Friday, September 30, 2016


Back around the beginning of the 1960's, Daddy decided that the farm on Jackson Street was getting too crowded and bought one hundred something acres out on highway 71 near LSU-A. We moved the animals there and commuted from our house on Jackson Street to the farm daily. By 1963, the year I went off to college, the family moved. I love telling people that when I went off to college my family moved from the place where I grew up and left no forwarding address. Thankfully they really did let me know. This farm is where all the Shetland pony business took place and where I spent summers painting fences. The house was originally close to the highway but was later torn down.   They moved to a house further down the pasture lane that we once rented to a professor at the college. The shed for the cars was kept, however, and became The Old Gray Mule vegetable stand. Lots of traffic began to pass. Daddy held fort in this shed, chewing his tobacco, wearing old worn out jeans and tobacco stained shirts. He played the part of the sharecropper's son well when he wasn't in Baton Rouge. At the front of the vegetable stand Daddy kept a jar, with a sign, saying, “Get what you want and put your money in the jar” for people to pay in case he wasn't there when they came to shop. Politicians stopped by on their way back and forth to Baton Rouge. (This was before the Interstate 49 was built.) That vegetable stand became a place to kick back, sit on a hay bale, visit and talk politics. I remember on several occasions Daddy might be further back on the farm on his tractor and people would stop by to see “the senator” for help. If he wasn't at the stand, then they stopped by the house. Mama would just smile and tell them to head back down the pasture lane and they would find him. I watched as they would slow down when they got near the area, look around and not seeing “the man” would walk out to the tractor and ask the hired hand plowing, “I'm looking for senator Blair,” they would say and Daddy, if he didn't want to be bothered would reply, tobacco streaming down his chin, “No, sir, I ain't seen the senator today,” and keep plowing. I always thought this so funny. They never recognized him. I'm sure they were expecting some plantation owner type supervising the hired help in a nice truck or something. We always got a good laugh out of that.

So Daddy grew sweet corn and started a menagerie of animals like white tail dear, geese, goats, a donkey and a Llama.  The donkey was gray and Daddy claimed that was the inspiration behind the old gray mule name. But we all knew different. The corn was delicious. We ate more than our share all summer long. People came from miles around for this sweet corn. 

At the end of the season, Daddy held his famous corn boils. 
All his friends were invited. 
  Preachers, priests, rabbis, politicians,farm hands, church members and raconteurs like Daddy all mingled under the stars sitting on hay bales enjoying lively conversation, fresh boiled corn, brisket and whatever was brought.
Dr. Larry Taylor, Bishop Greco and Rabbi Hinchin at a Corn Boil

 It was a regular pot luck dinner. Laughter was everywhere. Children were playing in the nearby barn on the hay bales, sometimes a Shetland pony was hitched to a wagon for the kids to enjoy. Men gathered in a corner talking politics and women bustled over the plates of food making sure everyone was fed.

 If the crowd got too rowdy, or too much drink was consumed, Mama sent them home.

During this time, Lyndon B. Johnson was President of the United States from 1963 to 1969. Lady Bird began her highway beautification project not long after they moved in. At first millions of flowers were planted in and around Washington, D.C. for the enjoyment of tourists and residents. In October of 1965 the Highway Beautification Act was signed by the President. It was nicknamed the Lady Bird bill. Several states began some highway beautification programs. My daddy took notice. He was in the state senate from 1960-1964 and again from 1966-1976. He never pursued any legislation, that I am aware of, concerning highway beautification, but he paid attention to what Lady Bird was doing.

In 1975 Daddy lost his re-election bid to the Louisiana State Senate and decided that after eighteen years serving in both the house and senate, that he would retire and return to his roots of farming. Daddy still maintained his Entomology business through the Blair Pest Control and checked in on that periodically. His raising and showing Shetland Ponies was slowly being fazed out. Farming was his true love. He paid more attention to the grass growing on the highway now. It was tall and seldom mowed by the highway department.

If you have ever driven down Hwy. 71, South then I am sure you have noticed the beautiful wildflowers that line the highway toward LSU-A. My father is the one responsible for that. Daddy ordered wildflower and red clover seed and like Johnny Appleseed set about planting wildflowers from the overpass near Alexandria all the way toward Lecompte. 

People came from everywhere to admire this beautiful highway. The newspaper ran a wonderful article about the senator and his wildflowers.

The highway was beautiful until the highway department decided that they needed to mow them down. It was their job to maintain the grass along the highway they said. “This was public land,” they said, “You can't be planting flowers on public land.” They started up their mowers. Daddy stopped them by having a sit in. He sat in a chair, surrounded by hay bales, on the property directly in front of the farm refusing to let them mow. The head of the department for the parish came to visit. There were words. They threatened to sue. Daddy went to Baton Rouge and talked with the Governor and the head of the Highway Department. They, eventually, let him keep his flowers and the mowers moved on. All this caught the attention of Lady Bird Johnson and she sent a nice hand written letter thanking him for his beautification interest. He had it framed for a while along with a signed certificate by the president.

Daddy planted more seed. The flowers bloomed. However, the thistles were a great nuisance as well as the Johnson grass. His solution? He would take his hoe and clean the weeds. Daddy had someone drop him off near Lecompte and then leave his truck on the side of the road half way back home while he worked his way down the highway getting rid of the weeds. So here was the old gray mule, himself, in the middle of the highway, a bottle of water in his pocket, his hoe in hand, wearing his old faded out jeans, tobacco stained shirt and a straw hat that had seen better days, working his way back to his truck.

On one occasion he stopped to rest on a culvert, wiping the sweat off his brow. A car passed by and slowed down, the driver and his wife staring out the window. A few minutes later the same car passed again going even slower. On the third pass the driver stopped. Rolling down his window the man asked, “Sir, are you O.K.?” Daddy nodded and sat there ignoring the nonsense, eating his sandwich. “Sir, can we give you a ride somewhere?” Daddy kept eating. Finally after a long silence, the man said, “Do you know where you are?” Daddy said, “Yea. I'm sitting here on this culvert, stopping to rest so I can eat my sandwich in peace before I start hoeing again getting rid of the weeds in my flower beds.” The couple was concerned and got out of the car, cautiously, walked up to daddy, the woman clinging tightly to her husbands arms. Daddy looked like he had been homeless for quite a while and not to friendly so the couple kept their distance. Finally the man said, “Sir, do your children know where you are?” Daddy stood up using the hoe for balance and let that man know, in no uncertain terms, exactly who he was and what he was doing and that he had a right to hoe the weeds on the roadway if he wanted to. He held up the hoe and said, “Now go.” The couple backed to their car, embarrassed, making a hasty retreat. Good ole' Cecil. You can't keep a good man down.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Becky and Her Petticoats

It was the beginning of school in the late 1950's and Becky and I were together at Bolton High School. Well, together is an operative word that doesn't really apply here. We attended the same school would be a more accurate description. I was new to the school and had few friends from junior high and Becky had lots of friends. She was totally immersed in the whole high school thing and didn't want to be saddled with a little brother spying on her. I was too shy at that time anyway to be social. I know, you find that impossible to believe that moi could be shy but I wasn't until later that I discovered it wasn't necessarily a shyness. I was really just introverted. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Becky was a lot like daddy. She liked to have people around all the time. She was very social. Becky even belonged to clubs and hung out with the cool crowd at lunch time. She was a Bolton Booster and not just anybody could be a booster. I envied her for that. 

