other time and Christie Brinkley would have other children not with him and most romantic of all, she and Joel didn’t make it all the way to the grave together they were a couple who made an impression. I have spent a good bit of time in the last few months talking about my own past, in some ways I find something to relate to in Billy Joel’s song. But it is hard to know how well America relates to this nostalgia for an American youth.

Billy Joel is a man who in real life has known something about the love affairs and American living that he heard about first and later wrote intelligently about in  the songs of American popular music. The story is that of a man with his fair share of woes to say the least but also the story of a great American pop artist. The lyrics of “Keeping the Faith” tell some of his story.


“Keeping The Faith”

If it seems like I’ve been lost
In let’s remember
If you think I’m feeling older
And missing my younger days
Oh, then you should have known me much better
‘Cause my past is something that never
Got in my way
Oh no
The truth is that when one looks back on the past and sees only the glory days or only the sorrows one does not really look back on the past.  But we have a hard time not looking back on the past with all the many colors of nostalgia at one time or another. Billy Joel has allegedly attempted suicide a number of times and had struggles with alcohol abuse. What I am sure of is that he wrote and performed songs which people have related to fairly intensely over the years. Judaism contributed to the founding of Islam and Christianity each more than any other single source in objective historical terms — and therefore it is older. Nostalgia has a particular place in Jewish identity in the West.

Still I would not be here now
If I never had the hunger
And I’m not ashamed to say
The wild boys were my friends
‘Cause I never felt the desire
‘Til their music set me on fire
And then I was saved, yeah
That’s why I’m keeping the faith
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Keeping the faith

There was a  whole lot more going on in the  urban neighborhood of Joel’s song besides just music and faith. One thing he seems to believe in as he tells the story in song is the junction of youth, community and the  commerce based on  local  shared consumption. One can imagine a largely or susbstantially Jewish neighborhood in a great American city in the song. the song is sometimes shocking but a Catholic who is honest about Mardi Gras or Carnival as a Catholic liturgical season that is not a liturgical season should have no trouble making room for some kind of insight.

We wore old matador boots
Only Flagg Brothers had them with a Cuban heel
Iridescent socks with the same color shirt
And a tight pair of chinos
I put on my shark skin jacket
You know the kind with the velvet collar
And ditty-bop shades
Oh yeah
I took a fresh pack of Luckies
And a mint called Sen-Sen
My old man’s Trojans
And his Old Spice after shave
Combed my hair in a pompadour
Like the rest of the Romeos wore
A permanent wave, Yeah
We were keeping the faith

The boys with the condoms and  and the knowledge of which local merchants had the right clothes who smoked and got their hair done were making the boundaries of their community real enough. One wonders about the connections between the Catholic situation in America and the Jewish one at various times and in various places. the Jewish belief in the rituals that consecrate sex, life, the seasons of the year and the sense of being a people are modified in different ways as they come into Christianity. The secular Jewish experience is another modified view of those ancient streams.

Catholics have different reactions to the Trump administration singling out Mexico for his principal target of isolation. Isolation can be targeted. So the reactions over time will be interesting…. the targeting of Sanctuary cities may well be a cause of conflict with Catholics in many cases.  But the Catholic identity is that of Mike Pence, VP as well as of the undocumented worker. In addition Mexico and Central America are much less Roman Catholic than they used to be — much less. One wonders about the kind of Catholicism that Donald John Trump expects to confront. In the paper below from the American bishops, the right of the country to protect itself is balanced with the rights of those who might suffer. But there is a cultural sympathy that is not to be missed. One sees in trump a man who is very much an American secular Protestant who surrounds himself in close relationships with Catholics and Jews as well as others. I still have not pegged Trump at the personal level, his real policy goals I feel I understand well enough to discuss them but the man — not so much. Pence seems a likeable Catholic and his job is important and official. Mnuchin seems an unusually unlikeable American Jew and may not get confirmed. While Ivanka and Jared seem to be trotted around a great deal neither seems to have an official position. If not all Catholics will trust Trump is devoid of Anti-Catholic bias one wonders what varied Jews might be thinking.


I am told that the President of Mexico has cancelled a meeting with President Trump. I like Trump being strong and energetic and I favor a vigorous and strong America. I also favor a healthy Mexico. I am a Catholic and an American. I look at the people who are trying to see where Trump plays out with Jews and there seems to be a hint that some people are wondering if only Israel is the Jewish place to be. Some see this perhaps in Trump’s chief strategist. I myself am on the far right (in my own opinion). I am able to oppose too much driving of Christianity from the Public square. But I also see a value in secular space and zones of governance. I also appreciate the Jewish American experience I even think there are things all of us can learn from their journey — even my WASP friends.

Getting back to Billy Joel, I too can remember that my own ethnic and specific heritage as a particular kind of American was not perfect either. You  (or one) can see a criticism of both a blind progressivism and a cultural conservatism that is unquestioning for any American in his  next few lines. Take them as autobiography, politics, romantic memoir or any  number of other forms and one can find some truth in them.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Keeping the faith
You can get just so much
From a good thing
You can linger too long
In your dreams
Say goodbye to the
Oldies but goodies
‘Cause the good ole days weren’t
Always good
And tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems

But Billy Joel and I do indeed have different pasts and he is quite a bit older than me. Getting a bit off text again we witnessed different parts of the fire he sang about. We had different parts of the song going through our heads. But only the differences of versions and arrangements of the greater metaphorical song — I relate to his song We Didn’t Start the Fire , just fine. But like a lot his songs it is not of a single simple meaning. For now, let’s get through the song for which this post is named.

Learned stickball as a formal education
Lost a lot of fights
But it taught me how to lose O.K.
Oh, I heard about sex
But not enough
I found you could dance
And still look tough anyway
Oh yes I did
I found out a man ain’t just being macho
Ate an awful lot of late night drive-in food
Drank a lot of take home pay
I thought I was the Duke of Earl
When I made it with a red-haired girl
In the Chevrolet. Oh yeah
We were keeping the faith
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Keeping the faith

A while back on Facebook I received a compliment from a red-haired beauty from my own ethnic community in Acadiana and reminded her of a long ago date in Chevy Impala and was gratified by a smoochy emoji in response. While Billy Joel’s lyrical boasts do not apply to the date she and I were commemorating online much is similar, thus remembered by me or in song  it is a deeply American experience.  So I look at the role of Jews as a religious minority and I contrast them to the Jihadi Muslim communities. The other Muslims may or may not listen to Billy Joel but the smartest among them realize that American Jews have worked hard to create a workable secular American culture because it is one that they can participate in. It is sometimes good and sometimes bad but I respect the effort. Muslims, Christians and Jews can all wear Levis, listen at least to Piano Man if not this post’s theme song  and enjoy some discrimination-free public space. I have a  Jewish friend, a woman whose initials are JY and like some of the great American Jews she has done humanitarian and secular and patriotic things. She is spiritually adventurous and like so many she is vastly more liberal and more leftist than I am (two separate measures) but I think she has come to respect me and my views a little. I have mentioned her here but will not go further than this in this particular post. The relationships between Acadians and Jews are very complex and very enduring. there is plenty that is of Hebrew origin in the mix of French, Greek, Latin, Spanish and MiqMaq ingredients an Anglo scholar can find in the Cajun culture. I have reminded miss JY of her heritage more often than not — although I do not know really how closely she relates to it. But whatever her struggle is with majority culture it does not involved blowing up people in their homes and at markets. Europe’s murdered millions of Jews filled a niche that others from the same region of the world now fill- a good number of those people are committed to destroying the Europe both Goethe and Mendelssohn built together.   Where Hitler complained of the occasional Jewish Caftan there is now the burka.

You know the good ole days weren’t always good
And tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems

I told you my reasons
For the whole revival
Now I’m going outside to have
An ice cold beer in the shade
Oh, I’m going to listen to my 45’s
Ain’t it wonderful to be alive
When the rock ‘n’ roll plays, yeah
When the memory stays, yeah
I’m keeping the faith
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Keeping the faith
I’m keeping the faith,
Yes I am

So what about America and Billy Joel? What about the world of Christie Brinkley and Billy Joel? I am not sure that America will be great again or OK or anything else. But I will be here fighting my corner until I can’t anymore.  I am glad there are friends of Israel in the new administration. But along with some York, some Cornwall, some Languedoc, some Extremadura and some Shetlands — besides some Sicily and some Chihuahua — I like a little Galilee, Judea and Israel in my America as well.



Halloween and Elections, a Few Thoughts

Happy Halloween. Halloween as it exists in America is a time for celebrating the scarier parts of our unconscious and also other parts of the imagination with children.  This election season is for many Americans time of frightening realities and a scary walk and wait for adults. America is well populated with people who are afraid of Hillary as President and people who are afraid of Trump as President.  There are some who are not happy with either and this long post will discuss both Halloween and the elections as scary ritualistic events.

I have posted about Halloween here.  I also dealt with this day in the context of other days around this time just here. I have remembered that for me it was near my maternal grandfather’s birthday. I have also remembered the occasions of All Saints Day and All Souls Day which follow hard upon us.  The New Orleans Saints Football team was also founded on November first, the Feast of All Saints and of course the two things are related although how they are related is not so clear.    Family Missions Company and many of my family members usually have a Holy Ween Party with many traditional aspect of Halloween where the kids however costume as Saints while they bob for apples, get candy and play games . It is a rather beautiful and fun custom. All these events other costuming and the national celebration of Halloween make up the meaning of these days for me. The memories of those days are largely good ones as are the memories of many of the earlier days I spent Trick or Treating.  There have been plenty of bad memories as well.  But nothing really terrible is closely associated in my mind with these days.

This particular Halloween 2016 is one of those days which is not all together one thing for me and not all together another. It is a day when the weight of many problems ways down upon me but the weights, worries and regrets are offset by other aspects of my life. Nonetheless what is most notable about it is that it is Halloween. It is also the day after my deceased maternal grandfather’s birthday and the day before all Saints Day. But today, while trying to find out if the party is happening and perhaps drop in on it I will also be helping my aunt  with whom I share my grandparents house where she has been living for a long time recently and I have lived many times in the past. She will be giving  out candy during Abbeville’s official Trick or Treating hours between 6 and 8.    The town also has a  public access Scare on the Square in the late afternoon. That is my contact with the mainstream Halloween. The first picture posted below is not one of those pictures but I may add some pictures of the Square to the mix over time. There are quite a few decorated houses which have gotten elaborate. I might get a picture of one or two but probably not as to do them justice on really needs to go out at Trick or Treat time and I am not doing that.


Among Cajuns  in the past the customs of these days varied from place to place. But generally some of the adolescent boys, in some cases united into societies that passed on their customs across generations and in other cases not in such an organized way raised a little hell on day we call Halloween. They went to houses and put skinnier and lighter cows on roofs and in barn lofts, made ghostly shapes and figures on window panes, howled like wolves and brought their dogs around to scare the farm animals but not enough to do serious harm.  Inside around the fire and stove there would be a few traditional treats and some scary stories. The loup garou  or Cajun werewolf tradition is not deeply tied to Halloween but it is tied to all things scary in this culture. I have posted about that tradition a little bit here and here in the glossary. The connection is available in music today, there are many things to be written or said about the  Halloween, All Saints and All Souls Day  customs in the region without mentioning the werewolf tradition but one song of some significance  by a musician named Daigle is viewable here. . On the morning of Toute Saints or All Saints people would walk ride or drive through the village, town or region to see the mischief done. Then people would go to church for the feast of All Saints. After Mass in some communities there would be a feast and music in the cemetery so that people could wake up early and clean, repair and decorate their ancestors tombs on the feast of All Souls on November first. In most communities however people ate at home and got ready to go to the cemeteries on All Souls. Caring for the tombs and visiting with others doing so was the  main focus of Acadian and Cajun practices around this time of year. In some places it was customary for widows to remove their black shawl on the first All Souls Day after they finished one year of  mourning.  In other places the calendar year alone was the key for the end of all mourning dress. Courtships sometimes began between widows and those men repairing other tombs who would pay respect to the dead husband’s tomb before courting the widow. Only taces of all of those custms remain today. But all of these things are in my mind on these days.

I also grew up a good bit of my life in Mexico and remember the various customs of the Dia de Los Muertos — the Day of the Dead. I have spent significant time in cemeteries and changing out flowers and such around the tombs of family members but that has not been as associated with this time of year as I would ideally have liked it to be.  So that is a summary of what these four days in a row bring to mind most for me.

In Celtic tradition this was a time when the year passed from the light half to the dark half of the year and the dead  were free to move between realms through a sort of portal opened up by these occasions. the very early Christians (such as the Galatians to whom St. Paul wrote)   included many Celts. There were people of living  flesh and blood who took advantage of the time of spiritual and demonic activity to do some bad things. Jack O’ Lanterns and scary costumes have some connection to scaring off bad spirits and bad people in ancient Celtic society.  The Christians gave some Christian meaning to those cultural acts but the darkest and worst parts of paganism such as human sacrifice were woven together in the same symbolic language and the controversies have been ongoing from the earliest days.

To lump all of this together in a single post when more clever writers are discussing the elections is probably only another means of whittling away the tiny readership that I still have.  Perhaps the scaries Halloween reality for me is embodied in that reality related to this post and to the fact that I used to write a great deal for many thousands of folks and get paid. Now I am trying to embrace the career path I am on which will end with paying one person a great deal to read my work. It never hurts to know where you are heading. Like many writers over history I might do well to dress as an unpaid bill or perhaps a a literary agent. those are scary realities for sure.

But is there anything that can be said coherently about all of these varied faces of this time of the mysterious, the mortal and the unusual. For me the unusual and the little known ar not unique cetainlu to Halloween.  I have had an unusual life thus far. In it I have sailed small vessels, ridden horses, hiked, climbed, spent time and energy in  pretty exotic and secret places. Form Boucheries, to Hula dances, to cava and Haka ceremonies in Polynesia to teahouses in China — I have sought the insights of the treasured common ceremony. My own life as a Christian every day  has been wrapped about with a number of secrets. Now I am in the process of revealing a few of them. Of course the Catholic Sacraments are described by the Latin word “Sacramentum” but also by the Greek word “Mysterion”, the same word translates as mistery. Catholics pass into the sacred mysteries at different phases of Christian life and the human lifecycle. They gain spiritual insight, renewal and energy.

I never pledged a college Greek Fraternity. I got a bid from the TKE chapter at Steubenville but declined it, I was honored but unable to take on the commitment and I was committed to a household that had few secret aspects to its initiation.  But there have been rituals that have been part of my life beyond church. I have posted a good bit about Mardi Gras, here and here for example. Besides the  Carnival and the  Official Christian Catholic mysteries, I remember being bloodied after a significant kill and bloodying young boys after a first kill — this is an important hunting ritual that I have seen in many forms. I remember fathering my hunting cap for the first kill of significant desirable duck or geese species like mallards, pintails, specks and snows. Then somehow I remember my first time at a bar after a rugby game, my first byline in print, my first time in a deep pool cave where sun never shines, my first time in a bat filled cave and a weta cave. Drinking and caves also remind me of other drinking rituals and not all involving alcohol or drinking cava in ceremonies on the Pacific isles. I remember getting a driver’s license and learning how to use computers — in both processes there were real initiation rituals and the car is extremely dangerous in many ways. Like a lot of people there were many milestones on the way. Somehow I got involved with some rarer and more exotic ones. When I was a teacher at St. Thomas More High School one of the classes that I taught was the Junior year “Sacraments and Morality” year. Both the editors of the textbook and I chose to show how rituals like birthday parties and Friday night football games were formative for young people learning the language and practice of rituals that they would use in Confirmation, the celebration of their weddings and the celebration of Mass.

For some people the politics of this election cycle are a bit of a mystery.  The cycle does not fit with their view of the way things should be and their ideas of what is normal in America. For some people much of life is a mystery, but many still hope for candidates from both parties that feel transparent and normal. Spies, detectives, lawyers and clerics keep lots of their life’s work hidden form many people who know them. I have known prophets, witches, mystics, shamaans, monks of various faiths, nuns, vampires and members of secret orders of knights. Some people would argue that virtually none of these people can exist. But nobody can argue that Anthony Weiner’s laptop full of Hillary’s email and his own problems exists. Nobody doubts Trump has said and done tings on record which many Americans consider abnormal or scary. these are our major choices this year. Neither Hillary nor trump were my choice this year.  I believe in the duty of citizens and I did my duty.

I voted. I voted yes on all but one of the Constitutional Ammendments — although I had less conviction than is ideal. I voted for Marilyn Castle for Supreme Court. Both seem qualified but she is very well qualified and I found her husband a decent boss back in 1989. I voted for Charles Boustany in the packed Senate Race. I selected Scott Angelle for Congress. Mike Francis for Public Service Commissioner and for the big finale….

I have voted for a third party or independent candidate once in a while but never for the Presidency. I voted for Keniston. I do not apologize for it and give him a limited endorsement:

Who is Chris KenistonChris Keniston is a family man, a patriot, a veteran but more importantly he is an American that will work for the people. Get to know Chris and…

I believe in the basic claims of Christianity and in differences between good and evil outside of the question of whether something is Christian or not Christian. By no means would I put contemplative Carmelites and human sacrificing demon worshippers on the same moral plane. However, both groups like their privacy, both like to use symbolic language and both can be communities with long traditions that are well known to insiders and little known to outsiders. Discussion of what Halloween, All Saints Day  and All Souls Day mean are tied to the problems that exist across any tradition f rituals and secrets tied also to public celebrations.  I would urge that, if you have never thought about it, you realize that metaphors can be made real on film and effects are used to sell tickets. Halloween does not answer all our questions about the scary beings portrayed in some costumes  just as Real nuns don’t fly or seem like characters in “Sister Act” but you would recognize real nuns from either “The Flying Nun” series with Sally Fields or from Sister Act. I have had the time, desire and guts to get into a whole lot of varied mysteries. Sex and love are of course among the greatest mysteries and none of us exhaust them.

I have taken up too much time and space to discuss the other things I wanted to discuss. But we have concerns at the holiday and on election day. I will do my best to cope with each.

Floods and Fortitude

Randy Newman a poet and songwriter, as well as gifted singer, wrote a song about an earlier flood. The song still works and its lyrics still resonate. The place names of the remembered waters are not exactly the right ones but they are not so far away. We are accustomed to being tried here and this is certainly a trial.  But there is a lot of complexity to the issues that relate to this flood and to other disasters. Previous trials have been mentioned in this blog here, here and here for example.  But man made disasters are more often the subject of this blog than storms and there has never been a shortage of manmade disasters. Sometimes the line is blurry. There is a town suing the State of Louisiana for road planning that interfered with effective drainage and that kind of thing is tricky. It takes skill and technology and hard work to live here.  In Randy Newman’s song the Flood has the feel of a an assault or siege.

 What has happened down here is the winds have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and it rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

I took the pictures above in the days of the flooding along with many others. Some of them were lost in a phone which was also lost in the flood. Actually it was damaged beyond repair. But as bad as things were there was not so much sense of moral assault this time as their sometimes is. Not quite as much as in the Randy Newman tune.
Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us awayPresident Coolidge came down in a railroad train
With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand
The President say, “Little fat man isn’t it a shame what the river has done
To this poor crackers land.”
The politicians still have a great deal of politicking to do. Meanwhile, we are all (actually most of us — we have our deadweight folks, also the truly needy and the shattered– but most of us are ) trying to do the best to get through this and get others through this. I have invested some time because as bleak as my situation is I am not substantially victimized by the flood itself. There is always a question of how the culture around here relates to the cultural framework of our society as a whole and how it ought to relate to that society. The Cajun Navy has become one of the points of controversy in this communication between ways of doing and being, a link to that controversy is here.  My judgement of being isolated and abused is not yet as intense as in the Newman lyrics:
Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away

What can I do? Well, I have done quite a few things. So have others around me. At the bottom of this post is a collection of pictures I took during the time I spent at the distribution center in the United Way facility in Lafayette, Louisiana. I was busy receiving and helping to distribute goods.  In the set of pictures just below these words I was working with St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Abbeville which was involved in a variety of flood relief activity. It so happens that the house chosen for me to work on was that of an old and dear friend and his family. John Dale Lege and Charlene were very close friends years ago and part of what John Dale and I did together was volunteer work on the houses of the needy. But John Dale was in those days a very hardworking young father and a black belt in Karate. Today he is long now fully disabled. In testimony to how close we were back then I am the godfather of his daughter Anne Frances whose middle name is in honor partly of me. She is a mother now and long has been a productive citizen. I stay in touch but we are not that close any more. There home was ravaged by the flood and they were one real and tangible set of actual people injured by this catastrophe. However, before either of these outraeches I had already been busy doing flood related things…



The truth is hard to come by… goes the John Denver song I like.  to quote but the truth is United Way, St. Mary Magdalene Church and others with whom I have worked are making a difference. We are doing what we can.  For me getting back to normal doesn’t seem so great but still it has to be a primary goal. The disaster must be addressed whatever our normal problems may be. The local chapter of the American Red Cross, the local United Way organization, Lafayette High School Student Government, St. Thomas More High School and Americorps were only some of the organizations that I saw involved in the receiving and distribution day that I participated in. Among for proffit organizations I saw Rope, Soap and Dope, Hub City Diner and the gentleman I am in the picture with is a Spolinno (sp?) from Crowley originally who owns and operates A. Bryan’s Jewelry in Lafayette. The community was coming together in many ways.

