Friday, July 29, 2011


This week after Tuesday Morning Prayer and Eucharist, Sister Elizabeth handed me a copy of a new addition to St. Mary’s Convent library. She passed the book along because she thought I might be interested in the unique trilogy of books by graphic artist Lynd Ward: God’s Man, Madman’s Drum, and Wild Pilgrimage. As narratives depicted in woodcuts, the images in the volume are taken from original woodblocks or “first generation electrotypes” rendered by Ward. Son of a Methodist minister and a political organizer, Ward also worked in watercolor, lithography, and mezzo tint. The closest pictorial narratives to Ward's work that I’ve read have been cartoons, and this book of wood engravings fascinated me – mostly because it’s wordless.

God’s Man, told in art deco and expressionist style, is an allegorical story about a young artist struggling to remain true to his art while facing the temptations of commercialism. He ultimately delivers his soul to a dark stranger in exchange for a paintbrush that will help him create great works of art. The narrative becomes familiar to serious readers as a contemporary version of Faust.

Madman’s Drum really baffled me, but after looking for expositions of the story, I discovered that it’s a depiction of a family with a history of violence, taken through several generations.

Wild Pilgrimage presents the story of a young factory worker trying to escape from the societal problems of the 1930’s. Burdened with the close space of urban life, the worker flees to the wilderness in search of a refuge.

The three graphic novels constitute one volume and are enhanced by several essays explaining the stories written by Ward himself. Ward relates that pictorial narratives range in time from the period of Egyptian wall decorations to contemporary comic strips, and the work begins with “an almost obsessive concentration on some aspect of the human condition that keeps nudging the imagination until …a single figure emerges…and soon there is movement and things begin to happen…”

Comic books have always intrigued me, and the dark non-verbal stories (no word balloons, folks!) by Ward captured my interest as they present a unique form of plot development through wood engravings.

On a lighter note, my appreciation of graphic novels, or the comics, was nurtured by my father who read them aloud on Sundays. For your amusement, this poem entitled “Reading the Sunday ‘Funny Papers’” taken from my only book of rhyming poetry, Grandma’s Good War, published several years ago:

“Reading the Sunday Funny Papers”

He could press 4,000 pounds and sometimes 36 tons
and enlisted in “the mighty Navy” in 1941,
muscled arms riddled with tattoos, arch enemies he’d foil
in “arful” battles designed to impress his Olive Oyl.

Each Sunday at the oak dining table my father read aloud
the adventures of Popeye the sailor man whom he avowed
could handle any enemy who dared to invade the States,
a spinach-eating hero to all his admiring shipmates,
father shouting at the end of each strip, “zap, pow and bam,”
quoting Popeye’s “I yam what I yam, that’s all I yam,”
affirmation of father’s individuality, a message belying the cartoon,
with Popeye, he was ready to battle Sea Hag, Bluto, and Alice the Goon.

His somber voice deepened, describing the cold cruel war he knew
as that of Little Orphan Annie, another comic icon of W.W.II.
who formed Jr. Commandos and blew up a German U-boat,
enlisted us to collect scrap metal to keep the U.S. Navy afloat.
On her arm, Lil Annie wore a band with “JC” inscribed upon it,
called herself “Colonel Annie” and demanded we do our bit.
“Gee Whiskers,” my father’s voice would sometime resound,
“She’s left Daddy Warbucks! Poor girl’s on shaky ground.”

Alley Oop in the Kingdom of Moo who traveled to the moon,
Prince Valiant, the Nordic Prince who fought the hated Huns,
Dagwood, Blondie, Lil Abner… the Golden Age of comic strips
where our father took us on astonishing Sunday morning trips,
life served up in weekly installments of strange cartoons,
accented by his voice ascending on floating word balloons.”

