More About Waveland

I have written about Waveland, Mississippi on more than one occasion. (A few such tales here, here, and here.) That is because the place holds so many memories from my childhood. During the summers, we generally went over to our little cottage in Waveland every other weekend. As soon as MB closed the office Friday night, we hit the road and did not return until Sunday night, usually quite late. MB would close the office in the summer for a two-week vacation, and guess where we went? Yeah, you guessed it.

I was poking around Google Maps, looking to see what the old hood looked like these days. It has changed a lot! Most of the houses there now were not there then and the area was more wooded. But it still brought back memories. The screen grab above shows the neighborhood. The big red square was twenty acres and originally belonged to my aunt and uncle (Margie and Son “Boo” Manard). The smaller yellow square was our property. The blue roof is the original house built by MB and his friend, Pete. Back then the yard was full of pine trees. Hurricane Camille eliminated most of those. None of the other houses inside the red square were there, and only two of those across the street existed then.

In Waveland, we fished, swam, crabbed, floundered at night, ate hamburgers, soft-serve ice cream after swims, and cold watermelons, and once watched Boo chase Jim, the horse, around his twenty acres. The kids drank pop rouge and Nehis, and the adults consumed adult beverages, mostly cold Falstaff or Jax beer (even Regal before they closed the brewery) all while exchanging gossip or playing cards. On “party nights” (when we had guests with us) they brought out the “big guns,” which was usually Seagrams 7 and 7Up or Coke. And that could lead to trouble, like the night Maxine D. fell in the bathtub and couldn’t get out. I guess she was drunk enough she didn’t hurt anything. It took three men to get her out. The fact that all four were snockered and giggling like it was the funniest thing they had ever experienced tended to hamper the operation.

When not engaged in the listed activities above, we boys were roaming the woods with our BB guns and sometimes getting into our own form of trouble but having a wonderful time. We hung out at a place near the back of the property we called “Fairyland.” (Yellow circle in the image above.) It was actually used as a dump by some of the locals, including us before we got environmentally conscious and started hauling it to the town dump. No garbage collection back then. There were a bunch of small ponds back there and lots of crawfish chimneys. It looked like a fairyland to us. I’m not sure I ever went to Waveland that I didn’t visit Fairyland.

Back behind Fairyland was a small creek that drained toward the Gulf and went under the railroad tracks. The culvert under the tracks was big enough we could stand up inside with only the need to stoop over a little. That culvert was the scene of the famous “you’ll shoot your eye out” gunfight Buck and I had—and I nearly shot his eye out. (The smaller red circle in the image above.)

No AC. in the “old days.” I slept under a huge window fan that sucked the air out of the house and across me in my bunk bed. The vacuum created in the house was filled by the cool night air. What a life!

There was no town water then, either. Our little piece of heaven was a one-acre plot carved out of the corner of a twenty-acre square originally owned by my uncle. He had an artesian well over near his house, which was on the opposite corner of that twenty acres. MB drilled a shallow well on our property, but the water tasted like rotten eggs. He decided maybe stringing all that pipe from the other corner of twenty acres wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Thereafter, we drew our water from an artesian well.

They sold the place in 1973. I wanted to buy it, but I was fresh out of the Air Force and, at the time, unemployed. Waveland is gone. My main regret is my kids didn’t get a chance to experience something like Waveland when they were young.

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1943 Gets a New Cover

I recently updated 1943 with a new cover and newly edited interior files. The cover change was driven by a feeling the existing cover, which I liked, was not expressing the story very well. The book is written as a contemporary romantic comedy, but the cover suggested something more military and probably a turn-off to its audience. I added two secondary characters to the cover” Pug the dog and the monkey, which never had a name in the book beyond “The Monkey.”

The new cover will start showing up on Amazon in a few days. The paperback still needs to have a proof review by me, and that may take another week.

Yes, I did the illustration and cover design.

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Pete

Like most of us, my dad had a best friend. His name was Pete. They grew up together in the neighborhood along Orleans Avenue near City Park. Pete’s folks owned a barroom at the end of Orleans and North St Patrick where Orleans meets Marconi Drive. The building is still there and now occupied by an insurance agency. After the Casteix family decamped from the pharmacy/residence on Bourbon Street (the place where MB tried to launch the squeezin’s from his Cherry Bounce from the attic across Bourbon Street—and failed), they moved to a house on Orleans. This was in the thirties. Since neither MB nor Pete is here to ask, I assume that is when they met.