A Bryan's United Way Flood The Love - 3 United Way Flood The Love - 2 United Way Flood The Love - 1

Best wishes to all who are helping. the crisis is not over yet. But the recovery is well underway.

Faith Camp, Bukidnon Youth Conference and the Future

Faith Camp is a one week long camp held for middle school aged students based somewhere in Vermilion Parish. There are currently two such camps held each year. While the kids are the focus it is an event that involves people of all ages. For many who participate in its various aspects it is both an optimistic and fun experience and a deeply spiritual one. The Catholic faith is celebrated in a context which is fairly complete and brings the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the experience of church into the lives of these young people in a complete way.

The last two weeks  before this posting there has been ongoing the 20th year of continuous Faith Camps. This ministry was founded by my sister Susanna whom I saw at Faith Camp last night. At the time she founded she and were regular prayer partners and she was in the area and living at Big Woods during the summer after having started her studies at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. It was a fairly small camp that year but I was deeply impressed with it and shared with her my own memories of a live-in conference  in Bukidnon when she was a child as one of my better memories and so the two things were linked in my mind at the inception although there was not much of a causal link.  Susanna wasalso a small child when the Bukidnon Youth Conference was going on around and near her in various manifestations in Malaybalay, Bukidnon on the southern island of Mindanao in the Republic of the Philippines. I haven’t been back since the 1980s but it was a time which I have always felt had a big influence on the rest of my life and other lives in the family. Many members of my family have played key roles in the success of the camp over the decades. This year a middle school aged child of one of the campers at the second camp was a camper at Faith Camp.


 This year my sister Sarah’s eldest daughter Alyse is the coordinator of Faith Camp as she was last year. This is one of the blog posts that I write that is not primarily driven by the news. It is more driven by  a series of important experiences, recollections  and feelings which resonate in my life. This is one of those posts which combines both some vivid recollection and some fading memories: But the hope one felt at key times continues. The possibility of really putting together a history of those years is a daunting and not a very promising prospect. But the prospect of trying to recapture some of the spirit of those times seems a worthy aspiration as it will help me to convey some thoughts about the current times and some of the times in between now and then. I went from New Zealand to the Philippines with my birth family when I was seventeen and arrived there around Christmas. The bottom right hand picture below is of the Maranatha Youth Group in St. Pius X Church Parish in Titahi Bay which I left behind there on those cool windswept coasts. We passed through Australia on the way there.The top set of damaged images are from my time in the Philippines as is my better picture of myself leading my sisters on the carabao. The bottom right hand corner isa picture of the wall of my Household at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.


 We were in the Philippines for a couple of years (or so I remember without checking) and Simon was born with difficulties associated with Prader-Willi Syndrome. That was also at Christmas and was at the time of my Bukidnon Youth Conference which is the real subject of part at least of this post. Due to Simon’s condition we came back to the United States. While there I completed my Freshman Year at USL — now the University of Louisiana  — in one semester and in the preceding summer worked in some college and youth ministries in the church. Then we all returned to the Philippines and I renewed my ministry for a while and in the summer just after my brother Joseph was born and having overstayed my visa in a tense time in a country on edge and with a gift of a large and dangerous looking tribal sword I flew back alone to the United States.The picctures I took there for various reasons have not much been digitzed and the ones that were have not al made it into part of the cloud I can access. But the memories that I have of the Philippines are indeed plentiful and meaningful. Many of them were pleasant enough. Although the images in the pair below do not show the day to day life there as I justified that life they do show some of the rewards of the experience. Visiting the sick westerners in trouble, prison ministry, speaking to dozens of groups and working with college ministries all filled most of my days. But the Bukidnon Youth Conference was perhaps the  peak of my ministry there.  Being a 52 year old, divorced, childless near indigent was not the future among many possible futures which I saw as most likely in those days. But the journey since has certainly been a complicated on and rich too in color and texture and that sense of richness makes me feel like an expert on almost everything on some days. While that is not fair to much of anything neither or the days entirely fair when I feel that my onIy efforts to communicate come from having little else to do that is fulfilling and that I only ever feel that I  am well qualified to be a sage because I appear not to be qualified for anything else. My life has not been laser focused in a single direction and my time in the Philippines was not either. I like Faith Camp and I liked the Bukidnon Youth Conference in part because they touched many aspects of life from the arts to sport to socializing over dinner. This reminds me of one of my first Facebook notes when I wrote about  some of the extracurricular activities and hobbies that have enriched my life  and divided them into the big three categories of Faith, Science and Sports which I  chose to denominate as easy issues for that early Facebook note. These Easy Issues are not to be confused with the Easy Essays written by Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker Movement. His essays were easy,  because he easily guided the reader through the complexities of political philosophy to a simple and cohesive approach which would provide the framework fo the movement he and Dorthy Day were founding. In my Facebook the subjects are easy because of my tremendous insights into the very narrow experience I had in each of those fields — I did not concern myself with the larger picture. There was some tongue in cheek in the use of there terms and words but Faith Camp and the Bukidnon Youth Conference were also founded to give young people a real body of experience that they could claim as their own. A small window of controlled positive experience from ehich to see the world.

During those years when ministry was part of my life I did a lot of work preparing to work . One thing  or another or many things must be left out including almost all my regular Catholic  school time but I now note  the religious education I received. Some I received within the context of the schools mentioned. However, I also took a set of remote preparation confirmation classes in the Diocese of Lafayette within the Come Lord Jesus Program and the brief imediate preparation course at a Parish in the Archdiocese of Wellington, New Zealand. I was confirmed by a cardinal. In the Diocese of Lafayette I also completed instruction in and was commissioned for Evangelism as a Lay Evangelist of my native dicoese. This was also where after college I was certified as a catechist. Beyond those things, I completed the Life in the Spirit Seminar, the Cursillo de Cristiandad (en Ingles), a basic Lector’s training, Prayer Group Leaders Training Course, a salvation history micro course and stdied as a journalist the English translation of the Prelature of Bukidnon’s Alagad course which was a successful lay leadership course. I also read and discussed the Documents of the Second Vatican Council many times and in many contexts. Susanna who founded Faith Camp completed here degree in theology while continuing to build up this ministry. The two things have in common that they communicate to the kids from a depp and well laid foundation.

Like a lot of activity among Christians it is designed to provide an opportunity for a personal spiritual experience. The importance of personal spiritual experience in America is more evident than in some countries. One of the reasons for that comes from a man who was not a Christian but had a profound influence on the Christian and other populations of these United States at a critical time — the Revolution. Thomas Paine, one of the great thinkers of the American revolution basically stated that one of the profound problems with revelation as a basis for any law or covenant is that as soon as it is written down or described rather than existing as a perceived miracle or apparition or Messianic epiphany it becomes mere tradition. Three things can be said about that idea that miracles and revelation become traditions:

1. It is somewhat true and worth keeping in mind.
2. If God, the universe, the gods and Divine Wisdom were communicating with humanity they might not excuse people who said “Well, I needed that direct Apparition your Highness — didn’t get it so it’s your fault not mine.”
3.In places and times such as existed in the Charismatic renewal there was a renewal within the person which was seen to confirm the written Word and the received tradition. It is out of that third connection with the renewal of the background music and lifestyle of our family that the Bukidnon Youth Conference (BYC) and twenty years of Faith Camps have come. The Bukidnon Conference was less part of the Charismatic Renewal than was some of my work in those days and the current Faith Camps only remind one of the renewal. But the tradition is there.

St. Augustine is credited with two sayings that mean a lot to me as far as faith goes. One is “Seek not to understand that you may believe. Seek rather to believe that you may understand.” That saying is not perfect and is easily misconstrued but it remains profoundly true and truly profound.The second saying I will allow to explain itself and to be interpreted without me. St Augustine wrote “The best and the worst men in the world live in monasteries.” The idea that these young people come together to find understanding and to explore a fully lay spirituality does not mean that none will later become monks, priests, scientists or theologians some do and those around usually rejoice.  But the experience is of a different focus of informing a growing faith and living for Christ in the world.

That Filipino journey  in which the Bukidnon YouthBconference was born was one  which only temporarily ended just after the conference itself. But after returning with them from my time at USL and in this region I did not stay but went to enroll at the school where Susanna was studying when Faith Camp was founded.  I returned a bit early and went to live that summer with my paternal grandparents in a larger than most two storey house beside a park. That  is where I lived in that intervening summer have lived at other times and is also where I am living  now as I type this but I have only been here for a few months this go round. Then I enrolled as a sophomore at the Franciscan University. The summer after my sophomore year I returned to the Philippines to visit and overstayed my visa yet again by only a few days and flew home alone. I left school in mid semester for complicated reasons including some to do with problems in the Philippines related to those whom I had invited into the region to help me with the Youth Conference and  shortly after leaving school I met my parents returning to Abbeville where I currently reside. All of that was along time ago and I took a break to do some more ministry and other things before enrolling again at USL and finishing my degree there. Thousands of picture taken during those and subsequent years are unavailable to me here and now on this blog. But the family on the bottom left hand of the set below are the son of Abbeville friends and his wife who have been FMC missionaries where we once served for more than a few years now. The picture on the bottom right hand corner shows my brother Simon and my parents at an FMC Donors Dinner. He clearly survived the ordeals surrounding his birth as did we all.


Of the  actual BYC as an event I have no photos to share and never had many photos. Indeed of the conference itself very little documentation was made and far less survives. But there are a few things and here are a pair of snippets of that time. The newsletter Resounding Praise which defined so much of our communication with the rest of the world had a feature on the conference. This gathering so distant in time and space is still near to my memory and sensibility. The sense and vision behind the conference was one of bringing young Catholics and some not sure they were Catholics together to celebrate the gospel and to deal with the real challenges not only of their personal lives but of Islamist and Communist pressures from groups which in several cases were profoundly hostile to their Catholic Christian commitments.  There was also a real openness to finding what could be improved in the generally pro-American, Catholic, free market synthesis that informed the conference. There was not a tone of xenophobia or paranoia but of relatively optimistic participation in the world as it was  for young Catholic Christians. There is something in Faith Camp’s tradition that has always reminded me of that event.



There are bigger events in the world than Faith Camp or the Bukidnon Youth Conference but bigness is not everything. Nonetheless as America approaches it participation with other countries in the Rio Olympic Games I am reminded that the New testament is full of references to Olympic events. Paul wrote of racing, boxing, archery and of the disciplines of training as well as the glories of victory in those ancient games. For those going to the Olympics who are Christians while they should respect the games and the diversity there it can be both a mission and a spiritual experience in Christ.

A few years ago London prepared to see the wedding take place in Westminster Abbey there was a lot of suffering and pain in the world. Truthfully, there is almost always a lot of suffering and pain in the world.  Whatever their role may be in adding to the sum of distress in the world, the British royals do quite a bit to lessen the sum of woe and that was not the less true in a year when they were planning a royal wedding . That  set of outreaches to those in need is an effort that  is well documented. Prince Charles, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall and Prince William (the bridegroom this weekend) all have long supported a variety of charities benefiting humans, animals, ecosystems and cultural groups in distress.Prince Charles has a substantial income as Duke of Cornwall and donates a great deal of the income to charities in such a way that it leverages and is leveraged by other charitable donations. While it may well be that not a direct penny of that family’s efforts and gifts will go to help those hurt by the tornadoes whch ripped through the South last night it is also true that they are part of a philanthropic community around the world in which helping is informally circulated almost everywhere. Two babies (at least) ago the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth celebrated on the 29th of April 2011 The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. This expensive and extravagant occasion was also a Christian ritual and gathering and an expression of faith. The scene was truly extraordinary and the elegant venue and the well prepared  liturgy and preaching were all rather impressive even for those who are not so easily impressed.  The sermon of the Anglican Bishop of London is one which I have found to be a worthy sermon to address our times:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.

Many are full of fear for the future of the prospects of our world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one – this is a joyful day!

It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.

In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.



The future does flow through families and gathering and weddings and the like. Churches and other communities have an obligation, it seems to me to prepare young people to be conduits of the grace of God and the hope of the future into new generations. They need to be prepared for the task. All married couples, all celibates and many other classes of not mutually exclusive kinds of people have to be educated in that complete humanity. For Faith Camp that is a Catholic Christian experience An I like that best but it also speaks to those not with us in that community. I am not a young optimist and my own view of life can be pretty bleak often enough. But while  I am sorry that when caught up in nearly apocalyptic events I often already have declared myself to have been involved in a number of calamities — sorry but not very repentant. these conferences and other things have not made me boldly cheerful in that sense. But each Faith Camp and its predecessor to my view  have in fact reminded me that how one engages with life may change over the years  but faith filled engagement  and courage remain necessary.  I know that I  was at one time more fully engaged in meeting the world and the changes going on around me with gusto and energy than I am now. I beilieve that some of those now enthused will persevere in doing good but will not have the same zest when they are my age as they do now.  The world is no stranger to my dire assessments and prognostications regarding my own life and future but the truth is I am still in the fight for the same causes and so are some of those who fought with me under that old distant BYC banner. So also is Susanna and her early team.

Faith Camp prayer - 8   But there is a time and a place for looking back on all that has happened in ones life and that place is this blog. The time is spread out over many posts and pages. The truth is that I was not always quite so late middle aged, directionless and chronically despondent as I am now.  There were times when I aspired to other and more things in daily life than a differing serving of a perpetual mix of the routine, the impossible and the trivial. I was working hard at BYC but perhaps nobody got more out of it than I. I rejoice in the legacy I see although nobody else may see it the same way exactly.

The outgrowth of my various involvements and labors over the years are not all that easy to track, however there has been an institution which has grown out of all that activity in one sense or another and which is also dear to my heart for various reasons…  My brother John Paul was the head coordinator longer than anyone else so far I believe. It is also interesting that this year’s head coordinator Alyse Spiehler has a brother who although he only went to the first camp and was abroad on his birthday during the second camp has celebrated his birthday at Faith Camp several years and probably will again. In fact all of my sibling except Simon and my deceased half brother have served ads head coordinators or coordinators although I never have. I did of course at BYC which I consider to be an ancestor of Faith Camp. The family tie is a real one with my family but there are many other family ties as well. This does not make the focus more narrow and our family does not embody any analogous local set of privileges to those that shaped the hosting of the large wedding in London mentioned before. But the family story is part of the Faith Camp story.


That is, with everything else already mentioned and many other things not mentioned here  — the ongoing work of Faith Camp. That is the distant legacy of the BYC. And in some way it is the universal call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are called to be the Body of Christ as Church and to celebrate the mystery of the fullness of life Christ came to offer and assure. All of that is part of the Faith Camp Story.

faith camp week 2, 2016 - 4 faith camp week 2, 2016 - 2 faith camp week 2, 2016 - 1

Fathers Day, Poverty, Harsh Reality & Sports

Last night I watched LeBron James lead the determined Cavaliers against the super professional Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. The beloved King James who had seen his jersey burnt in Cleveland when he signed to play in Miami was not quite in the land of ordinary men. He was  crossing over a bit into legend on that moment.  It was Fathers Day and a lot of American Fathers (and other fathers too) are sports fans. It seems likely that for many families in Cleveland this was Fathers Day they are not likely to forget.  Of course for the Curry family and the fans of the Golden State Warriors it was a bitter disappointment. The moment one team and one man and one city flirted with legend was the moment that another story fell short the best regular season in NBA history ended with a hard fought  seven game finals but it did not end with the championship.

Competition is not the only value worth having and really is not the central value of my own life. But it is part of life for all of us and it is part of male identity. This Sunday Americans celebrated Fathers Day. I had an enjoyable time with my father.  I brought him gifts and we enjoyed drinks at the Riverfront restaurant in Abbeville and a beautiful meal that my mother had prepared. During this occasion most of the attention goes to the stories of fathers bringing up children in pretty good situations.  But fathering is done in many parts of the world that are far from ideal. The sense of struggle is almost endless for many people and many of them are fathers too. The Syrian refugees, the destitute in camps, homeless shelters,  and squatting in sites around the world — many of these are fathers as well.  This is one very compelling study about what is happening in the world.  It does not focus on the whole world but on one part of it very specifically, the world of a large group or class of Syrian refugees.  My Dad has spent a lot of time with those who were in trouble. We have lived and he has lived and visited regions where people were involved in the kinds of lingering and sporadic civil wars that were common in the twentieth century, places where mass migrations had strained local resources,  places recently devastated by hurricanes and places under various kinds of social change.

Being with him in some of those times  and places where the trouble and need which attracted us there were prevalent was not always easy. The path of a life in the missions was certainly not one without real challenges. The story of those challenges and the joys that go with them has been a story that has long been a part of my life itself — not just the events of the story but the telling and retelling of that story. Even the journalism I have made a little bit of a living doing from time to time and the fiction that has not yet paid any bills –even that is informed by the really extremely varied story of that life and those years especially spent together often dealing with crises.

Crises shape the community, hardship shapes a community and depression shapes a community.  So does the fear of violence. Americans are subject to a considerable amount of fear of violence and there is not that much agreement about how to deal with it. The cultural hostility to a person achieving any kind of self reliance whatever can be very much manifest in groups of people that inhabit many people and intimidate the family oriented, hardworking and insightful people trying to prevent those neighborhoods from turning to living hells or remaining such. A country like ours that is so dotted with riots and violence and punctuates it life with so many bombings and mass shootings is not necessarily a place that will not be crippled by more emphasis on disarming the citizenry . The Obama administration has often been criticized  here and so have  those around him who want an unarmed lawful citizenry. They are criticized in large part because I believe that they do not know how profound the savagery, disorder and decay is in its effects in destroying the quality of life in this country.  Limiting the arms of besieged American beset with violence, chaos and resistance to public advancement on many sides will certainly increase this sense of a society where it is not safe to try to survive and thrive. Here is a story about these matter in terms of what American guns mean to maintaining a balance of terror. The bad guys will not be disarming much any time soon.

My Dad is a gun owner. He is not a big preacher of the value of an armed citizenry and in many rough places where we lived we could not keep weapons at home. In addition the radical nature of our involvement with those in need  required us to risk a level of vulnerability  — but my dad is, as I have always been, a man who knew and used guns and respected and enjoyed them.


But the arts of shooting and killing like many other things have not been the only part of his life that we have shared. Family, ministry and other values and themes of life have really been much more important without undervaluing those things.  There have also been times visiting tourist sites, wealthy friends and relatives, living in neighborhoods near stable work and hanging out on the beach.


But I think back on my life as life in which the moments victory in dark places and hard times mattered a lot. Compared to opening a new harbor facility, a new factory or a new large piece of permanent public infrastructure a lot of the victories our family shared were kind of fleeting and heard to define. Life the elated Cleveland fans who must go back to the problems that their city faces tomorrow. But Cleveland is building back in many ways over the last twenty years. Form the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to the improving Browns, to American Splendor and  the story of King James and his knights of the round ball — Cleveland is a gritty place in a gritty state looking for and finding some real meaning and hope.