Grandma’s Good War is available on or at

Monday, July 25, 2011


“The hero’s journey always begins with the call. One way or another, a guide must come to say, ‘Look, you’re in Sleepy Land. Wake. Come on a trip. There’s a whole aspect of your consciousness, your being that’s not been touched. So you’re at home here? Well, there’s not enough of you there.’ And so it starts…” – Joseph Campbell, writing in A Joseph Campbell Companion

When I was eleven years old, sitting at an old wooden desk bolted to the floor in a small-town schoolhouse (just one serious girl among a bunch of pre-adolescent kids in Sleepy Land, I might add), I wrote my first poem. It was one of the few rhyming poems I’ve written during my lifetime, and I can remember only a few lines about “my home away from the town’s noisy din,/away from the roar of the cotton gin…” Yes, I know, there was a lot of room for improvement there!

I didn’t know Joseph Campbell existed or that he would speak to me in the above quotation about the hero’s journey many years later; that on two occasions, he’d reinforce the adventure of poetry that, for me, began at age eleven and now defines my authentic writing life.

At 76 years of age, I ponder Campbell’s words again, hoping that I’ve moved out and found a way for the domain of literature to receive what I’ve been given to give, that there’s “enough of me there” and that I’ve served life in one of the ways it is to be served–using the gift of poetry. Perhaps at 80, I will announce, as Confucius did, “I know my ground and stand firm.”

Alchemy, my 29th book publication and my 13th book of poetry to be published, will appear in a few weeks. I’m hoping that this poetry about the Louisiana oil spill… a fellow poet… a Haitian orphan… ruminations about nature, animals, death, and philosophical questions will find its way onto your bookshelves. The cover painting for Alchemy was rendered by my brother Paul and designed by my grandson Martin.

The book can be ordered from Border Press, P. O. Box 3124, Sewanee, Tennessee 37375 or online at after 15 August 2011.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


This morning, an invitation for me to attend a fundraiser at the Bayou Teche Museum in New Iberia, Louisiana, where I live part of the year, inspired many thoughts about New Iberia’s founding father, Don Francisco Bouligny. Although I’m at my desk in Sewanee, Tennessee, I have a lot of material about this visionary in my files here on The Mountain.

Visitors to New Iberia, Queen City of the Teche, frequently and mistakenly view the city as a town settled by Acadians, but the flatboats that came up the Teche in 1779 were, in fact, propelled by Malaguenos who arrived at the bend in the bayou near the upper limits of New Iberia. A former New Iberia historian, Maurine Bergerie, who wrote They Tasted Bayou Water, tells us that the Malaguenos camped under a large live oak that stood at the intersection of Darby Lane and the St. Martinville highway. Members of the Romero, Villatoro, Segura, Ortiz, and other families from Malaga were led by Lieutenant Colonel Don Francisco Bouligny who had been sent by King Charles II of Spain to the Attakapas District of Louisiana to establish a settlement.

Today, at a different location on Main Street in New Iberia, a bust of Bouligny and a historic plaque, located behind the gazebo in the city plaza, identify him as putative founder of Nueva Iberia, and other historians claim that the City Plaza marks the gently sloping site of the original Malaguenos landing on Bayou Teche. Regardless of the site designated for the original settlement of New Iberia, Bouligny is honored as the visionary leader of the Queen City.

Who was this man who empowered a small group of Malaguenos to leave their sunny country and travel to a swampy, uncharted area of Louisiana where floods, hurricanes, and mosquitoes abounded, to build huts constructed of sticks stuck in the ground and covered with palmettos? Bouligny, their intrepid leader, wrote to Louisiana’s Spanish governor, Galvez, that Louisiana was an area which contained grass so thick that a single team of oxen couldn’t make an opening to the prairie stretching beyond.