Both played baseball, and Pete went semi-pro for a while. MB was a semi-pro boxer in the featherweight division. Then came World War II, and MB went to the European Theater of Operations, and Pete went to the Pacific. They reconnected after the war and remained fast friends for the rest of their lives.

Pete was a very interesting fellow. He worked for the Post Office and did contracting jobs on the side. He had a 1957 Chevy BelAir (Sea Foam Green, of course) and a 1957 Chevy former telephone service truck for his contracting jobs. More on that later.

MB and Pete almost never bought anything new. They were “tight” and bought (or scrounged) used and/or fabricated what they needed. MB did buy a new boat, but he had mismatched scrounged motors on the back, and not even the same brand. One was an Evenrude and the other a Johnson. While the stuff they “manufactured” might have been functional, it wasn’t pretty, but “pretty” wasn’t their objective. This was definitely a case of function over form.

Pete helped MB build our “summer house” in Waveland. This was back in the mid-1950s.  In fact, Pete had a bedroom designated as his own in that house. Most of the materials came from a house Pete tore down. They stacked all the salvaged windows onto a trailer to haul them from New Orleans to Waveland, Mississippi. Since it was an “MB and Pete enterprise,” the trailer was homemade (function over form, remember?). It carried stuff well enough, but lacked that final je ne sais quoi—in this case, shocks. In other words, it bounced a lot. Also, notice that I said they “stacked” the windows. They were not stood on end or edge as they should have been but laid flat for traveling. Mistake. After the hour and a half drive over Highway 90 to Waveland with all that trailer bouncing, there was not an unbroken pane of glass left in the windows. They had to re-glaze them all.

MB and Pete did all the electrical wiring in the house themselves (neither was a licensed electrician as we shall see in a moment) and finished the job late in the evening about suppertime. We were staying in my uncle’s house nearby, so they ate supper and returned to the construction job after dark to test their wiring. Yeah, you guessed it. The switch in the kitchen turned on the front bedroom lights. The switch in the bedroom turned on the bathroom lights before it blew all the fuses, throwing them into the pitch black Waveland night. MB tried to walk through the walls between the studs to get to the fuse box and forgot they had put spreaders between the studs that day. One caught him right across the bridge of his nose.

Pete was a consummate scrounger and always looking for some “free prize” in life. Other’s cast-offs might be his diamond-in-the-rough. After a weekend in Waveland, we had to carry our garbage to the dump—no county garbage collection back then. Pete always managed to find some “prize” at the dump, and the standing joke was we always came back with more than we hauled to the dump.

Pete’s garage was a tinker/scrounger’s dream and full of just about anything you could think of that he had accumulated from various scrounging expeditions—like to the Waveland dump. That ’57 Chevy BelAir was in there after he moved up to a newer model. It had a cracked block, and I have no idea why he kept it. He lived on a busy street, and every time he left the garage doors open for any reason, someone would stop and ask about buying that ’57 Chevy. He also kept that ‘57 truck, but it was in the yard. When Pete’s wife passed away in the eighties, he offered both the truck and the car to me. Unfortunately, I had no money to restore them. I managed to get the truck and store it in a garage belonging to my wife’s family. My expectation was one day I would find the resources to restore it. Never did. Sold it. It was a unique truck with that telephone company box on the back instead of a pickup bed and probably more desirable than a regular ’57 pickup. The car went to Pete’s grandson, and I have no idea what happened to it after that.

Pete was someone you just enjoyed being around. He had a great sense of humor and was a perfect partner for MB in their many adventures. Pete passed away some ten years or so before MB. I know he missed him a lot.

NOTE: That image of Pete was in MB’s wartime photo album. It looks like he is wearing a military khaki uniform, so I think this was taken during the war when Pete was overseas, probably in India.

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“Buffalo Woman” is LIVE!

It took a while, but we are finally there. Book 4 of the Catahoula Series, Buffalo Woman, is now live on Amazon. This is the fourth in the series and takes our heroes forward five years to 1872 and the tour of America by Grand Duke Alexei of Russia. Ethan and Angel get sucked into his vortex and head out West to go buffalo hunting and then New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

I have posted excerpts from the book here,  here, and here, and below is another. This one finds Angel demonstrating her skills with the sling to the Grand Duke’s party. Enjoy.

