Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Valentine's Tryst: Day 3 Sunday Feb. 17, 2008

Sunday morning was bright and sunny, and breakfast was served to four couples this time. The figure competition Air Force girl wore a nice blouse and shoes for the occasion. As we made small talk over our juice and coffee, we discovered the Dentist couple from Alabama were motorcycle and NASCAR enthusiasts.

It was hard for me to image the ruffly sweater wearing wife dressed instead in a leather jacket and riding on a motorcycle or enjoying watching cars going around in a circle FIVE HUNDRED TIMES!!!! but that just goes to show that you never know about a person just by looking at them. They were quite proud of the fact that they had earned their "Iron Butt" certificate for riding on a motorcycle somewhere for 24 hours.

My own cute backside thanks me for not even trying to get that award. And I personally thank heaven that Bernie got his motorcyle/long hair/soul spot bad boy years out of the way before he met me.
As B. later observed: When you have been a real life bad boy at age 20 you have no desire to go on a long distance motorcyle ride again at age 50. Been there, done that, know all about peeing blood.

Yish. More potty talk at breakfast....sorry!

The new couple at the breakfast table were from California, which lead to an extended discussion of California issues.

You kind of have to be from California to enter into these kinds of discussions; the rest of the table fell silent and I cringed at our manners. It is so rude to discuss things in a group setting if all can not easily enter into the conversation. To our discredit we didn't even try to include the others.

It turned out the new couple were in Natchitoches because she was a still photographer for a movie being filmed in the area. Bernie really had seen a "celebrity" the day before! The movie being filmed is titled "Year One", starring Jack Black. Other films are also in production around the state as well.

Miss Figure Competition was thrilled to hear this. When told that the film companies are always looking for extras, she absolutely beamed, and just about jumped up from the table to get going on becoming a movie extra.

The photographer cautioned her that the film was about the year 1AD, and the women in the film wear skimpy wraps, and bikini tops, sometimes dressed almost like belly dancers.

Talk about things getting better and better....this was right up her alley!

When I eventually see the movie, I will of course be watching to see her shapely form in the crowd scenes.

Eventually we had to check out of the hotel. While Bernie settled the bill, I got to talk more with the woman photographer and her husband (a director and published author) in the front parlor. It turned out they had been married 28 years, and are happily living a life together following movie sets and returning to California in between films. It was really neat to hear another happily married couple speaking highly of marriage even in such an unconventional lifestyle!

Now Bernie is a Starbucks kind of guy, and he hadn't had a "quad shot" in two days. We headed downtown and got him his "real" coffee, and took some time to enjoy the river and shops.

Another old house was next to where we sat with our coffee. It still makes me marvel to see such old buildings just casually located next to a modern street.
The hanging flower baskets reminded me of my trip to visit Lovella in Canada. Canada wins, hands down, in the hanging basket contest, but the pansies here were charming too. This is the area in the Steel Magnolias movie when at the end they are racing to get to the hospital.

We got several free tour maps for Natchitoches. One was a guide to all the houses that were used in the movie. Above is the house that was the set of the beauty shop.

Note the typical Louisiana flag, and the wreath on the front door. Oddly, a lot of the houses still had Christmas wreaths up; this one had a more spring like style wreath.
It was windy and crisp out. The huge storm that skirted around us had cleared the sky to a gorgeous clear blue. We headed back down the Cane River Road to a plantation known as Oakland.

Oakland Plantation is owned by the US Park Service, and they provided boots for us to wear. I was glad, as the grounds were extremely muddy.

Bernie got comfortable in a rocker under a tree. I think his southern plantation (in Maryland) roots were showing a bit here.

See all the standing water?

And how huge the trees were?

These trees were planted around 1820. They are planted in an alley formation to channel breezes up from the river through to the big house.

The Big House, completed in 1821.

This house didn't look very big to me compared to modern houses. One family, the Prud'hommes lived in this house for almost 200 years. They finally sold all the property and all the buildings to the US Park Service. It is unique in that all the buildings on the plantation are still in their original locations.

The oak alley seen from the front gate of the house. It must have felt great to ride up the alley on a hot day!

