Day 490: Lawrence in Florence

Laetitia and her group left Louisiana and went to northwest Alabama. Their destination was Florence, a city of about 37,000. They began their tour with the Indian Mound and Museum. The mound, built around 500 AD, is believed to have been a place of ceremony and ritual. The accompanying museum has a collection of artifacts on display that date back 10.000 years. Their next stop was the Rosenbaum house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Blues musician and songwriter W. C. Handy was born in Florence in 1873. He wrote Memphis BluesBeale Street BluesYellow Dog Blues, and Saint Louis Blues. The W. C. Handy Home and Museum is located on the site where the Handy’s log cabin stood and contains personal papers, artifacts, and memorabilia donated by him before his death.

At dinner that evening, Laetitia was seated within earshot of a couple of elderly ladies who were discussing family matters. The focus of much of their conversation was a cousin, Cal, who when young was a “cross to bear” for his mother. He spent much of his youth reading instead of doing the normal things that boys are supposed to do. Sometimes his mother caught him reading books by that dreadful Henry Miller and that awful D. H. Lawrence. Everyone in the family predicted that he wouldn’t turn out well, and, according to the ladies, those prophesies were correct. He’d gone off to Auburn and got a Ph.D. in English and then, much to everyone’s embarrassment, came back here and taught at the University of North Alabama. He was so unlike his other cousins, who had successful respectable careers like televangelism or arms trading in the Middle East. After the ladies left, Laetitia wrote the limerick of the day on her napkin and then presented it to the group.

The source of a scandal in Florence
Was Cal’s penchant for D. H. Lawrence
He preferred Lady Chatterley
To sports or philately
Much to his poor mother’s abhorrence.

Day 489: Port Hudson Dud

Port Hudson, Louisiana, was the day’s destination. It was the scene of the longest siege in American history, when 7,500 Confederate troops held off more than 40,000 Union troops for 48 days. The garrison surrendered when the fall of Vicksburg made their position of no more strategic importance. Laetitia and her group toured the 889-acre Port Hudson State Commemorative Area with its three observation towers, museum, and six miles of trails. Nearby is the Port Hudson National Cemetery, where 4,000 Civil War veterans are buried.

After the visits to the battlefields and cemeteries, Laetitia and her group did a walkabout in Port Hudson. Within a short time the tour became a “herding cat” situation with the members of the group wandering off in all directions to window shop, take pictures, look at birds, use public toilets, and talk to people on the street. She decided to take a seat on a park bench and wait for them to wander back. It didn’t matter whether they did or not, since tour members could join or leave the tours whenever they wished.

While sitting there, she heard a father admonishing his son, a junior-high-age boy named Judson, about his current girlfriend. The father obviously wanted his son to date only intelligent girls who would eventually give him smart grandchildren. A rumor heard from one of his son’s classmates sparked this discussion about the girl, whom he called “as sharp as a beach ball.” When her group reassembled for dinner, Laetitia was ready with her limerick.

Said the dad of a young lad named Judson
“I think your new girlfriend’s a dud, son,
Calling a and e ‘bowels’
Is sure to bring howls
As it did at her school in Port Hudson.”

Day 488: Wholesome in Folsom

Leaving Davant, Laetitia and her group did some hiking and wildlife watching in the Lake Ramsay Savannah Wildlife Management Area before going to the Global Wildlife Center. The latter is essentially a 900-acre zoo that offers safari-style tours to see animals from all over the world. It’s not exactly authentic, but it provides some unique wildlife-viewing opportunities for folks whose budgets are not sufficient for foreign travel to places where they have real safaris.

They were spending the evening in Folsom, Louisiana. When the group arrived there, Laetitia took them to their lodging, gave them a time to meet her for dinner, and found a local bar. The buzz there was about a magazine writer who was in town doing a nationwide survey for an article about the best towns in the United States for bachelors. At dinner, Laetitia presented the limerick of the day.

When a magazine writer would poll some
Of the bachelor men around Folsom
‘Bout the ladies in town
They’d say with a frown
That most of them just are too wholesome.

Day 487: Puissant Savant?

Leaving Slidell, Laetitia and her group crossed Lake Ponchartrain and explored the hundred miles or so of the Mississippi River’s east bank. On several occasions when Laetitia led tours in the western United States, aspiring authors had joined her group and handed her their manuscripts based on the mistaken notion that, as a limericist, she could help them improve their novels-in-progress. This hadn’t happened recently, and she was hoping this phenomenon was a thing of the past, but today a budding novelist named Newt joined her group. He and his wife had joined the tour from nearby Davant, which, coincidentally, was where the Mind’s Eye group was spending the evening. His effort was short, consisting of only of the beginning sentence, so Laetitia agreed to look at it. It read:

The belted, brass-jacketed 5.56 mm rounds of his Stoner glinted in the late afternoon sunshine as SEAL Lieutenant Blade, his steel-blue eyes scanning the snarled vegetation, steered the Boston Whaler down a narrow, palm-lined channel of brown delta water toward a date with Destiny—the doe-eyed dancer at the Bayou Belle who had urged, “Come prepared.”

Laetitia had just finished reading it when Newt’s wife appeared with a look of disgust on her face, berated him, grabbed him by the arm, handed him some binoculars, and led him off in the direction of some wading birds. That evening in Davant, Newt became the subject of the limerick of the day. The happy hour gossip about him was that he brags to everyone that he’s a writer, but has only written one line. His neighbors are tired of hearing his “writer’s block” excuse, and his wife wants him to get a job.

Newt bragged that he was a savant
And a writer of novels, puissant
But his neighbors opine
He’s but good for one line
He’s the town laughing stock in Davant.