Thank You Herrad!

My lovely friend in Amsterdam, Herrad, has awarded me this for my blog. I have been getting some great comments which I may repost in here. I would like to thank everyone for reading and caring about the plight of the Gulf of Mexico residents.

I will be posting more later but it’s late and wanted to get this out…and stop by and check out Herrad’s outstanding and heroic blog. She is a living testament to courage and grace under pressure. 


Requiem for the Gulf of Mexico

This blog started as an homage to living the rural Louisiana small town life.   I moved here from the Northshore of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina wiped out most of what I considered home. We think we are so insulated out here in the middle of the state and yet the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has reached out and altered this community. Two local men died in the explosion over a month ago. And the oil keeps bubbling up from the ground like it did in Jed Clampett’s  yard except at a horrific rate that can only be estimated. 

It has invaded our precious wetlands and estuaries, the source of all life on the coast and the only barrier the state has from hurricanes.  It has drenched the Katrina-ravaged barrier islands and reports of oil-coated pelicans and their eggs are only the tip of the iceberg of what is really happening and is still to come.  Word today is the oil containment by BP is not working as well as it was previously thought (really? it was working before?). BP is also trying to use a dispersant that is banned in its own country, as too toxic. The Army Corps of Engineers have officially refused us help with emergency dredging. Gov. Jindal is going ahead anyway (thank you Governor!)

Louisiana is being systematically destroyed by man-made catastrophes.  We have the Army Corps of Engineers to thank for the toxic gumbo that submerged 80 percent of New Orleans after Katrina.   Now they refuse us help with the dredging on the coast because of one of the biggest man made disasters ever? And no one out there seems to understand not only the scale and scope of the disaster but in the end that it will affect the entire country, if not the world. 

Louisiana and Mississippi are at the bottom of the list in so many areas and apparently we are about to go straight to the top of the list for oil slicks and tar balls.  I thought I had seen it all when it took four days for officials to go into New Orleans with food and water.  If this was happening on the East or West coast, I guarantee you a remedy for that oil spewing would be much further along than it is now.  Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico? Piffle.  Bunch of swamps and rednecks.  Who cares? 

We care.  We live here.  Shame on all of you offiicials in all capacities, corporate or government affiliated, who contributed to this debacle in the tinest of ways. And those of you who made decisions not to help remedy yet another tragedy in our corner of the world: I wish I had all those Katrina refrigerators with duct tape on them because I would have them delivered to your backyards. Sans duct tape.

This writer is so sad and angry about yet about yet another man-made boondoggle in this part of the world that she could even think about bringing back toxic refrigerators is a pitiful statement indeed.

Thank you to all who are helping and do care, Gov. Jindal, you are my hero.  BP and all those who helped create the situation there are no words for what I wish for you.

I have based this blog on the premise that nothing much happens here in Monterey, but sadly much has been happening lately.  Peggy Kemp who owns a local convenience store (one of two here in town) lost her son Roy in the oil rig explosion in the Gulf. He lived in the neighboring town of Jonesville with his wife and two daughters.  Our community is in shock and engulfed in sadness over this tragedy as a catastrophic oil spill touches our collective heart personally.  The Kemps’ lives will never be the same.

As an added tragedy, Roy’s father Sandy Kemp was killed in an automobile accident less than 6 weeks ago.

Not much happens in this community but death and tragedy happen everywhere. 

Here is the reprinted news article by Sandy Mickens  from the Natchez Democrat newspaper, Sunday May 2, 2010

Family Left Only With Memories

Whenever Kaylee Kemp learned her Daddy was returning home from his job on an offshore oil rig, the countdown would commence.

The 3-year-old and her mother, Courtney Kemp, would mark the days until Roy Wyatt Kemp’s homecoming. Together, they’d anticipate his embrace.

That was their tradition.

Wyatt Kemp, 27, was an avid outdoors man who loved his dog Ellie.

On April 20, just one day before Wyatt Kemp, 27, was to return home to Jonesville, his oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. He and 10 other men died as a result of the blast.

Wyatt had worked offshore the last four and a half years, and was recently promoted to assistant driller.

Courtney Kemp asked God for guidance. How could she tell Kaylee the countdown was over?

