032121 human condition (toned)

One of my favorite stories about Cajun traiteurs, or healers, and the effectiveness of their treatments — even in the absence of faith on the part of the patient — is a story told to me a few years ago by traiteur and Grammy-nominated Cajun musician DL Menard, who died in 2017.

When he was a child, every month, his extended family held a boucherie.

A boucherie, the butchering of a hog or occasionally a calf, is a big event. Families and perhaps their neighbors would come together to do the butchering, share the meat and have a big family or neighborhood meal after all the hard work was done. The event would provide the group with fresh meat for several days. Often, the boucherie rotated from one household to the next.

On this occasion, when Menard was just a child, the hog carcass was hung from the barn rafter as usual to let it bleed out into a bucket. The family used the collected blood to make boudin, a Cajun delicacy of cooked ground pork, rice, seasonings and, at that time, the pork blood. It was all stuffed into a sausage casing — delicious!

But on this occasion, the blood did not flow. The men stood around scratching their chins, how can this be? They tried different things to make the carcass bleed such as cutting it deeper, but nothing worked.

Finally, someone asked Menard’s father, no doubt in Cajun French, if he was a traiteur. He nodded affirmatively. “What do you treat for?” he was asked, because different traiteurs treat different ailments. “I treat for bleeding.”

They then asked him if he had inexplicably been praying for the pig not to bleed. “Of course not,” he responded, that would be silly — it is a pig and it’s dead anyway. But, whenever blood is mentioned in a conversation, I think about the prayers. But I don’t say them.”

“Hmmm,” they all thought.

“Why don’t you just leave the area and let’s see what happens,” one of them piped up.

So the elder Mr. Menard left the barn and got into his truck. As soon as he slammed the truck’s door — you guessed it — the pig started to bleed.

And I will leave you now to mull over your thoughts.

— Perrin lives in Lafayette

Advocate readers may submit stories of about 500 words to The Human Condition at features@theadvocate.com or The Advocate, Living, 10705 Rieger Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70809. There is no payment, and stories will be edited. Authors should include their city of residence, and, if writing about yourself, a photo.