This was the era that petticoats were the thing to wear and saddle oxfords. Well, the saddle oxfords were really only worn by the boosters at football games but the petticoats were daily attire. The more layers the merrier. I believe Becky had five or six layers, which was probably the norm but I didn't make it a habit of finding out how many layers the other girls wore. Oh, I'm sure some guy kept tabs but it wasn't me. That amounts to about five yards of tulle for each petticoat. You do the math. The skirts stood out like the Egyptian pyramids...small at the top and very wide at the bottom. To watch one sit in those layers of clothing was a wonder to behold. One could never attempt to sit if their hands were holding books or something because it required both hands to press down on the skirt as they rear ended the chair because if they didn't then their entire body would disappear behind a mountain of tulle. I do believe that the school desks had that little shelf for us to write on solely to hold those layers of tulle in check. I remember seeing some girls popping out of those desks like a jack-in-the-box. They looked like a spring that had become uncoiled. Poof and all that fluff expanded as they stood.
Now, I realize that tulle by itself if gathered and sewn together properly will take up a lot of space and Becky did have the space to house these in her closet but I don't think they ever really saw the inside of that closet. Especially during the school week. I think these petticoats just stood at attention in the corner of her room each night like sentinels on duty. My brother would have loved to use them for cages for some of the pets he brought home. But that starch would have been noxious. 

Thankfully these undergarments didn't need to be washed on a regular basis because they were protected by the skirt itself but if they did need washing then Saturdays were the day she took care of this. We shared a bathroom and she had a standing reservation for the days of washing. Which meant that my brother and I were out of luck for using that room that day. Thankfully we were boys that lived in the country and knew how to take care of business when outdoors, you know what I mean? The room looked like a rainbow of clothes piled on the floor. Tulle everywhere in several shades of color. Becky hand washed each one of these in the tub and then ironed and starched them. Becky used Sta Flo extra strength. The industrial kind...undiluted. Honey, they were as stiff as some of the narrow minded Baptist women I knew at church. 

These were the years when Daddy was in love with camellias. He had seventy or so planted around the house and yard. The ones closest to the patio were again reserved by sister, Becky, for the drying of petticoats. There were more than enough for Becky to use, in fact, I'm surprised that she didn't invite all of the Bolton High girls to come share her daddy's camellia bushes on wash day. She could have had petticoat parties. They could have enjoyed washing and drying and starching and talking about boys and all the other girl stuff they talked about while they rolled their hair with those brush rollers secured by bobby pins. I can just picture a gaggle of girls sitting around the patio in their curlers with scarves on to keep the curlers from sticking their heads, sipping lemonade while they waited for their petticoats to dry. I think sister really missed a great opportunity. After she carefully washed and starched each one she took care to place each one on the top of the camellia bushes so they could keep their shape. She dared us to get near these as they dried in the hot sun. 

I'm grateful that she didn't invite friends because these were the same bushes that I was charged with watering. I spent my Saturdays with a hose and a timer, per orders from the Senator, watering each and every one of those seventy or so bushes, five minutes each. You get the picture. On petticoat days I made sure I watered those petticoat bushes after Becky had left the house with her friends or had her nose in a book. Oh, I know, I was only supposed to water the bushes at the bottom so as not to get the leaves wet in the hot sun for fear of scorching, but for some little reason those five or six bushes managed to get the total wash from head to toe.  I'm not sure if Becky ever realized that her starched petticoats were not as stiff as she intended but I know for a fact that they weren't. Thankfully all that starch didn't seem to affect the beautiful camellias. Even more, I'm thankful that Daddy or Becky never discovered about my watering habits.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Saturday, September 3, 2016


It was the summer after the seventh grade and I was getting ready to go to the new Alexandria Junior High school. I was not happy. Becky, my sister, seventeen months older than me, went directly from the seventh grade to Bolton High School in the eighth. I would have to wait another year before I could go. I had looked forward to being in high school but now the new school was fouling up my plans. This was the summer that Becky started planning my life so I wouldn't embarrass her in front of her friends.

The whole summer seemed to be a totally messed up summer. My voice was changing, I had gotten a flat top that I hated and daddy decided I was old enough now to take on more responsibilities around the farm. I would rather day dream of being a trapeze artist or a bull rider. I would prefer going to the country club and swim in the pool all day or even better, spend hours watching our three year old television. I had discovered old movies. I was used to chores around the farm before but now I was a hired hand.

Daddy had me working from sunrise to sunset most days on the farm...granted, I still loved horses and didn't really mind being outdoors around my Trixie, but I did NOT like working in the fields all summer, baling hay or hoeing weeds in the corn field or picking cotton. It was hot, back breaking work with only a lunch break, at Tommy's Grocery Store, of honey buns, moon pies and R-ah C cola. While we worked, if I wasn't listening to Dave, who worked for us, or the occasional hired hands picked up from Samtown for day work, singing mournful and/or cheerful gospel songs then I spent most of my time day dreaming. I'd look at the huge cumulus nimbus clouds that gathered like gigantically soft pillows in the hot summer sun, dreaming of bouncing on them like a trampoline or falling backwards with my arms outstretched as if falling into a pool of refreshing water. If we were in the cotton field, I dreamed of the different things I could make with the open cotton bolls or how to make some floral arrangement with the cotton. When in the cornfield I thought of making corn shuck dolls. My daddy totally could not understand me. He came from blue collar people who were sharecroppers and worked with their hands. He had never been around artistic people much and for that manner, neither did I. I didn't quite understand my thoughts either. Mother did. She came from a long line of artistic people...artists and actors, musicians. I had not discovered that side of my family yet.

My weekends were free and were spent on my beautiful palomino, Trixie. I had trained her to rear up and spent hours riding. Sometimes I'd place her just under the garage roof and then climb and jump off that roof into the saddle, like Zorro. Or I would run up to her from the rear and leap into the saddle while pretending to chase the bad guys in black hats. Once or twice I would do a backward flip off the rear of Trixie. She was a gentle horse that put up with a lot. I often played cowboys and Indians by myself, because my brother was only eight and I was twelve, and he was too young to play with, nor was he interested, anyway. Becky spent all her time with her girl friends. Dear little Jane would have but she was only six. That was fine because I usually played best by myself anyway.

August was near its end and school would soon be starting. One Saturday, Becky decided that in order to keep me from embarrassing her, I needed a makeover. Mama and Daddy were both gone that day. We were alone. Well, Annabelle was somewhere around cleaning house but we, being free range children were left to our own entertainment. Becky pulled me aside, one of the few times she actually acted as if I existed, and said that several of her friends were going to peroxide their hair. It was the thing to do. “We should do ours too,” she said. I was reluctant but agreed, well, not really. Becky had a way of bossing me and I usually had no choice but to comply. “I'll get the supplies,” she ordered. “Meanwhile,” she continued, “you need to go wash your hair and put my conditioner on it. Just pat it dry with a towel. Don't use the hair dryer. It has to sit wet for thirty minutes. It works better that way. Go.” I did.

