Dear Smiley: Hank Williams died on Jan. 1, 1953. I was then a freshman at Southwestern Louisiana Institute in Lafayette.
Sometime before Jan. 1, one of my best buddies, Swinfort Navarre, came to my room and said, “Do you want to go hear Hank Williams tonight down in Abbeville?”
Of course I said yes, even though we had only our thumbs.
The weather was cold and drizzly, but travel outranked boredom any time, so we hitchhiked the 30 miles to Abbeville.
Hank was 45 minutes late and in his usual state of inebriation but could sing “Kaw-Liga” in a clear and steady voice. Part of the entertainment that night was watching him balance on the edge of the stage without falling off.
Getting back to the dorm after midnight was quite a challenge. Traffic was sparse and folks weren’t generous.
To get warm after one short ride, we built a fire with roadside trash near a graveyard. Later, we hitchhiked in both directions, just to get somewhere.
We were not yet aware of Hank Williams’ real problems. Only later could we mourn our great loss.
Dear Smiley: The recent spate of Easter stories reminds me of one my mother would tell.
She and her two sisters would each get candy/chocolates of some sort each Easter.
She, the oldest of the three, and her youngest sister would both make short work of whatever goodies they had received Easter morning.
The middle sister would eat a piece or two and then squirrel away the rest.
She would then, over the course of the next couple of weeks, retrieve a couple of pieces and proceed to eat them with much demonstrative pleasure in front of her two improvident sisters.
My mother’s recollection of the injustice of it all was such that she easily remembered it 70 and 80 years later.
The good light
Dear Smiley: Early one morning, while traveling the grid of parish roads in northern Ascension Parish to assist my husband, Jim, in his grandfather-parenting duties, I was struck by the soft light of the early morning.
I recalled the various adjectives dairy farmers used when describing this early sunlight.
In order of appearance, there was “daylight,” “good daylight” and “sun up.”
“Good daylight” was a term used by the farmer to describe when he or she could see well enough to selectively distinguish the identity of black and white Holstein cows by their markings as they stood quietly in the field waiting to be called to the milking barn.
Dear Smiley: Reading all the Yat language brings back memories of my aunts and uncles in New Orleans when I was young.
I am a New Orleans native raised in Baton Rouge, but all my relatives lived in New Orleans while my brother and I were growing up.
My dad’s mother moved to Slidell in the ’50s, and several uncles had camps in Mandeville.
When a discussion about going to Slidell or Mandeville came up, it was about “goen ova da lake” to see “Myrt” (Myrtle, my grandmother).
Going fishing on the north shore was going to the “nortshore,” to the famous Buck’s restaurant and skiff rentals, and crabbing to catch “dem crabs.”
Of course, it was a no-no to use anything other than Rex “crab berl” or Blue Plate “mineazze.” All my uncles would positively not drink any beer not made in New Orleans.
Dear Smiley: Growing up in the Midwest, my siblings and I would amuse ourselves on long drives with the roadside ads for Burma-Shave.
The signs were placed far enough apart that one could read each line of a jingle.
Like: “Spring has sprung” we would all holler.
A quarter-mile mile later: “The grass has riz”
Another quarter-mile: “Where last year’s”
Another quarter-mile: “Careless drivers is”
And finally: “Burma-Shave.”
Huge guffaws at the humor, and pride that we were able to read them. Looking for these signs kept us kids happy for quite a while.
Dear Smiley: In my hometown, way up in what you call the Frozen Nawth — Poplar Bluff, Missouri, near the Bootheel — there were both Hogg and Pigg families.
Mr. Pigg died, and a lady came into my cousin Bill Hogg’s store and was consoling Bill about the death in his family.
When he told her that Mr. Pigg was no relation, she was so embarrassed she turned and ran out of the store.
T. MED HOGG
Dear Smiley: About your Door Handles Contest:
Do love handles count? I promise I won’t send a pic.
ALEX “SONNY” CHAPMAN
Dear Sonny: If you keep that promise, I might let you win the contest!
Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.