*****

Alexei then remembered Angel’s claim of her prowess with the sling and that he had previously requested a demonstration. “Miss Angelique, you told me you could hit a pigeon at thirty paces with your sling. Would you be so kind as to demonstrate the weapon of King David for us?” That was followed by a few shouts of encouragement I imagine meant to express doubt that she could do what she said.

I looked at her, and she was blushing. “You bragged and now you have to back it up.”

She stepped forward and bowed to the Grand Duke, then turned and did likewise to the gathered crowd. She stepped over to Clayton, and just as he was about to take a sip of whiskey from his tin cup, she snatched it from him. After sniffing its contents in an exaggerated manner, she pinched her nose and tossed the liquid into the fire, which flared with a bright flame burning off the alcohol.

As I watched her antics, I was beginning to think that she was quite the show person. I noticed that Buffalo Bill must have also thought so. He was watching her with arms crossed and a curious expression with half smile upon his lips.

Angel continued her show. She held the cup aloft for all to see, even tossed it into the air and caught it in a most theatrical manner. Holding the cup aloft, she marched over to the woodpile for the campfire and placed it upon the top log in such a manner that the open end of the cup would face her. In the exaggerated manner of an accomplished thespian, she gestured toward her cup target then stepped off thirty long paces as the crowd counted along with her. Everyone was thoroughly enjoying her show.

Very dramatically, she took her coat off and tossed it to me. With yet more drama, she withdrew her sling from her trouser’s pocket and stretched it out and held over her head for all to see that it was only two thongs and a leather piece to hold the projectile. The audience applauded. She then withdrew a .44 caliber lead ball from her pocket and pinched between forefinger and thumb, she held it aloft for her audience to examine.

Alexei stood to the side obviously much amused by her antics, and Cody was very clearly interested in what she was doing.

Angel carefully and deliberately placed the ball into the leather pouch of the sling and went to twirling it. I had watched her use her sling on many occasions, but I had never seen her twirl it the way she did that evening. While still facing the audience, she spun it on her right side, then on her left side, then alternating sides, then overhead. That spinning sling held her audience in its hypnotic grasp. As I said, she wasn’t even facing the target, it being on her left side some thirty paces away. Suddenly, she let out a Rebel yell, spun, and stepped toward the tin cup, letting fly the ball at her target, which promptly disappeared from the woodpile with a satisfying clang. Her audience cheered and applauded. Angel threw up her arms in victory. Cody was applauding enthusiastically while shaking his head in disbelief. Alexei stepped up to Angel and took her hand and held it aloft. She then curtsied like the finest lady-in-waiting in any European court. I reckon then that she had learned something in that expensive finishing school after all.

Buffalo Bill ordered the cup retrieved and brought to him for examination. He found a deep dent almost dead center in the bottom of the cup.

After receiving her accolades, she came over and stood beside me with a broad grin on her lips.

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Never did it that way before.”

“And you attempted such before an audience?”

She looked up at me with the expression of a child caught in some mischief. “Too much champagne. I think maybe I’m a little drunk.”

*****

And Book 5 is already in the works…

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Black Talon

I used to be an avid deer hunter but gave it up about 20 years ago. I just sort of burned out, and my interests shifted elsewhere. If you hunt or just like shooting, you have probably accumulated a few firearms. Among them is likely one that is very special to you, one that when you handle it, your mind is flooded with memories, hopefully, good ones. I have such a rifle.

It is a rather strange creature that started out its life just over 100 years ago, in 1917 to be exact. It is a Model 1917 rifle, often referred to as the U. S. Enfield or American Enfield (More on that later). It began life as a military rifle, probably serving with the Army. Its history back beyond 1970, when I came in possession of it, is known to me only through what has been recorded by historians writing about the M1917 in general. When the U.S. entered WWI, the standard infantry rifle was the Model 1903 Springfield, a marvelous product of American gun making. However, upon entering the war, America was woefully short of M1903s, and it would be impossible to increase production fast enough to meet the war needs. But there was a solution. It resided in the form of a rifle Remington Arms had been producing for the British to supplement their shortage of what the Brits called the Mk 1 Short Magazine Lee Enfield, or SMLE (pronounced “Smelly”). They had been working on a replacement rifle in caliber .276 Enfield instead of their then standard .303 caliber when the war started. This rifle was called the Pattern 13 or P13. They quickly canned the idea of changing calibers as impractical with a war cranking up.  With British gun makers pumping out SMLEs as fast as they could and maxed out, they approached American gun manufacturers to make the new rifle but in standard British caliber .303. That stop-gap rifle became the Pattern 14 Enfield or P14.