I never forget the connection between the Saints winning the Super Bowl and the devastation of Katrina and Rita. Things are far from perfect now but the Super Bowl did help to keep people who stayed in the struggle in the struggle. In America a lot of fathers watch sports and find a little hope in their own struggles from the struggles of sports. That happened to us when the Saints won it all.

Whatever come in the coming year that is difficult and challenging I am sure tha watching the game last nigh after getting back from Dad’s will not be my favorite memory. I am not a huge NBA fan really. But I am also sure that it is a Father’s day even that has some meaning. It is a moment in time that many will treasure  as dads and with their dads.

Emerging Views: Chapter Fourteen; A relatively Humble Standard

Standard Oil paid for the projects discussed in this book. This last numbered chapter in this book is about them and Humble Oil who worked closely with Louisiana Story. Hopefully it sets in context other references from across the text.  It is not long enough to do much more.   This chapter is out of sequence on my blog. The thirteenth numbered chapter will have to follow in time. But this is a chapter about the oil industry as well as about funding these pictures.   It is a chapter which is only a hint at the breadth of a topic that goes far beyond the book as a whole in many ways.

The Gulf of Mexico's oil reserves remain vital to our country's future.

The Gulf of Mexico’s oil reserves remain vital to our country’s future.

But despite controversy and complexity the relationships described in this chapter were never all good or all bad. Here a few topics are discussed  within the context of what might have meaning for this text and its readers.  Much more work could be done in a different book.

Here is the pdf form:EmergingViewsChapterFourteenARelativelyHumbleStandard

Here is the text itself such as it currently is:

Chapter Fourteen: A relatively Humble Standard


The title of this chapter plays with the meaning of the two capitalized names when one is used as an adjective and the other as a noun. Thus this chapter is about Standard Oil and Humble Oil and how in the years between 1943 and 1953 they created a norm for these projects which was tied into their overall management style and philosophy.  In contrast to their philosophical approach as it has appeared to other writers and to this writer at other times, this was humble standard of operating procedure. To a great degree oil was trying to fit into America’s energy coast (and yes was hoping to transform it — but–) they saw and others saw the operation of the energy sector in the region as one important set of activities among many. They aspired to lead as has been stated before,  but the leadership had a different flavor and texture than other times and places have sometimes been asked to consume. It was easier on the palate.


There is evidence of this in their dealings with Flaherty himself. Flaherty had known great triumphs and Nanook is still at least the equal of Louisiana Story by almost every measure. But he had known a variety of pressured manipulated projects where his work was compromised. Murnau had squeezed him out of directing their supposed collaboration, Tabu. The story one sees on screen was largely written by him and some of the locations and casting may be due to him as well as many other aspects of the fim. But great as the film is in its own right it was Murnau’s as a director and it is more accurate to give Flaherty half a dozen other credits on the film and not to list him as director. That was only his greatest and not his only disappointment in terms of feeling taken advantage of by those with whom he worked. Compared to much of his life’s work this was a his widow Frances later asserted — a princely commission. Princes are not often equated with humility but in fact the royalist ideal is of a gentler and more deft touch in rule than is typical of the tyrant or the dictator. Not to overstate the case this is a story about oil companies which behaved themselves. During the time and in the place which this text describes….


In Chapter Twelve it was remarked that Dudley Leblanc’s thirty-fourth birthday party was an occasion for him to receive a kind of tribute from people from a variety of industries but not the petroleum industry.  It is also true that we have discussed how the Broussard Brothers became a very successful firm and remains so today but its growth as a major named focus in the oil industry on the Attakapas Prairie has been a fairly slow process. The firm was located mostly in Chalmette at first and then has gradually assumed more prominence in the region. Only in recent years has it bought the prominent and fairly stately office building in a leafy neighborhood where it now holds sway.Chris Crusta Flying Services was operated by Danny Babin of the Gueydan area and by Chris Crusta of Abbeville. Both were pilots with distinguished military careers however, the firm which provided crop dusting services across the Parish  for many years also helped to launch the business career of one of the leading figures in the oilfield in Vermilion Parish and the Prairies.  Revis Sirmon was a French speaking native of the region whose family farmed rice and who married a Cajun girl, name Lorraine Breaux,  many of his closest friends were Cajuns. Yet Revis Sirmon was a distinctly non Cajun person with his own set of folklore and religious experiences shaping his life.  His close relationship with the wealthy rice-milling  Godchaux family was a relationship with a white Creole family. Possibly there both not being Cajun entirely formed a common part of their identity in the intensely Cajun region. Revis Sirmon flew fifty combat missions in Europe in World War II and loved to fly. However, after a few years of of the risks of agricultural aviation and with two small children to worry about leaving orphaned he was ready to spend more time on the ground. He went into the oilfield fluids business called the mud business with the backing of Frank Godchaux III. Revis Sirmon’s memoirs, Eternal Pilot, a book co-written with Joseph Chaillot  do a good job of charting his life in Acadiana and the tensions between Cajun identity and residence in Acadiana. They also provide a useful glimpse of his rise in the local oilfield world and its ties to world commerce and it also is true that the book like so much else describes many people whom I knew well although it also leaves out a great deal and a great number of people whom I know were involved in the events described.    But whatever angle on takes in viewing these things it is different than the take of a book like this one, the scholar has to bring something to the research as it is not the book’s purpose to address any or all of these questions directly.  Revis Sirmon was encouraged by the ethnically prominent Charles Broussard of the Flying J. Ranch to ask Edwin Edwards (who has always identified as Cajun) to appoint him to the Mineral Board, while in that position he raised the royalty payments made to the State for mineral leases. However, as an active commercial oilman he was disqualified from future service after seven fairly distinguished years on the board when new ethics rules defined his operations as a conflict of interest. He resigned rather than before the newly propounded rules would have formally disqualified him. My maternal grandfather was in business with Revis Sirmon in a company called Riptide Investors and in developing a port known as Freshwater City. However, almost all of this oilfield story is outside the scope of this book. Almost all but not quite all. It was in 1953, the very end of this period that the pilot known as the Scatterbrain Kid founded his mud company. This was just one more sign of the growing importance of the oilfield and related industries in the immediate region where Louisiana Story had been filmed.  


Humble Oil and Standard Oil lend their names to the chapter and especially the capitalization of the words Humble and Standard in its title. They have since merged but at the time of the focus of this study from 1943 to 1953 they were both relatively autonomous and certainly legally independent corporations and each had a distinct and significant role that they played in the production of these photographic projects and the film Louisiana Story. The two companies had national and global connections and so forth but both came from distinct regions in the United States outside of louisiana where they retained significant rootedness.  It is not easy to minimize the importance of the oil industry and of Standard Oil of New Jersey and Humble Oil in the production of these projects more than has been done here without leaving aside  a very significant part of the story indeed. The truth is that cramming what is left of the essential parts of that story into one chapter is not an entirely satisfying solution either.  But it is the solution which is achievable in this case.



Preliminary plans for the erection of a gas recycling plant estimated to cost $2,000,000 in the Erath oil field in Vermilion Parish though the unitization of approximately 3300 acres included in the productive area were discussed at a public hearing held here Monday by Conservation Commissioner Jos. L. McHugh and other members of the committee.


The notice which appears here set in perspective the money spent on Louisiana Story and on the larger photography project. Here there are two points and set of line from which to measure. One is to compare the cost of the film to what Flaherty had spent on other films and also to what Hollywood spent on a feature film. The other set of measures is that established by what the oil and gas industry were spending on other expenditures in the region.  That will come back into this chapter and has already appeared in the comments made in Abbeville and Vermilion Parish which appeared in Chapter Eleven of this text. The same little article lends us more insight.

The public hearing was adjourned Tuesday afternoon and will open until the presentation of additional information, it was announced by E. L. Gladney, Jr., attorney for the commission. Other members of the commission attending the hearing were H. N. Bell, director of the minerals division; John J. Huner, state geologist; and Percy Irwin Chief Petroleum Engineer.


We see the importance the newspaper attributes to this commission in giving details of various kinds including names. We see that there is an attorney, a director, a geologist and a petroleum engineer. We also  see that the Conservation Commission is a very well established and multifaceted bureaucracy.  Additionally the lack of even one distinctly Cajun name or any of the phrases that might be used if the people involved had close ties to large numbers of readers. Such a thing is not entirely determinative of their identity and connections to the place but it does indicate such a level of connections or the lack thereof. This reminds us that the local readership were informed participants but did not necessarily have a shared identity with the oil industry.


The operators owning about 85 percent of the leases located within the productive limits of the Erath field and who are seeking the orders from the commission to unitize the field include the Phillips Petroleum Company, the Texas Company, The Humble Oil and Refining Company and the Tidewater Associated Oil Company.

“We believe that the Erath field constitutes one of the greatest and most valuable reserves of gas-distillate and gas-condensates now known to exist in the entire mid-continent area,” declared Dan DeBaillon, Lafayette, attorney who represented the operators. “We can state frankly, with the firmest of convictions, that waste of a large percentage of these valuable resources is eminent, and inescapable, if this field be either unoperated. Wisely planned development and intelligent operation of this field as a unit, as distinguished from development and operation on a wasteful basis, will result in the recoveries of millions of barrels of distillate and condensate not otherwise recoverable and at the same time, billions of “cubic feet “of gas can be saved by returning the gas to the productive formations. This returned gas, by, helping to maintain the reservoir pressure, will itself greatly increase the ultimate recoveries of distillate and condensate and also will itself, as gas, have a value in dollars and cents estimated in terms of millions of dollars.


Here we see that Humble Oil which would interact closely with Standard Oil in pursuing the making of Louisiana Story was accustomed to interaction with other oil companies in unitization hearings, in other interactions with the Conservation Committee and in a variety of other circumstances. While they had a special relationship with Standard Oil the industry itself was to some degree a cohesive community which could pursue its community interests in ways not so disimilar from the way that the Cajuns and the documentarians also formed communitiescapable of pursuing community interests.


The article goes on at some length and its detail in some places is at least some real and fairly compelling evidence that the readers of the Meridional had a fairly sophisticated understanding of the oil industry at the start of the SONJ projects. It also shows the Vermilion Parish definitively had relationships with Humble Oil.



The oil industry was remaking the realities of the life in Acadiana during the years between 1943 and 1953. One of the purposes of this chapter will be to understand through the lense of the work done on Louisiana Story and the rest of the SONJ projects how the oil industry operates and what its culture was  as regard interacting with the people, local culture and the environment of Acadiana. Without going into great detail we will seek to understand as well to what degree the portrayal of the oil interests is a valid one — mostly in the film but also briefly revisiting their portrayal in the photographic projects. There are various levels of distrust for that portrayal which are possible and in this study we will at least be honest about what level of mistrust is at the foundation of our study. This is a book largely about perception and understanding. Here we take a further step back and ask ourselves how we ought to perceive  both the role of the oil company and industry that funded these projects and the wa way that historians, scholars in general and others have perceived those involvements up to now.



One real factor to remember in the midst of documenting and analyzing these projects and the people and places that they chose to document is that  Standard Oil was footing the bill. The relationship between Humble Oil and Standard oil was a complicated one and a complete understanding of that relationship is beyond the scope of this text. However one of the objectives of this chapter will be to create a basic framework of understanding for that relationship in its most basic configuration without much appreciation for  the nuances and  complexities of the full reality even where those different and varied complexities may have shaped and impacted the experiences of the production and organization of the SONJ photography project and the Flaherty unit that created Louisiana Story.


I was honored to sit with Mr. Sirmon for a year (2008) and gather his stories, organize them, and ghost write this book for him (as acknowledged in the Introduction). I will be glad to answer any questions I can about it … Joseph Chaillot (


At this writing there are over 125 years of  ExxonMobil history and one can fairly trace the evolution of the company to many stories including that of Humble Oil as well as that of Mobil. But the main story is surely still that of Standard Oil which has evolved and developed  from a New Jersey based and largely regional distributor and  marketer of kerosene in the U.S. to the iconic symbol of an industry which is only overshadowed by state firms in a few countries and is the  largest publicly traded petroleum and petrochemical joint stock corporation in the world. The company in 1943 and in 1953 was closer to today’s firm than to its origins. The biggest difference is perhaps hidden behind a similarity is that while ESSO and EssoMarine were prominent brands that had the kind of currency still true of the company’s dealings with the larger world today as today they operate in most of the world’s countries and are readily identified familiar brand names: Exxon, Esso and Mobil. There was another name that really mattered in those days and was essential to the life of the firm and which is not so important today.


That name was Rockefeller.


Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, located in eastern Cameron and western Vermilion Parishes, is owned and maintained by the State of Louisiana. When deeded to the state the refuge encompassed approximately 86,000 acres, but beach erosion has taken a heavy toll, and the most recent surveys indicate only 76,042 acres remaining. This area borders the Gulf of Mexico for 26.5 miles and extends inland toward the Grand Chenier ridge, a stranded beach ridge, six miles from the Gulf.

When the Rockefeller Foundation officially granted the property to the state, they spelled out in the Deed of Donation exactly how the property was to be used. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes periodic inspections of refuge activities and has reversionary rights over the refuge if the state fails to meet its obligations pertaining to the Deed of Donation, as amended.

The major terms of the original agreement stipulated 1) the property must be maintained as a wildlife refuge, 2) boundaries must be posted, 3) enforcement agents must protect the area from trespassers and poachers, 4) no public taking of fish or animals is allowed, 5) refuge staff must study and manage the property for wildlife, and 6) mineral revenues must be used on the refuge first (surplus may go toward education or public health). In 1983 the Deed of Donation was amended with a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Department of the Interior and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The MOA allows for regulated sport fishing and commercial trapping when compatible with the primary purpose of the refuge as a wildlife sanctuary. The MOA also allows surplus revenues to be used for land acquisition for wildlife management purposes. A 1987 MOA between the same two agencies ceased yielding surplus revenues for education or public health.

Planners had the foresight to realize that mineral revenues would cease at some point in time, and steps were taken to ensure that the refuge would be financially capable of operation and maintenance indefinitely. Act 321 of the 1972 legislature created the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge Trust and Protection Fund (Trust Fund). One fourth of funds derived from royalties, rentals, or otherwise from Rockefeller mineral leases were to be deposited in the Trust Fund until a principal of $5 million was reached. Act 342 in 1978 raised the Trust Fund goal to $10 million. Act 807 in 1980 increased the Trust Fund goal to $20 million, and also established the Rockefeller Scholarship Fund for Louisiana wildlife students from 5% of interest from the Trust Fund. Act 63 of 1982 raised the Trust Fund goal to $30 million, and Act 707 of 1989 reduced additions to the Trust Fund from 25% to 5% of mineral revenues. Senate Bill 662 of 1989 established an annual donation of $150,000 to the Fur and Alligator Advisory Council, and Act 832 of 1995 raised the Trust Fund cap to $50 million.

Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is one of the most biologically diverse wildlife areas in the nation. Located at the terminus of the vast Mississippi Flyway, south Louisiana winters about 4 million waterfowl annually. Historically, Rockefeller wintered as many as 400,000-plus waterfowl annually, but severe declines in the continental duck population due to drought and poor habitat quality on the breeding grounds have altered Louisiana’s wintering population. More recent surveys indicate a wintering waterfowl population on Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge reaching 160,000. In addition to ducks, geese, and coots, numerous shorebirds and wading birds either migrate through or overwinter in Louisiana’s coastal marshes. Neotropical migrant passerines also use the shrubs and trees on levees and other “upland” areas of the refuge as a rest stop on their trans-Gulf journeys to and from Central and South America. Although Canada geese no longer migrate to the refuge from breeding areas in the north as they once did, a resident flock of giant Canada geese was established in the early 1960s.

Common resident animals include mottled ducks, nutria, muskrat, rails, raccoon, mink, otter, opossum, white-tailed deer, and alligators. An abundant fisheries population provides recreational opportunities to fishermen seeking shrimp, redfish, speckled trout, black drum, and largemouth bass, among others. No hunting is allowed on the refuge, but some regulated trapping is allowed for furbearers that could potentially damage the marsh if their populations are not controlled.

The refuge is a flat, treeless area with highly organic soils which are capable of producing immense quantities of waterfowl foods in the form of annual emergents and submerged aquatics. Since 1954 Rockefeller Refuge has been a test site for various marsh management strategies, including levees, weirs, and several types of water control structures utilized to enhance marsh health and waterfowl food production.

The style of this text has been a bit less orthodox and strict in adhering to the manner in which some other standards of text have been put together by competent people seeking to establish a norm. Standard Oil was becoming a leading company in offshore exploration and was involved with others in that field and in deep drilling. But there world’s largest refinery in Baton Rouge was leading the way to providing the   petrochemical building blocks that would lead to thousands of consumer goods. An would usher in many of the most unique qualities of the emerging era an era of the very start of a process which would distinguish previous worldwide international commerce from what is called globalization. Standard Oil itself was a mature and venerable institution. In the 2007 film There Will Be Blood American and international viewers were reminded, if they had not already known, that  the oil industry has been around for a while.  This film was loosely based on the 1926 novel OIL! By Upton Sinclair. That novel dealt with many of the issues explored by people involved in these events — and yet it is a profoundly different story. But regional texture, capitalism, a rough and dangerous industry, powerful personalities and socialism are all themes common both to this book and its subjects as well as to Sinclair’s novel and its subjects.  

Standard Oil may not have been the name of the concern but in the Rockefeller dominated era and even today the company that became Exxon was well aware of its heritage going back to the same year the Abbeville  based history of the Vigilante Committees of the Attakapas was written by a French historian living among these people that year was 1859 when the remembered exploring entrepreneurs  

Colonel Edwin Drake and Uncle Billy Smith drilled the first successful oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania. The colonel’s discovery triggered an oil boom that in many ways resembled the gold rush of a decade earlier. The internal combustion engine was a long way into the the icon of  oil consumption. However it was also in 1859 that Jean Joseph Étienne Lenoir created the first commercially successful internal combustion engine.  As the oil industry prepared to lead its way in creating this region’s future few felt it was in any way a fledgling enterprise.

Lionel Leblanc and Robert Flaherty’s  parent’s generation were in some cases unborn, were in diapers or in the case of a few late to procreate were when in 1870 Rockefeller and his associates formed the Standard Oil Company (Ohio), with combined facilities constituting the largest refining capacity of any single firm in the world at that time and seemingly exceeding any comparable entity consisting of consortia or government entities. In America 79 years is a fairly long time compared to most other continents. The idea that they were leading America to a new future does not mean that they were themselves perceived as new. The  name Standard is chosen to signify high, uniform quality and the name Rockefeller .was iconic as a symbol of wealth and prestige. It would be foolish and would distort the story to pretend that Flaherty, Stryker or the Cajuns did not have a healthy respect for all things Standard Oil.

In 1882 the SONJ entity which has its name or initials stamped on so many documents in this project came to be.  It was in that year that it touched another great American icon when

Standard Oil lubricated the invention of the man who also revolutionized the film industry by revolutionizing a system related to film itself. Standard Oil  contributed to Thomas Edison’s first central generating system by providing lubricants from its new chemical divisions.. Besides SONJ  in this year, Standard Oil Trust formed to include the Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony) and in those years SONJ was referred to usually as the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and shortened to two words rather than four letters –Jersey Standard. .

In 1885 the company became associated with New York City, where documentary film and photography had its main American nest from 1920 to 1953 at the very shortest duration. That year the Standard Oil Trust relocated its corporate headquarters to 26 Broadway, New York City. The nine-story office building became a landmark which would have been known to the majority of the scene and history conscious film and camera people involved in this set of projects long before they worked for Standard Oil.

In 1911, following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, that reshaped a lot of the United States in its view of itself in economic terms Standard Oil was broken up into 34 unrelated companies, including Jersey Standard, the SONJ which funded this photographic venture.  The year also marks the first time Jersey Standard’s sales of kerosene are surpassed by gasoline, conjectures about a photographic bias against horses which seems evident if in fact it exists would be related to the fact that by the 1940s the company depended largely on a  product that in the early days had often been discarded as a waste product.  In 1911 many buggies could carry a kerosene lantern and be good customers. Auto racing became part of the Standard Oil legacy through Mobil products in the decades between 1911 and 1943.

