Tis the season of lane closures: Shoppers beware! Tuesday, Nov 24 2015 

The holidays.  Days of family, reflection, thanksgiving, …

Or “daze” of market-place insanity, crowded places, and stress-out?


The shopper’s bane: More customers than checkouts adding needless stress to the human condition, especially during holidays supposedly consecrated for devotion and thanksgiving.

I vote for family, reflection, and thanksgiving, although culture’s hell-bound, commercial bent certainly challenges the realistic hope for that outcome.  This time of year, a routine trip to the supermarket for milk and bread can turn into an epic ordeal in crowded checkout lines made up of many rude, demanding shoppers whose rudeness only worsens when check-out lines lengthen.

So my pre-New Year’s resolution is to avoid  places of commerce as best I can in this season so I can keep my spiritual perspective in these days.  Therefore, I resolve as follows: As for trips to Laffy, never on a Friday afternoon or Saturday until mid-January.  To the mall, never until after January.  As for the interstate highways, no trips on Fridays and no trips the day before or the day after one of the holidays.

Home will be the base, the safest and best retreat, until  holiday madness runs its tempestuous course sometime next year.

Holidaze on Hill Street: The Pullings of Eunice, Home for the Season Thursday, Nov 19 2015 

(Written as an assignment demo for English IV at St. Edmund Catholic School)

Family holiday traditions at our family place are so much like holiday traditions anywhere in America or Louisiana or Acadiana, yet they’re so much not like another family’s holiday traditions. Like every household, our practices, rituals, and holiday habits are the blended traditions and celebrations that have come down for generations through both sides of mine and my wife’s families, all of them distinctly American, yet by now after almost 40 years of family, uniquely Pulling. The best way to understand the unique cultural contributions that make up our holiday style is to know a little bit about the family history.UL Fleur de lis

All-American Roots

Before we can get to the mélange of cultures and traditions, my family’s holidays are founded on historical American patterns.  Thanksgiving, for example, did not come from Cajuns or Spaniards or any other sub-ethnic or cultural group—It’s a uniquely and historically American holiday, first declared by President Abraham Lincoln.  It’s connected to the historical recollection of an original Thanksgiving in Colonial times when Native Americans and colonists threw a big feast bash at the end of harvest season with wild turkey, corn, pumpkins, and other traditional harvest-time dishes on the menu.  From that all-American basis, my Cajun wife always bakes a turkey and always bakes pumpkin pies.  Those are not traditional Cajun dishes, but Cajuns by now are as American as they are Cajun.


Exotic fare for the common man: chicken and sausage gumbo.

Similarly, for Christmas, Santa Clause visits the Pulling household, dressed in the red and white trimmed garb that’s recognizable on any Santa at any mall in any American cities during the holiday season, coast to coast and sea to shining sea.  And, equally American at Christmas for our household is the distinctly-American commercial emphasis of shopping and spending.  Nowhere else in the world do people celebrate Christmas so freely by swiping credit cards and staking out Black Friday vigils and gift-buying sprees.

 Ethnic Strains

While the foundations are all-American, though, my family, like most other American families, is a cultural blend, each of which contributes to the way we observe the holidays.  My maternal grandmother was Spanish, a product of the Spanish-speaking Islenos who settled in St. Bernard Parish in the 1700’s and 1800’s.  Those industrious Spaniards fished, hunted, and trapped in the marshes and bays of lower St. Bernard.  Because of the bounty of seafood in their staple diet, many dishes we eat for the holidays have the flavor of St. Bernard.  Corn bread dressing, for instance, becomes oyster  dressing.  And any gumbo from St. Bernard is a seafood gumbo because of the bounty of crabs, shrimp, and oysters that came from the marshes and bays.

My wife’s maternal generational side, on the other hand, is country prairie Cajun.  Like the Islenos from my Daddy’s side, the Cajuns diet comes from the land that nurtured those subsistence and tenant farmers in generations past: la viande boucanee (smoked meat), wild game, boudin, and other distinctly Cajun delicacies that show up on the holiday tables from November through New Year’s.  And our prairie Cajun holiday gumbo, as often as not, is chicken and sausage gumbo rather than seafood gumbo, because the prairie Cajuns did not have the bounteous seafood at their doorstep as did my Isleno forbears, but they did have hogs, sheep, cattle, and vegetable gardens.