About the time America entered the war in 1917, the British had finally reached the point that their supply of rifles was meeting demand, and they canceled the remaining orders with American suppliers. This was fortuitous for America. Unable to meet the demand for M1903 rifles for U. S. needs, it was determined that since Remington, Winchester, and Eddystone had all the tooling in place and ready to make rifles, it would be much quicker to simply convert the British P14 from the British .303 caliber to the standard American caliber .30/06, and a new rifle was born, the M1917. Mine is a Winchester. More M1917s served with American Expeditionary Forces in Europe than M1903s.

When the war ended, America reverted back to the M1903 as their primary rifle and relegated the m1917 to war reserve status. It was brought out of reserve status during WWII and issued to some rear area troops, used for training, and loaned to allies. With WWII ended and the American semi-auto M1 Garand rifle developed just before WWII in active service, the U. S. began ridding itself of the surplus M1917 and M1903 rifles. Many of these found their way into the civilian market. The M1917 was particularly liked by gunsmiths to build custom rifles in magnum calibers. The reason it was preferred is that the action was very robust and able to stand the higher pressures of these magnums. My particular Winchester M1917 went through this process and was converted to a sporting rifle with a scope sometime before I acquired it. It was left in .30/06 caliber and retained its original barrel.

I traded for my rifle in 1970 and took it to Alaska with me when I was transferred to King Salmon AFS in 1971. I hunted with it there in the fall of 1972 and took a nice caribou bull. After I was discharged from the Air Force, I hunted whitetail deer with it in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, taking numerous deer. The rifle always shot well even though the barrel’s bore was pitted from the use of corrosive ammo during its military career. Along about 1990, I decided the old girl needed a facelift and had her re-barreled with a brand new barrel. Then I had the whole works Parkerized. Parkerizing is a protective metal finish used by the military on small arms. It is usually a dull greenish-gray or charcoal black finished. Mine was a working rifle and not a safe queen, thus I thought Parkerizing was more appropriate than a high-gloss blue, which would have been prettier. In addition to re-barreling and refinishing, I bought a new stock for her, a nice laminated wood stock, which I shaped to my desires and needs. I chose resin impregnated laminated wood instead of some fancy grade of walnut because it is virtually impervious to weather and warping. I did this for the same reason I chose the Parkerized finish. I finished off the rebuild with a really nice new Burris scope. In effect, I had a brand new rifle, and the only remaining parts of the old was the heart, the action.

It is fairly common for gunners to name their favorite firearms. I had never done that for my 1917 and decided it was time. In testing ammunition loads in my “new” rifle, I discovered she really liked Winchester Black Talons and easily put three shots in a group well under an inch at 100 yards. So, “Black Talon” she became, and I even had a small nameplate made and mounted on the side of the stock.

Black Talon is semi-retired now, but every time I take her out of the safe for a cleaning, my mind is flooded with the memories of the many adventures we shared together.

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The MB Cherry Bounce Cocktail

I said I would be experimenting with the Cherry Bounce in a cocktail. And it came out great. It is quite simple to make if you have some of my Cherry Bounce. What? You don’t have any? Sorry ’bout that.

The cocktail is named after my father and his “famous” Cherry Bounce. He liked to drink Old Fashioneds, so the MB Cherry Bounce Cocktail is based on an Old Fashioned, which, BTW, is the “hot” retro cocktail right now. Mine is a bit different.

Ingredients:

1.5-2 ozs Sazerac Rye Whiskey (Yeah, you can use another, but we designed the Sazerac package.)

