Sidney Vallon offers this Katrina anniversary thought: “During this week of endless reminders in all levels of media of the Lower 9th, may I remind everyone that thousands of people (including me) in Mississippi and coastal Louisiana, where The Storm actually struck, lost everything?

“We were the victims of a devastating and unavoidable natural disaster, our homes and businesses destroyed by the most damaging segment of the storm’s 20-plus-foot storm surge and winds. People died in those places, too.

“Ten years later, still-suffering residents are slowly rebuilding on the wasteland, but since no movie stars showed up to help, no one elsewhere — even in Baton Rouge — seems to know about anything but the after-effects of human error and direction-less bureaucracy in New Orleans.

“Thanks. Putting my soapbox away now.”

No secrets here

This story, by Pat Decell Irwin, about my home town of Natchez, Mississippi, brings back some memories.

It reminds me that although I left there when I was very young, I always knew that pretty much everybody in Natchez knew what everybody else was doing — good OR bad.

Says Pat, “On Aug. 6 my oldest son, Ralph, and his fiancée, Sherry, got married. Because of their age (both born in the ’50s) and the number of people in the two families, they decided to have a private wedding and announce it afterward.

“Ralph wanted to do it in Natchez, where he was born. So they sneaked up there a few weeks earlier and made all the arrangements such as location, minister, license, flowers, photographer and hotel.

“They did not call or stop by to see my sister. About a week later, I was talking to her on the phone and she asked me if they were married yet — to which I replied, ‘No, not that I know of.’

“Then she said, ‘Well, I know they got their license.’

“When I asked her how she knew, she said, ‘It was in the Democrat.’

“I love small town newspapers!”

Price of progress

“I am all for the progress and change involved in making Baton Rouge the next great destination city,” says Robby Zeringue. “But the construction of the River House at the site of the old Prince Murat Hotel has taken away one of my favorite parts of this town.

“I have been picking blackberries on that lot for the past two years. It was the largest blackberry field ever...EVER. There were so many that I had no problem telling everyone I knew about this honey-hole, because 1,000 people could not have picked them all.

“I’ve made 50 jars of wonderful jelly since my brother drove by the lot one afternoon last year. He had to make a U-turn to go back to be sure his eyes were not playing tricks on him.

“Now I have to find a new patch that no one else knows about. Progress. Phooey!”

Creative naming

I said I was going to stop writing about armadillos. I lied...

Chuck Wright, of Metairie, tells this story about a north Louisiana youngster in his family:

“When he was 4 or 5, ambling down a red dirt and gravel road one day, he saw an armadillo run across the road.

“The tot was so excited that he said, ‘Look at the possum-turtle!’”

Driving to drink?

Ken Best, of Baton Rouge, says, “I note in your column that persons celebrating birthdays at advanced ages are for the most part women.

“I also have observed that persons receiving DUI tickets are for the most part men. Do you think there is any correlation between these two sets of events?

“My dearly departed mother lived out her last years at Lake Sherwood Retirement Village. She told me the standing joke there was: ‘Why do the husbands usually die before the wives? The answer: Because they want to!’”

Special People Dept.

Edward Carrio, a World War II Marine veteran, celebrates his 91st birthday on Monday, Aug. 31.

The L you say

In our Grammar Corner, Jane Honeycutt says, “I wonder if it’s the most often mispronounced word in the world: ‘vulnerable.’ The word has an L in it, and is correctly pronounced ‘vul-ner-a-ble,’ NOT ‘vun-er-a-ble.’”

Thought for the Day

From Harriet St. Amant: “Americans’ spending on dining out has surpassed store sales for the first time ever.

“This is mostly because people who are working three jobs to put food on the table find there is no time left in their day to actually cook anything themselves.”

Turning point

Jimmy Varnado adds to the recent story about his purchase of a car that made only right turns:

“My wife, Jewell, wanted to ride in it. I didn’t tell her it would not turn left. We circled the block three times and passed our house three times. ‘Let me out,’ she said, ‘I’m getting dizzy.’

“I decided to go see a friend who is a mechanic in Port Allen. I ended up in Walker.”

Contacting Smiley

Write Smiley at He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.