Becky gathered the peroxide and found some old towels. She got some cotton balls and a spray bottle. When I met her in the bathroom she said, “Now, I'm not quite sure how this works, but Marilyn said to use the spray bottle if we want to color our entire hair or to use the cotton balls if we want to do just a small part. She put streaks in hers. I'm going to do my entire hair like hers, but you with that flat top will look better just peroxiding the front. So I'll use the cotton balls on your hair. We're doing yours first.”
“Why am I going to be first?” I said. “Because, I'm doing it,” was her answer.

My hair was still wet so Becky had me sit on the tub while she carefully began peroxiding my hair. She took the cotton balls and wet the entire front. After that she made me go lie down on the grass in the full sun for thirty minutes. The hair began to change to an orange but Becky wasn't satisfied so she added more. By the time she finished I was showing a bright orange front on my flat top that I already didn't like. “Now, let's do yours,” I said. “I'm not doing mine now,” she said. “It's getting late. I'll do mine tomorrow.” We heard voices. “I better clean up,”she said. “Mama and Daddy are home.”

Mama hit the ceiling when she saw me. “Why?” was all she could say. “Becky did it,” I told her.
So I got in trouble for not standing up and saying no to Becky. I guess Becky got punished too for being bossy. At least I hoped she did.

The story doesn't end here. I was so mad at my sister for talking me into doing this that I took it out on our dear sweet, mostly black dog, Prissy. The first chance I got, I washed the dog and poured all the rest of the peroxide bottle and another bottle all over the dog covering her well. The next day after playing in the sun she began to change colors, strange, spotty and not so orange. Horrible colors.

Yes, I got punished again for my temper. Then mama informed me that since I had a fresh haircut when the deed was done I was not allowed to cut it again until it all grew out.

So I started Junior High with a peroxide streak against my coal black hair and no one else in the entire school had done theirs. I was alone and ostracized. Way to go sister! I felt you ruined my life...but then, you didn't really....after all, it was Junior High. We all ruined each others lives during those years.
Ah, the good old days of summer.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


So here it was, the beginning of July in the middle 1950's and it was hot. So hot that mama kept mumbling, “Springs sprung, Fall's fell, Summer's here and it's hotter than hell.” We were miserable. The heat that summer was unbearable. Sure, we had been in our new house out in the country for only a couple of years. “It's cooler in the country, you know,” daddy said when we built this ranch style house. “Yet, we are still hot,” mama said. “You'll get used to it,” daddy said. Mama didn't. She asked for ceiling fans. “Too expensive to have all those fans,” daddy replied. “Besides, there are still things that have not been finished yet, like the barn being built, or the dog pen for my hunting dogs. I don't even have a decent place to fatten a hog. Besides, we have lots of windows opposite each other and tons of air circulation. You'll be all right.”

Mama huffed from the room saying under her breath, “The wind doesn't always seem to favor blowing all the time for our pleasure, you old skinflint. We are hot, you miserable old tightwad.” Mama was more determined than ever to be cooler. The next week, while daddy was gone, she researched air conditioners for the windows. She had men come out and measure and quote prices, carefully writing down all the details and different estimates. She presented them to daddy when he returned. Taking one look at them he said, “Are you kidding? That is too expensive.” This really made mama hot. No, mama didn't “glow” like all true southern women. Nor was she the type of hot where you sweat buckets. She was so hot her blood boiled.

To everyone else, life seemed to be fine for the Blairs. Daddy had been elected to the State House of Representatives and making a life for himself. Even his business, Blair's Pest Control, was going well enough. Well, for him at least. He didn't need air conditioning. He wasn't home that much any more and when he was he was outdoors on his tractor, planting or harvesting the cotton and corn we grew on what is now Mohon Street and Brame Junior High School. And if he wasn't there then he was out playing politician. We were the ones who had to suffer.

Meanwhile, mama stopped cooking steaks and big meals using the oven thinking that would make him change his mind. No, he began to eat at Effie's Restaurant with his cronies, while we ate peanut butter sandwiches. Nothing seemed to work. Meanwhile, the barn wasn't being built; the dogs still had their little pen and the hogs shared the barn lot with the cows. Daddy continued finding ways to not get things done. He was too busy, politicking, or he had to go hunting or fishing, were his excuses. Mama just got madder.

One day, in early August, daddy came home with a brand new bass boat, the latest model. It had all the bells and whistles, wonderful motor. Everything a fine fisherman needed to enjoy on his days off. Mama hit the ceiling, but held her tongue.

Two weeks later, the legislative session began and daddy left for Baton Rouge. The first thing mama did was call the dealer that gave the most expensive quote and ordered air conditioners. She told them to install window units in all three bedrooms, the dining room and living room as well as the laundry room and to send the bill to Blair's Pest Control where it would be paid promptly. “Oh, and please write at the top of the ticket, in bold letters, 'Thanks for the bass boat.' We love it,” she told them. They did.

Daddy never said another word and we no longer had to wring our sheets out every morning after waking. Life was cool for all the Blairs. I think my daddy learned a lesson that day. He learned to never underestimate the power of a hot, mad woman.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


My brother and I were unlikely roommates. He and I are as different as night and day. He has been a good ole' boy from head to toe since the day he was born and I am, well, I'm not sure what category I fit into. Bobby is four years younger than me. Since the day he was born we were roommates until I left for college. Something neither of us cared for. 

Bobby was born not long after we moved into a large two story house in the Paradise community.

 Our room was upstairs with a screened porch adjoining it that we played on. 

When I was nine and Bobby five, I owned a toy Roy Rogers Ranch set, complete with the fences and buildings for Roy and Dale, Trigger and Buttermilk and all the animals. I was particular about my toys. I would place them in a corner and play with them for hours, keeping things nice and neat, carefully putting them back in the box when finished.

 Bobby loved destroying things. He lost one of the horses and broke one of the fences. He also had some pet white mice that he removed from their cage. These critters chewed on Trigger and caused him to lose a leg. I was furious. I told Mama that I wanted a room all to myself. Of course, that didn't happen. I was told to just be more careful.

The summer before I went to the fourth grade, Daddy built us a ranch style house on Jackson Street Extension, out in the country.  

It had a long hall that separated the living quarters. There was one house on either side of us and corn and cotton fields all the way back to MacArthur Drive. Our pasture went all the way to Prescott Road. The house was huge. The fireplace alone had enough bricks in it to build a small house. I was excited because I thought I would have a room all to myself. I didn't. The bedrooms were off the long hallway, ours first and then my sisters. We didn't have real doors, just an accordion style folding screen in place of one wall that separated us from the hallway. This was so we could have cross ventilation since there was no air conditioning. Mama and daddy were at the end of the hall with a real door, and a small window unit.

I didn't like that my brother and I had to share a room again and even worse, Daddy had a headboard custom made by Leonard Lemell, our faithful carpenter, that had a shelf for books and stuff. Our two single beds were side by side with only a foot between us. I hated it. At least we each had our own closet and built in chest of drawers.
 My side had pot plants and books neatly arranged.
  My clothes hung in the closet with short sleeves first, then long sleeves, then pants, all facing the same way, neatly spaced. My underwear and tee shirts were carefully folded in the drawers. I constantly told him, “Don't touch, that's mine.” 

