The Marks Post: Weathering the storm
My earliest hurricane memories revolve around my dad’s aunt Eva. Every weekend, my dad would go pick her up in Pecanière, and she would spend the weekend at our house here in Ville Platte. Every time a storm would enter the Gulf, she would get so paranoid.
The first hurricane I remember, though, is Hurricane Andrew in 1992. I had just started 5th grade at Sacred Heart. I remember it bisecting Florida, restrengthening in the Gulf, and making landfall near Berwick.
A decade later came Isidore and Lili when I was in college at LSU. Before Isidore made landfall, everybody thought it would hit southeast Louisiana and affect Baton Rouge. So, I came home thinking I would miss the storm. Well, Isidore followed me home and brought damage to Ville Platte. Days passed, and here came Lili.
Details are kind of fuzzy now, but I know I was home for both storms instead of being back at college. Two main things stand out, though, from that time period.
The first is I had a battery operated radio that I would listen to in order to get news updates because the power was out for an extended period of time. The only station I could catch clearly was a Country station out of Lafayette. I was not big into Country at the time, but it was all I got. That was around the time Montgomery Gentry’s song My Town had come out. I remember the Lafayette station inserted names of towns like Gueydan into the song.
The other thing I remember about that time is NFL Films coming to Ville Platte. That was the same time the film crew was down here shooting footage on the Tee Cotton Bowl. In the film, you could see damage from Lili around Ville Platte. You also see a segment on Squirrel Weekend. In that segment, Tee Cotton Bowl co-founder Tim Fontenot uttered an immortal line that remains with me to this day. Paraphrasing, he said if E.T. comes to Ville Platte, you better cook some rice.
Three years later came another dynamic duo of storms- Katrina and Rita. The former had struck not long after I had started full time at the Evangeline Parish Clerk of Court’s Office. I still remember Jannie Guidry telling me to unplug the coffee pot and défunt J.L. Brignac stuttering and fussing as he told me, “You don’t need to unplug the coffee pot.”
That was also the same time I had started going to suppers at J.L.’s house. I remember us being glued to a T.V. in his summer kitchen and watching Katrina’s path.
Other hurricanes have affected Ville Platte and Evangeline Parish since then including Gustave, Ike, and the most recent Laura. All of these storms show how resilient we are as people and how willing we are to help our neighbors in need.
We, as Americans, have weathered our fair share of figurative storms as well besides the literal ones. We have gone through figurative storms in our history such as Le Grand Dérangement, the Trail of Tears, slavery, two World Wars, and The Great Depression, But, like with the literal storms, we Americans are a resilient bunch.
However, now, we are facing figurative storms that we had never seen before. Turn on any newscast, and all you see in the hyped up pandemic and footage of civil unrest in our streets. We are at a crossroads in our nation’s history, and this upcoming presidential election will dictate how well we weather these storms that have dominated the headlines for way too long.
Ethically, I cannot tell you for whom to vote or influence your decision. As Olmec on Legends of the Hidden Temple would say, “The choices are yours, and yours alone.”
But what I share with you are a couple things that in one way or another are related to the crossroads we are facing today.
For the past several years, I had been going on Jesuit silent retreats in Grand Coteau where we follow the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. One of the fundamental tenants of the Exercises is the idea of the Two Standards. This is based on the idea of two armies on a battlefield and waging war with contrasting tactics. This may be a stretch in describing the crossroads, but I think my other point will describe it better.
This point is the Native American legend of The Two Wolves. To do the legend justice, I will quote it in its entirety:
“One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said ‘My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.’”
“‘The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’”
“The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?...’”
“The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one that you feed.’”
Which wolf will you feed on November 3?