The Ultimate Tourism Plan

April 1, 2009

Roger Emile Stouff

All right. I got it.
   The ultimate tourism plan for western St. Mary.

   Heck, that deserves to be titled: The Ultimate Tourism Plan for Western St. Mary Parish.
   It’s all clear to me now. Few of you seem to be excited about our historic heritage. Even fewer about ecotourism centering around the black bear refuge and the amazing hunting and fishing destination this is. Hardly anybody but parish government is excited about the Taj Mahal of Golf over eastward.
   But here’s the answer. It’s going to take some work, and a little sleight of hand, but it is guaranteed to work. With a bit of prestidigitation, tourists with handfuls of money dropping freely out of their pockets will flock to our areas and spend, spend, spend.
   Alien circles.
   Isn’t that just flat brilliant or what?
   Why didn’t anyone think of it before? Somebody remarked at one of our tourism meetings that just one good ghost would bring in tourism, just like at St. Francisville and places like that.
   But we can do better. Alien circles! Otherwise known as “crop circles” but we certainly don’t want to mess up the crops. It’s those enigmatic, elegant and mysterious pressing-down of fields, all over the world, in gigantic shapes and unexplainable geometries. They appear overnight, and are said to be the product of aliens. I’m not talking illegal Mexicans, here, friends and neighbors, I’m talking E.T., I’m talking Mork from Ork, this is the real deal, danged if it ain’t, and “Klaatu barada nikto”! (Give yourself a cookie if you know what that means!)
   And the great thing is, it doesn’t even have to be true. We can fake it. Yes, indeed! Who needs our historic buildings and charming lampposts? The devil I say to our bear refuge, fishing, hunting and festivals.
   We got enough farmers around here with good equipment, and with a little imagination, we can get some surveyors to map out a alien circle and let the farmers go mash down some empty acreage overgrown with Johnson grass. Now, these indecipherable alien messages are normally elaborate pictographs and spirographs (give yourself another cookie or a sip if you remember what a Spirograph is!) but ours will transcend those silly doodles on the English countryside.
   Picture it, friends and neighbors, from high above you can see an abandoned field pressed down into the shape of a crawfish, perfectly rendered, with nothing left to guess about. Or a fish, with a spot on its tail.
   The possibilities are endless. And the tourists will just come here in droves, droves, do you hear me? Why, the T-shirt business alone could boost the local economy 20 percent.
   We could – if we ever got the actual gumption, which seems unlikely – put up signs at either end of the west end of the parish proclaiming:
   VISIT WEST ST. MARY PARISH!
   HOME OF THE CAJUN ALIEN CIRCLES!
   MAIS CHER, E.T. PHONED HOME FROM RIGHT HERE, YEAH!
   Good gracious, it’s a goldmine. We could have merchants sell T-shirts showing little aliens with big heads and bulging eyes standing near a lamppost (just to keep the whole ho-hum “history” bit in the mix) and the shirt would read, “I TRIPPED THE LIGHT FANTASTIC WITH A ‘GRAY’ IN FRANKLIN, LOUISIANA!”
   Or maybe, “WESTERN ST. MARY PARISH: IT’LL PUT THE DILITHIUM BACK IN YOUR CRYSTALS!”
   (Give yourself another treat if you know what a “gray” and a “dilithium crystal is.)
   Before long, they’ll be having conventions like they do in Roswell, New Mexico and Marfa, Texas. We’ll change the alien circles out now and then, move them from here to there, to keep things lively. This month a caricature of a parish councilman; next month, a very artsy-fartsy rendering of a sugar mill, and around Mardi Gras, we could actually press-down the mug shots of all the krewe royalty in the nearest overgrown acreage.
   Why, the sky’s the limit, and to make things even more interesting, we could fabricate some shiny pieces of aluminum with strange etchings on them, scatter them all over the ground near the most recent alien circle, and with great fanfare have the police come pick them all up while armed guards keep the public at bay and all the authorities will tell the newspaper is, “It was a weather balloon.”
   It could work, people, I’m telling you. We’d be the centerpiece of extraterrestrial tourism in the United States. We might even become so famous, we’d be able to quit faking alien circles because the aliens would come do them for us for real. For a cut of the take, of course.
   For a little added drama, we could have anonymous persons wander through the crowds of tourists and tell stories.
   “Aliens took my wife,” one could say. “Right while she was cooking gumbo. Burnt the roux when they beamed her up, and the house stank for a week.”
   Another could mourn, “They took me up to their mothership. I thought they were going to do experiments on me, but they only wanted to get my recipe for (name a Cajun dish) which, you know, you can only get at (name a local restaurant.)”
   It would be big, people. We just got to get started. Maybe we could get stimulus package money to start. Who knows?
   Think it’s silly? Hrmph! How dare you? Fine, then.
   Got a better idea? Good!
   Come tell us. Thursday, that’s tomorrow, 2:30 p.m., at Franklin City Hall. Be there, or be…from Alpha Centauri.
   ——
   Appreciation to Tess Gordon for the notion.