Modern Conventions: Contributions from Child-Rearing in the 1980’s and 90’s

The ancestral traditions aren’t the only contributors to holidaze on Hill Street, of course.  My two kids were born in the 1980’s, so the movies and TV shows of their generation have become engrained in the seasonal rituals.  Home Alone, along with its myriad of sequels, and the Griswold clan’s comic exploits supplanted the classics of my childhood, such as A Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street.  I don’t believe my kids would even recognize the titles of those silver screen relics, but every Christmas, no matter that they’re grown adults now, they search the TV listings this time of year to find the comedies they grew up with.  Year after year, over and over to the point that can recite entire passages of dialogue from the movies from memory, the kids hijack the TV programming schedule to view and review their oldies.  Those movies have become almost cliché to me, but I suppose they would look at my generation’s shows the same way.  And if they were writing this same piece a half of a generation from now, they would note the same kinds of holiday traditions evolution that makes up the stuff of an article like this.

In Conclusion . . .   

Yes, for every generation, holiday customs are the unique and evolutionary combination of practices, habits, and routines that trace their way through our lives like little rivulets of tradition flowing from ancestral springs.  And so the Pullings on Hill Street are connected to those ancestral springs both from the past and the present, allowing our former generations to fellowship with the present, even as the present shapes the future beyond our own generation.

And the end of it all: Happy Thanksgiving, and merry Christmas!





Surf n Turf Tuesday, Nov 17 2015 

Patio dwelling 2015.  Last weekend a culinary memory-maker: steak and shrimp!  We usually do one or the other.  This was the first time I remember doing both.

Get real, get it right, Louisiana: Edwards for Governor! Wednesday, Nov 11 2015 

I avoid blogging about politics.  So many fresh and uplifting topics beg for blog space.  But in this Louisiana gubernatorial election season, this state needs a fresh and uplifting change.  And that change ain’t Senator David Vitter, who in spite of his recent political feuds with the Clown Prince Bobby Jindal to make it appear that he’s different, looks more like the same old-same old right wing Republican buffonery we grew accustomed to with Jindal.

The right wing’s theme: Let’s cut, cut, cut, cut!   No matter that our State roads are unmaintained, filled with potholes.  That our colleges have shifted tuition increase burdens to students at the highest rate in the nation over the past 5 or 6 years.  That we have to wait in line for hours at DMV to renew our drivers’ licenses.  That our public school districts are dangling by financial threads while bizarre (publicly-funded) charter schools blossom like spring broadweeds  and vouchers suck funding from public institutions that were already un-funded.

No, I’m sick of it.  I was in Texas recently and drove through a high school campus.  Not to the campus, but through the campus, because its spacious layout spread over square city blocks out like a community college.  Buildings are dedicated to trades like Cosmetology.   We don’t have public school facilities like that in Louisiana.  Our ranting and raving Tea Party fools think that taxation is a dirty word!  So how do our un-funded high school campuses compare?  They don’t!  It’s embarrassing.

So I’m not going to vote for David Vitter.  I urge anyone who cares about education in Louisiana–education at any level, from kindergarten through college–to give John Bel Edwards the vote.  He was Jindal’s adversary in the legislature, and he’ll be education’s friend—-and Louisiana’s friend—-in the Governor’s Office.

What does Louisiana have to lose, compared to what we’ve lost in the past eight years, anyway?

John Bel Edwards for Governor!

John Bel Edwards for Governor!

Humble Rewards of the Profession: A Grandparent in English I Friday, Nov 6 2015 

I tell my younger teaching colleagues several times a week how hazardous teaching becomes once a teacher becomes a grandparent.  That doting permissiveness that enables our own grandchildren to manipulate us becomes a factor in the IMG_0188classroom where the much younger students, especially those with charming, childlike smiles and affectatious manners, sense there’s a grandparent in the room.  They have grandparents, too, so they know how the game is played!

I don’t mind, though.  They’re pleasant to hang out with, they laugh at some of my jokes, and best of all, they do respect my need to teach them things they need to know.  From day to day, they work as hard at having fun as they do at learning.

So everybody wins!  We laugh, we learn, we grow—-even the grandparent teacher, who knows from these humble rewards that God’s put him in the right place at the right time.

November Hump Daze and the Football Drought Wednesday, Nov 4 2015 

Hump days in October and November are not like hump days in other times of the year, when Wednesday night is Wednesday night—-just another mid-week evening that anticipiates the soon-to-arrive end of the week.

But in football season, after Monday Night football, fans must endure two whole nights sans football until Thursday night when the NFL and college both televise matches.  So Wednesday night is the second night of the work-week’s blackout.  Sure, NFL Network and other sports channels show re-runs of games from last weekend, but watching those games to appease the appetite for football is kind of like washing your hands with gloves on–The mechanical act is executed, but the effect is completely void of desired result.

So one more hump day night until life’s seasonal football meaning returns.  May we find grace amidst tedious mid-week hours to persist this one last night!

Saturday is the crown jewel of the football week, with coverage morning to night. Wednesday night is the season of mid-week depression!

