He plays tunes and spins yarns. But there's more than that to the story of this Acadian treasure.
Merlin Fontenot play a lick on his fiddle then puts it down to say, "The old man didn't feel good. He went in the restroom, looked in the mirror and didn't like what he saw. He went and got his pistol and shot it."
He's a storyteller, fiddle player, and he's even part Peid Piper. Merlin calls two youngsters to the stage, takes their hands in his, and soon the kids are "playing" the fiddle.
Then he's off on another tangent, showing how he can make his fiddle "whistle" at a pretty girl or tweet like a bird.
Merlin's an entertaining guy, but somehow it doesn't seem right to say he "entertains." He sits and chats with folks. There can be 50 listeners or just one. It doesn't matter. "I just automatically do it," he says. "I just can't help myself. It just comes natural like that, you see."
Every year hundreds of people get to meet the human face of Cajun lore thanks to Merlin Fontenot. He is usually in the chapel at Vermilionville, Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 till 4:00.