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February 5, 2020

Communities become involved                                        By Leo Chappelle

At a point people who have depended upon you just give up when they see you have no interest in helping and nothing changes. And they decide to take care of things themselves. That’s not all bad. 
Politicians are followers more than leaders anyway. When the people step out front, at least the “leaders” know where they should be going. Fortunately, not all politicians suffer from so great a lack of imagination.
Jonesville Mayor Milton Ceasar invited Southern University Agricultural Center’s Research and Extension Center to town to present its L.E.A.D. (Learning Everyday About Development) Summit conference on economic development.
It was a program packed with important information and, unfortunately, the few who came from the Police Jury left before the featured speaker, Pat Forbes, the state of Louisiana’s Executive Director of the Office of Community Development, presented the keynote address after lunch. That was unfortunate because the subject of Mr. Forbes’ talk was the Louisiana Watershed Initiative (LWI).
The LWI has the potential to be the most consequential federally funded program in Louisiana since Reconstruction after the Civil War, especially since half of Louisiana is in a flood hazard area. It is a conceptual approach to flood control based on hydrological realities (flood plains), rather than political boundaries. Perhaps our parish authorities are already up to speed on this (none, except for Ellis Boothe, has given any indication of it), but they certainly have a very large responsibility in overseeing our interests as plans develop to execute the program.
In the case of the LWI and Catahoula Parish one wants to know, in view of our being downstream from the more populous Monroe, “Will Catahoula be put at greater risk to protect upstream population centers?” Furthermore, “What consideration will be given to communities like Jonesville and Catahoula Parish when the downstream control structures are opened to protect New Orleans and points south? Water from that natural floodway backs up into the Atchafalaya River, then to the Red, then to the Black, and then to Larto and Jonesville and Catahoula Parish.” The answers were somewhat inconclusive. (The plan is in process.) It would’ve been good if someone with more authority than a weekly newspaper columnist had asked those questions.
All that aside and  before we forget, in most political structures it’s the staff (the “Deep State”) that deserves credit for making things happen that the elected ones want. Good leaders know how to pick good people. Therefore to all to whom credit belongs, my hat is off for the presentation by Southern University Ag Center at The Venue on the Bayou in Jonesville Thursday, January, 30th.
With a little help from their friends, the Harrisonburg Service League and the redoubtable Betty Gaither are moving ahead with developing a plan for the Village of Harrisonburg to increase its economic footprint. And Ms. Gaither emphasizes that “to be successful you have to have a PLAN and community involvement.”
So, in the kitchen at First Baptist Harrisonburg on March 16 at 6:00 PM the Harrisonburg Service League will hear from Ginger Breithaupt of Jena who will talk about the plan developed with assistance from Code Studio to help grow Harrisonburg’s economy. All are invited. Everyone with an interest in the welfare of their community from Larto to Enterprise should be there to listen and to ask questions.
These citizen and municipal initiatives are a clear message to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. 


Black River Lagniappe                              By Alma Womack

In the interest of those planning weddings this year, here’s a story on how it used to be done:
I have been to many weddings, worked at quite a few, and have thrown several myself, but none could compare to the weddings of the backcountry pioneers in the 1700 and 1800's.
The frontier was settled by people from Scotland, Ireland, and the English border counties, and they brought their ancient traditions with them to the new country. I cannot improve on the description of these wedding customs as written by David Fischer in Albion’s Seed, so I will quote him on the traditions of abduction, chivarees, bidden weddings and bridewain.
“...An ancient practice on the British borders and in Scotland and Ireland was the abduction of brides. The old custom had been elaborately regulated through many centuries by ancient folk laws which required payment of “body price” and “honor price.” Two types of abduction were recognized: voluntary abduction in which the bride went willingly but without her family’s prior consent; and involuntary abduction in which she was taken by force. Both types of abduction were practiced as late as the eighteenth century.
The old border custom of bridal abduction continued in the American backcountry. The petitions of the Regulators complained of frequent abductions, and even members of the border ascendancy resorted to this practice. The leading example was Andrew Jackson and Rachel Donelson. This was a case of voluntary abduction; Rachel went willingly, but her departure started a feud that continued many years. It later became an electioneering issue in other parts of the United States, but in the backcountry, Rachel and Andrew Jackson were not condemned by their own culture. Most backcountry marriages, of course, were not abductions, but abduction rituals long remained an important part of marriage customs in the region.
A wedding in the back-settlements was apt to be a wild affair. On the appointed day, the friends of the groom would set out for the wedding in a single party, mounted and heavily armed. They would stop at cabins along the way to fire a volley and pass around the whiskey bottle, then gallop on to the next. Their progress was playfully opposed by the bride’s friends, also heavily armed, who felled trees along the road, and created entanglements of grape vines and branches to block the passage of the groomsmen. The two parties then came together and staged a contest in which their champions raced for a beribboned bottle of whiskey.
Finally, both parties would assemble with invited guests from the neighborhood. These were “bidden weddings” which could be attended only by invitation. When all were assembled, the bride would be brought into the room by the best man-not, significantly, by her father. The bride and groom put their right hands behind their backs, and their gloves were ceremonially removed by the best man and the bridesmaid, who took care to do so at exactly the same moment.
After the ceremony, there were more volleys, much whooping, and an abundance of kissing, drinking and high hilarity. Then a dinner and dance would take place, with everyone joining in wild reels, sets and jigs while a fiddler scraped frantically in the corner. Before the wedding dinner, another mock-abduction was staged indoors; the bride was stolen by one party and “recovered” by the other.
As the sun set upon this turbulent scene, the couple retired to their chamber, while hordes of well-wishers crowded round the bed and offered ribald advice. Yet another contest was staged at the foot of the marriage bed. After the couple was placed beneath the covers, the bridesmaids took turns throwing a rolled stocking over their shoulders at the bride. Then the groomsmen did the same, aiming for the groom. The first to hit the mark was thought to be the next to marry. These games continued well into the night. When the wedding party finally left the chamber, a “calithumpian serenade” took place outside–the bells and whistles punctuated by uninhibited gunplay. (This was also known as the chivaree.) As morning approached, a bottle of Black Betty (whiskey) was sent to revive the bride and groom and the merriment continued, sometimes for several days.
Another custom, bridewain, was described this way: ...the friends of a new married couple assemble and are treated with cold pies, fermenty and ale; at the close of the day the bride and bridegroom are placed in two chairs in the open air, or in a large barn, the bride with a pewter dish on her knee, half covered with a napkin. The company put offerings into a dish–offerings often amount to a considerable sum.
Marriage customs in the American backcountry bore a striking resemblance to those of the British border lands–complete even to the abductions and mock abductions, the competitions and mock combats, bidden weddings and bridewain, the wild feasts and heavy drinking, wedding reels and jigs, the rituals of the wedding chamber, and the constant presence of Black Betty. In their totality the backcountry wedding was a unique adaptation of ancient border customs to the conditions of an American region.”
The next time you go to a wedding, think on these things.