Boo grew up in southern Louisiana as the third child of seven. His childhood was rich with family, food, religion, hard work and a strong dose of Cajun flavor. Capturing his memories is an ongoing project for us. Because he has stroke related dementia, I want to record as many of his memories as I can now while he still remembers.
|Childhood photo of all children, shared by one of Boo's sisters. Boo is on the top row on the extreme right.|
Boo's first and most persistent summer memory is working in the family truck patch garden. “I hated working in that garden! Mom always made me work in the garden when the guys were going to ride horses.”
Boo remembers that they grew tomatoes, okra, potatoes, spinach, green peppers, a little corn and cantaloupe. The green peppers “we chopped up everyday and put in almost everything. We grew Irish and sweet potatoes. I like baked sweet potatoes best. When we were good, Mom baked sweet potatoes and we had them for a treat.” Cantaloupes were a summer favorite of his. “Mom would cut them in half and we'd scoop the insides out with a spoon. They were so delicious, good anytime.”
Going to the swimming pool in Crowley is another fond memory and a special treat, especially in the Louisiana heat before the days of air conditioning. “It was tough to get there. When we did, it was fun.”
“One time I was showing off and did a back flip off the diving board. I kicked myself in the head and knocked myself out. When I came to, everyone was screaming. I looked in the water and saw blood and I started screaming too. I think I broke my nose then.” That experience evidently didn't deter him from swimming---or probably from showing off.
One of the highlights of Boo's summers was spending time with his Uncle AJ and Aunt Elda. His Aunt Elda was his mother's sister and his godmother. When he was about fourteen, he remembers going with his first cousin, Bob, to swim in the Sabine or Calcacheu River. He thinks he remembers swimming across the river, but isn't sure of it.
|Uncle AJ and Aunt Elda, about mid 2000's|
In the late summer and early fall, Boo remembers taking picnics in the woods---although he can't remember the name of the place they usually went. He, his brothers and sisters and sometimes cousins would build a fire and watch it until it burned down to coals. Then they'd cook rabbits, squirrels or fish over the hot coals.
His favorite part of the picnics was picking blackberries. “You have to pick them and eat them fast. That's the best way. Pick them off the vine and eat them before they get any riper.”
Boo and his brothers, Raymond and Joe slept upstairs in the attic bedroom which was unbearable in the summer heat. So, in the summer, he and his brothers were moved to the screened in back porch to sleep. It felt like it was officially summer when they got to sleep on the porch and listen to the birds and watch the sky get lighter in the morning.
Sometimes when Boo was able to break away from working in the truck patch, he and his friends rode horses to their special place in the woods. They built a log cabin/fort where they played for hours in the relative coolness. “I could actually run across an open field near our house to go to the cabin. It was a kind of refuge for me. Sometimes I swam in the pond behind the cabin.”
Making homemade ice cream was another summertime treat. (It still is. I think that man could eat his weight in ice cream!)
Boo remember churning ice cream with his brother, Raymond, and his sisters. Joe was too little to help. They used fresh milk from their cow and all took turns turning the handle on the churn. Stealing ice chips from the churn and sucking them was a sneaky pleasure. Boo's favorite flavor of ice cream? Strawberry.
Boo's next three memories centered around his Aunt Tot. Aunt Tot was another of his mother's sisters who lived nearby on the old family home place. She was crippled and used a wheelchair. Boo remembers watching her fly off the porch in her wheelchair and land on the wheels without missing a beat.
Aunt Tot baked homemade yeast rolls in a wood stove. Boo remembers chopping wood for her and taking it to her house. Hot, sweaty work, that was offset by “the most delicious individual yeast buns. They were to die for.”
“Aunt Tot liked to play Bouray, a Cajun card game. She'd collect the coins from the game and slipped me some of them. She was always so good to me.” Boo used to save the coins for things he needed in school, like doughnuts. His school served homemade doughnuts for ten cents in the morning and he often spent his saved coins on them. (Now, I better understand his “need” for doughnuts. They bring back good memories---and they're sweet.)
Here's a link to learn more about Bouray.
Boo's last memory today was of going to his Aunt Tot and Uncle Adolph's house for dinner and praying a family rosary. He remembers gathering in the front room of their home. Uncle Adolph usually led the rosary in Cajun French. The family responded in English.
This is the point he stopped. We had to pray the rosary in Cajun French. Thank goodness one of his daughters gave him a CD of it in Cajun French because I certainly wouldn't be able to help him otherwise.