In 1919 the company that actually furnished the drillers for Louisiana Story became a real part of the Standard Oil family and tradition when SONJ or

Jersey Standard acquired a 50 percent interest in Humble Oil & Refining Company of Texas. In that same year Humble Oil , led by its pioneering Chief Geologist Wallace Pratt, developed the full commercial employment of  micropaleontology in oil exploration.This study of microscopic fossils contained in cuttings and core samples from drilling was an aid in finding oil which tied the Oil industry more to local universities in various region and made the science and technology of the industry a bit more compelling. It laid the foundation for the kind of postwar industrial leadership sought in this set of projects.

Just about the time these projects were getting cranked up and closer to the subject of this text in 1942, the world’s first fluid catalytic cracker went into onstream operation at Louisiana Standard’s Baton Rouge refinery. The process, was developed by four SONJ scientists known as the “four horsemen,” and became the worldwide industry standard for producing gasoline. Fortune magazine when it covered the story described it as “the most revolutionary chemical-engineering achievement of the last 50 years.” In the fifties SONJ would found more cultural and educational programs and more automobile related products as centerpieces of its overall vision. Those fascination with shaping culture through the Esso Education Foundation after 1955 and the increased interest in playing a dominant role in serving the needs of automobiles after the development of Uniflo in 1952 doubtless affected these projects, though this text does not provide a close analysis of how that played out.


This chapter simply provides a bit of history to serve as a background to other observations made throughout the text. It is very far from exhaustive and does not disclose a great deal of highly compelling close analysis of Standard’s role here. But it is the place to make a few assertions if there is indeed any such place.


  1. Standard Oil and its competitors and friends funded education, built things and employed people. But Cajun technology in building, dredging, design and drainage was seldom incorporated except by a few who struggled hard to do so. Lack of respect for the accumulated knowledge of regional conditions had a powerful negative set of impacts on the region from the Cajun point of view.
  2. Standard Oil and the Rockefellers with deeply Baptist Protestant heritage may well be responsible for the lack of Catholicism in Louisiana Story simply because of their enormous general reputation. Likewise, the other desires and needs of that family and coporation likely transmitted themselves across the project with little direct efforts from those at the top of the power structures involved. All evidence for this is general in nature at this point and may exist in specific form or may not.
  3. Cajun inventions continued to proliferate in navigation, crawfish farming seafood processing and elsewhere across the region, horseracing and breeding of the Cajun quarter horse continued to produce ethnic excellence. There is a sense among many that Cajun leadership in this industry and the cultural accommodations that could have produced better relationships never fully materialized.
  4. Both Huey Long and Dudley Leblanc were at different times Public Service Commissioners and as such dealt with the oil and gas industry. The importance of this industry to all sides of the political spectrum over a much larger period than is central to this text can scarcely be disputed. Longism was of course more influential and successful than whatever Leblancism may be said to be. On the other hand, Huey was killed by the husband of one of Dudley Leblanc’s Evangeline girls Yvonne Pavy for suggesting that she had Negro blood. Weis’s family disputes that claim  and he was in many respects one of the finest and most gifted citizens of Louisiana in his time. But it is highly credible that the dictator was killed for insulting the genealogy in question by a man who considered himself and his family superior specimens to Long himself. Dudley Leblanc, diminished over time but died in peace and as a fairly old man. The oil industry although soaked by Huey in many ways was more associated with Huey and the Long Machine than with Dudley Leblanc.
  5. These projects coincided with the last great push of Dudley Leblanc in politics. Had he been closer to the oil industry and less close to four or five other industries it is quite possible that his fortunes would have continued to rise and the period would have been a different one than it was.

In conclusion to this chapter, Standard oil is not at the heart of this text about a project it made possible. But in many ways it chose to take a back seat, to hide behind the scenery and many other metaphors. They influenced many things but determined very few. There chapter is the last numbered chapter before the conclusion and their role is the least thoroughly studied of the communities whose interactions define this text.



Emerging Views: Chapter Nine Cajun Works and Works in Acadiana

This next chapter in Emerging views deals with all the photographic projects but focuses on the film made in Abbeville, rural Vermilion and rural Iberia Parishes. It deals with many of the aspects of the work which was being done and how that work tied into Acadiana experience before and after that film, Louisiana Story was made.  Here is a link of some use to those who might like to make a movie in Abbeville today.

But the work of sustaining a living community, of building a region and a set of local traditions, of continuing to enhance a regional and ethnic aesthetic — this work continues without ever stopping… It references the past and reaches for the future.

As I was on the way to the place where I am typing this post I took this set of photographs. In many ways a new public clock is a symbol and expression of a community tradition.

As I was on the way to the place where I am typing this post I took this set of photographs. In many ways a new public clock is a symbol and expression of a community tradition.

Today as I was coming to the Library to drop off some books and scholarly journals as a donation and to  dive right in to the public access internet in my current internet deprived state — as i was doing that I saw that at this moment and at no other they were putting up a traditional looking new clock where there has never been one in my memory. That is the way life and the life of a community evolve. New things occur which speak to us of a whole set of previous experiences and of future hopes and aspirations as well as of the current events going on…

14-556_3204 IMG_20160526_084947_802-2 Continue reading

Emerging Views: Chapter Eight: Louisiana in the Story

In each of these posts I include a few words before the post itself. But the words are few and the posts have not included any images that were not part of the chapters. But today there are many reasons why in my daily life in May of 2016. I am thinking of American perceptions of Louisiana and of the Cajuns and of Acadiana. All of those are different things. I think of how challenging it would be to teach High School history to people from Louisiana and as a Louisianan knowing the standardized test reward distortions of the truth. I think that is more so for Cajuns than others in the state.

I am happy to reflect on Zachary Richard receiving the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities this year. That is some part of embracing the truth — but it is a little and a little late for me and for many others.

Zachary Richard Acadian humanist rightly honored

Zachary Richard Acadian humanist rightly honored

I also attended the Acadiana Press Club Forum  Yesterday at the Daily Advertiser and was well aware of how much good work is done by many in community organizations, environmental groups, the media, the DOTD and elsewhere across our to improve the quality of our infrastructure and to have an infrastructure that is responsive to environmental and cultural realities.

Toby Takes Charge: DOTD set out state of I-49 Connector plans

Toby Takes Charge: DOTD set out state of I-49 Connector plans

Nonetheless, a lot of sad realities in running the I-49 Connector through the Evangeline Throughway were evident to the people assembled. One has the real sense of a society that is out of touch with this place and its needs and potential. That was the case in the period treated in this text as well. One could see in the meeting that the people of this region remain a treasure even when one has become as down in the mouth about the state of things as I have.

Young but experienced reporter from Abbeville was on the job...  Not sure who she is with these days, I have known her since she was an infant...

Young but experienced reporter from Abbeville was on the job…
Not sure who she is with these days, I have known her since she was an infant…

So the struggle for Louisiana’s past, present and future continues since the days described in this text to the present day.  Here is a pdf version of the text: ChapterEightTheLouisianaintheStory

Here is the text itself:


Chapter Eight:

The Louisiana in the Story


The Confederacy had long ago faded into obscurity as the main focus of attention in American politics in 1943. The fact that a Cajun had led the Louisiana Secession Committee when only a few states had seceded was not on that any students of American history as a whole could be expected to know. However, Cajuns participated in being part of the rural South which was subject to perceptions rooted in their defeat in the Civil War and was also affected by conditions largely created in that war. The South was made out as backward by influential men  like H.L. Mencken and the Cajuns were a more remote and backward part than usual of the rural South. Not everything in that point of view is wrong. Nonetheless,  this is not fair or entirely true. This chapter seeks (not in all ways that could be shown but in a few ways that can be shown here) to show that the range of significance of Cajuns in American life has been deeply askew and is profoundly unsatisfactory. This chapter does not do much directly to rehabilitate Louisiana as a whole as being worthy of more study and teaching. The reason is that in general  this text is devoted to Acadiana and not Louisiana. There will be the odd spillover but this chapter is mostly to show that the Cajuns deserved and deserve serious attention in the way America sees itself.


Writing this text as a Cajun myself and as someone of English descent and many  other identities produces no simple single point of view. Points of view change over time and the points of view which are espoused by the most numerous and most influential portion of historians also changes. A reminder of that is present in Parkman’s massive tome. This example of changing points of view also happens to be relevant to our understanding of the Cajuns and how they came to be who they are and were in 1943.


Hence it happened that the English were for a
time almost as anxious to keep the Acadians in
Acadia as they were forty years later to get them out
of it; nor had the Acadians themselves any inclina-
tion to leave their homes. But the French authori-
ties needed them at Isle Royale, and made every
effort to draw them thither. By the fourteenth article
of the Treaty of Utrecht such of them as might
choose to leave Acadia were free to do so within the
space of a year, carrying with them their personal
effects; while a letter of Queen Anne, addressed to
Nicholson, then governor of Acadia, permitted the
emigrants to sell their lands and houses.

The missionary F^lix Pain had reported, as we
have seen, that they were, in general, disposed to
remain where they were; on which Costebelle, who
now commanded at Louisbourg, sent two officers. La
Ronde Denys and Pensens, with instructions to set
the priests at work to persuade their flocks to move.^
La Ronde Denys and his colleague repaired to
Annapolis, where they promised the inhabitants
vessels for their removal, provisions for a year, and
freedom from all taxation for ten years. Then, hav-
ing been well prepared in advance, the heads of
families were formed in a circle, and in presence of
the English governor, the two French officers, and
the priests Justinien, Bonaventure, and Gaulin, they
all signed, chiefly with crosses, a paper to the effect
that they would live and die subjects of the King of
France.* A few embarked at once for Isle Royale
in the vessel “Marie- Joseph,” and the rest were to
follow within the year.


The exiled Acadians had dealings with the Duke of Nivernais as was shown in the cite from Dudley Leblanc’s book The Acadian Miracle and its attendant source. He was the means of the rescue of those held in Liverpool while he was also negotiating the Treaty of Paris. Thomas Jefferson: Who would preside over the United States as the Louisiana Purchase was negotiated knew the Duke of Nivernais. He was appointed Ambassador to France on March 10, 1785; Presented his credentials to the French Court and was accepted republican credentials and all on: May 17, 1785. The termination of the mission was  September 26, 1789. The Duke of Nivernais meanwhile did not stay forever in England. He did leave London, where he had freed the Liverpool Acadians and negotiated the Treaty of Paris (10 February 1763). From 1787 to 1789 he was a member of the Council of State and dealt with Ambassadors such as Thomas Jefferson. Nivernais was not unsympathetic to Lafayette, Washington and even the more radical Jefferson as is evident from the fact that in time this Duke  chose not to emigrate during the Revolution. He paid for these principles with a great deal of personal loss including the loss of almost  all his money and his liberty too when  he was imprisoned in 1793. While happy endings are few in the Great Upheaval, the Duke of Nivernais at least escaped the guillotine and regained his liberty after the fall of Robespierre. His role and future had he lived longer are not entirely clear but it is clear that he was free and poor when he  died in Paris on 25 February 1798.


Thus there is at most one degree of separation between the most influential leader of the intellectual struggle for American independence and the Acadians.  The irrefutable fact is that he knew Nivernais before the Louisiana Purchase.  The question of whether he knew much before authoring the Declaration is one we will touch on just briefly in this text. It is well known that  Thomas Jefferson was a Francophile. It is known that he took a broad interest in all sorts of people and that among the peoples of the world he most often took a superior interest in Americans on the East Coast of North America, the British, the French and the Hellenes. It might do to include the Romans as well. But the Acadians were the people who most embodied the quality of being French, Americans and part of the British Empire. If he knew them a bit better he might have known that they also embodied some qualities of the Hellenes. He was a man who stayed informed about affairs of his time. Yet our history is written and taught as though he had no awareness of the Acadians. There would seem to be a possibility that he had some sympathy for what had happened to a people who had been scattered throughout the thirteen colonies and whose homes and lives, liberties and pursuits of happiness had been so horribly and almost utterly abrogated. One could examine two passages of the Declaration with that in mind especially.


He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.


For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:


The first of the two passages cited above is of special significance when one considers what his words were later as President when the Acadians were living in Louisiana and he was the President of the United States of America. The Treaty of the Louisiana Purchase is very specific about the naturalization of the same foreigners he might have been writing about  as well as their fellow citizens in Louisiana. Read the words carefully to see what they have to say about Franco-American relations and empathies which were specifically relevant to the people becoming the Cajuns.


Art: III

The inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States and admitted as soon as possible according to the principles of the federal Constitution to the enjoyment of all these rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States, and in the meantime they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property and the Religion which they profess.

It also stand to be stated here that the Louisiana Purchase was an incredibly important event in American history. The transformation of the country by that single act from a coastal to a truly continental power has such vast effects that they can scarcely be overstated in considering anything that follows in the story of the Union. The Cajuns were at the very least living in the  lands of the Louisiana Purchase.


The Acadian struggle is in fact extremely important in one respect.  If the British wronged the Acadians it was a colossal wrong and if the Americans operated in sympathy with them that act of sympathy offsets much of what was less than morally perfect in the Revolution and the War of Independence. The British always from the first moment had an enormous set of incentives to distort and alter the record of events to minimize the importance of the Acadian expulsion in shaping the climate of the times in which they lost much of their American Empire. They have always been devoted to marshalling the intellectual resources behind their military and political maneuverings and interests. They have been extremely successful in doing so. The undermining of the American sense of moral entitlement among revolutionary historians has often been rather extreme. There are exceptions of course but the exceptions only show how clear the trend has been.


To remain anything like the country the Founders hoped for the truth about the Acadians needed to become part of our national history and it never has been. I know that there is very little exploration of how the Acadians might play a role in that period because there is no evidence in most historical inquiries and surveys related to the period. The French call the War of 1812 the Second War of American Independence more often than not.  That has been resisted by Americans but mostly in service to the interest of the Court of St. James.


The Acadian or Cajun role in that war and antecedents and subsequent events related to it has quite a bit of relevance to their relationship with the State of Louisiana for which the film Louisiana Story is named and  in which Harnett Kane wrote the book which most of any single publish source likely formed the perspectives specific to South Louisiana and the Cajuns as they formed their agenda and created their artistic reportage on the region and the people in the postwar era.  


If the Acadians were an autonomous people with a chief recognized in France from at least 800 A.D. and if the British consistently failed to recognize a status that was clearly legally theirs then the Cajuns were entitled to take extraordinary member in their own right against the British. Once they had been dispossessed, had families divided in a manner unusual even among the most despised people of the world and lost about half of the population of their province to the brutalities of exile — once all that had happened there was virtually nothing they could have done which in the view of many would amount to anything worth reckoning at all in the balance if it could harm the British Empire and its principals.  Perhaps one thing they did in that struggle was to influence the Americans in their revolution and War of Independence.


Perhaps they rejoiced as much as almost anyone when the words of the Declaration appeared which removed from their tormentors a piece of land larger than Acadie (although it would take a war won largely with French help to win it).   Read those fairly familiar words from the eyes of those who had lost so very much.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


The other thing which they may have done falls across the line of history into the realm of folklore once again. Perhaps they took the arguably very small act of setting up a relationship with Jean Lafitte and the Baratarian Association specifically to provide for the defense of their interests in the region and of their own lives and liberties from the depredations of the British.  The person who would have been most in charge of this activity would have been Gils Robin. The memories of this period persist across Acadiana.


There is a Jean Louis Robin Canal and a Jean Louis Robin Lake to this day in South Eastern Louisiana. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina  journalist Ken Wells did a book published in 2008 about the family still building their own boats and navigating the waters of that region. Today they are only partly Cajun culturally and genealogically  and have become part of another cultural fabric beside the homes of their Cajun ancestors. But in his book they remember the ties between the outlying Cajuns of that region  the pirates and privateers of the Barataria Association. Folkloristically, the story would be more or less that the brothers Gils, Martin and Jean Robin would have moved to the region shortly after the Acadians had settled in the Lafourche region relatively nearby. Their small community would have ties to  Attakakpas and Oppelousas Prairies of  Louisiana in the West as well as with Lafourche. Martin Robin who was a godfather to one of the Lafitte children was the grandchild of one of these brothers. Jean Lafitte also had a number of titles he sometimes used that are capable of being given Cajun interpretation unique to it Helllenic Centre Ouest Languedoc vernacular.  But the words have other possible explanations. In addition to the role Lafitte played in the Battle of New Orleans which was crucial in terms of artillery and supply and guides to the waters of the area Cajun units also fought in the area. Future Governor Henry Schuyler Thibodaux was a Lieutenant who saw action there. In addition Cajun or Acadian units served in several parts of the encounter. The service record was perhaps mixed in that battle but while some Acadians may have been farmed out to the other units and deployed some real expertise in throwing up defenses along the wetlands it does seem to be likely that the plurality of Acadians served on the ill-fated West Bank line under David Morgan.  Morgan had put his troops in a more or less indefensible position to support Patterson, the artillerist not from Lafitte’s group. The bad position was exacerbated by the Kentucky riflemen in the unit who were sick exhausted and without Lafitte and others from Louisiana would have been unarmed for all practical purposes. At the moment of the attack all witness blamed the break in the line on the lack of courage not of the Cajuns but the troops from Kentucky. However, a court of inquiry found them also without fault because the position was so ill conceived and because the overall glory of the event was enough to overshadow the failures. Nonetheless men  very likely to biased in favor of the Kentuckians over the men from South Louisiana thought they broke first.  


The most fierce fighters on the American side on that day may well have been the Free Blacks. I did write earlier that no North American Colored officers existed before the Confederates of the Louisiana Native Guard. However, anyone who knows the battle well will remember Major Savary and Lieutenant Listeau were officers of color who fought in the battle. However, it seems very likely that their commissions like many titles of the era were carried over from other service. They held commissions as Spanish troops in Santo Domingo and the US recognized those commissions. This was intended to be temporary. Dominique Youx the Lafitte artillerist who played the most significant role of direct fighting by any Baratarian is of uncertain  (certainly not Cajun) ancestry and became a respectable citizen of Louisiana when others went to galveston for  the chance to continue a disreputable way of life.  He likely had some colored ranking people in his unit but they were not formally commissioned, that leaves Listeau and Savary as exceptions to my statement about the Louisiana Native Guard. The Spanish had a few knowingly and  officially commissioned colored officers in the Caribbean but not in their North American forces. Nonetheless, the victory at New Orleans was the greatest in American history at that time by many measures and Cajuns were there.


The First Battle of Baton Rouge taking West Florida for Spain and weakening the British position against the infant USA was a small but significant battle.  The Cajuns were there. A Cajun General led the action that mattered the most in last major Confederate victory. They had always been citizens with a secure treaty footing since Louisiana entered the union.   Yet the perceptions that abounded in 1943 and still abound today had them as less than a footnote to most of American history and a footnote or two to some of it.


An earlier chapter has already discussed Cajun alienation. The next chapter will deal with Cajun backwardness and poverty to the degree and extent that it did exist in  as honest and direct terms as can be captured in a chapter of a text like this. J.C. Boudreaux’s selection for Louisiana story is mentioned and discussed at some length by Richard Leacock in his correspondence with his wife Happy. He mentions they chose Boudreaux in part because he was dark enough to meet their ideal of a Cajun boy. They also liked his version of the Cajun accent. Physical morphology is very relevant to Cajun identity. In fact there is a sense of a vision of beauty and so forth specific to the ethnicity. But within that context there are many types and the fact is they chose a darker and curlier Cajun than many. Boudreaux’s looks are plenty Cajun but so are some family’s whose faces show a lot of intermarriage with the Norsemen of medieval Normandy.


The point of all this is not really pillory American historians, the British, the documentarians are anyone else. However, it is too show that in my opinion the Cajuns had already been pushed aside, their role in America stolen from them by one force or another and all of this determined what the documentarians would see when they came to postwar Acadiana          


In the study of history there has been a long and in fact continuous struggle over the proper viewpoint  for the historical discipline itself.  Herodotus set forth his motivations and objectives in writing his history and that has been the custom of many historians since that time. It can be argued that it has been an unimportant part of the process to define and redefine this sense of the scholar’s objectives and values since the start of the historical tradition. When this is done it is traditionally done in the introduction and not in the eighth chapter. That tradition also goes back to the very early days of history as a kind of profession or avocation.  



