Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rural Life and the Red Stick

Everyone enjoyed the pictures of the Louisiana State Capital in Baton Rouge so much that I thought I would follow-up with more pictures of the area, and in particular the Rural Life Museum. I liked the Museum because it focused on rural life that was particular to the Louisiana area. Some things appear very similar to the farming way of life we encountered in The Okefenokee Swamp but in some ways you will see a difference in how people went about their day-to-day lives. As always, click each photo for a better view.

A recreation of a shotgun house that was popular during rural period in the South. They were called shotgun houses from the saying that one could fire a shotgun through the front door and the pellets would fly cleanly through the house and out the back because the houses were narrow rectangle boxes with all the rooms in a straight line with a door on either end.

The Living or front room of the shotgun house. Over to the right you can see a portion of the dining area and light from the back door highlighting the straight line construction.

The view from the Dining area. While it appears a little rustic to our current day eyes, this dining area was rather expensive for the time.

This family might have used one of the two pictured washing machines. They both required a good deal of work to operate but were definitely a step above hand washing that was very labor intensive. Each had a crank that turned the clothes over. The washing machine to the right had a mechanical crank that allowed a horse or human to rotate the barrel body around and wash the clothes.

The family might have been involved in molasses production where sugar cane was grown on the land and then boiled in a two strain process that you see to the right. The by product is moved from bowl to bowl depending on how many times it is boiled. A third boiling takes the sugar syrup beyond simple molasses to create blackstrap molasses that you see in the jar to the right.

If they were involved in cotton production, they might have used this early form of tractor that required the introduction of coal to produce steam to power movement. If you have ever experienced a hot day in the south, I would not want to be the one feeding it.

The majority of either crop once harvested would be transported down to the Mississippi River and put on steam boats for transport all around the world. This model shows the bales of cotton and barrels of molasses carried by the steam boat.

Cotton that was not shipped might be used in local homes that used looms pictured to the left.

It seems that dying was a showy business in Louisiana compared to other areas. A family might elect a casket similar to this iron number with a viewing window for the face.

And one could really go in style with further viewing in this very elaborate hearse.

So there you have rural life in Baton Rouge or "the red stick" as JLBO hinted in his comments on another post. There is always a common theme that seems to run through rural life in the South but it is more than apparent that the French influence adds a very distinct variation in Louisiana.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I recently did a feature on my father dealing with old age and making his first visit to the Senior Center. I sat down after the visit and just watched him as we talked and every now and then would take a picture. As always, click each photo for a better view.

What got my attention as I seriously studied him was his hands and his relationship with his walking stick since his hip surgery.

This one I found very telling because I discovered my father is shy... he does not like to look into the camera. To get him to face the camera I tried telling him jokes and if you look closely there is the hint of a smile.

I particularly like this one. There is something about the way he holds his hands I find interesting. If you look closely it is clear these are the hands of a working man. And, though frail there is still a sense of strength in them.

I asked him about his walking stick (that he calls "My Stick") and watched as he described what it allows him to do. As he talked about it, you got the impression something so simple was one of his prized possessions.

What also struck me about his description was the almost loving caress he gave the stick as he talked about it. Notice his grip

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mayport, An Overlooked History

A friend recently invited me lunch at a little restaurant called Safe Harbor in Mayport Florida. Mayport is a little fishing village near Jacksonville and since I had heard a little about the place, I welcomed the chance to go. As always, click each photo for a better view.

I was surprised to learn that scholars believe Jean Ribault landed in Mayport in 1562, which predates both St. Augustine and Jamestown. And, as you can tell from the condition of the sign above, St. Augustine has capitalized on its history and Mayport has not.

The Safe Harbor restaurant sits on the river and offers fresh seafood and a view of the fishing boats. It is simple dining but great atmosphere.

And it is a fantastic view. But it also shows that the adage about location being very important does you no good if there is a lack of vision once you get there.

I say that because there does not seem to have been much of an effort to capitalize on the historic nature of the area and now cruise ships have begun to take over the harbor.

Cruise ships and birds now pretty much own the place.

The food was quite good and as we sat outside and watched the fishing boats come and go it made for very pleasant dining.

I could only wonder what the place would look like if there was a significant effort to highlight the natural beauty of the place.

I watched this fishing boat pull away from the harbor with nets ready for the next catch.

And then had to smile as it reached the middle of the river. If you look closely to the right of the picture you will see a cloud of birds following it out of the harbor. They too were ready for the next catch. At least someone in the area knows how to capitalize on potential opportunities.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Down in the Bayou

My sister lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and it is always fun to go there and visit the State Capital building (JLBO, just for you: Capitole de l'Etat de Louisiane) I mentioned previously that a visit there caused me to mentally kick myself for never going to the Colorado State Capital building while living in Denver. While not as ornate as the Colorado Capital, the Louisiana capital makes up for it with a very colorful history. As always, click each photo for a better view.

The Louisiana State Capital sits in the heart of downtown Baton Rouge and is sort of like Central Park in that it is surrounded by a lovely garden right in the middle of the city. The structure itself is huge and with 34 stories, it is the tallest capitol building in the United States. There is an observation deck just below the section that holds the State Flag, and you are definitely into the clouds.

The Capital history is forever tied to the famous, or infamous depending upon who you talk to, Governor Huey Long (nicknamed the Kingfish) who commissioned the building in 1928. Long was a larger than life character who was a man of the people and semi-dictator all rolled into one.

This statue sits in the middle of the grounds in tribute to Long and he is buried beneath it.

The highlight of the entrance is a series of 49 steps which list every State and their entrance in to the Union. Alaska and Hawaii occupy the 49th step together. There is Alex leading the charge!

I found Colorado!

The famous main entrance to the Capital. At either end of this corridor is the State Senate and House Chambers. The round fixture is the State Seal which rests in the middle of the corridor.

The main entrance is famous because Long was assassinated as he walked with bodyguards in tow from one chamber to the other. There is some dispute as to if the assassin actually was the one who shot Long. It is rumored that his bodyguards opened fire on the assassin and one of their bullets bounced off the marble wall and struck Long. The bullet holes remain in the wall.

The State Seal is a sight to behold in that it is silver and polished to such a high gloss it could blind you. Resources from the various regions of the State are stamped on it.

The Senate Chambers are ornate and the small number of Senate seats definitely gives the impression that it is a very exclusive club.

The State House of Representatives appears a lot more open. But, I guess that is the point in that the House is designed to be closer to the people.

And on to the observation deck... You go so high and then get on another very old elevator that will only hold a limited number of people and you wonder if that limited number is too many!

From the observation deck you get the full view of the garden and the layout of the Long memorial statue. Good ole Huey is still at the center of things!

To the left of the Long Memorial is a Civil War Armory and another garden that is loaded with a wide variety of roses. I have never seen such brilliant colors!

The great Mississippi is just to the right of the Armory. From the observation deck you can see just how important it is to the area and why it is called the "Mighty" Mississippi.

What really surprised me was within five miles of the State Capital was this huge refinery! I'm not going to be hypocritical and come down on the State because I use gas just like everyone else and the refinery rests near the Mississippi for easy transport. But you look around at all this beauty and then your eye rolls to this:

We took tons of pictures and just soaked in the history of the place and the stories about good ole Huey. It is well worth the trip if you are in the area. Be prepared for many glorious sights!

Down in the Bayou...