Earlier in the year of 1779, Bouligny had attempted to establish a settlement close to a tribe of Chitimacha Indians and near the town of present-day Charenton. However, during a typical rainy Spring in April, Bayou Teche inundated the settlement and the tribal Native American villages with almost eight feet of water. Undaunted, Bouligny and his band of Malaguenos moved to the present site of New Iberia, which was then ten feet above the cresting level of Bayou Teche. After overseeing the building of rude shelters, he ordered flax and hemp seeds from Governor Galvez, and the settlers planted them. When these crops failed, they turned to raising cattle in an area near what is now called Spanish Lake. According to Maurine Bergerie, the colonists who settled New Iberia were not granted concessions but gained possession of their land by the public surveyor. Later, following the Louisiana Purchase, these families had to obtain recognition of their land titles from the U.S. government.

Just before Bouligny began his adventure to Louisiana, his wife gave birth to Francisco Joseph Ursino, and Bouligny was able to witness the baptism of his son before departing for the New World. After the settlement became established, Governor Galvez offered to bring Dona Bouligny to New Iberia to live. Bouligny thanked him graciously and never brought his wife to the primitive town on Bayou Teche.

In 1853, a single account describing Bouligny’s appearance was written by Benjamin French in his Historical Memoirs of Louisiana. He describes the Colonel as “rather tall and slight, with a noble military bearing, easy and dignified in his manner and warm in his friendship. So mild and conciliatory were his actions that obedience went hand in hand with his command; while his ardor and zeal for the service of his country seemed rather to reach the post of danger than to avoid it.” Historians question the accuracy of this flowery description, but the words certainly imbue Bouligny with a heroic persona.

An unknown artist also painted a portrait of Bouligny and his wife Marie Louise, which is now in the Historic New Orleans Collection. No one knows the date the portrait was rendered, but historians surmise that it was painted when Bouligny came to Louisiana in 1777 as Lieutenant Governor of the State. An inventory in Bouligny’s succession indicates that he had numerous books in his personal library and that he was a cultured man of the 18th Century Enlightenment. Others alluded to him as a man of confidence who was determined to make a name for himself.

Bouligny encouraged the struggling Malaguenos to build new homes of mud and moss, to construct a Royal warehouse, and to raise stock. Fifteen years after the founding of New Iberia when Etienne Bore revolutionized the sugar industry by converting cane juice to sugar, the settlers began to grow the prolific sugar cane that remains a stable industry in Teche country.

In August, 1779, only a few months after Bouligny had secured a permanent settlement on the banks of the Teche, he received a report that Spain had declared war on England and that Governor Galvez had begun marshalling forces against the British forts on the Mississippi River. Bouligny gathered a group of the new settlers of New Iberia and joined the Governor’s forces. By September 3, he was at Plaquemine with a small army of twenty-five slaves, five soldiers, two deserters, two farmers, one militiaman, two volunteers, and two Americans, according to Gilbert Din, author of Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Bouligny.

While fighting the War of the Revolution, Bouligny received word that Nicholas Forstall had replaced him as commandant of Nueva Iberia. In 1800, he died in New Orleans just before becoming a brigadier general. After the war, he never returned to his little colony on Bayou Teche, but his settlement gradually flourished and has now become a city of 32,000 inhabitants. Today, New Iberia a model in acculturation of descendants of Spanish, French, Acadians, Indians, English, German, and Creoles who live side by side in a city settled by Don Francisco Bouligny and his courageous band of Malaguenos.

Note: My young adult book of fiction about Bouligny and the Malaguenos settling of New Iberia, entitled Flood on the Rio Teche, has been placed in the library at Alhaurin de la Torre, Spain, a place that has been twinned with New Iberia. The book was purchased and taken back to Spain by Manuel Lopez, an employee of the Department of Culture in Alhaurin de la Torre who visited New Iberia several years ago. Copies of this book can be purchased online with Border Press (

Photograph of Bouligny’s statue by Kelly Roark, VP of Operations, Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce, New Iberia, Louisiana.