This is the Showing forth of the Inquiry of Herodotus of Halicarnassos, to the end that neither the deeds of men may be forgotten by lapse of time, nor the works great and marvellous, which have been produced some by Hellenes and some by Barbarians, may lose their renown; and especially that the causes may be remembered for which these waged war with one another.


In understanding the history of these documentaries and of postwar Acadiana it is interesting to try to understand their own historical understanding and objectives. It is not possible to fully address this subject without addressing the sense that the documentarians had about Cajun history and what that understanding they had could, should and would mean for the subjects about which this text is written. What is most obvious is that they did not schedule a formal interview with Dudley Leblanc who had published The True Story of the Acadians. They almost certainly did not completely read the text as a group and if some read it or scanned it that was not much reported. Really any sane person knowing most of the facts of their operation would have to take this lack of contact with Dudley Leblanc as very significant. However, when the only historical method employed is to write about what is reported in diaries and letters then one does not inquire into what is omitted and why The history of  the documentarians in the 1930s and into new incarnation under Standard Oil in the 1940s  has often been written without this reverse angle which independently examines the sources which  they were examining. Here the reverse angle is the principal one. The story of the documentarians is secondary in this text to the story of the Cajuns. But it is an important secondary story which is told from a more critical point of view because of the responsible and relatively complete treatment of their subjects in this endeavor.


The Cajuns were of course subject to the same limits of time and resources available to be devoted to the education of the documentarians as anyone else they chose to document. The average inhabitant of the region had no knowledge of their work at all. The documentarians of the era were, as we have already seen, influenced very significantly by the book by Harnett Kane published in 1943. The relationship with Kane and his perceptions were a more favorable than fair representation of the views of Cajuns which had come to characterize the view of the relationship between Cajuns and the State of Louisiana. it also shows a good bit of the view of Cajuns within the State of Louisiana.  



The name of the film is not Cajun although it was released again under that name. The name of the film is Louisiana Story. The original screenplay was called The Christmas Tree. That references the oil industry which was paying for the production but the final product is named after the state. So in this chapter we want to discuss the idea of Cajuns and Acadiana as recorded over the 1943 period and what the period indicated as to the underlying relationship between the people  and culture they recorded. This has been addressed briefly in the other chapters but will be addressed more carefully here.


There is an observed principle in politics that is formulated by some unknown wag as as “if you are not at the table then you are on the table”. in the recording and teaching of American history Cajuns have not been at the table. In addition there was no lack of reasons for them to be misrepresented. The problems were not new in 1943 and have not disappeared since then. Because this book aspires to set out a more comprehensive view of the efforts of various Americans to understand one another than is usually attempted it demands a review of the historical context at many points and this chapter is one of those points.


What is clear about this process of waiting a history is that it remains a humanist far more than a scientific undertaking.  Science has yet to be subjected in my opinion to the fullest and highest form of criticism. It needs and deserves to be evaluated in terms of its general assumptions and the assumptions of specific people and institutions among others criteria. However, in the humanities one expects the writer and scholar to know  the work in a field, to tell the truth about the fact covered and to do some work which adds to the reliable record. Not very many serious people pretend that the context of the times, the needs of society and the grand mentality of the scholar do not affect the final work.


In reaching for the  Louisiana context discussed here there are quite a few things to consider. The chapter which in many ways forms the center of this book focuses mostly on the SONJ photographers and the images they recorded. This is in large part a function of the way that an archive of underutilized images can tell a great deal about a place and a people and how other places and people recorded in the great SONJ project could by inference be more fully evaluated using other images from the collection. The other chapters tend to pay more attention to Louisiana Story and that is in large part because Louisiana Story  and that is not only because the film forms a single and very substantial work to evaluate.  It is because of that surely. But it is also because there is a very definite intended audience and viewership use which forms a sort of fixed point by which and through which the film can be evaluated for the purpose of this film.

The truth is that there was a great deal of the identity of Louisiana which was not favorable to the state as a whole in terms of how it was perceived in America. But the perceptions shared by all were unduly unfavorable to the Cajuns by almost any standard.  The perceptions were largely reinforced by the work done by the documentarians and the legacy of holding down the Cajuns while offering them something in return was continued more than anything else by these visitors from New England. That is not the whole story but it is the story of this chapter.  


************* Appendix to the Chapter********************



The President of the United States of America and the First Consul of the French Republic in the name of the French People desiring to remove all Source of misunderstanding relative to objects of discussion mentioned in the Second and fifth articles of the Convention of the 8th Vendémiaire an 9 (30 September 1800) relative to the rights claimed by the United States in virtue of the Treaty concluded at Madrid the 27 of October 1795, between His Catholic Majesty & the Said United States, & willing to Strengthen the union and friendship which at the time of the Said Convention was happily reestablished between the two nations have respectively named their Plenipotentiaries to wit The President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate of the Said States; Robert R. Livingston Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States and James Monroe Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy extraordinary of the Said States near the Government of the French Republic; And the First Consul in the name of the French people, Citizen Francis Barbé Marbois Minister of the public treasury who after having respectively exchanged their full powers have agreed to the following Articles.

Article I

Whereas by the Article the third of the Treaty concluded at St Ildefonso the 9th Vendémiaire an 9 (1st October) 1800 between the First Consul of the French Republic and his Catholic Majesty it was agreed as follows.

“His Catholic Majesty promises and engages on his part to cede to the French Republic six months after the full and entire execution of the conditions and Stipulations herein relative to his Royal Highness the Duke of Parma, the Colony or Province of Louisiana with the Same extent that it now has in the hand of Spain, & that it had when France possessed it; and Such as it Should be after the Treaties subsequently entered into between Spain and other States.”

And whereas in pursuance of the Treaty and particularly of the third article the French Republic has an incontestible title to the domain and to the possession of the said Territory–The First Consul of the French Republic desiring to give to the United States a strong proof of his friendship doth hereby cede to the United States in the name of the French Republic for ever and in full Sovereignty the said territory with all its rights and appurtenances as fully and in the Same manner as they have been acquired by the French Republic in virtue of the above mentioned Treaty concluded with his Catholic Majesty.

Art: II

In the cession made by the preceeding article are included the adjacent Islands belonging to Louisiana all public lots and Squares, vacant lands and all public buildings, fortifications, barracks and other edifices which are not private property.–The Archives, papers & documents relative to the domain and Sovereignty of Louisiana and its dependances will be left in the possession of the Commissaries of the United States, and copies will be afterwards given in due form to the Magistrates and Municipal officers of such of the said papers and documents as may be necessary to them.

Art: III

The inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States and admitted as soon as possible according to the principles of the federal Constitution to the enjoyment of all these rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States, and in the mean time they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property and the Religion which they profess.

Art: IV

There Shall be Sent by the Government of France a Commissary to Louisiana to the end that he do every act necessary as well to receive from the Officers of his Catholic Majesty the Said country and its dependances in the name of the French Republic if it has not been already done as to transmit it in the name of the French Republic to the Commissary or agent of the United States.

Art: V

Immediately after the ratification of the present Treaty by the President of the United States and in case that of the first Consul’s shall have been previously obtained, the commissary of the French Republic shall remit all military posts of New Orleans and other parts of the ceded territory to the Commissary or Commissaries named by the President to take possession–the troops whether of France or Spain who may be there shall cease to occupy any military post from the time of taking possession and shall be embarked as soon as possible in the course of three months after the ratification of this treaty.

Art: VI

The United States promise to execute Such treaties and articles as may have been agreed between Spain and the tribes and nations of Indians until by mutual consent of the United States and the said tribes or nations other Suitable articles Shall have been agreed upon.

Art: VII

As it is reciprocally advantageous to the commerce of France and the United States to encourage the communication of both nations for a limited time in the country ceded by the present treaty until general arrangements relative to commerce of both nations may be agreed on; it has been agreed between the contracting parties that the French Ships coming directly from France or any of her colonies loaded only with the produce and manufactures of France or her Said Colonies; and the Ships of Spain coming directly from Spain or any of her colonies loaded only with the produce or manufactures of Spain or her Colonies shall be admitted during the Space of twelve years in the Port of New-Orleans and in all other legal ports-of-entry within the ceded territory in the Same manner as the Ships of the United States coming directly from France or Spain or any of their Colonies without being Subject to any other or greater duty on merchandize or other or greater tonnage than that paid by the citizens of the United States.

During that Space of time above mentioned no other nation Shall have a right to the Same privileges in the Ports of the ceded territory–the twelve years Shall commence three months after the exchange of ratifications if it Shall take place in France or three months after it Shall have been notified at Paris to the French Government if it Shall take place in the United States; It is however well understood that the object of the above article is to favour the manufactures, Commerce, freight and navigation of France and of Spain So far as relates to the importations that the French and Spanish Shall make into the Said Ports of the United States without in any Sort affecting the regulations that the United States may make concerning the exportation of the produce and merchandize of the United States, or any right they may have to make Such regulations.


In future and for ever after the expiration of the twelve years, the Ships of France shall be treated upon the footing of the most favoured nations in the ports above mentioned.

Art: IX

The particular Convention Signed this day by the respective Ministers, having for its object to provide for the payment of debts due to the Citizens of the United States by the French Republic prior to the 30th Sept. 1800 (8th Vendémiaire an 9) is approved and to have its execution in the Same manner as if it had been inserted in this present treaty, and it Shall be ratified in the same form and in the Same time So that the one Shall not be ratified distinct from the other.

Another particular Convention Signed at the Same date as the present treaty relative to a definitive rule between the contracting parties is in the like manner approved and will be ratified in the Same form, and in the Same time and jointly.

Art: X

The present treaty Shall be ratified in good and due form and the ratifications Shall be exchanged in the Space of Six months after the date of the Signature by the Ministers Plenipotentiary or Sooner if possible.

In faith whereof the respective Plenipotentiaries have Signed these articles in the French and English languages; declaring nevertheless that the present Treaty was originally agreed to in the French language; and have thereunto affixed their Seals.

Done at Paris the tenth day of Floreal in the eleventh year of the French Republic; and the 30th of April 1803.

Robt R Livingston [seal]

Jas. Monroe [seal]

Barbé Marbois [seal]



Emerging Views Chapter Two

Originally I put this up with no photographs at all now it simply lacks the photographs that matter to the text. I have included a few photos of other kinds here in the introduction to the post that are marginally relevant because pictures after all are what this is about.

download LS 1

This is a glimpse of how the black and white film was presented to the world. The local papers ran black and white promotional and reporting spreads.

Mommee produce cart


This chapter is very much an amputee without its photographs. As I sit here with my chronic foot problems, in my fifties and in decline in so many ways I feel a kindred relationship with the chapter itself.  The place where the rights to the pictures and the finest instances of those images resides is at the Roy Stryker Papers and Collection in the Ekstrom Archives of the University of Louisville which has now largely been renamed the Standard Oil (New Jersey) Collection .  But the chapter such as it is appears below. A pdf version of a draft of this chapter is available EmergingViewsChapterTwoInsidethelenses.


Here we go:

Chapter Two: Inside the Lenses, Cajun People and Material Culture


Section One of Chapter Two:


Because of approximately  twenty photographic plates needing to appear in sufficient size and quality this chapter has the length and the cost to make it in many measures the bulk of the book itself. The photographs are worth it I believe. However, this can distort the reality that  more of the text is about Louisiana Story than about the SONJ project.  In this chapter there is a good bit of Arnold Eagle in evidence and he operated in both worlds. But before dealing with the operations and goings on based in the Nettles I wish to take the reader a few hundred yards down the street that runs alongside St. Mary Magdalene Church and in front of the Nettles. On the grounds of that fairly impressive church is fairly impressive statue which at a smaller church would truly stand out and draw views but as it is it remains only moderately impressive compared to the lofty tower of a church situated on a high pediment..    


In 1939 on the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, Dudley Leblanc donated a marble statue, granite pedestal and concrete base of a state of the Frenchwoman who had been canonized in 1925. Had St.Therese, or Therese Martin,  lived a long lifespan we would have been  seventy six years old in  1939 and only 52 when she was canonized. Today she is a recognized Doctor of the Church. This honor was bestowed by Pope John Paul II. That honor is difficult for non-Catholics whom I would love to have understand this text to grasp. The Catholic Church considers itself to be about 2000 years old and has alway honored the exceptional among the faithful from the Death of St. Stephen. Churches and monuments in the thousands have been dedicated to this vast industry of veneration. How many canonized Saints there are is something that serious people have killed and  argued over. Being a canonized Saint is a big deal, really big deal and there are lots of them.  There are thirty-three Doctors of the Church. These are a very diverse group each of whom represents in some way a  great segment of the vast and complex Catholic heritage.

One of those  thirty-three very exceptional  names has been added since 1939. One would have to say that in terms of Catholic iconography, doctrine and other measures Dudley Leblanc knew how to pick a winner. One could argue he was only caught up in a popular religious movement but that really is not a sufficient explanation. The Cajuns like Dudley Leblanc had a talent for picking the biggest winner imaginable in the Catholic world although for others who choose not to examine religious history in a serious way this all may seem very irrelevant to American history. Nor was this an obvious bet, she was in her twenties when she died. This may seem irreverent to many but to a certain kind of person her face is very beautiful, She had a kind of wit and verve in her writing which was in stark contrast to some other spiritual writers of importance. Dudley Leblanc saw in her a symbol and a stream of thought  worth supporting.

Dudley Leblanc is not known for his speeches or writing or writing on her behalf although he was a very well known speaker and writer. He is known for his donation of an image. Cajun beauty pageants, the HADACOL medicine shows and various other visual expressions were very important parts of his legacy. The blessing of the fleets, the Courires de Mardi Gras, the fais do-do, the tintamarre and many (but not an unlimited list) of other expressions form part the Cajun visual language and system of expression which form a vital part of the culture the Standard Oil Documentaries came to express for and interpret to America. They liked to think and there is quite a bit of evidence that they were pretty good at this sort of thing.


In addition there were and still are many communal activities that defined the community and shaped Cajun life The SONJ photographers did capture some of these events such as the boucherie, the pirogue races and some from the more deliberately exhibition related categories such as  the blessing of the fleet.  Flaherty, as mentioned earlier in this text, keeps the focus tighter than anything that will allow much of this visual language to seep into his film. This text in many ways attempts  to find an understanding of what happens when various visual languages come together and especially when theses specific languages did come together in this particular instance in mid twentieth century America. It is also a story about and a treatment of how these languages and their audiences did not communicate or converge. It is about what can be learned from the way different communities and segments of society competed for ears and eyeballs in an earlier period in the information age.


This chapter leaves out a,most entirely two forces which shaped the production of film and still photographs in this study. More or less the McIlhenny family and the Standard Oil organization are left out of the discussion except  for being addressed indirectly when the Cajuns or Flaherty and Stryker’s documentarians are dealing or being informed by one or more of these other two factors.the major exception is right in this paragraph, just here: Standard oil defined the total concept of the film from the start with a commission for a particular thing. Going through the primary sources on all this is not so simple and even the Calder-Marshall and Rotha biographies   fail to make  the point clearly in a few words. But the rather excellent essay “Step by Step’ by  Eva Orbanz that appears in Filming Robert Flaherty’s  Louisiana Story has a very succinct summary of what needs to be gotten at here.

On april 3, 1944, Roy Stryker, manager of Public Relations for Standard Oil of New Jersey, invited Robert Flaherty to New York. He had something to discuss with him over a bottle of Jameson’s. Would Flaherty be interested in making  a film about the difficulties and dangers of oil production?    An industrial film that would be interesting enough to show in commercial theaters?

Flaherty was interested.   


The commission was not to make a film about the Cajuns or about Louisiana but about the challenges that Standard Oil faced in its pursuit of its basic industrial position. The challenges faced by the oil industry were to be rendered entertaining and meaningful by Flaherty’s artistry. In terms of knowing where the money came from the Cajuns were just along for the ride. But both the fact that Roy Stryker did the asking and the fact that Flaherty was the one asked do frame that business meeting in rather  definite and telling ways. These were not just any two men. They were not strangers and it was not the first time they had been involved in large projects connected to one another.


This is not a book about Pare Lorentz, the FSA,  the collaboration of Helen Van Dongen  and Flaherty on The Land or Roy Stryker’s direction of much of the vast photographic project of the FSA.  It does not have to be a book about the 1930s to recognize that this was in many ways a rebirth with private funding of a massive publicly funded project from before the World War. But anyone who knows anything about the reputation of reborn or resurrected entities knows that the new is usually quite different from the old.  The FSA and New Deal projects did not just simply pause and then start up. A great deal distinguishes the two project and historians of documentary film  have tended to love the FSA — Pare Lorentz era  and nearly ignore this era with the limited exception of Louisiana Story studied and written about with some apology. However just before the work on this book began in the 1990s there were a few scholars who had begun to build on the tiny beachhead of learned discussion of these images. Some of that work was literally going on and coming out  around me as I was starting to put this together.     


The photographs and the film studied here have a history of their own.  The work of Arthur Calder-Marshall on Flaherty’s film and the by contemporary scholars such as James Curtis and Frank de Caro have shown that these same images can be valued as their own historical entities.  I have benefited from the careful and creative analysis which such scholars have provided.  In these pages I seek to understand the photographs as they relate to a social history of cultural group as it is recorded on film.  Perhaps, this comparative and mutually referential method allows more knowledge of all the evidence.  The weaknesses of the method may be exacerbated by the relative brevity of this work.  However, effort to push the frontiers between detailed photographic analysis and a more traditional approach to social history comes from a conscious conviction that this effort will bear fruit in a better historical understanding.


For the purposes of social and cultural history the photograph offers advantages and disadvantages.  Scholars often write and speak of the majority of past persons as “the inarticulate.”  Ironically, these folks spoke, created, built, planted and did numerous other things which expressed their personality in articles of reality.  Their communication, however, becomes either ephemeral, obscure or unintelligible unless someone records it in a clearer more permanent way.  Because this may not happen and because if it does the sources are often ignored, the folk cultures, the masses, the plain folk and the poor of history emerge through the writings of the elite and through statistical evidence.  Both of those sources depersonalize the subject of study and tend to make social history seem less detailed and accurate than diplomatic or political history.  The photograph reminds the historian that his subjects were living beings, existing in the complex and meaning world of personal experience.  The Cajun raconteur Emanuel Mores died as these photographic projects were completed.  His version of the folktale “The Two Ships” captures the situation of all historian s.  Yet it especially applies to this study.  Moras’s comic tale has been recorded as follows:


A cold wave froze the sea and a captain

    shouted to another that a cold wave had

    frozen the ships.  But he did not answer.

    The other shouted the same thing and did

    not get any answer either.


   It made them angry.  They began quarreling.

    The next day the sun came out, the ice melted,

    they were freed, they sailed and the frozen

    voices began to melt.  The ships had left

    the place, but other ships passes there and

    heard the quarrel, saw no one, heard lots of

    noise, but no one in sight.  The frozen words

    were melting.


Leaving aside the comedy of the metaphor and the humor of the poem,  this metaphor seems apt for trying to create a sense of a largely visual dialog now in the twenty-first century based on pieces of communication revived from  a sleep in various forms of preservation over the years.  The historian must take the frozen words and images which he discovers and try to reconstruct the experience of ships which passed.  In the previous chapter the history of the region and people to which the photographers had come was introduced. However, there was no detailed  description of the kinds of realities a photographer or motion picture cameraman can easily capture in their lense. This chapter has three parts. The first part is what you are reading now. The second part is a description of the Cajun hose and a discussion of how the Cajun house relates to the rest of Cajun culture and the Acadian heritage as it is manifest in Acadian material culture. The third and final part of this book works through the SONJ images selected and demonstrates an approach to using these photographs and photography of this sort as an historical source and document. That third part of this chapter is the part of this study which singularly fulfills or should fulfill the promise made repeatedly to take the images seriously as works of history in their own right.     


