Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Poor Man's Provence (copy)

After hearing Rheta Grimsley Johnson speak last week on her new book Poor Man’s Provence at the Mississippi Library Association’s annual conference in Natchez, I really cannot wait to visit the region. I find myself fascinated with the Cajun lifestyle and swamps which shelter the culture.

It all began when Rheta accepted an assignment from her Atlanta newspaper editor to cover a wild boar hunt. Within 1,500 acres of wooded, hurricane-fenced Louisiana, Rheta, along with husband Don and a group of hung-over young men, proceeded to hunt the elusive boars. In this “glorified hog pen” they walked in a guided circle until they came upon a sleeping sounder.

They began to realize the cheesy situation as the guide commenced to jabbing at the snoring razorbacks. One-by-one the reluctantly groggy hogs began to stand and scatter through the woods. As the last one shook off sleep, the men allowed one virile hunter to take aim.

Like watching a golfer make a hole-in-one, the group stood stunned as the lone arrow sliced completely through one boar and into another. With one shot the hunt was over. The young men had hoped to bag a trophy boar at $325, but instead got two “meat” hogs at $165 apiece. They had spent the limit.

It was still early morning; therefore, Rheta and Don decided to explore the southeastern part of the state. They both love the water and boats and thought this a fun way to kill time. It was in the small town of Henderson, right beside the little marina, where they spotted a “pale lime vinyl” houseboat. Above the entrance hatch a piece of driftwood proclaimed, “The Green Queen.”

A nice man showed them around the little boat, and with a car dealer’s grin he said, “This is one heckuva deal.” They smiled, but neither showed any interest. The couple then pondered the boat all the way back to Atlanta without ever voicing aloud their secrets dreams. Rheta envisioned a quiet place to read, and Don saw a duck hunter’s paradise.

After unloading the car and sitting down to dinner, it took one quizzical look between them and Don was on the phone to the salesman. In the background he could hear the townies laughing as he reluctantly resigned to the fact that he was the fish on the hook and this salesman was reeling.

I cannot tell you how much fun this book is to read as Rheta and “One Duck Don” become residents of Henderson. They find a little slice of heaven in the swamps, and readers will too.