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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Be Adventurous

Sheldon A. Blue wrote this as an assignment on March 13, 2008. The prompt was "Be Adventurous – Interview someone from your past."
     “I’m not sure just how old you were during that time,” Dad said. “Lafayette had less than 15,000 people in it, and I know Southwestern (SLI) had less than 1,500 students. Mr. Heymann had this huge nursery next to the College, where the Oil Center is today and a big wooded area existed between Mc Naspy Stadium and  Heyman’s Nursery.”
     “Why is it that you bring up the wooded area next to the stadium?" I asked.
     “Well, you see, a group of us in the Lion’s Club in those days had our eyes on that area for a project.”
     “Wasn’t that the area where the C.C.C. (Civilian Conservation Corps.) camped when they came in to help after the depression and the flood of 1927?  And didn’t Dave Church have a house or cabin in those woods?”
     “Yep, you got the right area.  About a dozen of us in the Lion’s Club had camped and picnicked in those woods, and we came up with the idea of taking a bunch of trees out, leveling out areas, and maybe even building a lake in a hollow spot in the woods.
     “One of us had a farm tractor with some attachments, another had access to some logging equipment, and we all had strong backs and were a lot younger in those days.
    “No one said NO, we just all told our wives not to plan anything on the weekends for the rest of the year.  Then we met the next Saturday, and a project was born.”
     I don’t remember reading anything about this in the "History of Lafayette" I read last winter.  But who is to question Dad’s memories of Buryl Logan, C.O. Theriot, Pip Billeaud, Jerry Butcher, Pop Chicqulen (and others I don’t remember), meeting weekend after weekend reshaping a forest.  It has to be true.  It was one of the biggest items of their lives for three or four years.  I am not sure what each pledged to the other, but it had to be a big promise for that group to give up dove hunting in September and duck hunting in November, to work their butts off in the woods each weekend.
     I do remember, about noon each Saturday, Mom and I would drive out St. Mary’s Boulevard and turn on the gravel road that went past the stadium.  I knew the spot well from all the times in spring when Dad would take me with him to spend the day there while he officiated as a timer at an S.L.I. track meet.  Each Saturday we brought enough lunch-meat sandwiches to feed an army and a huge jug of lemonade to feed that dirty crew.  There we met others doing the same. 
     It didn’t look like much was being accomplished after the first couple weeks, but I know Dad came home late on Sunday nights and fell into bed and slept soundly.
     Weeks later clearings began to appear from the road.  We didn’t have to blow the horn
and wait for them to come out of the woods for their lunch.  They could see us when we drove up, and we could see them working.  Sometimes you could still smell the burning trees and stumps from the week before.
     As time went by, Mom and I got in the habit of staying after lunch on Sundays, in the clearing, to watch what was going on.  It became easier for me to play as the clearing progressed.
     I remember bringing my fishing pole and sitting next to the hollow when they started to put water in it.  It was my intention to catch the first fish from that lake.
     Weekend after weekend went by,  I’m not sure how many were involved in this project.  There were eventually 40 to 50 men working each weekend.  All I can really remember is how dirty they all came home on Sunday nights.
     One thing sets well in my memory.  It was the day I found Dad and his friends Zeke Laughlin and Coach Louie Campbell sitting at the kitchen table, smiling and joking while they drafted a news release that said:
             “Lafayette City and Lion’s Club join hands to dedicate Girard Park.”

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