Looking for the unique images of Acadiana, photographers reached out, like one of the captains in Moras’s story’, to the Cajuns who were living and active to them but are now  frozen in their frames as far our text is concerned. They were trained, skilled and experienced observers often succeeded  captured persisting material manifestations of Cajun cultural that had become rare in the 1940s. In some cases they preserved the information that had some use in the restoration of traditional skills, in other cases they preserved what may have been the only serious portrayals of a given reality on film. They tended toward the distinct, quaint and old fashioned in their choices of subject. That means they tended to photograph places or people who tended in one way or another to be examples of material cultural persistence. The questions a student of Louisiana’s  Cajuns  will have about material cultural persistence cannot resolve themselves here.  But it is possible this chapter will provide a better basis for asking the right questions.

The other interesting set of questions related to analyzing these images is about what may be learned about how the Cajuns photographed related to their subjects. Merely by existing the photographs demonstrate that the Cajuns and the photographers  had substantial interactions. These are not satellite photographs.The photographs were taken on the ground by people who collected other information not contained on the negative. One must also ask how the Cajuns allowed themselves to be frozen in their encounters with photographers.  Finally, how did each party see their encounter with history — the ships to come.


One factor to be considered in understanding the look of Acadiana as the photographers encountered it is to understand the way peoples and cultures interacted with each other and the built or fabricated landscape. Acadiana had an identity as part of the United States as well as many other sources of its cultural identity. So besides Cajun culture in all its rich complexity and American culture in all its richness and complexity there were many other possible adjectives designating a culture which might be applied to  the people, buildings and physical objects which the  photographers tried to capture on film.


Besides Confederate, Francophone and American connections and empathies there are other ways of looking at patterns of people and cultures that in some way typified the region.  The region has a long tradition of harboring those whom some still call Emigres. Literally, this only means emigrants or people moving out of a country. However, in both Britain and the French colonies it acquired a special meaning as referring to the Bourbon nobility who fled from the guillotines that killed the majority of their population during France’s reign of terror which was in many ways brought on by the American Revolution and the French role in it.The pattern begun in those early days had continued  in the centuries before the SONJ projects and has gone on since those projects ended. These left visual cues that the photographers were poorly prepared to discern but would have shaped some of the lives and communities that they filmed or shot. Before Simone Delery’s book Napoleon’s Soldiers in America was published long after the years in question there was little available to alert people to the presence and contribution of the Napoleonic Officer Corps to Acadiana. The boy in Louisiana Story is named  not only Alexander and Ulysses but Napoleon and that name also is  an apt name for a Cajun boy in its own way.  

In certain circles accessible only to the folklorist in Louisiana Emigres is a designation that has come to mean highly elite populations of Francophone background who fled to Louisiana in organized groups to save their lives and settle. The waves of such refugees are: 1. The Bourbon Nobles fleeing the reign of terror, 2. the planter and merchant elite both creole of color and white race  fleeing Haiti after the slave revolt, 3.the Napoleonic Nobility and officer corps fleeing here after his first and second falls, 4. the small but significant group of French speaking Austrian Jews who came here after the fall of the Hapsburg Empire and 5. the Vietnamese specifically who either were themselves or were attached to the Nguyens who are the Royal Clan of Nguyen of the city of Hue and it family of the Kings and Queens of Indochine. Acadiana politics has also always had a somewhat distinctive quality and these layers of people laid on by migration to the basic population groups that existed before  has contributed to a politics with a kind of heritage of relatively right wing politics has been one stream in the complexity of region that produced four term Democrat Governor Edwin Edwards and the first female to hold the office in Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of New Iberia. Both were elected during a time when the Democrats were clearly to the left of the Republicans in what is basically a two party country. At the time of the SONJ photographs however, there had not been a governor from Acadiana since Governor Alexander Mouton the very Acadian Governor of Louisiana and father of the martyred Hero of Mansfield, General Alfred Mouton. The more recent years had seen a great decline in the prestige of the Cajuns and of the French language and although men like Jimmy Domengeaux and Dudley Leblanc were leading a movement to restore French and the Cajun heritage it was more noted for struggle than memorable victories in those years. This ascendance of English had a strong set of visual elements and manifestations. But most of all, to the degree that advertised products were most often Anglo-American or advertised in English, these picture, unable to capture spoken French, actually Anglicize the realities of their subjects’ lives by showing English words.  The photographers struggled to comprehend persistence and change in Acadiana just as scholars struggle today.  Todd Webb, one of the two Stryker photographers whose work most often appears in these pages, wrote to Roy Stryker the following contrast between Harnett Kane’s book and the realities surveyed.  “I was disappointed in La Fourche, where I went last Saturday and Sunday.”  Webb wrote from his hotel room in Baton Rouge, “I had read Harnett Kane’s  “The Bayous of Louisiana” (sic) and he neglected to say that a highway ran along the Bayou and that houses were really quite some distance away.  The people have turned almost completely away from the Bayou and the highway has taken its place.”  Webb would later discover that La Fourche had became famous as “the world’s longest street” and that in other communities the waterway still held ascendancy over graded right of way.  Kane, eager to see distinctiveness survive, had made La Fourche appear as riverine and unique in structure as it had been years ago. according to Webb. Not every scholar would agree about what Webb found. But we see this more clearly if we remember how he may have hoped for many easily obtained photographs of Cajuns in the town using the Bayous  and instead found cars, trucks, bicycles and wagons on the road did most of the work and achieved most of the connections between the Cajuns in this old Bayou Cajun settlement.


Acadiana during the 1940s offered much appeal to the photographers working there.  “Some day this week we are going to Abbeville to see Flaherty.”  Wrote Webb of the man producing Louisiana Story.  Robert Flaherty, recognized as the father of the documentary film, had received critical attention and some financial wealth for previous portrayals of remote cultures and places.  The man who had directed Nanook of the North, Man of Aran and Moana now brought his gifts to a Cajun subject.  His vision of a pristine culture would influence many.  The excitement of working with Flaherty in later days and Webb’s declaration that “Gross Tete and the Teche are both much better…(because they showed more cultural persistence than Bayou La Fourche)” all show that Webb and his boss never saw themselves as dispassionate scientists.  Yet, all parties to this project had ambivalent feelings about the ways this region differed from others in America. The distinctive appealed to them and made them feel successful. But that is not the same thing as them feeling that it should be preserved. However, from what can be remembered from nearly a quarter of a century ago there were more likely to be hostile statements from these generally Yankee aligned photographers when dealing with signs of the Confederacy and the antebellum South than when dealing with the distinctively Acadian. Todd Webb expressed weariness shooting Natchez which was “a crinoline crypt”. Nothing that strongly negative  was associated with his perceptions of Acadiana. But one must remember that a photographer can have all kinds of biases and a very defined agenda and still a shooter of the quality of any of these people will usually be longing most of all for the great picture most of all.  

The fact that there is no story titled Courir de Mardi Gras in the Roy Stryker SONJ collections is one of the most telling facts in the entire survey of what is and is not included in these photographs. The running on Fat Tuesday is certainly a very photogenic ritual of collection of chickens and other ingredients from members of a Cajun Community , beating the bounds around the physical limits of a community and a mixture of charity and intimidation. The whole rather elaborate ritual is  traditionally run by a ridelle under a captain. Men in masks and colorful costumes collect ingredients for a communal feast centered on chicken gumbo. This is done on the day before Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Why this is not a major feature of the SONJ projects is open to question. But it is significant that it was absent.


The photograph has as complex a set of biases and insights as any other type of evidence.  Both art and science manifest themselves in the activity of photographers.  This paper has benefited from exposure to the correspondence between Roy Stryker and his photographers.  Stryker, while no photographer himself, loved the vision of the camera.  Stryker wrote the artistic and opinionated Webb encouraging words.  “Dear Todd, You are certainly going after Louisiana….” Wrote the office bound Stryker, wistfully, “Looks like the old Farm Security days:  storefronts, gravestones, interesting faces, etc., etc.  It was a nice set of pictures and I congratulate you.  Keep it up.”   The reader should recognize the living eyes which directed the mechanical ones. These men are deeply bound to their New Deal experience and the thing one often senses is that Standard Oil is subsidizing men and a few women whose hearts are invested in the old New Deal concepts. Neither Standard Oil nor the documentarians had a vision that came primarily from Acadiana or the Cajuns.  A photograph like any article of historical evidence is provided by a “witness” and comes through the filter made up of the witness’s interests, prejudices and medium of record.  Photographs provide access to subjects of various types within the context of a single document.  Careful analysis allows a unique view of gender, environment, popular culture and commerce to speak from the complex and holistic mesh of relationships which existed.


This study assumes that photographs have as significant and verifiable a message to convey to professional historians as any other medium. Text has been the dominant source type and should remain so but photographs matter as well.  It is difficult to determine how technical analysis of camera angles, lighting and other aspects of photography clouds the work.  Among the benefits of photographic sources, the greatest asset consists in their ability to speak to the reader’s imagination and intellect without too much introduction from their scholarly chaperone, the researcher.  However, the reader has no guarantee of any ultimate neutral objectivity on the part of the historian who must select the photographs and arrange them in order.Within the photographs, dress, vernacular architecture, transportation, ritual , and occupation serve as points of departure for scholarly inquiry.  The attempt has not been to support an essay on Acadian heritage and Cajun by looking at the breadth of visual imagery within the context provided  by texts and also try especially hard to seek out signs of persistence and assimilation with the  photographs providing key insights into the postwar period. The writer hopes to reveal in these picture and the study as a whole, the history of a people and region by investigating the information in a limited set of photographic documents as they relate to a limited set of questions of an historical rather than an artistic nature.  This study cares as much or more about the backgrounds of Todd Webb and Arnold Eagle, as a New Englander and an Eastern European immigrant respectively, as about their artistic style and is almost ignorant of the many technical questions about cameras, film and lighting which each of them had to answer every day.  A real effort has been made to understand these photographers and their perceptions and biases as well as all the cultural substance of the Cajuns, of Acadiana  and of whatever else they filmed. The human communication and perceptions and not the techniques of photography form the subject of this study.


The reason for mentioning that there was no folder called Courir de Mardi Gras is  because many photographs in this were taken as part of sets and kept as parts of “stories”, a term with a technical specific meaning here related to the ordinary English meaning .  These sets were centered around “stories” such as “The Pirogue Maker,” “River Story,” or “Scenes along a Bayou.”  This study seeks to recreate some of the feel of those stories even where the photographs have gravitated into very disparate sections of the SONJ files.  Perhaps, the final elements of structure to which this study aspires is a movement from environmental mandates on a human nature shared by all persons in all cultures toward those cultural and individual expressions which might never have happened except for unique Cajun experience.  Sometimes, the economy itself is distinctive and nowhere does culture cease to to shape and impact the relationship between Cajuns and their environment.  The section on architecture and the House in chapter one functions as a bridge between discussion of the functional and the sublime. and also between history and material culture studies. But America is a place where many things are hidden that would be obvious in a country where more people understood hidden hidden cultural realities.  


This study is an attempt to integrate sources and methods which are emerging as increasingly important in the study of history and to apply them to a unique set of historical questions. The most arrogant part of this work, and all good writing has an element of arrogance, is the effort to set a high standard of how historians can use photographic evidence. These questions are largely those on the interdisciplinary edge of history, community-studies, anthropology and cultural geography.  The desire by scholars today to recreate a lived experience of the majority of people in a historical period has inspired a wide range of scholarship of history and related subjects  in France and America particularly.


The study of photographs and sets of photographs allows the historian to determine the type of housing, farming and transportation which untied a recent society in a way not available from the descriptions in wills, building contracts standing structure surveys and the documents generated by agribusiness.  Vernacular architecture alone constitutes a part of cultural experience and articulation unknown to those reading social history until fairly recently.  Clearly photographs facilitate the development of a more ready apprehension of a region’s architectural style and landscape function than prose does.  The editors of Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture were somewhat inspiring to this writer in the early days of this project. I understand in researching the next section of this chapter that it brought out the potential of this quality of photographs and that the  Perspectives journal at the time was nearly as photographic in quality as it is textual.  Photographs also allow the historian to make strong prose arguments about the uniqueness of a style or the economic diversity of a farming community while allowing the reader access to evidence which functions as a counterbalance to the narrow focus of the writer.  Clearly, the historian has an obligation to describe individual photographs within the context of the photographer’s career and other factors not related to the function of the image a historical document or even as historical datum.  The wisdom of this approach and the value of the result are very much open to the question, all that is asked is that the study be evaluated on the basis of what it has set out to do.


Section Two of Chapter Two:


The Stryker photographers’ entire collection did not include much of the relatively few obvious very fine and upscale examples of Cajun architecture which are found near the places they photographed. They certainly did not seek out those which may have lost their distinct visual identity through renovation. Louisiana is a place which has several types of houses within the Creole and Cajun cultural milieu which have a basic modularity. The idea of a modular house in the extreme way in which these houses were modular is that one can start a house with a very modest amount of money and expenditure and live in it have a highly functioning cabin. One can then continue through many stages all the way up to something which can be called a mansion and at all phases have a highly functioning house except for the annoyance directly related to construction of new portions of the building. The system allows for many traits or ideals of the local culture to manifest themselves. There is self sufficiency which does not require a large mortgage, there is attachment to the land as one need not move in order to progress up the scale of financial progress and home value without leaving the same spot. It allowed the family, farm workers (slave or free when both existed) and contract labor to be divided with the home improvements the owners needed in a way which benefitted the builders who had to maintain less permanent labor and the farmer or business owner who might be glad to have work of value to him (or in some cases her) which his employees and dependents could engage in readily when the principal occupation of the establishment was interrupted. This sort of thing happens quite a bit in rural life. Often such an interruption might also involve weather that makes home improvement impossible but there would also be many times when it would be possible to work on the house but not on the normal profit center of the establishment. Thus  in the mindset dsitnctive of the region value could be added even when immediate profits could not be achieved.


After the relative decline of much of the region following both the Civil War and World War One The modular technology common to architecture in the region also had the effect of allowing the owner to disguise the distinct cultural identity of the home by adding what amounted to nondescript or confusing elements to later modules. Thus in time entire groups of houses with  a basic Creole or Acadian identity  were instead sort of odd mainstream American or regional Southern houses.


As stated above, the Stryker photographers’ entire collection  of architectural or architecturally framed images did not include much of the relatively few obvious very fine and upscale examples of Cajun architecture which are found near the places they photographed. The same selective interest also goes for more upscale typically Southern and Creole architecture from the nineteenth century which dots the countryside and clusters in the towns and villages of Acadiana. How such distinctions are made and how various housing types relate to the people living in the towns is a question beyond the scope of this study. But in general the types of houses described above do exist and are not much found in the SONJ photographs.  The interests they followed were not laser focused and narrowly singular either. was in evidence which depicted the economically disadvantaged, the working class, the Acadian, the industrial and the natural —  a house had the best chance of making it on to film if it was a poor or low cost home with a moderate Acadian identity and working class occupants in an industrial or very natural set of environs. Few houses had all those qualities but the trends and tendencies are clearly there. In studying what is on the film there is always a need to remember what is not making it into the lenses. Like all works of human understanding these photographs telescoped reality into a coherent set of themes, concepts and relationships.  To a large degree, the metaphorical ships have left and the words have little context if we do not have someone to tell us they were there. The pictures come from a place and time. WIth the benefit of a broader cultural history that  shows that place and time the photographs have the opportunity to become coherent conversations once again. The historical background provides a kind of map and description such as a good Crime Scene Investigation Unit might compile after a crime has occurred. This at least is a simile and not another metaphor.


During the research for this study a  significant survey of Acadian heritage and pure Cajun houses was undertaken directly by this writer under the direction of Jay Edwards of Louisiana State University, an anthropologist who also directed the Fred Kniffen Laboratory. This project was undertaken in conjunction with his Vernacular Architecture Seminar. The underlying purpose was to get some idea of the prevalence or at least availability of the Cajun House to the photographers in a small area that virtually all of them would have visited more than once. In that project a research was conducted of traditional communities, collections of traditional houses such as exists in Acadian Village in Lafayette. A review of  the Vermilionville living history component of the Jean Lafitte National Park and finally to review folkloristic and historical textual sources and photographs. Unfortunately, the research produced by that last part was lost and the reader will have to rely on the general sense of the sources from which it was drawn as manifest in the bibliography of this text.


After, that research was done a formulaic concept was put forward which allowed for some points in more scientific system as well as an informed judgement  in a more humanist system Using both systems it was arranged for evaluations to be made and credited for  the deviations from the standard to be well understood. This second phase of the project culminated with positing that a classic Cajun house developed which had all or most of a set of easily charted features, including the following:  

  1. A sharply inclined gabled roof.
  2. Construction of cypress walls lined on the inside with a mix of Spanish moss and mud.
  3. The floor is elevated on piers from the ground.
  4. Has galleries in the front and back of the house.
  5. The front and back of the house are on the longer sides of The rectangular structure.
  6. The front gallery runs the full length, or very nearly the full length of the house.
  7. The space above the ceiling is habitable.
  8. The windows have non-louvered shutters
  9. The galleries are beneath the solid wedge of the roof and not beneath an extension of the roof.
  10. There are windows on every side of the house.
  11. The roof is covered with cypress shakes.
  12. The profile includes an acute, an obtuse, and two right angles in its elevation
  13. The walls consist of center-matched or quarter-matched horizontal planks

The third stage of the project was to survey all houses on the road which becomes State St. in Abbeville and record a positive or negative for each characteristic, this survey will extend from the Woodlawn bridge to Henry Louisiana, The other route surveyed will be Hwy. 14-Concorde St.-Charity St. from Kaplan to Erath.  A drive by photographic survey was made first. then an external sampling of measures and more photographs was made of homes scoring at each level range of high medium and  low  However there were entire segments that were not sampled in each category. These samples at all three  levels will provided a little scientific basis for asking how many houses embody enough of these qualities qualities to be a visibly Cajun House..  At least one photograph and the physical location of each house with a score of eight or more positives will be retrieved in this portion of the project. Then a good number of the high scoring sample houses and a few houses in the four to six  points range were entered and thoroughly  examined for construction techniques and the  effects of renovation. The results of all these investigations was preserved and the were recorded and  contrasts between high scoring exteriors and inauthentic construction techniques were noted .


Fourthly, the age, variation, appearance and general feel of the houses with the scores will be contrasted with the model house. it was then evident that the tradition was more varied and vibrant and complex than the model but that the model was nonetheless a very good rubric for having a good investigation and good conversations with owners. Flaws in the set of characteristics and the method as it unfolded were discussed with Doctor Edwards, with owners of the houses and residents and before he dropped out to pursue a related project I discussed these things with the architecture graduate student who was my research partner. Files were developed for  Houses which scored high without seeming Cajun and those scoring low while appearing Cajun will be photographed and discussed.Finally, an effort was made to determine whether certain sets of characteristics appeared together most often and to set up a formula whereby one can analyze the basic frequency of certain characteristics.  

I ended this project with a great deal of confidence that the Cajun House was an important part of the landscape and that it was fair to note that the SONJ photographers had not come to understand the  Cajun House very well.  It seemed that the limits and structural qualities of their project had a great deal to do with why they did see well and missed many opportunities. It was a fair modern American response to ask the question: who decides what a Cajun house is, and what its features distinguish it?


But I was left feeling equally sure that the question could be answered fairly well and that the shallow quality of the architectural awareness I detected in almost every photographer was a real thing to be criticized. That question underlies other questions about Acadiana’s vernacular architecture.  The region is a diverse and complex landscape where the natural, built and near-built environment interact in very close and somewhat subtle ways.  No single simple structural analysis can make sense of all the buildings and builders which have appeared on the scene in this new Acadia.  This chapter discusses a sort of “classic” house.  This typical Cajun house represents a significant number of homes built during those periods of history in which Cajuns developed greatest autonomy and community identity in Louisiana.  This discussion also takes note of the new archaeological evidence for a distinct Acadian architecture prior to the expulsion from Canada’s original Acadia.  The house type defined as Cajun hereis readily recognized locally and has inspired very numerous works of folk art, including paintings, drawings and photographs as well as three dimensional models and toys in a variety of forms.  Furthermore, the house type has commonly served as a symbol for those seeking to promote local “cultural tourism” by outsiders and finally it is a house-form continuously adapted and imitated by Cajuns for their own homes until the time of this writing.