2 teaspoons Cherry Bounce (Rye Recipe Version)

2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

2 dashes Orange Bitters

a few cherries from the saved mash from the Cherry Bounce

Stir with ice in an Old Fashioned glass and add a twist of lemon peel. (The lemon peel is a Sazerac Cocktail thing. It adds a bit of tartness to the drink.)

The cherry flavor comes through and goes well with the rye whiskey. I may do some fine tuning, but I think I have a winner.

 

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Cherry Bounce – Update #3

Some months ago I began an experiment making Cherry Bounce. This was driven by the memory of my father telling stories of making Cherry Bounce when he was a kid. He continued to make it later when I was a child. I don’t recall ever tasting MB’s recipe and, unfortunately, I do not have it to duplicate. So, I was driven to the internet to find something I could use as a guide to making my own. What I found were many different recipes for making Cherry Bounce, some variations of which I used in two previous tests batches. Both came out good and were quite drinkable, but I was just not sure I had achieved “cherry nirvana” yet.

My two previous attempts were quite similar. Both used dried tart cherries (which my wife scoffed at, but that was all I had to work with). One was cooked with Sazerac Rye Whiskey added after, and the other was not cooked and had vodka for the alcohol. After several months stored away “aging” in mason jars, I tasted the two samples. Both were good, but the rye version was much more complex, and the clear winner, in my opinion.

Fresh Bing cherries are now available in the stores, so I decided to try another test with fresh cherries. Most of the “old” recipes called for fresh, tart, wild cherries, and sweet Bings would be a departure—but they were available. We began a third test batch today.

Janis, my spouse and cooking expert, and I reviewed several recipes and made some adjustments we thought might be an improvement. As mentioned, we started out with fresh, sweet, Bing cherries. As in the two previous test batches, I used turbinado sugar rather than refined white sugar. Turbinado has a bit of the raw molasses taste to its flavor and may not add much to the final product, but I like it and well, that’s what I wanted to use. Get over it.

Part of the decision process was how to handle the fresh cherries. I bought a nice cherry pitter from Amazon and pitted all the cherries we used. Since we wanted to save the leftover cherry mash for other uses after we made the Cherry Bounce, I elected to keep the pitted cherries whole rather than chop or just split them. I leaned heavily toward a recipe that called for cooking, reasoning the flavors might be more intense. And since the rye whiskey gave a more complex flavor in my previous tests, I decided to stick with it as the alcohol base.

Cherries pitted in my brand new, fancy-dancy, semi-automatic, cherry pitter, I cooked them down over a low heat with the turbinado sugar and some lemon juice. (The cooked mash tastes absolutely divine!) The Sazerac Rye Whiskey was added to the cooled mash. That has been put away to age.

Now the hard part—waiting!

I will publish the exact recipe once I have determined I have it refined to my satisfaction. Meanwhile, I plan to run another series of tests, using the cherry mash from the original rye test batch and some from this new batch. These tests will be for a new cocktail I have tentatively named “MB’s Cherry Bounce Cocktail.” He loved Old Fashioned Cocktails, and my recipe will be based on an Old Fashioned. More on that once I begin that test, which will probably be today as I celebrate July 4th.

Cheers for now.

 

 

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Living on New Orleans Time

It’s a book written by one of my old college roommates and still a friend I speak to almost daily via email, Richard Caire. Though born and raised in New Orleans, Richard decamped for Memphis as a Katrina refugee and returned only long enough to collect what was left of his “drowned” possessions.

Richard is a very talented musician, writer, photographer, Photoshop guru, graphic artist (we studied art together in college), and all-around dispenser of verbal bravo sierra. He has a very weird sense of humor, kinda like me, which is one reason we have remained friends across the decades. This comes out in his photography and writings. He sees and feels things most of the rest of us never even notice as we pass them by in our mundane existence. He captures those images in his photography and his writings for the rest of us to finally appreciate what we missed.

Richard has for years been sending emails to another of our roommates, his brother, and me that contained images he had taken of various subjects around New Orleans when he lived here. He uses his Photoshop skills to make a “photo” into something more than what it started out to be. Some would call it “art”. I do. He often writes a very clever commentary to go with each of these creations that is filled with NOLA culture—and NOLA memories if you are from here.