Monday, July 18, 2011


The Nook said “battery charge is too low to operate;” the remote for the television set needed a battery; the computer needed rebooting, and my cell phone needed recharging – all those messages came during the course of one day last week, and my irascible mood told me that I was the one who needed recharging! So off we went to Dahlonega, Georgia, a 2 1/2 hour drive from the cottage in Sewanee, Tennessee, for a “busman’s holiday,” as one friend describes our hops from mountain state to mountain state.

Many of our trips are along the Appalachian Trail, a 2100 mile trail stretching from Georgia to Maine; however, we didn’t hike even one mile of the thirty-mile segment that runs along the northern border of Lumpkin County.

Dahlonega touts that it is the site of the first major gold rush in the U.S. In fact, gold mining burgeoned there in 1828 after Benjamin Parks, a frontiersman, stumbled on the gold while deer hunting in the woods near Dahlonega. He discovered the gold on Cherokee land and the ensuing production of it led to the establishment of a U.S. Branch Mint in the town; the first coinage appearing in 1838. However, the Mint was only in existence 24 years as the onset of the Civil War caused its demise. At the apex of the Gold Rush in Dahlonega, 15,000 miners scrambled for the precious “yellow money” as the Cherokees called it.

We visited the Dahlonega Gold Museum and watched a 23-minute film about mining techniques and the prospectors’ lifestyles during the Dahlonega Gold Rush and were saddened by the story of Georgia declaring ownership of the Cherokee nation when the gold rush flourished. Federal troops rounded up the Cherokees and forced them to move to Oklahoma on the infamous Trail of Tears.

BlackStock Vineyards, Dahlonega, Georgia
At lunchtime we visited the BlackStock Winery where for $12, wine tasters can taste eight different brands of wine with the BlackStock label and where glasses were filled to a volume surpassing any wine tasting I’ve ever witnessed. In fact, one tippler remarked “they must want us to spend the night after drinking all that.” The winery has an open pavilion where we lunched and where pickers and pluckers tuned up for free entertainment, bluegrass style. They were still playing when we left, and wine tasters were ordering more wine that they had sampled in the tasting room.

Dahlonega boasts a small theatre, the historic Holly Theater, which is host to a public radio broadcast, “Mountain Music and Medicine Show.” The music of the mountains is also heard in the public square on Saturdays from April – October where pickers and pluckers show up for an Appalachian Jam from 2 – 6 p.m. We showed up as they were winding down from the four-hour gig.

Apple trees, Ellijay, Georgia
I was too tired to visit the Lumpkin County Cemetery but really wanted to see Mt. Hope and the infamous grave site of Harrison Riley, who was reputed to have fathered thirty children but never married and whose tombstone bears the inscription, “Let his faults be buried with his bones.” This kind of fundamentalist fatalism is characteristic of mountain people, and I heard it again when we stopped at a fruit stand on the return trip. I tried to have a conversation with the proprietor, a gray-haired woman in a pink apron who kept looking at me and sizing me up as a ‘come here,’ I just knew. “What do you all do when the apple season ends?” I asked. “We just rest,” she said. I told her the story about my godfather’s grandfather who farmed in the Mississippi Delta during the early part of the 20th century. “He’d have a good crop one year and spend the next one, just sitting and reading,” I told her. “Hmmph,” she answered. “I reckon if he was reading his Bible, he prospered.” End of that story for her. Although I respect Bible reading, I didn’t bother to tell her that he was probably reading a romance novel and that he prospered anyway.

At the Holly Theatre, we watched high schoolers from the Holly Performing Academy enact an 80’s musical, “Fame,” that took us back to the rocking 80’s. The musical was based on a story about the last graduating class to come through a public alternative high school in New York City that operated from 1948-1984. I certainly never expected to see this famous motion picture and TV series re-enacted in a small north Georgia town in the Appalachians, but we’re always finding serendipity on our week-end jaunts.