The exact situation in the 1940s was not possible to determine in the time I had but it was possible to see that these photographers and their wealthy patron could have learned a great deal more than they appeared to have actually bothered to learn. The sense this gave me was not that they missed the whole of Acadian architecture but that what they did miss mattered and could be evaluated.


In the environs of Lafayette, Louisiana (the largest city in the prairie region of Acadiana) two collections of historic Acadian or Cajun houses have been established and made open to the public.  The oldest of the two collections is the Acadian Village, operated by the Lafayette Association for Retarded Citizens which was developed in the 1970s.  The six houses appearing in figure “insert info.” vary significantly in age.  The Aurelie Bernard house, formerly of St. Martinville consists of two portions the original built around 1800 and a symmetrical extension sideways added in 1840.  The Thibodeaux house from Breaux Bridge and the Le Blanc house from near Youngsville both date from near the end of the antebellum period.


The fairly broad sampling of prairie Cajun houses at Acadian village constitutes a reasonable representation of what local people see as classic Cajun vernacular architecture.  Many feature predominate in these Acadian Village houses as a group but there is also a gegree of variety in the features of each house.  Significantly, all the Cajun houses at Acadian Village share the following features:


First, all have gabled roofs.

Second, all have an eaveside front.

Third, all have a  basic frontal symmetry with regard to doors and windows.

Fourth, all have a gallery under the eaveside.

Fifth, all are elevated from the ground on piers.

Many other features including the use of cypress in construction appear in all these Acadian Village houses. These houses were not conveniently collected in the 1940s but they were around and people were talking about them.


Those details await further discussion below.  The second collection of houses also serves as a useful reference point from which to evaluate the SONJ photographs and their record of Cajun life.  Vermilionville is a project of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the humanities.


The two Cajun or Acadian homes actually collected from the surrounding area share the five features listed above as common to the Acadian Village homes.  They also share cypress construction and other features not listed above with the Acadian Village homes.

One of the homes brought to Vermilionville belonged to Armand Broussard a wealthy Cajun who belonged to the slaveholding planter class.  the house appears distinctly Cajun despite some ornamentation which may have been Anglo-American and Creole in inspiration. In my view of the visual language of the area it seemed to me that the owner was asserting both ethnic identity and a sense wishing to be part of his region and country in which Cajuns were not the dominant ethnic group.  This Broussard home was built in 1790 and its large area and elegant appearance show that the Cajun style was apt for building homes which were as comfortable as most if not all in the surrounding area.  Another home of comparable elegance at Vermilionville is a hipped roof Creole home brought from the Mississippi River Valley and not to be confused with the local architecture.


The above description of these buildings serve merely to demonstrate in verifiable terms a fact which is difficult to support from written sources but which is readily apparent to a perceptive observer.  That fact is that people in Acadiana share a perception of the Cajun or Acadian house.  In fact Cajun people and their neighbors who wish to be more like them have continued to model their homes on this image throughout this century — before and after the SONJ projects.


Important questions arise concerning the interplay between the geographical and historical reality of Cajun houses, the perception of local people that certain features typified a Cajun house and the attitudes of outside researchers and artists towards the local vernacular architecture.  Over the entire history of Cajun houses to the present a complex system of feedback has occurred in which a tradition developed and was understood.  Artists, builders and consumers reacted to the tradition.  The newer homes within a still definable tradition expressed reaction to previous buildings and the impression those buildings had made on the community.  The cycle would continue as these buildings in turn shaped perceptions and were used as models for further building. Thus in short the process of change after establishment in Louisiana might be described as follows:

A= Acadian building tradition as far as an important symbol of their home in what is now Nova Scotia..

e = The effect of environmentally driven adaptations derived from the Caribbean, Louisiana elsewhere. Dating techniques seem to show that the first homes appear to have largely reflected A but quickly became Ae in reaction to the differences in climate and available building materials. and Visual Rhetoric


Section Three of Chapter Two:

( Note to 2016 review group at LSU the images are not currently available to be seen, Reading the text is not entirely pointless in my opinion or I would not be sending this in to be read)


The last section of this chapter is a careful examination of some of the images themselves.

it is the heart of this study in which after all the background has been established and before a higher criticism has been applied to the methodologies the photographs are allowed to inform those interested in history. That is they both guide a focus of external evidence and allow for purely visual information not otherwise readily available.

Plate one, photographed by Todd Webb in May 1947, displays the complex rural pattern of cultural and technological development in an assimilating Acadiana.  The levees show both persistence and change in farming and in relations between various cultures and the people who lived those cultures.  Acadiana in Nova Scotia made levees to protect their crops from encroaching swamp and sea water.  The later immigrants from Scotland hired Acadians to design and maintain their hydraulic systems.  In plate one, levees remain a daily part of life, but the water management of rice, not corn or other grains, emerge as the problem.  Here flooded and prepared fields await the airplanes which will plant seed in a broadcast method — strangely combining  new technology with the oldest form of sowing grain.

The farmhouse is of a Southern “shotgun” architecture, which in itself may be a primal expression of Louisiana’s vernacular architecture.  The home is a set of rooms, two rooms wide, going back to the kitchen.  A separate roof covers the porch.  A more traditional Cajun home in contrast would have two storeys , the first alone having a ceiling, and the upper floor would extend over the porch.  The Cajun home traditionally had a steeper roof and rested on cypress blocks at 15 points.  While even the home appearing in plate two, differs from the most typical homes, the Acadian home went through an eighteenth century and possibly two nineteenth century shifts in design and could also expand sideways from its original 15 block base.  Cajun architecture remained significantly adaptable throughout the nineteenth century and has enjoyed a miniscule revival in the last two decades.

The following chapter goes into a more careful and detailed study of Cajun vernacular architecture than is possible in this chapter.  There seems to have been a continuous adaptation to outside forces but there is also a sort of geometrical rhetoric of Cajun houses which is evident during the thirties, forties and even at the time of this writing.  This rhetorical system could preserve forms despite changes in materials and technologies.  The photographers seem to have had a fairly good eye for the “traditional Cajun house” in all its permutations.  The silhouette with its gallery cut away into the eaveside of a gabled house and the eaveside gallery fronting an artery  of the village (bayou or street) is the strongest feature of Cajun vernacular architecture.  This silhouette functions as a sculpted shape against the sky which makes a political statement about community an identity.  A statistical sample taken and anlyzed by this writer indicates that many such houses exist even among newly constructed houses today.  The survival of Cajun vernacular architecture indicates the kind of complexity which exists in the collection of photographs and is confirmed by other evidence.  An important hypothesis for this study is that Cajuns adopted their neighbors’ artifacts and values but also propagated their own values and artifacts to their neighbors.  The evidence gathered for this study indicates that a unique cultural region has endured and does not appear to be in danger of dissappearing soon and even communicates more of its music, foodways and ideas than ever before to the larger society. On the other hand the differences between the larger culture and Acadiana as a society are somewhat less dramatic than in the past.

Why the Acadian home has more often vanished than it has been modified becomes a complex problem.  Architects today admit that, in terms of comfort in the elements and function, the Acadian home outperformed most structures available during its decline.  Apparently, the conformity of farmers who wished to have an American home conspired with the diminishing number of builders who possessed the knowledge to construct an Acadian home.  Carl A. Brasseaux’s discussion of housing in The Founding of the New Acadia and Lauren Post’s discussion in Cajun Sketches offer more highly accessible treatments of these issues.  Apparently the house varied in construction and yet remained within distinct parameters of cultural development.  The photographers did not know a great deal about housing or about the different influences which might be displayed.  Todd Webb, who despised ante-bellum mansions, the French quarter and Southern pride also detected a pride by the Cajuns in their  old cypress homes.

Webb’s impression of the people and their relationship to these houses seems richer in prejudice then perception.

“W.B. has lined up an old house for me which I am

     staring on tomorrow.”  He wrote to Stryker, The way

     they cherish these old houses gives me a pain in

     the ass but I think it will be pretty interesting

     to photograph.  The Live Oaks (sic), festooned

     with moss are fascinating and somehow seem to

     be in line with the decadence that I feel in the

     South.  The cypress tree is a wonder, not only in

     growth but in use.  The wood itself is beautiful

     and almost everlasting and it is almost extinct (sic).

     Another American tragedy of which there are

     many in the South.”

The family in the shotgun home pictured here in plate one in 1947, lived near Abbeville.  These farm people likely spoke French and English, canned foods themselves and bought them canned.  Their furnishings may have included Cajun spindle and calfskin chairs purchased nearby, as well as various store-bought and mass produced products.

Plate one is a composite picture of gradual transformation which reflects the relative independence of the Cajun farmer.  Unlike the urban ethnic working for a non-ethnic, the Cajun farmer could adapt gradually to a changing world.  His family would embrace a new product or folkway because they preferred it, or because it more efficient or at least because the old ways had perished for lack of expertise and supply.  The Acadiana region retained a sufficient base of independent producers to account for their relative autonomy as a culture for 200 years.

Harnett Kane called Acadiana a land of “primarily small men and small affairs,” James H. Dorman has written of the prevalence of “ribbon farms,” and few have failed to mention this diffusion of capital.  The “ribbon farm” serves to highlight the importance of community to a society of small land-holders.  “Ribbon farms” is the term which rural sociologists use to describe farms where farmers live near one another, have some centralized services and work small holdings.  Even today many rural Cajuns work for themselves.  Slavery, sharecropping, salaried work, and accumulated wealth have all changes the region. The industry paying for this project also was already having and would continue to have an effect. The income from oil leases and royalties allowed extended families and nuclear families villages and other units of Cajun culture to make better adjustments to the demands of the era and the problems with the limits of the region than if those oil checks had not come in. In folkloristic terms many oil people from outside the region have commented on how the Cajuns were notable for marrying oil money. Because of legal situation that amount to a great deal on wonders if this book will ever be published if one writes that the oil industry also imposed many costs on the Cajuns that were never mitigated or even recognized. This cost however was very real and still goes on and the legacy lawsuits that have recently been the subject of much controversy are only a small part of that picture. But it is also true that oil provided a much appreciated  and  unique support to the economic struggles and plans of the small landholders of the region. The oil industry  came at just the right time to prevent other crises and  to bolster and support a life of  hard work and the productive capital that the typical small farmer or  (more rarely) landowning trapper already had and continued to maintain. Oil was in itself a kind of economic system recreating the main business climate in the region, in it there were many benefits and opportunities and also some very destructive and unpleasant forces. In that way it was not so different than many other economic systems which had existed at various times in the region.  None of those economic systems ever eroded the base of Cajun autonomous small producers so radically that the tradition of independence withered entirely away.  Cajun racism in the past to the degree that it was distinctive in any way from other racism tended to  focus more on two factors. Those factors were the relatively weak honors an African-American genealogy  would bring to a family and therefore a desire to limit mutual filiation. The second factor was keyed to the fact that Blacks, even free people before and after the war, tended to be employed by wealthier people. Thus free black planters had a very important role. Cajuns had always shared employment within classes  or segments and employed some fellow cajuns continually, But working one’s own capital and means of production and doing this as much as possible within a community with a few elite leaders of significant wealth and with communal facilities  remained a persistent ideal over the centuries and regions. Very little racial conflict or violence ever occurred between Cajuns and Black farmers and ranchers who lived in more or less autonomous communities when the Cajuns were relatively stable and at peace. Men who had beliefs and used language no history department at a major university in the United States would be likely to support would beat  and intimidate white men who were or were not Cajuns and engaged in race baiting of the local colored farming communities. However, in crises there was always a sense among everyone in the region that virtually anything might happen. Some of Longfellow’s idea of a people who love peace above all else is true. That is partly because Cajuns fear more than most people what they may become when pressed too hard. Whether true or not the idea of limitless rage as an ethnic quality is very old and widespread.


Farming and Cattle ranching, war and the learned professions are the most amenable ways to advance in Cajun culture across many times in history.   In recent years, trapping continues but has not enjoyed expansion or been able to offer much steady employment, commercial hunting in banned, and barnyard and cottage industries have declined in recent years.  Only the aquaculture and fisheries enable large numbers of small producers to earn a good living without dependence on the employer.  Those same industries employ many people in the processing and marketing end of the industry, proportionately more Blacks, Anglos and Vietnamese than Cajuns.  Where French language and Cajun customs persist most intensely, where the community is less closely tied to the mainstream labor market, more people enjoy the autonomy traditional to Cajun life.


If the farm in plate one also included stock operations the herd would likely have found its way a few miles up the road to the corrals directly behind the men pictured in plate three.  This stockyard sat on the nearby Richard family property on North Henry Road just outside Abbeville.  The local stock traders watch an auction in progress.  Like much of the local economy, stock auctions were managed by a cooperative.  The auctions in this building occurred in a sort of amphitheater where the cattle could be viewed in small lots when driven in from behind the wall against which the boy is seated.  These men look like other stockmen and farmers in other places.  The lack of accouterments of “cowboy” culture (boots, Stetsons, wide belts, etc.) distinguishes them from groups to the West of Acadiana.  However, this serves as an example of visual images with little evidence of cultural autonomy.  Assimilation seems nearly total.

This picture required the photographer to do very little in terms of composition.  The mix of people, all male and all serious captures enough of the mood sought by the photographer conspicuous to his subjects and yet he does not greatly alter their behavior.

One of the traps a scholar can leap into in this type of study concerns the distinction between Southwestern Louisiana’s economic adaptation and Cajun culture, with the grassy prairies here any European group would have raised cattle.  Nonetheless, stock-raising has formed a vital part of the Cajun economy since first settlement.  In the early days, this mobile property was brought and sold in the bordering lands of Mexico, English West Florida and among the Anglo-Americans settling above Acadiana.  This provided some of the needed money for transportation, resettlement and the development of the lands in the area.  Another form of trade which competed with the cattle drive was the water traffic in furs and foodstuffs which once tied together all of Southwestern Louisiana.  To exclude the physical environment from any model of how behaviors developed would miss a great deal.  Yet the interaction between human culture and the environment becomes highly complex in practice.


The farm near Abbeville and the stockmen both exemplify change and assimilation on the prairie.  The life of Cajuns on the prairies of Southwest Louisiana can not easily  distinguish its ways of sustaining prosperity from countless other plains and prairie cultures.  To the degree that the prairie economy was distinctive, such distinctions (flooding fields for rice, crawfish and catfish) drew upon a wetlands tradition.


The photographer took the picture in plate four not because it was typical but because it fulfilled Stryker’s mission of recording that which soon might pass away.  Without human figures, the photo records the garden and the home as a slice of history.  Empty of children and the other active signs of life the picture speaks, appropriately enough, of a past in which such homes as this had dominated their surroundings.  The intensity of economic production which left little room for such luxuries as a front yard reminds one that Acadiana has never experienced the depopulation of the countryside, by migration to the city, which characterized the rest of the nation since the 1880s.  The land grows ever more populous creating pressures for high profit, labor intensive rural industries.  Journalists, scholars, politicians, economists and sociologists tend toward the urbane.  Fewer intellectuals and writers who become well-known write from the prospective of a resident in a small rural community.  Perhaps this has something to do with those who see poverty whenever they see farms.  If a family owns herds, buildings, boats, and tools and a small spread of land but the immediate descendants of that family become debt-encumbered, college-educated condominium dwellers does that constitute upward social mobility?  In most economic and psychic terms it certainly constitutes a fall in fortunes.  Consumerism and prosperity must be distinguished  by a historian seeking to study those who cherish an economy based on subsistence and cooperation.


This small home has more Cajun features than the shotgun home on the Abbeville rice farm in plate one.  The economic conservative living in the home pictured in plate four practiced a mix of commercial cucumber planting and shrimping.  Such a mixed economy had already declined in Grand Isle, most of this shrimper’s neighbors had abandoned cucumbers to invest themselves completely in the increasingly lucrative seafood industry.  This raises certain ecological questions.  The earlier wetlands economy involved such a variety of small scale operations that the region’s natural balance continued. to produce sufficiently for the population.  Once refrigeration and better transportation made more distant markets accessible, certain aspects of the Cajun economy would benefit unequally.  This change did not obliterate distinctive cultural traditions, it could accelerate assimilation and damage the environment.


One also wonders if the shrimper’s wife lost economic status as production moved into the male dominated offshore world.  Did barnyard animals and subsistence gardening diminish as life and work became more specialized?  The answer seems to be that Cajun women experienced role strain and had to adjust in a much shorter period of time to the transition from a world of family economics, to male providence of nearly all wealth and again to a two career or cooperative economy.  It is unlikely that a significant number of most rural wetlands Cajun women ever divorced themselves from income producing activities or lost power and interest in the world outside the home.


The role of women in the economy of Acadiana is tied partly to the role of the family in the economy.  Acadiana in the twentieth century has increasingly moved towards the separation of family life and economic production which typifies the modern, industrial and post-industrial global economy.  Like countless traditional societies, the Cajuns have been forced to adapt to an increasingly market driven economy in which the accumulation of capital and the development of the new technologies has increasingly led to a specialization and concentration on the production of a few goods and services by members of units other than families.


The success of the local culture in maintaining a large economic base tied to its traditional folk activities is remarkable despite the relative decline of such activities.  The home garden and the small barnyard establishment of chickens, and milk cows have fared less well than traditional male activities discussed in detail below.  However, research would need to be done to ascertain how many families remained vital economic units.  There are still farm families where both spouses cooperate on producing a few staples, women who run small businesses with their relatives from their homes and other signs of persisting involvement by some Cajun women in preserving their families’ economic independence from marketing their labor and developing the capital of others.


The role of women in the culture of Acadiana has yet to become the sole focus of a single monograph.  The economic and social development of the region must include women.Cajun society was still in the early Postwar period  patriarchal to the degree which nearly all Western cultures and many others have recognized men’s authority over their family.  Women certainly expected that during their peak childbearing years wives  focused much of their energy on childbearing and child rearing and that men did not


The old woman in plate five had over 100 living descendants and appears in the Stryker collection posed in the same porch and chair beside one of her youngest great grandchildren.  Rural and aged as she was, the photographers must have been as alien to her as she was to them and perhaps they captured this in the way her expression fails to engage the viewer directly.


In the photographs of Acadiana as opposed to other regions, the Stryker photographers have a high incidence of men smiling and relatively expressive of physical affection to their children.  On that basis alone one could not make much of an argument about relationships between family members.  However, it appears that many photographs show men in the region holding their children and smiling among other photographs taken in Acadiana in the earlier part of the twentieth century.  Many also show the serious paternal poses which were typical of the time.  Perhaps Cajun men felt more comfortable expressing physical affection for their children than did some other ethnic groups.


The following picture, plate six simply depicts the pride of a father in his healthy young child.  Cajun culture in prairie and wetlands centered around family life.  Religion, commerce and politics were all shaped by the family.  In politics for example a title of great power before a name was “Cousin,” and in doing business the negotiations between strangers are often preceded by an effort to discover and recognize any familial ties between the parties.  In the pejorative terminology of American mainstream society, nepotism functioned as a central mechanism of Cajun life.  This lifeway allowed the Cajuns to survive.  The keen scientific observer and Spanish governor Antonio de Uloa (much maligned for a passive administration) said of the “Acadianos” in 1766, that they were a “people who live as if they were a single family…; they give each other assistance…as if they were all brothers and sisters, thus making them more desirable as settlers than any other kind of people.”


Despite the remarkable lack of credit and attention given to the people about whom Ulloa wrote it would be difficult to comprehend the draining, dredging, flooding and clearing which the Cajuns had to achieve in order to subsist in what remained a wetlands environment.  Their contribution to the state and the Gulf Coast overshadows that of many better understood groups.


Even in 1992, the folkways of beginning a relationship by seeking to find a kinship tie endures.  Kinship exists in two ways, first there is genetic kinship.  The second type, ritual kinship has been studied in somewhat different forms in the Caribbean, the Philippines and Latin America and will be discussed later in this study.  Third cousins once removed even today may feel significant bonds as “family” which they do not find with non-relatives.  The degree to which they do not find with non-relatives.  The degree to which such values can survive in a society and world which literally worships the individual as the creative source of all that is valuable in life perhaps amazes an observer of twentieth century Cajuns more than anything else.  Families may often be classes by outside “scientists” as codependent, dysfunctional or repressive.  Sometimes they seem appropriately warm and supportive.  However, close extended family ties form a basic element of Cajun culture.