Sam, the third roommate, and I recently encouraged Richard to compile all this into a book. Well, he took us seriously. For the last couple of months, I have been drafted into reading beta version after beta version as he developed his book. And since I had already “plowed the self-publishing row”, he had a ton of questions for me on how to do this. He didn’t understand that I was no expert, but I babbled out convincing-sounding advice. Well, low-and-behold, he finished it (and is working on a second one already).

Living on New Orleans Time is a wonderful collection of NOLA images and culture but not the kind you get from tourist brochures or carriage rides through the French Quarter. Richard’s images are “off the beaten track”, and his musings are not standard travel brochure fare. They are the words and things lived and felt by a New Orleans native. The book was self-published and is 198 pages of NOLA images and feelings. It is a tad pricey, but that was driven by the production cost of a book printed in full color with lots of images. But well worth the price.

I certainly enjoyed the beta process of reading and studying Richard’s work, and I think you will enjoy the finished product. Below is an excerpt with an accompanying image from the book published with Richard’s permission. Enjoy.

 

 

 If The Oyster Won’t Come To Baby 

– 12 September 1989 –

At 2000 hours on a Saturday, 26 September 2015, The Pearl Oyster Bar & Restaurant, at 119 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA closed. No drama, no fanfare. Just POOF! Gone …

As I stood in front of The Pearl Oyster Bar and Restaurant this day, The Pearl’s unforgettable sign still brightened this section of the Bayou on St. Charles Avenue near Canal Street. As I was about to press the shutter release, what appeared but a man and his little boy walking toward The Pearl. I still wonder if that little boy chowed down on his first dozen ‘erstas’ with crackers, ketchup, horseradish, and lemon juice.

My best memories of The Pearl are the times I ate there after playing music with Bat, Henri, Eddie, David, and Charlie. In later years, I’d stop there for a ‘breakfast po’boy’ and coffee on the way home after playing at the club on Bourbon Street.

The Pearl’s traditional menu included staples like gumbo, crab cakes, and roast beef sandwiches – but it wasn’t until you ordered one of their hot pastrami sandwiches on rye with a dill pickle wedge –and a Barq’s root beer – that you appreciated what they did with food. Good night, Ms. Marie, wherever you are. 

*****

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Ollie And The Rain Barrel

I’m not sure just when this next story took place as I had completely forgotten about it until Buck reminded me of it in a phone conversation a year or so before he died. When I asked when it happened, his words were, “We were old enough to get into trouble.” That wasn’t terribly helpful because that covered a lot of years! We finally isolated it down to when we were in our late teens.

Four people were involved: Mike “Buck” Roy, Alvin “Al” Bartlett, me, and Oliver Darrel “Dee” White. We were kind of a “rat pack” that ran together for decades. Buck and Dee are both deceased now.

Dee lived on Williams at 16th Street. Actually, he lived in a small garage apartment behind his parent’s house and had lived there for as long as I knew him. Dee was two years younger then I was, and I meet him when he joined our scout troop. His folks were not poor and the house was large enough for Dee to live inside, but he didn’t. They fixed up the garage, and Dee had this really cool garage apartment complete with a bathroom where we liked to hang out.

The conversation I am about to relate began by Dee expressing the desire to have a nickname, and he wanted a cool nickname. He was already called “Dee” shortened from Darrel, so the request seemed rather strange to the rest of us, but then Dee could sometimes be a bit strange.

Curious, we asked what name he would like to have, and his reply was “Ace”. And he said it with a straight face, but that didn’t stop the rest of us from laughing. “Lib” White, his mother, would not have tolerated “Ace” for even a second, but Dee, I mean Ace, persisted, and we resisted. “Ace?” Really?

At which point, we began calling him by a nickname we knew he absolutely hated. His first name was Oliver, and we sometimes called him “Ollie” when we wanted to irritate him—like at that moment. That was always guaranteed to send Dee into a dose of the vapors.

After we had our laugh, we finally agreed. I think Al started it, and Buck and I picked up on where he was going with it. “OK, we’ll call you Ace, Dee,” said Al.

That lit Dee up. “Not Dee! Just Ace,” he insisted.

“OK, Dee, I mean Ace,” Buck said. “We get it.”

“Dammit. ACE!” Dee insisted even more assertively.

“OK, OK, ACE it is, but, Dee, this is gonna take some getting used to,” I chimed in. Buck and Al nodded their heads in agreement.

