KROTZ SPRINGS — The question is not what Cricket’s Bait Shop has for sale, but what it doesn’t.
“It’s a bait shop, but I got other stuff,” said the shop’s owner and namesake, known by everyone as simply Cricket. It’s the only name she uses.
“Other stuff” might be an understatement. Since she opened the bait shop in 2004, Cricket has acquired a virtual museum to fill in the two pieces of land she leases along U.S. 190 at the edge of Krotz Springs.
What kind of stuff? It can only be described as “everything.”
A maze of tables underneath a plethora of tents and makeshift shelters made out of corrugated metal and wood posts hold piles and piles of clothing. Shelves and tables stock old toys and board games.
There are various pieces of art and pop culture mementos, and cages made out of driftwood, bed frames and just about anything else one can put together. Old stoves carrying various utensils litter the area. An old outhouse is painted over and decorated.
Cricket is a native of Krotz Springs. She’s a woman of few words when it comes to biographical information, and she doesn’t like to have her picture taken. Nonetheless, she accumulates things.
“Any time I find something, I buy it and throw it here,” she said matter-of-factly.
As Cricket walked out of the building to give a tour, there was a sudden loud squawk to her right. “Oh, that’s just Big Bird and Baby,” she said.
And so it was. Cricket gestured to two enterprising black-and-yellow macaws clambering around in their cage, which was made out of an old satellite dish lying on top of a round hay feeder with chicken wire wrapped around it. Next to it was another homemade cage with a comparatively stuporous rooster. Kittens and rabbits also dotted the landscape.
One might imagine a random collection of “stuff” to be chaotic and nonsensical, but Cricket’s operation is quite the opposite. It all simply just works.
“Everything that’s here, I figure that it’s just supposed to be there,” she explained, pointing out a small toy rowboat with a doll staring down at her, nailed on top of a wooden post. The boat pointed toward an old Christmas tree with jack-o-lanterns decorating it that leaned against another small tree. A large morning glory plant grew out of it.
Another small building is just as adorned with random tokens. A fallen tree that forked out at the end lies looming over the building.
“It crashed through two rooms, and it’s stuck there, but that’s OK,” she said. “I put my black bear up there.”
It’s a black wire sculpture of a bear.“If I can find his friend’s leg, I’ll put him up there, too,” she added, pointing out another wire bear.
Cricket said she’d like to have snake heads carved into the end of each fork on the tree, but nothing was done until it’s done. She characterized her process and methodology as simply “spontaneous.”
“I guess it’s ‘folk art,’ ‘eclectic art,’ ” Cricket said. “That’s what everyone calls it.”
Cricket said she sells most of what she has accumulated provided she’s looked through and not done anything else with it.
“Some of it goes with the old flow of the place,” she said. “People get upset when I won’t sell them some things. The older things mean something here.”
Friends sometimes have Cricket sell their art. Others leave sweet potatoes and watermelon for her to sell.
Cricket said tourists seek out her business. It’s regionally famous enough that people hear the name and know what’s being talked about. She said people have had wedding photos taken with her exhibit as the background. “I don’t see what they see because I’m here all the time,” she admitted. “But when they take a picture, I think ‘You know, that looks pretty nice.’ ”
Storm clouds were beginning to brew in the evening sky, which prompted Cricket to not turn on the Christmas lights decorating the scene as a precaution. The place is no stranger to the effect of storms and hurricanes on the fairly open and exposed layout.
“You just grind your teeth and pick up the pieces,” she said. “Throw away what you need to and keep what you can save.”
The bait shop owner and treasure hunter stood in the lot — the same lot she played in while growing up right there in Krotz Springs — and talked about the future.
“One day, I’ll get it all spread out,” she said. “You work with what you’ve got. If you ain’t got a lot of money, you scrap what you can.”
Her assessment of the virtual Cave of Wonders from Disney’s “Aladdin”?
“It ain’t much.”