I'm not sure what kind of blossom this is, but it was on a bush in front of the plantation hospital.
(Update: A commenter tells me this is quince. Love helpful comments like that!)

French law required that slave owners provide medical care for their slaves. After the slaves were freed the property owners still housed a doctor and kept a hospital on the grounds. Oakland Plantation was established under French Creole Law.

Elderly slaves that were too old or infirmed to work were to be sent to a hospital to be cared for until their death. The French "Black Laws" were kinder than the English laws, and oddly began with the admonishion to drive all Jewish people from the French colonies. It also granted freedom to blacks born in the French colonies, and gave detailed information about the status of slave children.

The Prud'homme family never threw anything away. The attic was stuffed to overflowing and thousands of bottles were found up there. The family even used bottles to line their flower beds.

The magnolia (aka tulip) trees were so beautiful in the sunshine. Their petals had the most wonderful purfume; I walked around with petals between my fingers so I could breath in the fragrance as I went.

Nice for me...I could imagine how the plantation must have smelled in the heat of summer long ago. I'm sure such times were not nearly as nice as what I was experiencing.
The park service had a self guided walking tour, and everything on the plantation was neatly identified.

Bernie is standing just beyond the pecan was an amazingly tall tree. I wish I could have bought some pecans from the tree; there are many kinds of pecans, and they each taste a bit different.

The chicken coop.

The pidgeonnier (or dovecote) was a sign of status. In France only the wealthy and royal could have pidgeonniers. Once people arrived in Louisiana, they immediately set up a pidgeonnier next to the road for all passerby to see.

Breakfast of squab (pidgeons too young to fly) was considered to be quite tasty.

All I could think of was how messy it would be to kill and pluck and fry up a bunch of baby pidgeons each morning.

Especially horrid if the temperatures were high and the air was humid.

A three hole privy was down the path from the main house. I wondered if it was for the family or for the field hands. Or maybe both? Imgine trotting down the path in a long hooped skirt and using this structure after breakfast. I don't you ask your friend to go with you to the privy?

On the floor of the privy was a baby potty seat.
Much better than having the kid fall in...ahem.

Out in the field were more narcissis.

And this truly odd flower. It is about the size of my baby finger, and the rangers didn't know the name of it. It had a texture like a wet mushroom. Isn't it weird?

I thought the clover was charming, considering that it was Valentine's Day weekend.

Little red hearts on the little green heart shaped clover leaves.
Sometimes all the romantic touches in nature just amazes me.

After we had poked around the grounds and seen the overseer's cabin, the cook's cabin, the store, carriage house, blacksmith house, carpenter's house, smoke house, corn crib, laundry house, seed house etc etc etc we finally got to take the official guided tour of the Big House.

Talk about a shock.
(Above: The Big House kitchen)
Inside the Big House was a home last refurnished in the late 1950's.
A colored television set sat in the front parlor. Another one was in the kid's bedroom.
Pictures of family ranged from painting from the early 1800's to colored snapshots on the book case.Yes, the Prud'homme family lived here, generation after generation for almost 200 years.

Each generation had lots of kids.
The one "kids" bedroom had two big four poster beds and a trundle bed. We were told that the kids were just piled into the beds in the one room. The master bedroom had a very nice bed, and between the kids room and the master bedroom was a modern bathroom with pink tile and metal cabinets. Modern as of 1950 that is.
The dining room still had the overhead board that was was swung back and forth to keep out the flies and to cool the guests at the table. I imagine flies were a big problem through the years.
The ranger shared that after the Prud'homme realized that they couldn't keep up with the property tax in the late 1990's, they agreed to sell EVERYTHING on the property to the Park Service.
One morning they sat and had breakfast in that kitchen, pictured above, back in 1998, then they got up and just walked out the front door.
Leaving 300,000 items for the park service to catalogue. TWO HUNDRED YEARS of "stuff" in the attic. Letters and ledgers, bottles and dodads.
It was a brilliant move really.
The family can come visit the home and all the contents anytime they would like.
No decisions must be made about who in the family gets what.
No worried that great great grandma's spectacles might get tossed by the second wife of the third son.
Such a deal. Wish I could do that some day!
I also marvelled at how simple the house was inside. I had to laugh at the Hollywood image of the rich plantation owner. In truth, sometimes they were just farm folks trying to make a living off the land.
After the Oakland house tour we drove back into town for lunch. We decided to hit another place recommended by our Ranger Stephen. He assured us it was the best place to get crawfish, but that we should be aware they tended to be a little bit spicy.