We arrived home with bags of peaches, home-grown tomatoes, blueberries, peach jam, and two bottles of BlackStock wine, and immediately turned on the computer, electronic readers, television, and recharged the telephones, hoping the electronic rush would inspire us to escape somewhere on a “bus man’s holiday” again next month.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


A year ago this month, friends and I were celebrating the publication of CHANT OF DEATH by Pinyon-Publishing. At the time of our celebration, CHANT, a religious mystery on which Isabel Anders and I had collaborated, was slated to come out in August, 2010. One of our celebrations about the book took place in a Mexican restaurant in Cowan, Tennessee where old friends toasted the success of publication and passed around the news article advertising the book. Naturally, this anniversary month, CHANT has been on my mind while I await word on the possible publication of another novel I wrote last year, and, of course, I’d love to receive cause for celebration from a publisher telling me that REDEEMED BY BLOOD has been accepted for publication!

A few months ago, an Episcopal Church group asked me to talk about the “making of CHANT,” and co-author Isabel Anders and I entitled the talk “When Theology and Mystery Meet.” I thought that readers might enjoy excerpts from that longer talk which explained some of the background of our so-called “theological thriller” this anniversary month of its acceptance by Pinyon-Publishing.

“When Isabel and I decided to collaborate on this religious mystery, we were on common ground in that I had a religious background as the former archdeacon of the Diocese of Western Louisiana and a track record as a fiction writer and poet. Isabel has a Master’s degree in Religion and is an editor of “Synthesis,” a publication of biblical resources in the Anglican tradition, and has written many non-fiction books on religious subjects. Isabel and I both love mysteries, particularly the mystical writings of authors belonging to the Inklings group in England during the 20th century that included Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, J.R. Tolkien, and other literary luminaries of that period. To say that we sat down, each in our separate studies, and tried to emulate these masters when we began creating CHANT OF DEATH would be a stretch of the truth, but to say that certain theological aspects of their work and certain characters influenced the creation of some of our characters, even if subconsciously, isn’t a stretch.

“Briefly, CHANT is the story of monks who make this successful CD, “Godspeak,” and trouble arises when some of the attendant characters get busy committing just about all the seven deadly sins—jealousy, greed, pride, sloth, etc. Then, the murders of two monks occur, and the mystery within the walls of St. Andrews, the fictional monastery, deepens. The Rule of Benedict is woven into the story, a Rule that has been described as a masterly summary of the Gospel’s teaching and a way to deepen the spiritual life. The novel is both sacred and profane, like the Church often is, with all of its warts and all of its sanctity. Benedict, in Esther de Waal’s words, shows that he has a deep grasp of the psyche—like the Abbot, Fr. Malachi, who is the protagonist in CHANT OF DEATH.

“Fr. Malachi recognizes the need for order, inner and outer and the need to be loved. One of the endorsers of CHANT OF DEATH, a professor at ULL in Lafayette, Louisiana, said that CHANT was an exploration of what it means to live a holy life in the face of spiritual and physical assaults and describes Fr. Malachi as not merely an amateur detective in pursuit of a killer, but a consummate investigator of the human heart, probing the failings and frailties of all who surround him.

“It is this character, Fr. Malachi, who emerged from the mists of my subconscious which had stored the feeling I experienced when I first read Charles Williams’ DESCENT INTO HELL, a theological mystery/thriller that still mystifies readers. It is a piece of fantasy fiction/mystery combined with Christian symbolism and is not a detective story where the major character is exactly like Fr. Malachi, but the central action of Williams’ novel is based on his theology about one person taking on the burdens of another person’s fears in something called “The Doctrine of Substituted Love,” which Fr. Malachi does in CHANT. The major character in Williams’ book is asked to stand in for someone who is under attack by a spiritual force and by self-offering, this character “saves” a victim from an evil assault.

