Elections, Rain and Addiction

Well, that was an interesting election. It’s been a long time. Despite the fact that nearly 62 percent of St. Mary Parish voters didn’t even bother, it was still interesting.

Congratulations to the winners, and commendations to those who didn’t place; offering yourself for public service is always commendable, and you’re to be applauded.

Over the 35 years of my work in this sordid business, I’ve made it a point of doing everything in my power to be unbiased in what we call “hard news”, that being the opposite of opinion material, such as this column, where I can be as biased as I dang well please. Sometimes folks don’t understand why I do this, but it’s simple: if I offhandedly tell a candidate, “I think you’re running a good campaign,” and that gets back to their opponent, well, I’m automatically on the first candidate’s side. Of course that isn’t true, but you know how people are.

So I won’t comment on the local elections to maintain that distance. Statewide, however, I was surprised to see David Vitter outpaced by John Bel Edwards. As those of you who have read this dribble for any length of time, I belong to no political party, living by Treebeard’s quote in The Lord of the Rings that I am not altogether on anyone’s side, because no one is altogether on my side.

Then there was Patricia. Hurricane Patricia, or at least what was left of her. Wow, that was some beaucoup rain, cher! It was raining pitchforks and Gen. George Armstrong Custers down on the Rez this weekend, I kid you not. I have been trying to get my fall garden planted, blocked at every turn by being too busy or too lazy. Unfortunately, I chose last week to till 12 bags of compost into the four raised beds. I don’t know how much is left, but at the height of the rainfall the four-by-four beds looked like mini swimming pools. I am sure I saw frogs jumping off tiny little diving boards.

Good news is , it ended the drought. It also most certainly put the creeks up north in flash-flood condition, but if the rain slacks enough, they’ll be fishable in a couple weeks, weather permitting. Thing about it is, fish or not, I plan to go. The colors up in the hills of central Louisiana should be stunning by now, and when you get right down to it, I am sorely in need of such a retreat. Off past the last footprints in the sand. Away from voices other than our own. I’m not anti-social. I just don’t wanna hear ‘ em. When Harry Middleton met Allie Carlyle in the Smokies , she took a liking to him, trusted him and told him about the places she knew:

“I don’t know why I’m trusting in you, but I am,” she said. “Keep all of this to yourself. There’s knee-deep silence up on those creeks, quiet that hasn’t been broken just yet. Leave some when you go.”

Yes, even after my long absence from this page, I am still addicted to wild places. Probably even moreso, as the world gets crazier and crazier at every turn. I can’t get enough of ‘ em . When we were in southwestern North Carolina last month, Suze and I did lots of exploring, and among the places we visited was Boyd Gap.

The overlook there was a little too civilized for my tastes, but we had it all to ourselves. Boyd Gap is in Cherokee National Forest, and the overlook provides a stunning view. A mountain gap is a pass between mountains. It was these the settlers searched for to continue their march east, forbidden by the Appalachian range. Boyd Gap is one of these.

We stood upon the bluff and looked out over it, and you could really see how the early settlers, following the lead of the Indians, sought these places out. By no means an easy route east, the pass between much taller mountains certainly more accommodating. I imagined Cherokee people using Boyd Gap and many others to move across their territory with ease, followed by settlers from across the great water. I was humbled not only by the lush beauty of the Appalachian summits, but also by the history that lies sleeping there.

No less so my own ancestors, Chitimacha, Cajun and the like , making their way through these swamps and bayous. We are an enterprising species, no mistake about it. Wagon trains loaded with hopeful settlers, sometimes friendly, sometimes not, headed west to the plains and the Rockies and beyond; native people, sometimes friendly, sometimes not, confronting unexpected and endless change.

We are, indeed, an unpredictable, remarkable, frustrating species. We’ve risen to heights of greatness, incredible mediocrity and deplorable lows.

But when I think about the best traits we as human beings carry, I remain hopeful that we will, in the long run, do the right thing.

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