Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Today was my first day off from the spring tour. The morning started with coffee, grits, and conversation with my Aunt Mary and Uncle Don at their home in Fenton. Then I headed out to Forest Hill to spend the day with my grandfather.

After admiring the flowers in Pa's garden and meeting his new donkey, Dewey, we drove over to Fuzzies and ordered fried catfish and oyster dinners.

Later at his home, I continued my research about his life. My previous interviews took on a chronological order. This time, I tried a different angle. "Let's talk about the places you've been."

He told me although he was born in Lecompte, he spent his early years in Bayou Chicot. "We lived there until my grandfather's sawmill blew up. The old home place is still there though."

"It is?" I dropped my pen. Bayou Chicot was only 40 minutes away. "Let's go see it."

"Alright," Pa said without hesitation. Then he added. "Well, at least it was standing the last time I was in Chicot."

"When was that?" I asked.

"Oh, I'm not quite sure."

Still, I was up for the adventure. And so was he.

We headed out on Interstate 49 and took the Turkey Creek exit. Pa pointed to an old tin building with GARAGE faded across the front. "My cousins Woodrow and Willis built that."

A few minutes later we turned down a winding dirt road. When Pa saw the cemetery sign, he said, "That's where a lot of my people are buried."

We continued for about three miles, but the thick underbrush limited our views to Hunting Club signs alternating with No Hunting posters. We gave up, turned around and decided to scout out his grandparents' grave sites.

Cemeteries fascinate me. The names alone ignite my imagination. But today Pa told stories behind the names. The young cousin who died in a logging truck accident, and his young bride who died a week later from childbirth and grief. A mean cousin whose wife left him. And the orphaned sisters that had been separated and raised by two different family members.

When I motioned to the huge headstones that towered over all the others, he told me, "That was the richest family in the community." Somehow I'd already figured that out.

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