“Essentially, Williams’ character, Stanhope, carries a burden for a young woman who sees her doppelganger, or image of herself, walking toward her in the street and is terrified. By taking on the woman’s fear, Stanhope contributes to the healing of this woman, and the doppelganger disappears. Fr. Malachi, in CHANT OF DEATH, is willing to carry out this doctrine of substituted love, and it is his intention to share burden, so he strongly resembles the character Stanhope in DESCENT INTO HELL. A brief excerpt from CHANT OD DEATH introduces the resemblance of Fr. Malachi to Stanhope:

“In his previous work as a psychiatrist dealing with disordered minds, Fr. Malachi had revered Jung; but he found that St. Benedict knew more about the human psyche than Jung. The legendary saint had a grasp of this thing called unity that had been perverted by dualistic religions. After his wife died, Fr. Malachi found a way of returning to his heart through reading about the Rule of St. Benedict that had been written in vernacular Latin during the sixth century. Nine thousand words had changed his life…Malachi relied on the supreme importance of love in the biblical book of 1st John to guide him, and he knew he could achieve that love through humility… (e.g., carrying others’ burdens).”

“This is a scant quotation that illustrates Fr. Malachi’s understanding of bearing others’ burdens, but in CHANT OF DEATH, he further carries the burden of his bishop’s complicity in a scheme to save a pedophile, the burden of two converted monks who have an affinity for one another, the burden of a corrupt publicist seeking transformation, even the burden of solving the murders that occur in the face of a feckless detective who misses all the clues, and the burdens of the sufferings of his assistant who has been a victim of one of the seven deadly sins – jealousy. Fr. Malachi becomes the consummate burden bearer, carrying so many spiritual burdens that he needs a grocery cart to hold them all. I see him bearing out T.S. Eliot’s words about Charles Williams—that Williams “was concerned not with the evil of conventional morality and manifestations by which we recognize it, but with the essence of evil; it is an evil that has no power to attract (a person; e.g., like Fr.Malachi) for he sees it as the repulsive thing it is and as the despair of the damned from which he recoils…” as Fr. Malachi recoiled from the despair and suicide of his own wife before he became a monk.

“All this explication about the conjoining of the mystical and detective fiction should easily be understood by Anglicans. As Dean Urban T. Holmes of Sewanee fame, wrote about us in WHAT IS ANGLICANISM?: “Anglican thinking or left-hand thinking is intuitive, analogical, metaphorical, symbolic…The English are rather good at this kind of writing—as the Inklings which included Dorothy Sayers who wrote mystery novels, C.S. Lewis who wrote the Narnia chronicles…and Charles Williams, who wrote novels with the occult.” Those very writers lurked in the background our story board and informed the writing of a theological mystery entitled CHANT OF DEATH.

“And that is what happens when there’s a confluence of religion and mystery. The Inklings did their writing, each with his/her left hand, and CHANT OF DEATH was written with—not one but two—left hands!”

And perhaps this is just enough to titillate you to read both CHANT OF DEATH and DESCENT INTO HELL, both books providing a glimpse of how the subjects of mystery and theology can intertwine in “:story.” As I commented, this is only an excerpt from a larger paper I wrote for CHANT OF DEATH, but it’s a peek into the creation of characters in theological thrillers.

You can order CHANT OF DEATH from Pinyon-Publishing at

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Daily Iberian  photo
 Yesterday, I received the news that Morris Raphael, one of my closest friends in New Iberia, died. Before I wing my way toward Teche country, I wanted to pay tribute in print to this unique man who had a special gift for nurturing friendships. I’ve written many articles and blogs about Morris, who at 93, was still writing books and a column in the Daily Iberian in New Iberia, Louisiana and whose mind was as keen as it had ever been during his lifetime.

Morris made significant contributions by recording the history of Acadiana and featuring people in this culture, and the accomplishment is laudable, but I think the way he supported his friends in their lifework and his deep loyalty to them deserves as much recognition as his work as a writer, artist, and engineer. He had friends all over the world with whom he kept in touch, especially friends he had made while working with Carbon Black in Brazil where he met his wife Helen, who was doing a stint there with the U.S. Information Service. Morris chronicled this story about his sojourn in Brazil in an excellent memoir entitled My Brazil Years; he also wrote a memoir about growing up in a Lebanese family in Natchez, Mississippi entitled My Natchez Years.