Ace became exasperated then and even more vocal about his nickname. The rest of us were thinking he needed another trip to the rain barrel.

The Rain Barrel

Dee (or Ace if you prefer), an only child, was a bit spoiled and could get disrespectful sometimes. We mostly verbally slapped him down when he did that to us or simply ignored him. But there was one time he dissing someone, and we could not ignore it, and we all ganged up on him to administer some “brotherly love” discipline.

I don’t remember just what he said, but in front of us, he was very disrespectful to his mother. It was bad enough that those of us who witnessed it were offended, and not because we were all pillars of society always showing respect to our elders; it was just that bad.

The Whites had an old whiskey barrel in the backyard, and it was full of water. I don’t recall why they had this barrel of water. It was just sitting in the middle of the yard and doing nothing beyond that and collecting water.

Someone made the comment to Dee that his words to his mother were uncalled for, and Dee pushed back with something like, “What are you going to do about it?”

The gauntlet had been thrown down. The “double-dog-dare” had been figuratively tossed into the ring. Buck, Al, and I looked at each other knowingly. We all three looked at the barrel and then Dee. Lib White was watching all this and must have suspected something was about to happen.

In perfect unison as if rehearsed, Al, Buck, and I said, “The barrel!”

Dee looked at us with a confused expression on his face, then at the barrel, and back at us as we closed in on him. He laughed a mocking laugh! And that did it! The three of us were on him before he could take even one step. We had him off the ground and unable to do anything but squirm as we headed for the barrel.

About then Lib White figured out what we had in mind and called out from the back steps of their house, “Don’t drown him!”

Dee went into the barrel head-first and we held him down while he thrashed around throwing water over everyone. After an appropriate amount of time (short of drowning), we brought him up, and he was spitting out profanity between gasps for air.

“You going to apologize to your mother?”

The answer was a defiant “no” laced with profanity.

Back into the barrel he went, and this time he stayed down longer. We brought him up sputtering and cursing. “You win! You win! I’m sorry!”

We let him go, and Lib sighed with relief we had not drowned her only child.

I don’t remember how much longer the Whites kept that barrel around, a few years at least, and every time Dee got smart-assed, we would suggest it was time for another trip to the barrel. That usually calmed him down.

And we never did call him Ace.

 

The pic is of Dee and his wife, Patsey, in 2004.

 

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A Wartime Diary – Part 7

Part 1 here.

Part 2 here.

Part 3 here.

Part 4 here.

Part 5 here.

Part 6 here.

This will be the seventh and final chapter. I hope you have enjoyed it.

In our little story, it is early December 1944, and the war is drawing to a close. There was much estimating of an early end, as suggested by MB’s guess of the war ending in late November and noted in the last post, but that didn’t happen. Hitler had one more effort up his sleeve, and the war in Europe dragged on for another five months. Japan went a bit longer. Later that month, Hitler began his drive into Belgium in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. It caught the Allies off guard and, except for the lack of fuel for the German tanks, it might have been even more successful than it was. Of course, the Allies ultimately pushed the Germans back across the Rhine River and followed them into Germany.

In this final post of the series, events come together that are both sad and happy, events that changed my father’s life forever. Let’s begin.

MB wrote two letters home in October 1944 that I am in possession of. One was to his sister and the other was to his father. You might want to go read the one to his father here.

Then back to his diary and we find this entry: “6 Dec – Learned today of Dad’s death on Nov 20. I’ve lost my Rock of Gibraltar. Good luck Dad, and may God keep you.”

Martial B Casteix, Sr.

I can’t read that without tearing up. His mother died before the war of a disease that they developed a cure for only a couple of years later. He was close to his dad and worried about him back home having to work for K&B Drug Stores as a druggist after losing his own chain of stores during the Depression.

“Received orders to report home on T.D. If only I had been able to see Dad again.” The war was over for MB. Men in his unit gave up “points” they had earned toward going home so MB could have enough points to go home to attend to his dad’s affairs. He arrived in the New Orleans area on 26 January. His sister, Margie, had already handled most of their dad’s affairs and buried him. MB remained with her and her young daughter, Melanie, in Kenner where she lived. He eventually settled there.