Saturday is the crown jewel of the football week, with coverage morning to night. Wednesday night is the season of mid-week depression!

The Tataille of Richard’s Gully Wednesday, Oct 28 2015 

The Tataille of Richard’s Gully

October 2015, for English II at St. Edmund Catholic School
An Exercise in Writing Folk Tales

                In the Cajun prairie town of Eunice, Louisiana, a narrow bridge on the southwest edge of town traverses the jagged course of Richard’s Gully.   On the west bank of the Gully at that crossing, for as many years as the oldest old-timer can recall, a commercial slaughterhouse has conducted its business.  Before modern environmental laws were passed to stop the practice, the slaughterhouse employees cast the unwanted tripe, guts, and gore left over from the butchers’ bloody work into the Gully.  Tradition maintains that those discards became the dietary fare of a legendary Tataille who inhabited those parts in the early years of Eunice.

The Gully at flood stage

The Gully at flood stage

The Tataille was too lazy to hunt or to work to buy his food, so he began keeping quarters under the bridge so that all he had to do to gather his groceries was to wait for the slaughterhouse employees to come out the side door with their wheelbarrow laden with butcher scraps. The employee wheeled his load up to the edge of the Gully and pitched the contents down the embankment into the murky stream.  The Tataille, who was never seen in the light of day, waited for night fall to ease out from his hiding place under the bridge to retrieve the scraps for his next day’s meal.

Although the Tataille was never seen in the light of day, old Nonc Eraste Guidry claims to have seen the beastly creature one October night in 1917. Nonc Eraste was night-hunting for frogs, working his way up the Gully when he came to the bridge.  He had a coal oil lantern, so the light wasn’t too good, but Nonc Eraste swore to the police chief, Duralde Fontenot, that he had spotted the Tataille clambering from the slaughterhouse dumpsite to go back under the bridge with an armload of pig and goat carcasses.  The Tataille, according to Nonc Eraste, looked partly like a grotesque old man with enormous warts covering his face and bare arms, partly like a prehistoric bear with vicious fangs protruding from his upper jaws, and partly like a demon, since his skin had a sick, yellowish hue and his eyes glowed red, like glowing embers in a fire place.

Nonc Eraste didn’t hang around long enough to study the Tataille for any better descriptive information, because Nonc Eraste had just about foir-aid in his pants with fear. He scrambled back the Gully in the opposite direction as fast as he could, even dropping his gunny sack of frogs along the way, so terrified and anxious he was to get away.

Theories have been advanced that the Tataille is involved in a 1929 EPD cold case involving the disappearance of a hobo whose remains were never found. The hobo showed up in Eunice near the train depot in the middle of town and was seen off and on for a couple of weeks looking for odd jobs to make a few coins before hopping another freight train to journey on to his next destination.  The hobo didn’t have any place to stay, and a local merchant, Mr. Alcide Comeaux, testified that the hobo had indicated that he was going to sleep under the bridge at Maple Avenue that night because rain was expected.  The hobo was doing some handy-work at Comeaux’s dry goods store, and the hobo was expected back to work the next day.  But he never showed up for work, so Mr. Comeaux reported him as missing.  The police didn’t want to investigate too closely, though, because for one, the hobo was an out-of-towner, so nobody cared much about him personally, but most of all, investigating the disappearance meant somebody would have to go under the Richard’s Gully Bridge.  The bravest law man had better judgment than to go poking around beneath the Maple Avenue bridge timbers!

Eraste Guidry is still the only credible eye-witness to having seen the Tataille, but circumstantial evidence showed up off and on for a few years until the early 1930’s. In 1925, three high school students from St. Edmund School were night-fishing from the bridge around 10:30 p.m. when they heard noisy, sloshing sounds like someone (or something) trudging through shallow water about 30 feet up the gully from the bridge.  They heard the noise ever so briefly, just four or five seconds, and suddenly it stopped.  They couldn’t see through the dark, but when they came back the next day to try to figure out who or what they had heard, they noticed the slaughterhouse employee dumping his wheelbarrow load of tripe into the gully.   The boys estimated that the sound they heard came from right about the spot where the carrion hit the water.  Could the noise they heard have been the Tataille, gathering up his nightly ration, but then stopping once he realized the boys were watching from the bridge?  Who knows!  But many locals swear that’s what happened.

The last account of the Tataille comes from 1932.  The State had taken over maintenance of Maple Avenue as a State Highway, and a couple of DOT inspectors had come to inspect the bridge.  They didn’t know anything about the Tataille, so in their innocent ignorance, they clambered down the embankment beneath the bridge to inspect the structure.  They didn’t see the Tataille, but they found the stench of charogne beneath the bridge so unbearable that they couldn’t finish their work.  They said the banks of the stream under the bridge were strewn with scraps and bits off decomposed animal flesh, which accounted for the smell.  They also noted muddy tracks running up and down the stream—the tracks were shaped weird—kind of the shape of human feet but leaving imprints that more likely came from talon-like claws rather than normal toes.  Did those rotten scraps and claw marks in the mud account also for the existence of the Tataille, who transported and consumed his meals of slaughterhouse scraps right there under the bridge?  Who knows!!