Bobby had jars of pickled rats and snakes.

 He had clothes strewn everywhere, skulls of dead animals, wads of bubblegum stuck on the headboard. His closet looked like the Tasmanian Devil had taken up permanent residence.
After about a year, Daddy, having gotten tired of our fighting, put the headboard divider down the center of the room giving each of us our own space. This was as close to heaven as I would get, daddy said. This was fine, but the only problem was I had to pass his side of the room to go to the bathroom. We co-existed that way for years, fighting often. I still had to live with a brother that would place his cat on me after I was asleep. Have you ever been awakened by a cat sucking on your neck in the middle of the night? How that poor cat survived, I'll never know because it was slung up side the walls too many times. He also found great pleasure in sneaking up behind me and choking me until I passed out.

One night, after both of us were asleep, daddy thought he heard a burglar in the house. He walked quietly up the hall searching. 

When he got to our room he found me sitting up in bed talking in my sleep and Bobby sleepwalking.

 Bobby became a regular sleepwalker after that night, and I continued to talk.
 Soon the trouble began.
 Bobby didn't just leave his sleepwalking to our room only. Since we had no real door, he began wandering the hall to my sisters' room or into the kitchen. Once he thought he was going to the bathroom and ended up going in the refrigerator. Mama had a chain and lock placed on it after that. Mama and daddy discussed things with our next door doctor. He said that when Bobby was sleepwalking we were not to wake him suddenly for fear of causing trauma. So we put up with him wandering the house during the night. It became a game like “Where's Waldo”. Every morning we would search closets and rooms to see where my sleepwalking brother finally bedded down. We got used to it.

But one night, he left the house by the door on the hallway. He was found sleeping on the patio in the back yard. Since we lived in the country, we hardly ever locked doors. We had to lock the door, now. He found other doors. When someone forgot to remove the key, he would unlock the door and head outside. Soon, he didn't just leave the house and sleep in the yard, he began wandering to the barn, or was found in the pig lot or in the pasture among the animals, quietly sleeping with his pillow. We even found him in the nearby woods off Prescott road. Mama was beside herself and threatened to place a chain and lock on him at night. Maybe she should have. All of us were losing sleep.

Securing the doors became a hard-and-fast rule. But that didn't stop him. He still managed to escape. One morning, we found him on the grass under the China berry tree, in our neighbor's pasture, fast asleep. All the doors were still locked and keys accounted for. This happened for several nights. I was put on watch, after that, to see how he escaped. I really hated that, but at least I didn't go to sleep first to have that cat thrown on me. That rascal had found the wood box next to our huge fireplace. The wood box opened to the den and also to the outside so we could load firewood from the woodpile without tracking the wood across the living room. No one ever thought that it should be locked. Bobby had managed to crawl through that space and leave the house.

Bobby finally stopped walking in his sleep. The reason? One night he went outside and fell into a ditch filled with water, frightening him alone out there in the dark. He managed to get to the house and bang on the door until someone let him in. Bless his heart.

I do know that after that he was always in his bed every morning, and we continued being horrible roommates.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


It has been said that Southern politicians are known for being a colorful sort of people. Southern politician's families even more so. Then why should anyone be surprised if my family looked like the 8 box of Crayola Crayons (that's counting the dogs). We were different, brilliant and non toxic, and oh, so much fun.

My dad held the trump card of the raconteur, feeling most at home with an audience around him, telling homespun tale after tale. Never mind if the tale grew in size and proportion each and every time it was repeated. If it caused attention being brought to him then the better the tale. Daddy loved an audience. He rose from the ranks of the poorest share croppers son to work for the common good. He honed his skills of honesty and hard work, meshed with a clear understanding of every man's problems and dreams. He had a big generous heart and a fair dealing hand which characterized his efforts in the strange world of Louisiana politics. The most important person was the ones he was currently talking to. He loved having people around him. Such a man was my father.

My mother was articulate, literary and well trained for public life. She required lots of alone time. Being a minister's daughter, she had lived her entire life “in a fish bowl” and was well suited for being scrutinized by everyone, relishing the idea of surprise as to their evaluations. Mother felt drawn to the man who had never known the genteel ways she had been taught, perhaps exercising her independence by rebelling against the tight reins her parents had kept on her and perhaps due to her idealistic hope of refining the rough edges of this common man.

As a young couple, they were perfectly suited or so one thought. On the one hand, there was the idealistic country boy out to conquer the world, who had never used a telephone until the day he arrived at college. On the other hand there was the naive young lady who was used to Sunday socials, attending plays and concerts and teas in the warm summer afternoons, or sneaking off to swim on a Sunday afternoon, a known sin for a preacher's daughter. My daddy was a home body, he had never traveled except during the war and really didn't care much for it. Mother, lived to travel. She was used to it since Methodist preachers moved every three years back then. No two backgrounds could ever have been more different. Yet, there was a commonality between these two. Both of them had a keen sense of humor and playfulness; both were strong willed, though mother had been trained to acquiesce to the male in the family. Both loved to talk at the same time. Actually one never really listened to the other, but continued to talk over and above the other, succeeding to communicate his or her wishes only by endless repetitions. To this competing conversation at the dinner table, we four children added our voices creating a cacophony intolerable for most, but the norm for us.

My parents believed in entertainment and creativity. Our life was one adventure after another. For instance, when I was around nine or ten mother decided I should experience a train ride and a plane ride. So the two of us went down to the train station on lower Third and boarded a train to New Orleans where we spent hours exploring Magazine street and the antique stores. We went to Brennan's for a meal, white tablecloths and napkins, jazz music in the background, and fine silverware. A sharp contrast to the rowdy meals we had at home. We spent the night at a hotel on Canal Street. The next day was spent at the Audubon Zoo after some beignets at Cafe du Monde. She even took me down Bourbon Street and told me about the evils that lurked behind those doors while laughing at the drunken characters we met on the street. The next day we boarded a plane and flew home. I was now a man of the world, I thought.

Another time, while I was staying with daddy in Baton Rouge he took me to a bar/restaurant downtown just a block from the Heidelberg Hotel. He said I should learn about Beatniks. These were young people who were part of a social group in the 1950s and early 1960s that rejected the traditional rules of society and encouraged people to express themselves through art. We sat at a back corner table, wine for daddy and a coke for me, listening to the young people. Some played their guitar, others read a poem. One sang a song of rebellion. After each performance the fingers would snap in approval. The room was dark with wine bottles as candle holders and black lights around the black walls. Everyone there wore black clothing with berets or scarves, Most everyone was smoking. I, being naïve like mama thought they were only cigarettes. Daddy didn't think the smoke would be a problem since we wouldn't be staying for long. I was fascinated by these people that I had heard of but never seen. I might have even dressed the same except that I owned no black clothing. Blue jeans and cowboy boots with a black shirt just wasn't right.

Once mama caught some of us using crayons on the walls in the hall. There was some fussing, and we had to clean up after ourselves but soon we found that she had cleared out a closet in the middle of that hall and declared that it would be our place to be creative. There was the space where the clothes should be and overhead that were two large spaces that used to house suitcases. We could climb up and lie down in those cubbyholes. We wrote all sorts of things on those walls as well as colored and drew to our hearts content.

