I’ve driven the highways and bayous of South Louisiana regularly for almost all of my adult life: first as a college recruiter in the late 1970’s (I met my wife on one of those memorable road trips in 1976!), as an old field hand “running” drilling mud in the mid 1980’s, and for the past almost 18 years as a college administrator traveling often for administrative high school visits.
My itineraries for these 30+ years of driving South Louisiana highways have led more often than not to
colorful off-the-beaten-path prairie communities on secondary highways, towns and villages like Iota, Church Point, Prairie Basse and Prairie Ronde, Midland, and Erath. I have grown to love these byways so much more than the grand thoroughfares and Interstate highways that go places faster and farther, because the highways and the communities through which they run have culture, character, and friendly folk.
Last Thursday, I drove what was probably a 104 mile long farewell tour of some of those familiar places as I ran errands meeting familiar friends and colleagues at schools in Acadia, St. Landry, and Evangeline Parishes. I use “farewell tour” in the sense that, owing to impending retirement and the approaching end to the school year, I may never see some of those faces again….ever! That was a sobering thought as I bid farewell after farewell in the schools I visited.
So that thought lent a measure of sentimentality to the mission. Not the kind of mushy sentimentality that makes my eyes tear up, but a gratifying sense of fulfillment because of the relationships and friendships, professionally and socially, that I’ve forged over the years with these dear folks in these dear places.
People and places, huh? No wonder that people and places are so often the subjects of poems and stories and memoirs.
People and places should be meaningful stuff in our lives. My life is richer for knowing these.