Garden City to Jeanerette. 20 miles/1363 total
Thursday, January 28, 2010
9:20 a.m. Another good looking day, weatherwise. A few high clouds but more sunny than not. The prediction is for a high of about 70. Doesn't feel like it will make it, though.
Today was originally scheduled to be an off day, but there's heavy weather coming in tomorrow, so it seemed like a good idea to walk now and rest later.
I'm on Louisiana 3215 right off of U.S. 90. It's a short road that will take me back up to Louisiana 182, and then through Franklin, Baldwin, and Jeanerette, as well as a few smaller places.
This is sugarcane country. The vinegary smell of fermenting cane is everywhere. I've picked up a few pieces of cane to try to find one that is as sweet as the first one I ate, but they've all been too old and sour. I imagine these pieces on the roadside have been here for a long time. God knows what kinds of microbes are in and on them. The only thing I know about sugar cane is that when it's red it's old. That's from a Tom Rush song from the sixties about a sugarcane cutters' strike, called "Joshua Gone Barbados":
Cane standin' in the field
Gettin' old and red.
Lotta misery in Georgetown
Three men lyin' dead.
In short order I come into the village of Garden City on 182, which is called the Old Spanish Trail around here. I pass the Frances Antebellum Home. The sign says it was built around 1810. It does have that Federal Period look to it, with the addition of a two-story full-width porch in the front.
Garden City is a shady quarter of a mile lined with live oaks and featuring several very large 19th century houses, including one pink late Victorian job with baby blue shutters, for sale. Why do they have to paint those Victorian and Queen Anne houses those light-loafered colors? Is is because the styles are so frilly and fussy to begin with? For houses, give me white or earth tones or brick. Let the camellias out front be pink, as they are here.
At three miles I enter the city limits of Franklin. Franklin is a very old town, the seat of St. Mary Parish, with a population today of something over 8,000. Named for Benjamin Franklin, it was originally called Carlin's Settlement when it was founded in 1808. Noteworthy is the fact that it began with a large number of English settlers (whether English or Americans of English ancestry I don't know). What is today the First United Methodist Church of Franklin was established in 1806 as the first Protestant church in Louisiana.
The neighborhoods on the east side of town are middle class. Franklin's main street has a median containing white iron lamp posts, which were installed in 1915. The next year the town passed an ordinance prohibiting chickens from walking on the boulevard, and each lamp post has "Do Not Hitch" on it in raised letters. These lamp posts are quite attractive, topped with three glass globes, one up in the middle and two hanging down.
But the really interesting thing about the lamp posts at present is that most of them have signs attached featuring the names of the local Mardi Gras kings. These signs, three feet high or so, are very colorful, containing the king's last name and under that the family crest, and below that the work "Sucrose," the local Mardi Gras krewe--a good name for the krewe of a sugar growing town. Following that is the Roman numeral of the parade in which that person was king. The numerals go up into the high fifties, so I guess they've been having their parade for that many years. The majority of the surnames are English, German, or Irish, with only a few French ones. Caffrey. Latisolais. Kramer. Horton. A few of the family crests are authentic, but most are merely fanciful. One features an alligator riding a backhoe. Another has a catfish on one side and a lobster on the other. Yet another has a banner on which is written a faux Latin inscription, "Soc Et Tuum."
Franklin was the site of the Battle of Irish Bend, in which outnumbered Confederates did considerable damage to some Union troops before having to retreat. And speaking of being on the losing side in war, it seems there was a German prisoner-of-war camp here, converted from a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in 1943 to house captured soldiers from the Afrika Korps. The Germans worked in the sugar cane fields. The sign says that area citizens remember them for their friendly behavior. What the hell, they probably looked pretty much like everybody else, and were probably having a better time in Louisiana than they would have been having on the eastern front, or wherever, had they not been captured.
I pass the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. How do you adore the eucharist perpetually, I wonder? I'm hazy on the whole adoration thing, generally. Maybe it involves standing around with your mouth hanging open and a sort of starry-eyed look, or grovelling on your knees.
The Franklin cemetery is a combination of the traditional above-ground vaults and mausoleums and American-style graves where they're planted six feet under, reflecting the relative diversity of this city.
At about 8 miles I cross the Charenton Canal and enter Baldwin. Baldwin is quite a bit smaller than Franklin, perhaps 2,500, but it is still a city, with a police force and schools and a post office. On the whole much plainer and poorer than its neighbor, though.
The long open spaces between towns here along Bayou Teche are filled with sugarcane fields. They're burning the cane stubble today with the aid of a brisk wind from the northeast, and all over the horizon I can see clouds of smoke.
Sorrel is the next little settlement I come to. A few houses and what looks like a sugar mill. A historical marker says Sorrel was the site of one of the early ranches on the old cattle route from Mexico to the Mississippi River. Joseph Sorrel had land claims here in the 1750s.
At 17.6 miles, after a long walk past cane fields, I enter Iberia Parish and Jeanerette, a town of 6,000 that calls itself "Sugar City." It was named for John Jeanerette, who settled in this area in the 1820s and bought part of an existing plantation, although the town wasn't incorporated until after the Civil War. Lumber and sugar have been the main enterprises. A sign marks the spot where Nicolas Provot, called the Father of Jeanerette, was buried in 1816. He was one of the area's first landowners.
The breeze has died down a bit. A woman is mowing her front lawn, something people don't think of doing in late January where I come from. Downtown people move about in the late afternoon, leaving work or congregating in front of stores and gas stations. An old man sits in front of his auto detailing business, nodding off to some soft music. People wave to each other as they drive by. The main street business district tapers off to a few large old houses on the west side, then to a couple of patches of woods and some weedy empty lots. Dollar stores, ever more common and somehow always present, like hardy weeds, in places where no other commerce can thrive, compete with one another from opposite sides of the street--Family Dollar versus Dollar General. In the huge empty lot in front of a defunct store where things must have cost too much the motor home waits for me.