Oh who wouldn't want to get crawfish from a place like this?

You order crawfish by the pound. They shovel the crawfish into a plastic sack, weigh the filled sack, then bring the sack on a big plastic tray to you at your table.
The table has a hole cut out in the middle over a trash can. After grabbing a bunch of paper towels, you proceed to snap off the head of the crawfish and pull out the tail and eat.
I ordered boiled shrimp myself.
Bernie ordered crawfish on a baked potato that had been whipped and restuffed.
As I write this I want to go back for some more.
Oh. My. GOSH.
The best shrimp EVER!
Bernie's potato dish was unbelievable too. Soooooo good.
Yup, it's all about crawfish around there...

Tin roof, screened window, good times.
(Crawfish coming out of his hut...I've seen those huts in real life!)
After that we drove home.
It was a nice and easy drive, with lots of good conversation and pipe dreams and memories of a really great time.

(PS: Yesterday's post mentioned that the woman who lived in Melrose Plantation was an excellent loom controlled design weaver. On her rocking chair was one of the coverlets that she wove. The design is created by the way the loom is warped. The loom threadles lift various patterns of the warp each time, so the weaver's foot work is what creates the pattern using the warp design. The threads that go side to side are a straight shot. A weft face design is when the weaver controls the design by the weft or side to side thread, laying in the shots of yarn in patterns that are not repeats. I'm sure that is about a clear as mud, but I thought I'd try to explain what I meant. I studied both styles, but in the 1970's weft face free style weaving and textures such as loops was really modern and "in", the patterned weaving were considered very old fashioned. Now I am rather charmed by warp controlled design!)
A couple of last minute pictures from Bernie's camera.
I think this picture could be the weekend's signature shot.
Maybe we should use it next year to send out Valentine's Day cards!


Anonymous said...

Very cool, Ma! Great shots too.

Calvin said...

Hello -

Love the blog! I need to get me one of these someday.

The pink flowers you didn't know the name of are quince blossoms - they grow all over the place here in SE Vermont also. The blossoming tree that are mentioned as being 'tulip trees' are acually one of the magnolia species. I think that they might call them 'tulip trees' in the local parlance, but real tulip trees are very different.

It was nice to see some pictures that didn't have snow all over them as we do here.

Thanks for the show!

Calvin B.

running wildly said...

Wow, from peeing blood to loaner gum boots to pictures of stoves, to flowers & trees. Lady, you have hit the gamut! My head is still spinning!

Vicki said...

This was a great post once again, Jill! I think you've run the gamut on topics! (Why is B. sitting in all of his photos?)

Y'know, I don't much care for crawfish (or crawdads as we called them as kids). When I see them, I think of a neighbor in Texas who was originally from LA. After an especially heavy rain, he and his kids would scurry all over the neighbor looking for the crawfish huts and grabbing those critters. When it rained, ol' neighbor Steve had himself a crawfish boil!

I sort of wish the Florida Parks people had an interest in my house...

Great photos and a great bit of history!

Vicki said...

I forgot that I wanted to make a comment about that privy. I laugh when I see the "family-style" outhouses. I once visited a country church that had two outhouses - one for men and one for women - and each one was a five-seater! My friends and I took one look at that (we were college students at the time) and opted for scouting out the "good leaves" in the woods and finding the widest trees. Of course, one of us stood guard!

Lovella said...

Oh the quince blossoms and the magnolia through the windows were gorgeous.
I can't get over the story of the family who just walked out of the house. It is hard to believe that there are folks alive now who hold so lightly on to their earthly possessions. Quite amazing really.

Glorious Hats said...

Ahhhhh, I feel so refreshed and relaxed. Wonderful article, superb photos.

Sara said...

Thanks for the great tour and photos and commentary. Reminds me of places I've been near New Orleans and Baton Rouge.