We made hideouts in hay lofts and read books away from prying eyes. We climbed trees and hung by our knees on the top most branches. We used slingshots and china berries and had wars with each other. We made rafts in newly created drainage ditches and floated around the area. Our only rule was to be home for supper and before dark. Yes, our family is different, brilliant, non toxic and fun.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Funeral

I had one very interesting experience while working as an art and dance therapist at Central Louisiana Mental Hospital back in the seventies. Some of them were good, some bad and some really funny. One of the most unusual ones was the death of one of my therapy patients. This man had spent most of his life in the hospital. I was told he had no family that ever checked on him. Mr. Doe had been in my class for about a year. The day he didn't attend, I checked on him. He had died during the night. At hospitals where people have been institutionalized for most of their lives and abandoned by family they were usually buried on the hospital grounds. This wasn't unusual. Now here is the strange part. There was an estranged family who wanted a proper burial and they wanted me to be one of the pall bearers. I had lots of questions as to whether this would be appropriate, but after talking with my superiors, decided it would be fine.

Now, this man was huge - well over six feet tall and probably on the plus side of 300 pounds. His daughter, it turned out, was the only living relative, and she really didn't know him because she had been abandoned as a baby and raised in another state. She was willing to come home and have him buried in Alexandria. The service was to be conducted at a local Catholic church. I did not know the other pall bearers and really felt out of place. Yet I agreed to do this for Mr. Doe, whom I had learned to respect.

The priest that conducted the service was recovering from a long illness and was heavily medicated. I should have seen the signs. We rolled the closed casket to the center of the aisle in front of the altar and the priest began his service. Being medicated, he was unsteady on his feet and once tripped and reached for the casket for balance. It moved down the aisle a bit. He brought it back while waving the metal censer suspended by chains, over the body once or twice hitting the casket which allowed more smoke to leave the censer. I was unfamiliar as to why this smoky incense was being used, so I asked the man next to me. He explained that many see it as a symbol of prayers or the soul of the deceased person rising. It is also used as a sign of reverence and dedication, used at funeral services to honor and commemorate the dead. I thought I rather liked that idea even though the priest was clumsy.

After the priest finished, he missed the censer holder and dropped it on the floor. Stumbling, he placed his Bible on top of the casket which made the casket roll again and the flowers on top fall off. While recovering the censer and placing the flowers back on the casket, he apologized and was sorry the other priest was not available. I was relieved that the rest of the service went well, except for a few more fumbles.

During all this, the daughter sat rigid and stared straight ahead. I guess she felt it her duty to bury her only relative although she really didn't seem to have any emotions whatsoever toward him. The service was finished and we stood on each side ready to roll the casket to the hearse. As we reached the door, the daughter suddenly screamed, “Wait! I want to take pictures.” We had a shocked look on or faces, I'm sure. This time she wanted the casket opened. The priest complied. She stood next to her father while someone took their picture. But that wasn't all. Next, the priest had to be photographed with the deceased. And then all eight of us pall bearers had to take our turn for the photo op. We finally closed the casket and lifted the heavy man down the steps to the hearse. It began to rain.

At the cemetery we had the daunting task of taking the casket to the top of a hill. Since it was a long climb, the body was placed on a rolling cart. We began our ascent. The wet ground was slippery. One man lost his footing and his shoe and fell, getting mud all over his suit. He recovered his shoe and we proceeded. Then we all began losing our footing as we slipped and slid trying our best to keep this heavy casket going forward and upward. Suddenly, the casket, with the 300 lb plus sized man inside, slid off the cart and descended toward the bottom of the hill. Thank the Lord the casket did not open. After several tries we managed to get Mr. Doe to his grave site and finished the service. We stood in stunned silence with bits of flowers and mud all over our clothes and around the casket, while the rain continued. Still the daughter sat rigid and straight faced.

As we began to leave the daughter suddenly asked for one more photograph. What? So we stood around the casket, muddied clothes and all for the final picture. Finally we were able to leave....bless our hearts.

 © Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Shetland Ponies

My brother and I had not received our early wake up call from daddy, which consisted of him standing at our door and whistling shrilly, rudely waking us. First two notes (my signal) then three (my brother's). We learned to pop out of bed as he said, gruffly, “Out of bed, boys, time to hit the floor.” My brother usually made a very rude remark since he was a night owl and I, being a morning person, jumped up without a fuss. But this morning was different. He didn't come. I crept out of bed and walked down the hall toward their bedroom. He was still asleep and Mama was sitting on the bedside wiping his brow with a cold washcloth. My daddy was never sick! Never! Mama looked at me and whispered that Dr. Rozier was coming over and that I should go unlock the door. We found it really convenient having Dr. Rozier living next door...well, across from our pasture lane, anyway. He made many a house call for all of us through the years, except daddy. It was really weird to see daddy sleeping in bed, knowing the doctor was coming for him.

A few days later, daddy was still in bed and feeling rotten. Friends began to visit. One of his best friends brought over some magazines for him to read. Some of them were the National Shetland Pony Journal. Shetland ponies, originally from the Shetland Islands, are not miniature horses. They are taller, for one thing, and a breed all their own. This was a magazine devoted entirely to show ponies. Now, my daddy had a tendency to become totally involved in whatever really interests him. He will immerse himself in every aspect of his latest “hobby” until he masters it. Then he tires of it and moves on to new hobbies. We should have seen the signs coming about his new “hobby”since he read and re-read the journals, but we didn't. Maybe it was because he was sick and there were not piles and piles of magazines and books on the current subject strewn at his feet. Whatever the case, we had no idea that we were about to enter another adventure with daddy. Adventure? How about a whole new life style. When mama brought his breakfast the next morning, something she has always done...full meal, eggs, bacon, sausage, toast coffee and milk. Since they were married, she suddenly suspected trouble was brewing for he sat up in bed and started talking non stop about Shetland ponies. She cringed. Shaking her head, she knew in her heart that we would soon be owning, raising and showing Shetland ponies, if he had his way. Which he did. As soon as he was well, he set off for a show in Oklahoma with his friend and came home with two show mares. The adventure had begun.

So daddy bought Shetland ponies, not just any old Shetland, but pure bred ones. Ones with pedigrees and papers that made college graduates with doctorates look uneducated. You know, the more pure bred a pony the more expensive they were. Well, let me tell you, these were expensive ponies. We weren't rich. What did he do? Get a bank loan? We still don't know. Lucky that we had a hundred something acres on the old Baton Rouge highway near LSUA that we were farming, because houses were being built all around us on Jackson Street and our little pasture behind our house was getting boxed in by developments.

