I spent 10 days in Natchitoches (founded in 1714 by a French Canadian trader) and the tiny town of Saline, visiting an old friend. Impressions of northern Louisiana:
People are polite; a lot of yes mam, no sir, Ms. Gayle. Not just a lot of “you all” but the plural is “Let’s go all you all!” A new phrase is tender-headed. Got my hair cut and the hair dressed asked if I was. A Calif. Woman who has lived there for four years praised Southern hospitality, but said she’ll never be accepted as one of them. They were so polite that no one said anything when the movie Avatar was 20 minutes late, so the Californian went to talk to management. Ditto when the movie melted mid-way through. (I’m looking forward to seeing it in 3D today)
Go to a restaurant and almost everything is fried, even okra, crab cakes, pickles. I ate fried alligator, crayfish, hushpuppies (corn bread). They’re not big on salad and fresh veggies. There are lots of hunters and deer heads on restaurant walls.
Religion is big. In the small rural town of Selene, there are 22 Baptist churches, 1 Methodist and 1 Pentecostal. Lots of the Creole people are Catholic. The town of Natchitoches has over 50 Christmas light displays along the 56-mile Cane River (it looks like a river but is a lake), including ones with crosses and Christian messages although the town sponsors it. They celebrate the whole month of December with Sat. beautiful fireworks from the riverbank. (I’ll post a video I took on Youtube.) They’re not worried about separation of church and state. I saw a house with a sign in front “Jesus,” never seen anything like that in California. We went to a black Baptist church service. It took three hours for the testimonials of the Lord’s work in their daily lives, money raising, singing, and preaching.
We went on a tour of two old mansions in town and two plantations out in the country. One called Oakland was owned by the same Prud’homme family for over 200 years, until the feds took it over as a museum in the 1990s. Dolores’ brother was married to one of the daughters. The children’s room had a trapdoor so the slave who cared for the kids could go up and door from her room on the ground floor. Houses, included the two-room slave quarters, were built off the ground for airflow and in case of flooding of the river. They used cypress wood because the trees grow in water and the wood resists termites. The “bouselage” adobe-like walls were made of river mud, moss, and deer hair placed between cypress wood, then covered with a lime wash. We saw a house made like this in 1776, with packed mud floors, heated with the fireplace, water collected from the roof into a cistern. The kitchen was a separate building, as was the outhouse.
They originally grew tobacco and indigo, and then switched to cotton until it became unprofitable. Lots of pecan trees, corn and soybeans are grown now.
The area has much longer history than in California, influenced by the French, French Canadians (Cajuns), Spanish, Native Americans, and African slaves. The Creole people are a combination of these different backgrounds. Many of the local Creoles are descendents of the 10 children of a Frenchman, Claude Metoyer, and a mulatto herbalist slave woman named Marie Thereze. They lived together in the late 1700s, but couldn’t marry because of her race. We saw the Yucca Plantation where they lived. A Spanish priest campaigned for Metoyer to break up with the mother of his children, but they were backed up by a Made de Soto who contributed money to the church. Metoyer purchased and freed his lover and her children. After 20 years they separated, but he gave land to Marie Thereze and her children. She built her own plantation and grew tobacco and ran cattle. I got to meet several Croele people—see photos.
This experience junky enjoyed being woken up at 4:30 AM by a siren and loud speaking proclaiming a tornado warning, repeated at 6:30, then an all clear at 9:30. The sky was yellow-red pulsating with lighting, but you couldn’t see the individual strikes. Overall the weather was cold but with some good sunny days, including my flight home via Dallas.