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!

Boudin Wars in English IV Thursday, Oct 8 2015 

Yesterday, I gave in to my senior class’s persuasive overtures to have a “boudin party” in class. I turned it into a writing assignment, of course, which we called “boudin wars” as we analyzed the culinary and taste features of a variety of local retail specimens. Of course, I wrote along with them. The result is worth publishing somewhere, so here goes.

Boudin Wars!

The iconic bull marks the location of Eunice Superette Slaughterhouse, home of the best boudin.

The iconic bull marks the location of Eunice Superette Slaughterhouse, home of the best boudin.

I may be biased as a 35 year resident of Eunice, but I believe my claim is not far from the truth: The best boudin in Acadiana, bar none, comes from this prairie burg. But an issue remains to be resolved: Of the several premium brands that are manufactured here in the Prairie Cajun Capitol, which one of THE best of THE BEST?

Allons voir! (Let’se see!). We did a scientific taste test this morning in English IV at St. Edmund Catholic High School, and the verdict is in! (Admittedly, it’s my verdict—some may disagree, but it’s OK if they just have to be wrong. I forgive them☺.)

The first brand I sampled was from Mel’s, the meat market just across Bayou des Cannes on Highway 13. I never tasted Mel’s before, so this was unique. When I bit off the first bite, my immediate impression was “This is bland!” It had a non-savory, ricey kind of blandness, at least at first. I took two or three more bites to make sure I gave it a fair shake. Admittedly, after a few moments, my taste buds began to sense a slow burn—the salty/pimentee came kind of like a savory afterthought. It was really quite pleasant, and I partially forgave the product for its negative first impression.

On to species two. I sampled T-Boy’s, a brand I tasted years ago when T-Boy’s Meat Market was in Mamou. In recent years, T-Boy opened a shop in Eunice and now rivals some of the established markets like Superette Slaughterhouse and Eunice Poultry. I wasn’t expecting much of my taste-test for T-Boy’s, because years ago when my mother-in-law bought it frequently, I wasn’t crazy about it. In those days, it was an old-school boudin with a more traditional casing—the kind you could eat. It also had a stronger liver flavor than some of the other local brands, so I wasn’t crazy about it. But guess what? T-Boy’s has changed the recipe! The sample I tasted was much closer in texture and taste to Superette or the old Johnson’s Grocery (which back in the day was the real king of boudin!). So I was slightly surprised—and pleasantly so—by T-Boy’s.

For my final test, I sampled Eunice Superette Slaughterhouse’s finest. Superette Slaughterhouse, the iconic market on the banks of Richard’s Gulley with the life-size Black Angus Bull statue presiding over the gravel parking lot. OK, I admit, I’m biased. I’ve argued with people for years that Superette is the best of the best. But I determined to be objective, and so I believe my final analysis is fair. I took several bites of the Superette boudin and thoughtfully contemplated the tasty components. Ratio of rice to pork: Perfect. Amount of heat (from red pepper): perfect, just enough to not quite make the sinuses run, but close, if that makes any sense. I did have to spit out one unpleasant glob of fat that came out with one of the bites, but that was the only negative.

In the final analysis, then, my rating is as follows:
Third place: Mel’s
Second place: T-Boy’s
First place: The winner and still champion, Superette Slaughterhouse

So bring on your best, Karchener’s Grocery in Krotz Springs, Boudin King in Crowley, the Why-Not-Stop in Vidrine, Vautrot’s Grocery in Church Point, Don’s or Best Stop in Scott: Eunice Superette Slaughterhouse will take all boudin comers and RULE!

Fire and Football: Patio Dwelling’s Latest Dimension Friday, Oct 2 2015 

We are vigilant in our ever-constant lookout for outdoor living space upgrades. Since we converted a former dog pen into that gardenesque “happy place” that has shown up in posts from time to time for the past three years, our determination’s been upward and onward for improvements.

So this season we added a fire pit. Last night I baptized it with a small hardwood fire to celebrate the season’s first cool snap along with Thursday night football. Not bad!IMG_0153

Usually this time of year, the mosquito population hits its seasonal zenith, so I was worried after dark that I wouldn’t be able to hang. But, the Deep Woods Off—-and maybe the smoke from the fire?—-kept the insects at bay until I was ready to come in on my own terms, not the mosquitoes’.

Tomorrow is Saturday morning and the temp should be really fresh. A cheerful fire, a day full of football, and the first Saturday of October: These three are meant for one another.