The more I think about it, ask around, talk to folks here and there, the more I realize that the difficulties of west St. Mary are of our own making. We are, after allís been said and done, our own worst enemies.

Whatever we may think and say of the folks east of the now-legendary "Calumet Cut," the people over there are involved and energetic.

As a student of anthropology both academically and as a hobby, itís no secret that our cultures evolved along two very different paths: An agricultural and live-off-the-land society here in western St. Mary, versus a commercial and industrial culture to the east. I wonít bore you with the jibber-jabber, but it follows that in the west the culture is more laid back, more tight-knit and sedentary. To the east, while there are of course pockets of the same variety people, there is also a huge segment of the population in flux, constant transition.

You can see clearly how these two cultural forms would have difficulty understanding each other.

Like it or not, though, we are linked and we are in this together.

I am afraid that on this end of the parish, we have suffered some serious blows. The most damaging, it recently occurred to me, is that over the past two or three years, we have lost a handful of people who were the busy bees, the cheerleaders and the motivators here in Franklin and west St. Mary.

I wonít name them, but Iíll bet you can guess who they were. I know where some of them went, others just seemed to have faded into the woodwork. Burnout, I guess. Hey, I understand that. But in their absence, a hushed gloom settled. Their voices and their inspirations sustained us, kept us thinking positive.

Whatís happened in the meantime is weíve gotten lazy and apathetic. We donít get as involved and, consequently, much of the inertia has shifted east, where folks remain energized, just by their very nature, it seems.

In fact, the slumber weíve fallen into has been so deep that while we napped much of the power and productivity of the parish blew to the east, as well.

We have different views of each other, east and west. We regard easterners as city-folk, to a degree, often aloof and many times condescending. By the same token, they regard westerners as too reclusive, laid-back and stubborn. Truth of the matter is, weíre simply different. We just happen to have the kind of differences in culture and personality that rate high as some of the most difficult to mediate.

Still, when I look around, there are so many people in this community who could motivate and mobilize us. But they donít. I donít know why. Many of them are content to make a living and take some quality time with the family, go fishing and head toward retirement. At worst, many of these would rather sit and complain about the community rather than work to change it.

I guess Iíll never understand it. Especially as we sit here idle while to the east and west things are just ducky, booming even. Iím just thankful weíve got the Gulf of Mexico to the south and the Atchafalaya Basin to the north, or Iíd feel completely surrounded by prosperity, here on our little island of indifference, and how much would that bite?

You know, maybe a lot of us donít deserve any better. Maybe most of us, if we donít have the gumption to get off our butts and do something about nourishing this community. I guess the old saying that "you get what you deserve" remains apt. If thatís the case, donít whine. Though it seems, if you think about it, most often the people who do the least also do the most complaining, you ever notice that?

I wish we had our cheerleaders back. That seemed to be the only thing that kept us from vegetating. Where are you, old friends? Where are your successors? Is there no one in western St. Mary willing to be the heir-apparent?

Look around you. Weíre drying up on the vine here, people. Donít let anyone fool you: We havenít progressed one iota since the early 1980s. Certainly, weíve built stuff, repaired stuff, made a few baby-steps here and there. But as for prospering, nurturing and succeeding overall, we have taken one step forward and two steps backward, over and over and over again. The handful of people who step up to the plate to inspire and motivate us burn at white-hot intensity for a few years and just wear themselves out. And what do we do? We sulk back into our hovels without even trying to keep the inertia going.

Swallow this bitter pill, thereís no way to sugarcoat it: By the time our neighboring parishes are done securing the monies out there, snaring the people out there and getting the assorted paraphernalia that makes a healthy, vibrant community, thereíll be none left for us. When we finally Ė if we finally Ė stir from our sleep, itíll be too late.

I guess thatís what we want Franklin and western St. Mary to be, judging by the amount of effort weíre putting into to being better.

Letís walk the walk and talk the talk, then: Baldwin used to win cleanest city contests like they were going out of style. Those ladies burned themselves out, and nobodyís reviving it that I can see. Downtown Franklin used to be kicking-tail with stuff going all the time, excitement in the air and sales receipts to show itÖnow itís just the day-to-day mundane. Open the shop. Do business. Close the shop. Go home. La-dee-da-da-dee. Thereís nobody to pump us up, nobody to make us think and feel.

There used to be a buzz of activity around here: Chamber people were everywhere, all the time; Main Street and merchants group people were at every turn, civic group folks, you name it. Goodness, I froze my behind off on Main Street many a year for the Christmas lighting ceremonies, the music, the bandstands, the drawings and the winners being announced. Waiting for Santa to arrive on the firetruck.

We had a blast, too.

If it werenít for the cars lined along the curb and the glowing street lights, youíd think it was a ghost town around here nowadays.

Where are our leaders, our inspirations, our motivators? Where are the people with vision and excitement and plans?

Dangit, people, how can we let this happen this way?

Tag. Youíre STILL "it."