No believable reports of the Tataille were ever noted after the bridge inspectors.  Other bridge inspectors came along off and on over the years.  They all went beneath the bridge and did their work, never once noting anything unusual or peculiar.  Around that same time, also, the State passed those environmental laws, so the slaughterhouse had to start incinerating their waste rather than dumping into the Gully.  So it made sense that the Tataille, his food supply cut off, either died of starvation or moved on to find another source of nutrition.  Old timers from Frey Cove swear the same Tataille moved under the twin bridges across Bayou des Cannes just past Ritchie on Ruppert Lake Road, because many locals continued to dump household refuse, including food scraps, into a dump site along the bayou bottom, but those accounts seem far too sensational and lack credibility entirely.  They’re not really accounts, but rather the unsubstantiated claims and assertions of locals who wished they could share in the fame and acclaim of the legend of the Tataille from Richard’s Gully.

Keeping the Sabbath Holy Monday, Oct 26 2015 

Last week I got to write along with a class of eighth graders writing about Saturday-things-do-do. I publish here the by-product of that entertaining session.

“Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” Yep, that’s one of the Ten Commandments. But in Moses’s day, the Sabbath was Saturday, not Sunday. So how do I keep the Sabbath holy? Read on!patio

When I wake up on Saturday, two immediate thoughts reign: coffee, and Game Day. After two cups of Rouse’s dark roast brew and an overripe banana to break the fast, I turn on the TV on the patio and tune in to ESPN for a couple of hours of pre-game gab. By mid-morning, I’ve had enough of the pre-game talk—-after all, talk is cheap—-so I usually do two things before the games start: go for a jog and do some outdoor or yardwork chores. In football season, the weather is often perfect for running, so I cover a 5K route in a little over half an hour. The run also gets my heart rate up enough to manufacture the energy and motivation to tackle the yard work.

After yardwork and running, the true meaning of Sabbath in October begins to crystallize: Just like the real meaning of Christmas is Jesus, the real meaning of October is FOOTBALL!! I usually watch a warm-up game in the afternoon to get the juices flowing, grilling some juicy steaks or pork chops while I watch.

But the crowning act of Sabbath worship is watching those LSU Tigers. Geaux, LSU!  So ends a true day of holiness, especially when LSU wins. And doubly-holy those Sabbaths when Saban and the detested Tide fall in defeat!

So finally, at the end of such a blessed and holy day, what else can I say but “Amen!” Thank you, Jesus, for a day of rest, recreation, and SEC football!

A Cult of Honesty Monday, Oct 19 2015 

Today’s generation of smart phones cost $500 to $650. I wouldn’t lay mine down in the church vestibule on Sunday morning for fear of its disappearance.

But at this school, students arriving in the morning sign in on a list and then drop their phones in a plastic tub in the entrance vestibule. Little if any supervision.

Once the morning tardy bell rings, an office assistant picks up the tub and secures the phones until the afternoon when the tub is placed in the vestibule at school day’s end so students can pick up their phones. Totally, an honor system.

And furthermore, up and down the halls lined with student lockers, not a padlock in sight! They’re not lockers because they’re not locked–they’re just storage cabinets, open to anyone who wants to look (or steal) inside.

But no one steals.

Honor is not dead at St. Edmund.

Honor is not dead at St. Edmund.

What an utter cult of honesty! We harken to times and places like this in yesteryear. How unique that such a place and such a cult of honesty persists in these days!

Patio Dwelling and the Rock Garden Tuesday, Oct 13 2015 

The lawn adjacent to the north side of the patio was shot.  Tree roots had invaded the soil and hijacked the soil nutrients that once sustained healthy grass.  What turf remained, the dogs destroyed with industrious digging that left unsightly craters resembling a lunar landscape.  Nothing green in sight.  So we had this lovely outdoor living area on the patio, but the adjacent turf presented a disgusting sight,  defaced by the ravages of nature and dogs.

Notice to Sadie and Marley the dogs: No digging in this colorful rock garden!

Notice to Sadie and Marley the dogs: No digging in this colorful rock garden!

The solution? A rock garden!  A sheet of landscaping liner, 30 bags of red lava rocks, and several potted plants later, the barren turf blossomed with color.  And the dogs don’t even like walking on the rocks, much less trying to dig.

We are not yet too old to imagine fresh possibilities!

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