Heart of Louisiana: Cajun Collector
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - An avid fisherman and duck hunter from the bayou-side town of Galliano has created a massive private collection of cajun history. The hundreds of duck and fish carvings, old dugout boats, and camp furnishings are an attempt to preserve a way of life.
It’s a collection of cajun artifacts that Connie Lefort started when he was a teenager.
“This is the piece that pretty much started my whole collection right here, washed up on the rocks on Timbalier Island,” said Coonie Lefort.
Lefort believes the long wooden oar may have been used by pirates who frequented coastal Louisiana.
“So they had anchored all their ships, and then he put these row boats with these paddles and they rowed themselves to land,” Lefort said.
Lefort has turned a large attic into a private museum, filled with the items of everyday life from his cajun ancestors.
“These people live hard lives, can you imagine? You know, like a trapper in those days they lived in the marsh the whole season with a little bitty camp that they would make, and they would have a pot belly stove to just warm themself and cook on. No electricity, no running water, and they would live off the fat of the land,” Lefort said.
He’s collected several old pirogues, some that were made from hollowed-out cypress logs, including one he recently found on a fishing trip.
“We were on Elmers Island and we found this thing washed up on the beach,” said Lefort.
A centerpiece of the collection is this massive alligator twice the size of most of the reptiles.
“How big is this? 13 feet, one inch long, and 67 inches in circumference,” Lefort said.
Many more paddles have been added to the collection, including one hand carved by ben Flynn.
“But I like something that one day will be able to tell a story. You know, I went and sat in a pond and I saw this many ducks,” Ronnie Flynn said.
He learned carving from his father, Ronnie Flynn, who started making duck decoys for hunting when he was six years old.
“I’ve made a lot of fancy ones, you know, but my heart is really in the old beat-up ones. They’ve worked for a living,” Flynn said.
Lefort says he’s collected 800 decoys from some of the top artists in the region. He even has a few of their carving knives and this giant amberjack is an exact carving of the one he caught while spearfishing in the gulf. It was created by Chris Weaver.
“When you fish enough and you handle these fish over a period of time you learn the shape and you learn the different poses that you can carve these fish in,” Weaver said.
“This was the beginning of the shotgun shell. They were made out of brass,” Lefort said.
When you look around the room and see the ducks, the fishing models, spears and guns, and all these sorts of things, I mean, that’s the story of your life. Your daddy’s life, your family’s life.
“You know, my whole family did that all their lives, so I did it too,” Lefort said.
Lefort is saving those stories in all of these artifacts that represent a way of life down the bayou.
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