Mama wasn't sure where all this was headed with all these expensive mares pregnant from pedigreed studs wandering around in the pasture. She worried they would be stolen or hurt. She worried about all that money standing around eating hay. She worried where this was leading. She soon found out. That summer, Daddy built a wooden fence around the front acreage of the farm, up by the highway. My entire summer was spent painting that fence that year. Since it was creosoted wood it took several coats because the creosote would bleed through. I painted a coat of white on the fence. Then I painted two coats of aluminum, followed by two more coats of white. It took me two weeks to finish one coat and then I would begin again with the next coat. Of course, all this was in addition to all the other chores of taking care of feeding the cows we milked, helping bale hay and loading it in the barn. (I was the designated stacker because my brother deliberately messed up the stacks so he wouldn't have to do it. He got away with it too, but if I had done so, I, being the eldest son, would have to re-stack the hay). I also had to bush hog pastures and plant gardens, mow the yard. Oh, and of course there was always the chore of watering the camellia bushes...300 of them. I'm not sure if I slept that summer, come to think about it. When I complained about the extra time painting the fence, Daddy explained that this fence was needed so the now Camellia Shetland Pony Farm would look outstanding. Wait a minute. He said, “now” Camellia Shetland Pony Farm? Mama had a look of total resignation. Trucks and horse trailers were painted with the new logo. The barn was cleaned up and stalls installed to house the ponies. A training ring was built right next to the barn. (It needed painting, too, and yes, my brother got out of it by spilling paint and doing sloppy work). A horse trainer was hired. Our colors were decided.  

 We were in the business of training and showing Shetland ponies. 

 Our time now consisted of grooming the ponies, feeding and mucking stalls, preparing them to show. We began traveling around the country to Shetland pony shows....Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas. We entered shows, won ribbons and became well known in the Shetland pony world.

Meanwhile, Daddy became tired of traveling back and forth to the farm on the highway. We had already sold the back portion of the Jackson Street land and Brame Junior High was built where our cotton field used to be, off Prescott Road. That should have been a warning. The next thing we knew, we sold the house on Jackson Street and moved to the farm. But that wasn't all. Yea, daddy was still in politics, still had his pest control business and still loved sitting on a tractor all day but he was still restless. He wanted more from his Shetland pony adventure. Daddy decided to accept the nomination to become the National President of the Shetland Pony Association. He won. During this time, we expanded the business. He and three other men bought a champion stud named C-Jo's Topper for $56,000. This was in the late 50's and early 60's folks. Mama cried. They retired C-Jo and put him out to stud at another investor's home in Crowley. Eventually daddy bought off the other investors and we brought C-Jo home. Meanwhile, he purchased several mares, one for $16,000 and another for almost that. Mama cried again. We bred them. Our diversification was paying off. We had lots of customers willing to breed their mares. We continued entering shows, winning trophies and ribbons. Everything seemed so rosy at Camellia Shetland Pony Farm.

Everything wasn't always rosy tho. Daddy was frequently gone dealing with state senate business and committee meetings in Baton Rouge, and unaware of the day to day problems because mama didn't want to bother him. So I was the hired worker. We had birthing problems, deaths, injuries but we didn't bother Daddy until he came home. One of our mares had trouble with birthing and seemed to neglect her colt. We ended up bringing that colt to the house and raising it in my bedroom. Mama took advantage here and wrote the popular children's books “Easter Pony” and “The Show Ring” from this adventure, which sold all over the United States as well as foreign countries. (That's a story all itself.) Another time a different mare was in trouble, her colt was coming out feet first and I was the only one around. I had to reach in and turn the colt and help birth it before the veterinarian arrived. I enjoyed that and felt proud because I had a part in saving this valuable show mare. When we had a death, we had to have an autopsy. Everyone on the farm would head for the hills before the veterinarian arrived. Not me. I would help hold the horse while he cut it open, examining and concluding the cause of death, while asking questions all the time. Maybe I should have been a vet. Ha.

There are lots of other adventures around these few years with the ponies, like the Shetland Pony ride we developed, or when Dr. Glen Bryant, our pastor at Emmanuel got interested and joined the pony business. But, those are stories to be told later. Let's just end this by saying that Daddy did eventually become tired of the Shetland pony business, sold off his ponies and moved on.
 Ah, life as a Blair sure has been unique.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mama and the Governor's Party at the Heidelberg Hotel

The year was 1960. I was a junior in high school. Daddy was in the state senate and Jimmy Davis was the Governor. Although I had been down to Baton Rouge many times while the legislature was in session, this was the first time I went as a worker. I was daddy's Senate Page. It really isn't as glamorous as one might expect. Prestige yes, well, to those home, anyway, I guess. 

We senate Pages, mostly spent our days being the go-fers for whatever any senator needed. We would fetch newspapers, cigars, cigarettes, water, notes to other senators, lunches or snacks from the cafeteria, and on several occasions, I would push the yea or nay button for daddy, if he was across the room filibustering, when a vote was called. O.K. I confess. I got to do that only once and only because I had just delivered something to his desk and happened to be standing there. I don't even remember what bill I voted yea for.
Daily we sat in a room on uncomfortable folding chairs, in our white shirts and ties, name tags visible, waiting to be called for assistance. On two occasions I was sent to fetch a senator's wife from a hotel and once I delivered a steak from a restaurant across town. But, mostly, we sat in our own little room just outside the chamber waiting as if we were horses at a race at Louisiana Downs. A buzzer would sound, a name called and off we'd run with a smile on our face and our best manners on our sleeve. Rushing about being “boys” for the important people. I got to hear a lot of interesting debates from that room, though, and enjoyed hearing the ins and outs of daily proceedings. I walked taller as I bustled about the state capital building on my errands.

Being a senator's son and a Senate Page had its perks too. In the evenings, we'd visit expensive restaurants with lobbyists as they wined and dined daddy and other politicians, usually at the lobyists expense. On several occasions a fancy party or two was held. Which brings me to the parties. They were mostly boring and loud but usually became entertaining as the evening wore on and the drinks flowed. I remember one in particular.

It was a Friday evening, I had a date with Representative Munson's daughter and we were attending a party the Governor was throwing at the poolside deck of the Heidelberg Hotel. The weather couldn't have been more perfect. A cool breeze was wafting from the Mississippi river. The moonlight glistening over the water. Mother had come down for the event and everyone was having a grand time. The orchestra, from New Orleans, was gathered near the pool playing jazz. The men were dressed in tuxedos, the ladies in formal evening wear, expensive jewelry being displayed as if at a movie premier. Cocktails were flowing, people laughing. The Governor was in a tux and cowboy boots, entertaining guests with his stories while others were trying their best to get close enough to meet the Governor or pull him aside to promote their latest bill. Clusters of men were gathered in a corner discussing strategies or certain bills, smoke curling around their faces. The women were also clustered in small groups, some with noses in the air trying to out snob each other with their importance. My date and I were dancing in the moonlight, discovering we had absolutely nothing in common. 

Did I mention that cocktails were flowing? Well, they were flowing as fast as that Mississippi river was. As the evening wore on, the laughter became more raucous. People began swaying, not to the music but from the drinks. Suddenly, someone swaggered to the pool, placed a couple of hundred dollar bills at the end and shouted in his blurred speech, “Two hundred dollars to the first lady that will jump in the pool and swim to the opposite end.” My mother, who was not a drinker and was stone sober rushed to the pool side and with her floor length evening gown jumped into the pool, swam to the opposite end and grabbed the money. She then tucked the money in her bra and returned to her room. 

