Flood survivor warmly recalls past year of 'country living'

Flood survivor warmly recalls past year of 'country living'
Life moves slower in the morning in some places. (Source: Robert Chandler)
Life moves slower in the morning in some places. (Source: Robert Chandler)
Robert Chandler (right) and his wife, Jimmie
Robert Chandler (right) and his wife, Jimmie

EAST FELICIANA PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Editor's note: Robert Chandler is WAFB's News Operations Manager. He's also a great writer! He and his wife, Jimmie, lost their home in the August 2016 flood. Robert posted this to his Facebook page this week and we'd like to share it with you.

We have now been in our new home for a couple of months. We have furniture now, and have gotten away from the "Bass Pro Shops" motif in the living room of folding camp chairs around the TV. It's starting to look like genteel people live here.

And you can have pizza delivered again!

There's grass to mow. And landscaping to tend to. And we spend Saturday mornings cleaning the place – a routine we got into back at the trailer on Mr. Homer's place in East Feliciana Parish. The trailer had to be spotless for the good folks at Saving Grace Community Church on Sunday mornings.

The times we spent with the Knost family were good ones. That time, though born of tragedy, inserted us into 'country living," that I thoroughly enjoyed.

We were so far back in the woods that the mosquitoes had not yet found the place. Deer, skunks, Canadian geese, eagles – even coyotes run free across the pastures and woodlands there.

I thought the coyote was a fox, but Mr. Bob quickly corrected me. That said, I figured the coyote was loping on up to the trailer to eat my cat. Mr. Bob corrected me again. Apparently, Wile E. is scared of cats, even cross-eyed felines like Dexter.

But seeing, and learning little things like that are what I miss about East Feliciana Parish and those wonderful people.

The drive back and forth to Baton Rouge from Bluff Creek was a solid hour. But leaving the trailer as the sun rose, seeing the mist across the meadow, surprising a Blue Runner (that's a snake to you Siegen Lane folks-fast one too), was a great way to start the day.

Life moved slowly in the morning, as it was intended.

I really miss the little lady at Flenikens' Grocery. Every time I saw her, she was cleaning or sweeping. The place was clean and neat as a pin!

Up at Bluff Creek, Flenikens' is the ad hoc community center. It is one of the few places left where you can buy a fold-up road map. The bulletin board outside was where you could post messages about lost animals, bazaars, and shotguns for sale.

It was there in the parking lot where we met a truck dog named Frog. Where deer corn was always on sale and big signs went up when they had shiners. 
Gravel truck drivers would whip in for a cup of coffee and a biscuit. "Out-of-town" visitors would meet the locals there and be escorted to their final destinations.

In the parking lot of Flenikens, when people said "Good morning" or "how are you," they listened for the answer. I had to get used to that again.

With a fresh biscuit and a large Diet Coke, we would turn the truck back onto the highway for the trek to the big city.

When passing the Bluff Creek Volunteer Fire Department, I would again "see" Election Day, where the fella (or girl, I guess) who nailed the buck that morning stopped in to vote, the morning's bounty still strapped across the hood. Try though I might, I could not get turned around fast enough to go back and get that picture.

When turning onto Hwy 959, I would pass Bluff Creek Baptist Church. If you look hard out in the cemetery, there is a scraggly tree far in the back.

At its base is buried the local celebrity. Doris Ione Smith, aka Donna Douglas, known to all of us as Elly Mae Clampett, is buried there with her family.

The drive from the farm gradually added houses and traffic. Thus people. It gently ramped you up for downtown Baton Rouge where people honk at each other now. A lot!

The trip back home stepped you back down. As the houses got farther apart, and the traffic on Highway 959 disappeared about 630p, you were all alone in your truck. Switch off the satellite radio and roll down the windows. Holler at the deer.

Back on the farm, I would whip out my spotlight as the gate opened. I needed to see the deer on the place. And they REALLY needed me to spotlight them. I can't describe it, but deer have attitudes about being spot lit. I just wanted to see them. They were not enthused.

It was always a great game to see what manner of wildebeest would meet you on the road, or on the porch. Percival the Possum was a frequent guest. The Geese Posse was close to the carport one morning, as I think Dexter had been stalking them. Knowing no fear, the geese were returning the favor.

The best nights were the stormy ones. With the satellite TV and Internet disabled by the rain and the power cut, there was little to do but sit on the front porch and watch the lightning miles away. You may as well have been sitting there a century ago. Time stood still.

Bacon tastes better in the woods of East Feliciana Parish. Just sayin'.

I remember the entire Sheriff's Office and half the parish turning out to search for Mr. Homer when he didn't come home at the appointed hour. His 4-wheeler had overturned over on the 'Old Hundred" and being a grown man, he left his radio back at the house.

Despite the earnest throng searching the farm, Mr. Bob found him, unhurt and a bit sheepish.

Mrs. Dottie – not having a sheepish bone in her entire body – was fit to be tied. According to Mr. Homer, "that woman can GET mad…"

Jimmie and I were returning from the Watson Walmart where we would "get supplies" for the week. We heard a horn blowing from across the pond and thought we might need to head over and check on the Knosts.

Jimmie was just curious, but I was mentally preparing for fallen and can't get up, car fell off jack, medical emergency. 
Nope. Mrs. Dottie has a blind dog, and that's how she calls him home when he's out roaming the place. Lesson learned in the country. But going over there to check was the neighborly thing to do. And it led to a two hour visit.

Probably the most illustrative lesson was the Great Gravel Truck Wreck. Maybe not Great, but it sure tied up traffic and had that end of the parish talking.

Seems among all the trucks that daily exit the pits on our little road, one was too engrossed telling his story on the CB, and straightened out the T intersection where 960 hits 63. Ran up in the woods fully loaded is all he did.

Nobody hurt, no harm, no foul. But ALL of his comrades had to pass the wreck and note his misfortune. And blow their horns. And talk about it on the CB.

As for the unlucky driver, he had to endure the good-natured digs from the sunken wheels of his rig, acknowledging their ribbing with an embarrassed wave, or a nod of his head. It was the talk of Flenikens for three days straight until the shiners came in.

It's all behind us now. Our new house is in a new subdivision where other houses are going in. They all have kids, so we will be the old folks on the block. I need a "Get Off My Lawn" sign to make the point.

We all try to keep our grass mowed and the driveways edged. Got to keep it looking spiffy.

I have not seen pizza delivered there yet, but I know it can happen. Internet comes in on fiber, not on the Exede dish anymore. And all the fast foods and conveniences of the Greater Watson Metroplex are two minutes away. Not the half hour trek anymore.

As the new house sits near a pond, there's a whole flock of Canadian geese patrolling the land, just as they did at the trailer.

They honk and flap overhead noisily in the mornings as we have coffee on the screen porch.

And wouldn't you know, Jimmie and I were coming home from Walmart at dusk, and a deer ran right out in front of me on Hunstock Road!

Just keeping us honest, I guess.

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