Meanwhile, the war dragged on, and MB was supposed to report back to Italy. There were rumors his unit would be sent to the Pacific Theatre. That never happened, and MB never returned to his unit, which leads to another story, the last in this series.

While the war in Europe was still raging, MB got orders to report dockside for passage back to Italy. When he showed up, they had no papers on him and sent him home. He received more orders to report for shipping out to Italy. He reported, and once again they said they didn’t have him on the manifest and sent him home. I don’t recall how many times this happened. It was at least twice and probably three times, possibly more. Meanwhile, the war ends, first Europe and then Japan, and everyone is coming home and getting discharged.

But the Army seemed to forget about MB, leaving him in limbo, and he never goes back. Technically, he is AWOL – Absent Without Leave. Meanwhile, MB set up practice in Kenner. He was never paid for any of his time in the service after December 1944. My mother wanted him to go after the government for back pay and interest! She was convinced it must be in the hundreds of thousands by then. MB would just laugh and reply, “But they might put me in Leavenworth?” That usually ended it, but the story was told and retold so many times when I was a kid that it became a joke that the Army would eventually come after MB.

And then they did.

My sister Martia was working as a receptionist in MB’s office. She was an adult by then. This was some thirty years or more after the war. And one afternoon in walks a U.S. Army officer in uniform. “Is Major Casteix in?” Don’t know when, but somewhere along the way MB got promoted to major. No mention of it in his diary. Knowing the AWOL story well, Martia’s reaction was “Oh shit!” She went back to the examining room where MB was and told him, “The Army has come for you!”

“What are you talking about?” And she explained there was an Army officer in the waiting room asking for Major Casteix.

MB went out to meet the officer and identified himself. “I have something for you,” the officer replied, and he reached into his briefcase and pulled out an envelope. MB opened it, and it was his honorable discharge certificate.

That did it! My mother pushed even harder for MB to go after the Army for that back pay and the (by then she was convinced) multi-millions of dollars of interest that had accumulated in over thirty years. He never did.

Bass fishing in Alabama.

After the war, MB never traveled much or very far when he did travel. We frequently went to our summer house on Waveland, MS (and MB fished) and once to Panama City, FL on a short vacation (he fished there, too). Fishing was his second love (next to being a doctor). He spent countless days fishing in the Louisiana marshes and offshore. He loved to fish so much he even wrote a poem to fishing. You might get him to travel if there would be fish and a pole to use at the end of the journey. I took him bass fishing in Alabama a few times, and once we got him all the way to Abilene, TX, but that was for his grandson’s wedding (he didn’t fish there). He always said there was really only one place he wanted to visit—Italy, but he never made it back. He died in 2003.

I will close this series with the eulogy I gave at his funeral.

There are many ways to take the measure of a man. One is by the way he touches others. Some do this on a massive scale, through some discovery or invention that impacts the lives of millions. But some touch lives in a very personal way – one person at a time.

MB was just that sort of person. He touched others professionally as a physician.

Do you know how he came to practice medicine in Kenner? He wanted to go into pediatrics, but a war got in the way. After the war, MB continued his studies and lived in Kenner with his sister, Margie and her husband Robert Manard (most knew him as Son). But word got around in doctor-poor Kenner that there was a new one in town, and people began showing up on Son’s doorstep any time of the day or night looking for the doctor. Son finally had enough and took MB aside and told him, “I can deal with the sick kids throwing up on my rug, and the wounded bleeding on my sofa, but I just can’t handle it when people go into convulsions on my living room floor! GET AN OFFICE!”

He did and he practiced medicine as an old-fashioned family doctor in Kenner for more than fifty years.

But MB touched people in a way that was more than just the professional caring of a physician. He was the kind of person you liked being around, the kind of person who made the world a better place. He was the kind of person that you had no choice but to love.

There are some here today who did not personally know MB, but most of you here did know him. How many of you who did can say that he impacted your life, that your life would have been different had he not been a part of it? Either as a physician or personally? Raise your hands! Now, look around you.

MB (“Doc”) was not tall of stature, only about 5’6”, but if you accept the premise that a man can be measured by the lives he touches, then we have gathered here today to bid farewell to a giant.

And we were greatly blessed by the fact that this giant walked among us for 85 years. He will be sorely missed!

This is from a newspaper article about his retirement fifty years after the war.

 

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