The spirit of extended family loyalties is captures in B.A. Botkin’s A Treasury of Southern Folklore . The details might well represent the perceptions of an entirely candid if effusive observer in a very ordinary situation in Vermilion Parish.  The slightly patronizing tones of the author should not detract from the forceful distinction he made between his and the Cajun’s concept of family.

 “One pitchy black night” writes Irvin S. Cobb

  in the hunting season, five years ago (circa

  1920), we were feeling our way along the bayou

  below Abbeville on our way to the ducking

       grounds.  In a sharp turn our launch went

  hard aground.  The prospect seemed to be that

  we would stay right were we were until morning

  or even later than that….

  There were four of us in the party–three

  outlanders and one native – and inevitably

  the native was a Broussard.  He went aft

  and leaned over the rail and speaking in

  French, he sent his voice out across those

  empty spaces….Promptly out of the void

  came first one answering voice and then

  another and yet a third (The three men freed

  the boat from the mud and refused the narrator’s

  offer to pay)….When navigation had been

  resumed I put a question to the resident:

  “How did you know those chaps were living

  out here in this wilderness?”

  “I didn’t … I took a chance.  I yelled out

  that there was a Broussard in trouble here

  on the mudbank and that if he had any cousins

  around here he’d like them to rally around.

  So they rallied around and rescued us.”


Another form of kinship consists of ritual kinship.  The concept may seem alien to Anglo-Americans, yet it is the nature of relationships between in-laws.  The difference being that, in America another ritual can also bind people in ties of kinship.  Baptism produces a Parrain and a Nanan for the Cajun child.  This relationship has declined in status during the last several decades, yet continues to enjoy significant prestige.  Parrain may translate into “Godfather” but the roles assigned to such figures in Acadiana are far more prestigious and complex than among Anglo-Catholics while less important than in Spanish culture.


Extended family and nuclear family exist within traditional Western European concepts of family.  To this day, a high degree of endogamy (marriage within the overall Cajun culture) and of geographical proximity to one’s relatives combines within a goodly number of family reunions, a high interest in genealogies and a resurgence of regional pride to keep extended family ties alive.  Nonetheless, the educational, economic and legal structures of the United States effectively discourage the intricate mesh of socio-economic collaboration which supported the Cajun extended family for so long.  By the time these photographs were taken, some degree of erosion of extended familial ties was visible.  In the study of kinship, the historian confronts evidence of American forces of assimilation which may in time annihilate Cajun distinctiveness.


Marriage remains the central relationship in Cajun culture.  In the 1940s divorce was nearly unknown and the Alleman’s who appear in plate seven certainly would have defined themselves as life-partners.  Nonetheless, compared to the warm and affectionate pictures of fathers with their children, this image does not reveal great warmth of intimacy.


Arnold Eagle has clearly posed these people and both are looking directly at the camera.  Nonetheless, no evidence exists to suggest that he modified their habitual seating or living arrangement.  In the 1930s collection by Stryker’s F.S,A. Photographers, trappers ‘ camps appear as ruinous, but those did not constitute year-round dwellings.  The Cajun homes if clean, and practical often lack much beauty.  The guns, fireplace, the lamp and the crucifix all serve a practical function (religion would have seemed practical).  The Acadian people’s experience of a demanding environment and unsympathetic government and corporate neighbors as well as limited church activity in the area may have contributed to the strong pragmatic bent of the culture.  A “Down to earth” level of prosperity, safety first farming dwelling and a close relationship with the wilderness characterized the type of lifestyle perceived as sensible.  This did not preclude wage earning, commerce or expensive celebrations but it did preclude spending too much on consumer goods and objets d’art.


Taking a picture of this family and those things which their most casual visitors could see, Eagle uses the bright interior lighting to emphasize the stark simplicity of these people’s lives.  Edbon Alleman’s more central position, in front of the fireplace, and his stern look, crossed legs and hands gripping his rocker as a throne contrast with Mrs. Alleman’s demure gaze, her hands in her lap.  Cajun women have often been seen by outsiders to have forceful and talkative personalities, yet by recent feminist standards it is clear that Mr. Alleman “headed” his home when intrusive outsiders were around.


Cajun families have always possessed guns for hunting and during the French and Indian War, War of 1812 and Civil War they bore their own arms into battle.  The guns may disturb the urban eye of the late twentieth century (they remain ubiquitous among Cajuns).  Most Americans movies and songs made about outsiders in Acadiana such a Southern Comfort, Gator Bait and “The Highway Goes on Forever” portray the Cajuns as extremely violent, no doubt some basis exists for this.  Cajuns have long endured hostility and persecution from powerful outsiders, sometimes these territorial people have added to such conflicts.  Acadians fought the British in Acadia in the late 1750s.  Their descendants opposed outsiders with force between 1850 and 1870.  In more recent times, Cajuns supported and assisted Vietnamese Catholics in their resettlement in Acadiana, but violence punctuated competition over fishing rights.  Vietnamese fisherman were not aware of the orally agreed upon territories of Cajun fishermen.  Overwhelmingly, however, a Cajun home has received les autres with hospitality and coffee, like extended family.


From the marital unit, Cajuns established social, religious and commercial ties to other families.  According to Lauren C. Post, and most other authorities, women controlled many of the chattels which produced cash, especially chicken and milch cows.  They also maintained gardens and spinning wheels well into the first decade of this century.  Men traditionally controlled the land, herds of cattle and hogs which the family brought to market less often but for greater sums.  Adolescent males hunted, fished, did chores and raised their own funds through countless small youth dominated industries (bountying, frogging, etc.).  Cajun youth often provided a significant portion of the meat and fish eaten by the family.  Cajun families swapped woolens and game, cooperated with neighbors in halerie, boucherie, couverage, the planning of the village fais do do, and the normal affairs of business and politics.  Of all the various means for such connections, coffee seems to have been the most common excuse for prolonged interaction.


Here in plate eight, the Allemans entertain in the way one might entertain men who had come to discuss politics or business but whom one knew well.  Notice the relative ease that which these people feel on the porch.  Two men still manifest an awareness of the intrusive camera but one perceives the breezy comfort which the porch both symbolizes and provides.  Eagle has angled this picture in such a way as to capture all three open sides of the porch, the open windows and the open door, the attic vent and the space below the raised house.  by the 1960s, the air conditioner and the television would do much to erode the role of the porch (as throughout the Anglo and African regions of the South), yet,  as late as this writing, Cajun culture is an out-of-doors way of life.  Street dances, festivals, water-sports, hunting, fishing, new technologies in aquaculture and petroleum mining and the other mixes of old and new activities express the connection of the people to the wide and flat openness broken by giant oaks beneath a vast blue or clouded sky.  People did not feel less welcome on the porch.  They only felt cooler in the long, hot and humid months of the summer.


Coffee, in 1945, was not the weak adjunct to hospitality which is found in a jar of freeze-dried granules.  It was a gift.  Acadian coffee remained a source of pride for the people of the region.  Made strong enough that it seemed pure black in a demi-tasse (a very small cup).  Cajuns worked for some time on their coffee, “Ca c’est bon le cafe! ” being a prized compliment.  Most families considered themselves past masters at this art.  The technique of making coffee shows how interaction for centuries with Anglo-American culture (beginning in Nova Scotia) allowed the Cajuns to believe that all Cajuns did certain things better than other peoples.  The Cajuns typically also stereotyped various groups of outsiders based on certain properties. It is very hard to say with certainty how welcome the outsiders with cameras felt in Acadiana. But that will be discussed at some length in another chapter.


Emanuel Moras, the raconteur whose tale appears  earlier in this  chapter, told the following tale:

“There was a fruit peddler who got on

         a steamer to cross the ocean.  The captain

         objected to having him on board because

         he thought the fish would capsize his

         steamer in order to get the fruits, but

         he was assured it would not happen, so

         the peddler was allowed to remain on

         board.  While at sea, the fish got on.

         The captain grabbed the box of oranges

         and threw it overboard when he saw a

         big fish getting on.  The fish swallowed

         the box and a little later came back for

         some more.  This time the captain threw

         the basket of bananas overboard.  The fish

         swallowed it, and returned later.  This time

         they threw the Dago (Italian-American) over-

         The ship reached land safely.  A year later,

         the fisherman caught the fish, cut him open

         without knowing the history of the fish.

         They found the Dago.  He was sitting on a

         box of oranges, selling bananas at the

         same old price, two for a nickel.  He had not

         changed his price.”


Food and drink and economics distinguished the Italian-Americans in Cajun folk imagination and homemade, laboriously prepared and generously shared coffee distinguished the Cajuns in their own minds.


The coffee beans were patiently roasted to “between” medium and dark in a stove-top roaster.  French drip coffee has all but vanished since the sixties, in the 1940s it was made with the kind of concentration evinced by joseph Mouton, a cattle rancher and small-scale meat packer entertained the photographer with a steak dinner and Webb took pictures of most of his daily routine.  The Moutons exemplify a common case in the area, this family held substantial assets in head of cattle, land, equipment and businesses.  Unlike wealthy or substantial persons elsewhere, the Moutons employed little non-family labor.  Their home and dress remain as stark and austere as their neighbors’.  Their manner and porch lack even the simple refinements of the Allemans.


Traditionally, husbands made a family’s very early first pot of coffee.  Wives made the subsequent ones.Mrs. Mouton in plate ten, serves a late morning pot to her husband and one other man in a much more casual way then Mrs. Alleman.  Joseph Mouton would seldom do business at home while Alleman may have been entertaining customers of his pirogue making shop.  Mr. Alleman is pictured in plate  eleven with the tools of his trade and one of his products.  Edbon Alleman’s craft served a vital function in the complex of skills and techniques which allowed the Cajuns to thrive in the wetlands.


Plates twelve through eighteen trace a single material Cajun response to the local environment and the universal human need for transportation.  Arnold Eagle who took these photographs also made a film entitled The Pirogue Maker.  This film shows the grace and skill of the artisan in a way which  the stills do not fully capture. In these images, Arnold Eagle has captured Edbon Alleman’s creation of a pirogue.  The countless shallow channels and lakes which nature has placed in Southwest Louisiana require a flat bottom boat to be conveniently negotiated.  In 1992 many flat-bottom vessels of various sizes are produced and sold in Acadiana.  These modern vessels, fashioned primarily from aluminum, boast speeds and carrying capacity which the traditional pirogue does not.


The Cajun experience included  a full history of exposure to and participation in French maritime culture, numerous voyages during Le Grand Derangement, exposure to and imitation of Micmac birch bark canoes in Nova Scotia and Attakapas dugouts in Louisiana.  Into this rich mix of cultural knowledge came the internal combustion engine and other modernizing technologies.  Cajuns fished, trapped, gathered and farmed in swamps, bayous, marshes, bays and in the open Gulf waters.  The diversity of their needs led to a great deal of variety and creativity in boat design.

Among the other vessels photographed by Stryker’s photographers was the small skiff made to be rowed from a standing position, various v-hulled vessels, the sea going fishing boat known as the Lafitte skiff and the Cajun bateau, which functions as a barge.  Cajun vessels which do not appear in the collection include the compartmentalized water-car or fish car which was towed behind these barges as a series of live wells for bringing his catch to market so that no inland fishery could be truly remote.  The photographs do come at a time when few of the metal boats imitating traditional pirogue and bateau designs had been produced.  Nonetheless it is interesting that these successful innovations eluded the photographers of time.

The simple houseboat, shown in plate 19, allowed some Cajuns to live in whichever part of the wetlands suited their need and inclination at a given time.  The houseboat allows access to vast natural resources without the capital outlay or ecological cost of trying to remove the region from its wild state.  These adaptations not easily modified to accommodate the newer creature comforts disappeared.


The Stryker photographers generally recorded scenes of relaxed domestic life and cheerful faces at work on the houseboat.  The houseboat developed in the Atchafalaya region of Acadiana once the initial attempts at farming the remote islands and cheniers of the swamp had proven unprofitable.  Many swamper families developed the lifestyle of hunter-gatherers and the houseboat allowed the family to stay together instead of remaining at home near a struggling garden and barnyard while the men of the family traveled from one run down camp to another in pursuit of furs, fish, frogs and fowl.


The bayous and channels remain places of work and recreation.  The waters have ceased to serve as homes for families.  During the summers, friends within a town may visit boat-to-boat and from the wharves which form the spine of so many towns.  But the houseboat was an extreme adaptation and its passing into the status of relic and recreational vehicle has real significance as a sign of assimilation.  Determining what it means for a culture  to turn a formerly necessary cultural trait into an aspect of recreation has been a theme in the work of Gaines Foster’s studies of a distinct Southern culture in the United States.  Any keen observer of modern life sees highland games, fencing, track and field, martial arts, competitions, Hawaiian lu’au and surfing realizes that much  of recreation carries over from the past folkways of cultures that attached different significance to these same activities.  In some cases, the activities remain powerful vehicles for transmitting the identity of the culture in which the practice originated, otherwise the activities may simply become absorbed into the subculture of recreation as it exists in a larger and totally alien cultural context.  Many small towns and more “modern” lifestyles could also establsih themselves around water.  Captain Zenon Doucet of the “40 Fathoms” and his crew went after shrimp.  They travelled out into the gulf and carried ice to preserve their catch.  When they returned they sold their catch and lived for a while in the relatively modern town of morgan City, Louisiana.  At times, they would have tenders bring them ice and sell their catch (or more Likely its oldest portion) to the tender to stay out a little longer.  Plates twenty and twenty-one represent a number of photographs in which the Stryker photographers captured some aspect of the shrimping industry.


This lifestyle was much practiced in smaller towns such as Delcambre where these boats are docked.  During hurricanes and storms, the off-season and holidays, shrimpers sometimes worked ashore.  Often they had access to family farms or business where extra help was needed.


The four pictures in plates twenty-two through twenty-five –– a merchant and his son engaging in part time commercial fishing, a fisherman tarring his nets to preserve them in the hot and humid climate, a man shovelling oysters and a man collecting moss to be cured for upholstery — together capture some of the rich diversity of life on the waters and wetlands.  This fabric of work has evolved continuously, the photographers also took pictures of the hoop nets being tarred and of other forms of fishing.  The seafood and fishing industry is not a simple industry in any way.  the earliest recorded example of raising crawfish in artificial ponds is the 1770 account collected in Phillip Pittman’s 1906 study

.  A visitor to the region wrote “The craw-fish abound in this country; they are in every part of the earth…they send to their gardens, where they have a small pond dug for that purpose, and are sure of getting as many as they have occasion for. (34)”  Large scale commercial crawfish production did not develop until the mid twentieth century.  The raising of turtles in the Atchafalaya region and the development of catfish ponds throughout Acadiana has also developed mostly during the twentieth century, both were established when these photographs were taken.  The raising of alligators and redfish have developed in the years since the photographs discussed and the crawfish industry has expanded along with the catfish.  These aquacultural industries have benefitted by individual quick freezing technologies, better grading and packaging technologies and improved communications and transportation.  This industry has continued a long tradition which was much more precarious in the 1940s than it is in the 1990s.

The seafood and fishing industry in Acadiana also includes a complex of extractive freshwater, salt marsh and salt water fisheries.  Each of the species raised as an aquacultural product first became part of the diet through the efforts of extractive fisherman.  The labor and capital invested in the preparation and care of oyster shoals and bed varies from bed to bed.  despite oystering mariculture has never really existed in Acadiana.  The saltwater bays and the Gulf of Mexico have been exploited by extractive fishing alone.  In recent decades the offshore oil production has increased the diversity of employment opportunities in the Gulf.


The freshwater extractive fisheries have long provided the plurality of livelihoods in the Atchafalaya region.  The finest study done of the cultural geography of the Atchfalaya region is Malcom L. Comeaux’s 1972 study Atchafalaya Swamp Life:  Settlement and Folk Occupations.  Comeaux’s study shows the variety and complexity of technologies used to catch fish in the freshwater Atchafalaya Basin.  Comeaux also shows the ways in which the local fisheries fit in with other aspects of the folk economies.  Figure two, taken from Comeaux’s book (page 98), illustrates how these various economic practices fit into the season of the Atchafalaya, how they changed over time and the way in which a single family might be involved in all of the traditional “swamping” activities.


The photographers captured an impressive portion of the richness of the life and work which spread out from the wetlands.  The photographers observed realities such as the collaboration of a father and son and then expressed that reality in their own vocabulary.  The artistry which shows the proud father with his son and their catch as a unit of strength does not come from the people, but rather from the composition and direction of the photographers.  The artist has both father and son facing the camera as one, the fish joining them as a visual baseline and the heads controlled by the heads of the family.  A journalist achieves the same unity by using images, facts and statistics to weave an argument about his or her subject.  here, one rests assured that father and son actually shared and economic interest in the fish, faced customers and suppliers together and functioned under the headship of the father.  The creative and imaginative work of the photographer told “the truth” about what he saw.  Art need not mean “not factual.”  What was the role of imagination and ideals in the somewhat exotic world these people had set out to capture on film?




Carl A. Brasseaux, The Founding of the New Acadia; 11 and 31.

My proposal is to begin with a few paragraphs giving a bibliographic and historiographic summary of the literature and research which has dealt with the Cajun house.  These paragraphs will treat the historical and climactic forces which impacted on its design

See Kniffen’ s treatment of the shotgun house in his essay titled “The Study of Folk Architecture: Geographical Perspectives” which appears in the anthology Cultural Diffusion and Landscapes:  Selections by Fred B. Kniffen; edited by H> Jesse Walker and Randall A. Detro.

Refer to the next chapter of this study,and look at  Louisana’s Remarkable  French Vernacular Architecture by Jay Edwardss

Todd Webb to Roy Stryker, May 9, 1947; Box 1, S.C.S.O.N.J. at E.P.A.

See Post especially Cajun Sketches.  Writer also had considerable personal experience in farmhouses during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In Holtman , See Dorman 90-95.  In Bayous of Louisiana Kane uses this and similar terms often throughout.

The term ribbon farm was first applied by rural sociologists retrospectively studying the manorial and pre-manorial farms of Europe’s past from the vantage point of the nineteenth century.

The original source of this abound.  However, the wirter has excluded Papeles Procedents de Cuba from this bibliography.  For the present see “Allons a la Louisiane”, Brasseaux, Founding of the New Acadia.  See also Post, Cajun Sketches, 39.

See Post, Sketches, 100-103 and 107-109.


Acadiana Profile magazine has done numerous articles on the local economy which indirectly address this set of “women’s issues.”  The local economy today increasingly divides work from the home as is true of much of the world.  Acadiana is rapidly becoming less distinctive regarding these things.

In fact despite the warmth of a few Walker Evans photographs men hugging children is not a common theme in American photography.  The photographs are posed but not therefore insignificant.  The subjects comfort in the situation is significant.

Audiencia de Santo Domingo, Leggio 2585.

Botkin, Southern Folklore, 590.

“Godfather” and “Godmother” the obligations are far more comprehensive than religious ones.

This inspires the comment of everyone writing of Cajuns in Louisiana after 1860.

“Halerie”, hauling wood for buildings; “Boucherie” most festive and ritualized of cooperative events “killing”, butchering and processing and storing a hog or several hogs. “Couverage” roofing and “fais do do” to “make (the babies)sleep” for an outdoor dance for adults, all remain tied to the outdoors.

The social use of the outdoor space in the South generally is a phenomena much remarked upon by northerners before compressed freon and electricity changed the region’s idea of a pleasant summer evening.  Much of cajun life remains tied to the outdoors.

Corinne Saucier’s Folktales, 84.

See Comeaux’s Atchfalaya for discussion of swamping boats and technologies and the function of these in a hunting and gathering lifestyle.  Furthermore this lifestyle was largely commercial and in many ways less subsistence oriented than the more stable life of the smallest prairie farms.

Due to the withdrawal of my colleague Richard Simonton from the project on which we had collaborated and into which I had invested some considerable time, I have decided to ask permission to radically redefine my project in a way which requires little if any scientific and technical expertise,  but which may have some considerable scientific value.