The laughter exploded as, suddenly, wives and escorts followed suit. Drunken women, wine glasses in hand, were splashing about in the water. One very inebriated senator tripped and fell face down into the pool, creating more laughter as he attempted to steal kisses. It was one glorious, bedlam moment. The attendants, working that night, began fishing everyone out and rescuing the cocktail glasses. Someone signaled the orchestra to begin playing again and the party went on as usual. 

When mama returned about an hour later, the band played “You Are My Sunshine” as she made her entrance, barefoot since she only had one pair of shoes, she said, and they were wet. People applauded. Later, I asked her, “Why?” “Why, indeed,” she laughed, “I can have as much fun as everyone else without even drinking. They didn't know the difference and, besides, most won't remember tomorrow anyway.” Which they didn't. Personally, I'm just glad the reporters were not there to record the fun and splash it all over the papers.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Nippy Blair

1 medium spaghetti squash
2 cups of cooked shredded chicken (I used skinless chicken breasts but skin-on thighs would be wonderful and juicy).
1 cup freshly grated cheddar and mozzarella cheese (½ cheddar, ½ mozzarella)
¼ cup Tabasco Hot sauce (or less if you prefer less heat or more)
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup Greek Yogurt or sour cream
¼ cup chopped green onion, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon minced basil
1 teaspoon minced rosemary
1 teaspoon minced oregano
Optional: ranch or blue cheese dressing for drizzling
extra cheese for topping

for the spaghetti squash:
Slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. (If the skin is too tough you can place it in the microwave for 5 minutes to soften it a little).
Place the two halves on a rimmed baking dish lined with a silicone sheet or foil, Rub a small amount of olive oil on the cut sides and place face down on the baking sheet.
Roast for 40-45 minutes at 350, or until tender and easily pierced with a fork.

While the squash is cooking, cook the chicken. (you can use your favorite method: roasting, baked, poached, rotisserie, Crockpot). I used the following method:
Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. Melt 2 T butter in a frying pan. Mince 1 clove garlic (I used 3 because we like garlic) and saute in the melted butter for 1 minute then add the basil, oregano and rosemary and saute for another minute or two. Add the chicken and cook until juices come out clear and chicken is tender. Set chicken aside to cool slightly before shredding. Melt one T butter in the remaining juices from the frying pan.

In a separate bowl combine the cheese, Tabasco, Greek yogurt, green onion, and the remainder of the melted butter from the chicken. Add the shredded chicken.

With a fork, scrape the spaghetti squash bowls to release the strands of squash and mix with the cheesy buffalo chicken mixture. Stir to combine completely. Place in a baking dish. (If you wanted to impress company then use the squash bowls instead of the baking dish).

Note: You may top the squash mixture with a little of the extra cheese (I sometimes grate Parmesan cheese)

Cover with foil (tent it so the cheese doesn't stick).

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until the cheese is hot and bubbly. For extra golden bubbly cheese, remove the foil and place under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes.
Garnish with green onions. Serve with a veggie salad and/or green beans or veggie of your choice.
Drizzle with the ranch or blue cheese dressing if desired.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


1708 Shirland Avenue
I'd just moved into a vacant house my dad owned. It had never been rented before and had been vacant for seven years, neglected except for some storage. I was single, just out of the army and Vietnam. I had come back to finish my college degree, so moving there just seemed like another adventure, and I was up to the challenge since the only other option was to move home.
Pieces of the 1930's wallpaper hung stubbornly to the walls and ceiling, but the majority was on the floor. I stripped all the paper off the walls in the front room and placed a 200 year old loom I had bought, while stationed at Ft. Knox, Kentucky in the center. Strings from the old cheesecloth backing gave visions of a haunted house.This room would be my studio.
The Loom.  After moving to our current house.
In the corner of the bedroom, I placed a single mattress on top of a set of springs, found in the dump, balanced on bricks I found in the back yard.  On restless nights I would toss enough to knock the mattress off the bricks tumbling me to the floor.   The wallpaper on this ceiling seemed to breathe as if alive when the wind pumped life into it. I would lie in bed, mesmerized watching the ceiling catch its breath. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Breathe in, breathe out. “I am alive. Help me please,” it seemed to sigh. It was better than counting sheep.

I had one borrowed couch and no TV in my living room.  The floors were so uneven that I could drop a marble at the front door and it would roll to the opposite wall faster than I could take two steps. 

The dining room had holes in the floorboards in the corner, large enough to see the ground underneath. I put bricks over the holes, placing tons of artificial fern and a nude statue.  I called the corner “Mary Hattie in the bushes”.   On boring nights, I would remove the bricks to see how many marbles would roll into the holes before I knocked them away with another one. It became a game of skill similar to quail hunting for they rolled so fast. In the center of the room I placed my parents first piece of furniture, their dining room table that mama had shortened for a coffee table. It had belonged to every one of my siblings before coming to rest with me. I painted it turquoise and yellow. I even painted stripes on the wallpaper with flowers between stripes so it wouldn't look so drab.

The kitchen floor was so rough that I bought a huge roll of red, white and blue plastic cloth and tacked it to the floor so I could at least mop.  I painted an image of Mickey Mouse in the center. For meals,  I had a hot plate to heat food, a refrigerator, a pot to cook in and utensils pilfered from my mother.  I would “cook” hamburger helper once a week and heat it up daily for my meals, then eat on a table I bought for $10.00 at a flea market. I still own that table.  Across the street was the Lighthouse Root Beer Stand.  On days I didn't want to cook I would order there, walk home and then be informed by speakers when my meal was ready.  I became so regular, that as I drove into the driveway, they would ask over the speaker if I wanted the usual. Receiving my nod they would fix my order. This was my life in the early 70's.

After the first month living there, I found my neighbor, an old woman, in my yard, her hair in rollers with a scarf over them. She was peering into whatever window she could – sometimes on a chair or stepladder to see better. 

My friends began to visit, and so did she, sorta. No matter how many friends arrived I could count on Ms. Jeansonne to show up five minutes later with a tray of coffee and the right amount of cups with saucers for my guests. It was eerie. She never was wrong. She'd knock on the door, thrust the coffee into my surprised hands, then disappear, shaking her head and muttering in French. As soon as the last guest left, she would return, no matter how late, to retrieve her belongings, never speaking, just shaking her head at me.

  One day I came home with groceries, a bag of Community coffee visible at the top. She was on my porch looking through the window.  Upon seeing me, and my groceries, she marched, in a huff,  toward me, grabbed the coffee and began to lecture me in French, all the while shaking her finger at me. Then she opened the coffee and emptied the contents into the street and spat upon it.

“Hey, you crazy old lady, what did you do that for?” I yelled as I attempted to retrieve my coffee. She continued angrily fussing in French as she rifled my groceries, shaking her head and finger at me, spitting on the ground whenever she found something she did not like. Her daughter stepped outside. “Mama,” she shouted, first in English and then in French, “It's OK if he wants to buy his own coffee and groceries. He doesn't understand you, he can't speak French.” Without missing a beat, Ms. Jeansonne jerked what was left of the bag of coffee from my hands and carried it to her house, continuously lecturing me in French. At the door she swiftly turned, grabbed a broom and, shaking it in the air, yelled in English, “Learn!”. The daughter returned my groceries and explained that I had offended her mother by buying my own coffee. She said the old lady felt I couldn't take care of myself and felt obligated to mother me.   Gradually I began to tolerate her snooping around my windows and bringing me coffee when guests arrived.   