Morris had a highly original mind and followed his own drummer, or the Muse, whether anyone else thought his ideas would “catch on” in the literary world or not. I’m thinking in particular about his novel, Mystic Bayou, an intriguing novel featuring a plot that involved the hiding of Hitler in a Louisiana swamp. I’ve always thought the story would make a superb movie and perhaps someone who has a keen eye for scriptworthy material will discover the book and make a movie about it.

Morris also wrote children’s books, and his Ti-Nute story about a nutria who lived in City Park in New Iberia remains a good read. He loved to feature real life characters from New Iberia and its environs in his books and blatantly featured them in his stories. The Loup Garou of Cote Gelee and Maria, the Goddess of the Teche are among his best selling children’s books. Several of his book covers were executed by notable artists like George Rodrigue, Chestee Minvielle Harrington, Kate Ferry, and Morris himself—all of whom, with the exception of Morris, are natives of New Iberia.

My friend, Vickie (Border Press publisher of Morris’s last book) and I spent many mornings with Morris and Helen this Spring, drinking coffee and sampling Helen’s baked treats, talking about and working on formatting and editing Morris’s manuscript for Civil War Vignettes of Acadiana, A Sesquicentennial Commemorative, his 14th and last book, which appeared in April this year. This volume contained various human interest stories about battles in bayou country during the War Between the States and is the first book of vignettes on this subject to be published. Morris derived material from histories, diaries, letters, and personal reminiscences and rendered drawings for chapter headings that I think will become real collectibles. The illustrations are part of a collection Morris drew and painted on postcards and for some of his book covers. I was honored to be the person to whom his last book was dedicated.

When the news came of his death, I was overcome with feelings of loss for a man who chronicled bayou country as no one has done—faithfully and lovingly. He loved Acadiana, its history and people, and he and Helen offered hospitality to everyone in the area—preparing meals, hosting parties, being unofficial tour guides for newcomers to Teche country.

Every Christmas, my friend Vickie and I shared drinks and hors d’oeuvres in the Raphael home, most of the time with just a family gathering including his talented daughter Rose Anne who always flies in from California for the holidays. We often sat, watching through the windows of his living room, the slow-moving Teche flow by while we talked about writing, good food, travels, music, art…We sometimes spent hours together. Morris always told me he thought I was the undersung best writer in Teche country, and I repaid the compliment, and we began supporting one another long before writers’ groups or support sessions became popular in the contemporary literary world. Neither of us ever claimed to be an “academic,” but we’ve always been inured to spinning a good story. We once talked about producing a regional newspaper together, but this Spring we decided that we were wise not to have done so or we’d never have had time to write books.

Morris led the way with a form of publishing that is now eclipsing large publishing houses and giving authors the monetary awards and recognition they deserve—through self-publishing (not to be confused with vanity publishing in which authors pay publishing houses to publish their work). He enjoyed “laughing all the way to the bank” with his self-published profits, he once quipped, (quoting famed Liberace), as his first book, Battle in the Bayou Country, is now in its fifth printing.

Morris’s numerous awards include the Jefferson Davis Award from the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1979, induction into the Iberia Parish Second Wind Hall of Fame in 1985, and the annual Cajun Culture Award for his efforts in advancing Cajun culture in 1991. He has been president of the Attakapas Historical Association, the Iberia Cultural Association and has served on the Council of the Shadows-on-the Teche, the board of the St. Mary Chapter of Louisiana Landmarks, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He deserved all of the accolades, just as he deserves the accolades that I’m sure will be written about him this month.

When you see those fireworks light up the sky on the 4th of July, part of them will probably be Morris, making his entry into the Other World—he wanted to live long enough to celebrate the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War and he made it! Salud, old friend. You‘re already missed. May your stories endure as long as the faithful friendships you shared with those far and wide through nine decades.