Letís stretch our imaginations just a wee bit further today.
I know this is hard for some of us, whether from decades of disillusionment, or being blinded by the fixation with the rat races our lives have become, or maybe due to just plain bull-headedness. But letís give it a whirl.
Itís not Christmas. Itís spring. Heck, maybe even the sultry heat of a Southern summer. A small caravan of vehicles rolls into town Ö half a dozen, maybe more. Each one has a canoe or a kayak atop it. They head for Parc sur la Teche, or maybe, you know, that wooded area across the bayou from the park where Wednesday we envisioned a sort of real-life miniature village, maybe representing Cajun, immigrant European, Native American and African American culture from our areaís history. There might be, on both sides of the Teche, some primitive facilities for these folks rolling into town: Water fountains, some grills, a couple restrooms, that sort of thing.
Theyíll unload their vessels Ė we locals will no longer eye them with suspicion just because theyíre strangers with license plates from Georgia and Texas and Florida and Arkansas Ė and drop them into Bayou Teche. Most of the crew leaves, but maybe some of the spouses Ė wives or husbands, letís be PC about this Ė donít. Theyíll later drive the vehicles down to the pick-up point after the paddlers make their trek eastward down the Teche, then the Hanson Canal and back up the Franklin Canal. The spouses who arenít into paddling might grill some burgers on the pits, or better yet, theyíll wander over to Main Street and grab a bite, and just to pass the time until the paddlers are done paddling, do some shopping and see some sights in our lovely little town.
Some might pitch a tent and sleep on the bayouside for the night, because thatís what they came for: To get away from their offices and factories and neighborhoods and be "out of doors." Others would stay in the local motels or the bed and breakfasts and inns. Heck, if thereís a play going on or a festival, theyíd sure be interested in checking it out.
Next day, they might make another paddle. Fausse Pointe, maybe. Or the basin. Or Patterson. Whatever. Then theyíll head on their merry ways back to their offices and factories and neighborhoods and tell their friends and other paddlers about the great scenery, good facilities, awesome food and friendly people in that gorgeous town with the cool lampposts.
Itís Bear Festival time. Itís been growing, all this time, and local businesses, governments and civic groups have teamed up with the federal employees who run the Bear Refuge. Itís not just boat tours through the refuge, now. No, now thereís an interpretive center, and walking tours on well-laid out, comfortable and well-marked paths. Along the way are monuments with placards describing the Louisiana black bear, its habits and habitat, its likes and dislikes and your chances of actually seeing one. Even if you donít thereíll be descriptions of the local flora and fauna for the naturalists, including birdwatchers, flower-gazers, hikers or just plain interested visitors.
Somebody finally figured out thereís some pretty good fishing around here, both salt and fresh, and they started a guide service. Theyíll take fishermen out for a day in the sportsmanís paradise. Even if visitors are not interested in consumptive use, a couple of those big "party barges" are set up to take a leisurely tour around the basin and the marsh.
Look out! Scene changes again. Donít duck it, it wonít hurt, I promise.
Itís anytime of the year you want it to be. Nothingís really going on. Canít have something happening all the time, of course. But a pair of grandparents visiting their granddaughter who just moved here to begin her teaching career, or a traveling salesman passing through or any other type of persons, could find a few Franklin Historic District walking tours. Easy enough, plenty of sidewalks, and the more interesting or historically significant features of the district also have monument placards with descriptions. Such-and-such house, built in whatever year, was the scene of whatever interesting thing happened there or whomever interesting person lived there. Signs point the way through the district and back to the point of origin, where thereís a sort of billboard mentioning great places to eat, stay and shop for our weary, well-walked tourists.
Curtain calls: Hereís a few incidentals that could fit in just about anywhere.
Ė A replica sugar mill, perhaps functional in some basic sense. Samples of raw sugar could be sold for a few pennies. The tourists would go wild over that.
Ė How about a nice, big monument with a map of Bayou Teche and the Chitimacha story of how it was created by that big olí mean snake?
Ė Might be nice to have a tribute to Jefferson Davis, instead of just a little mention on those old brown state markers next to the courthouse.
Ė Come to that, a to-scale replica of the old courthouse, say five or six feet tall, and some history and photos accompanying it.
Ė Each street corner could have something like the aforementioned, on a sturdy post, tastefully done and weatherproofed: History of the trapping of fur-bearing animals in Louisiana; the alligator, past and present; the Old Spanish Trail; Civil War points; filming of "Easy Rider"; oh, and didnít George Washington sleep here? (I know, he didnít but Iíll bet somebody impressive did.)
Bottom line: We stick out our chests and bang on it with our fists shouting, "Hey, look at us! Ainít we something?" then most of the time, folks are going to believe it.
Question is, do we?
Weíve gotta start somewhere. No matter how small a start it is. Weíve gotta start somewhere. That big GM plant ainít coming. Letís get over it. Start somewhere, and donít stop. Donít lose the momentum once we build it up.
New parish council members coming into office, letís hold your administrationís feet to the fire, letís see some equality of government on both ends of this parish, and for heavenís sake, letís put a stop to this blatant disregard for Franklinís downtown appearance on the part of parish government.
City council members and administration, halfway through your terms, letís do some touching up, eh? Itís a little paint, a little wood and a few nails and some elbow grease. Start seeing the forest for the trees, maybe?
You, citizens. You ainít off the hook, folks. We have lots of good clubs and groups and just plain folks out there. Government canít pay for it all. You can all help. Make a civic project, one a year, what say? Pick something, make it your goal, raise money and make sure to dedicate maintenance and upkeep to your plans, too. Think long-range, because thatís what itís all about. The future, and that means more than day after tomorrow.
Curtain falls. House lights come on. Good night.