Eventually I married and brought Frances home to this hovel.  I had warned her about the neighbor and her coffee runs.   The first time friends came over to visit, I warned Frances to not make coffee since Ms. Jeansonne would supply our drinks.  She didn't. In fact, she never brought coffee over again and we never saw her snooping around the house.  I had been abandoned by this crusty old French woman.   I asked her daughter if her mother was ill. "No," she explained, "mama feels you don't need to be taken care of anymore. You have a wife now." 

 Eventually Ms. Jeansonne had to be placed in a nursing home because she began wandering the streets, confused. Bless her heart.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

chapter 5
Old Struck
(The Final Chapter)

Me and Beau didn't see each other for a while after that 'cause our mamas said they needed a break from the shenanigans we had caused. When I did see him again, Beau was wearing his brand new, store bought overalls. His paw had sold some good deer pelts for less than what they were worth so Beau could have some britches. His Maw gave him the what fer over all the trouble he had caused and warned him that them overalls had better last all his born days until he became an adult and maybe a long time after that.
It felt good bein' friends again, full of fun. One day we decided to head over to the clearin' by “old struck” and just hang about. Paw said it was good for us cause we could learn to be better swampers. “If'n you'd just go somewheres in the swamp and stand still for a while, you might get to know them critters and their habits. It'll help you trap better,” he said. “They gonna' stay hidden long as you boys keep makin' all that racket.” Beau said he already knew them critters and he weren't 'bout to go stand still in that old swamp waitin' for them critters to show their face, 'cause the skeeters and chiggers would eat us alive. “ Besides,” said Beau, “some old bobcat might sneak up on us and have us for dinner.” I said we should climb up on old struck to watch for the critters, but Beau said he would get sleepy and fall off the limb and the old buzzards would come and invite all their friends to a buzzard party over our dead bodies. Said they'd eat his first since he was sweeter. I said, “Wait a cotton pickin' minute,” and hit him up-side the head. We wrestled for a while before sittin' on the ground, back to back. “Ain't nothin' sneakin' up on us today 'ceptin' them skeeters,” Beau laughed.
Weren't long before we heard some rustlin' about in the leaves. Beau whispered it must be a bear sneakin' up but it weren't really nothin' but some old birds searchin' for somethin' to eat. Just as I was about to fall asleep myself and cause the buzzard party, Beau heard a “plink” in the water. A squirrel had dropped some of its pine cone dinner into the water. Then we saw a snake swim over to investigate before catchin' some small frogs instead.
'Bout the time we was learnin' somethin' 'bout the swamp we realized things got mighty quiet. I think it sorta crept up on us. First the wind started to blow and it felt so cool and refreshin' after all that hot sun that we didn't pay it no mind a'tall. Then everythin' got real still and the birds stopped their singin'. It sure was quiet. Kinda spooky and in these parts of the swamp things can get really spooky, if'n one set his mind to it. Beau looked at me and I looked at him and then, “BOOM”, that first bit of lightnin' struck. Beau's feet never touched the ground as he knocked me down while I was fixin' to run for home. Then the rain came poundin' down hard on us. So hard we couldn't see straight. I ran one way and Beau ran the other, chasin' each other round and round cause we couldn't see nothin'. Everythin' looked the same. Weren't long before we ran smack dab back into “old struck”. Sure felt good to find somethin' familiar even if it was “old struck”. Beau said we oughta stay there a while till the rain let up some, but I weren't too happy 'bout stayin' under this tree 'cause that lightnin' and thunder was strikin' faster'n a cornered rattlesnake. I just knew today would be the day that “old struck” got struck again. But Beau just crossed his arms and sat down right at the foot of that tree and said he weren't gonna budge till it was over. I reckon we stayed there all night, that rain never lettin' up enough for us to see ten feet. We was shiverin' so hard we almost lost our you-know-whats.
The next mornin' we began to shoutin' and hollerin' but no one ever heard us. We were too wet and cold to really care, anyway. And that rain was still poundin' and the lightnin' still flashin' like old Noah was gonna show up with his boat any minute. I said I bet old Noah was glad it was rainin' so he could wash them animals. Beau said he didn't know how Mrs. Noah could stand being on that boat with all them stinkin' animals roamin' about. He said he bet she was runnin' round like a chicken with its head cut off, what with cleanin' up after all of 'em. “If'n I was Mrs. Noah,” he said, “I wouldn't a put up with all that mess. I'da made him make two boats, one for the family and one for all them critters with a long rope connectin' them two and if Mr. Noah wanted to have a hissy-fit he could join the other boat.”
“Beau,” I shouted, “we gonna drown down here under “old struck. This rain's a real frogwash. Them gators gonna have their own party bout us goin' away. I ain't ready to die.” Bout that time, before Beau could answer his sassy self, “BOOM!” That lightnin' hit so close that the whole swamp shook. We took off like hound dog s chasin' coons. That next bolt hit “old struck” so hard that it split in two, right where Beau had been sittin'. Then a fire started up. “We better head for the barn, Beau,” I shouted, “we better start runnin'. Beau!” Beau didn't move. I shouted more. Still no movin'. Beau had been hit by a limb and was bleedin' and I was too scared to have noticed. His leg sure looked funny. By now, that fire was creepin' up on us faster-n a hot knife through butter. I had to throw Beau over my shoulders, midst all his hollerin' and groanin', in order to not burn. Possums and coons and deer were runnin' all around us trying to escape the fire. “My leg, my leg!” Beau shouted. “I can't move.” I said, “Beau, we're in a heap of trouble if'n we don't high tail it.”
The fire was all around us, ceptin' a spot out in the water so I jerked Beau up again and headed out. Water was up to our chests and gators and snakes were all around us but they didn't never mind, 'cause they was escapin' that fire too. So there we sat with the fire and gators and snakes sayin' their howdy-do as they passed on by. We were still in that water when our paws found us. Said we had been gone for two days and that fire finally hushed itself up over by the landin'. Beau's leg was mighty swollen now and his Paw said he reckon it were broke so we made a splint with that charred wood and hauled us out'a that swamp. Paw said he reckoned “old struck” had finally bit the dust.
Our maws started cryin' and huggin' and kissin' us when we got to the clearin' but when Beau's maw took one look at his overalls, she said she was gonna jerk a knot in his tail for messin' up them brand new store bought britches. Said she weren't gonna fix 'em any more and he'd just have-ta be buried in them.
Beau didn't get us into any more trouble after that what with his broke leg and such that we just lazed around the house helpin' our paws skin the animals they trapped. Winter was comin' soon and our paws had killed enough beaver, deer, coon, and nutria pelts to get through the winter. Yes sir, we was just good ole' boys livin' down in the swamp.


My family moved not long after that so that my sisters could have a right schoolin'. I didn't see much of Beau after that but I do know that Beau had been savin' some pelts he had trapped and when he had gotten enough went to Mr. Higgins' store and sold them. He had enough to buy his mama a new dress for her birthday since she had put up with enough of his shenanigans to last a life time.
Bless his heart.

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