“I told her that Friday or Saturday, I don’t remember which day,” Courtney Kemp said. “She’d asked me before why I’d been crying, but I told her there’d been a bad accident on Daddy’s rig and everything will be OK.

“(Kaylee) asked me to come outside on the porch. She was coloring on the sidewalk and I felt like that was the right time to tell her. I told her there’d been a bad accident on Daddy’s rig. I told her Daddy loves her very much and Daddy loves (3-month-old sister) Maddison very much. I told her Daddy wasn’t going to come home.”

Courtney Kemp’s eyes were hidden behind her sunglasses as she recalled her story, but the glasses couldn’t hide the tears streaming down her face.

“(Kaylee) started crying. I told her Daddy was in heaven with God, and he’d be watching over her, and he’d be living in our hearts forever.”

Courtney Kemp’s mother, Theresa Carpenter, was nearby to console her grieving daughter.

“We’ve got one little girl that’ll remember her Daddy some, and one that will never know him,” Carpenter said, her eyes too filled with tears.

“God is faithful and he doesn’t make mistakes. We know there’s a reason whether we understand it or not.”

On Friday, Wyatt was remembered during a memorial service at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. Planning the service proved difficult for the family. Without a body to bury, the family opted to bury a box filled with memorabilia.

Those who knew Wyatt well were asked to write down their memories of him, and place their notes in a jar “so the girls can have stories for years to come,” Carpenter said.

Courtney Kemp said her husband of five years was fearless. At age 3, he was bitten by a cottonmouth snake and nearly died.

“After that, he wasn’t afraid of anything,” Courtney Kemp said.

Wyatt again kept a brave face when he broke his leg playing softball four months after he and Courtney were married. Bone marrow escaped into his bloodstream, causing a fat embolism, similar to a blood clot, to form in his lungs.

“He almost died again, and he stayed in the ICU for a week,” Courtney Kemp said.

Those hardships taught Wyatt to value each day of his life.

“He was a wonderful husband, my best friend, a great father who loved his girls very much,” Courtney Kemp said. “No one will ever know how much he meant to me.

“He loved hunting and fishing,” Carpenter added. “He took such pride in his hunting dog. He had a chocolate lab named Ellie, and they spent hours and hours together.”

Wyatt was also a man who loved stargazer lilies. One week ago today, Courtney Kemp seized the opportunity to fly over the site where the explosion occurred. Area florists donated dozens of stargazer lilies and other flowers for her to scatter over the water — his final resting place.

For Courtney Kemp, the past 13 days have been surreal. Friends and family have filled the house she and Wyatt built a year and a half ago with flowers and food, and the phone won’t stop ringing.

The Kemps began dating when they were sophomores at Huntington School in Ferriday. Pictures of their life together, from prom to their autumn 2004 wedding, were strewn across the kitchen table.

“I’m still kind of in denial,” Courtney Kemp said. “I keep thinking he’s at work.”

Courtney Kemp finds comfort in the faith she shared with her husband. That undoubting faith, she says, keeps her spirits high.

“He believed in the Lord with all his heart, and it’s comforting to know he’s in heaven with God and I’ll see him again. Now I’m trying to hang in there for my girls.”

Wyatt Kemp was one of two local men who died in the explosion. Karl Dale Kleppinger Jr., 38, of Natchez, is survived by wife Tracy, son Aaron and other family and friends.

Memorial services are set for 2 p.m. Monday at Highland Baptist Church.

Two local men also survived the explosion.

Wyman Wheeler, 39, of Monterey, suffered severe burns and bruises in the blast, his wife Rebecca Wheeler said. Wyman was treated and released from University Medical Center in Jackson April 26.

“He’s doing pretty good. The explosion hit him from behind and his right leg was badly burned,” Rebecca Wheeler said. “There’s lots of physical therapy and occupational therapy ahead. It’ll be a long, long recovery.”

Rebecca Wheeler said nine of the 11 men who died were Wyman’s crew members, and the family plans to attend the memorial services.

The second local survivor, Chad Murray, 34, of the Lake St. John community, was uninjured in the blast. Chad Murray’s sister, Christy Murray, said in a previous interview her brother reportedly helped nine people, including Wyman Wheeler, onto a rescue boat following the blast.

Chad Murray is home safely, but not yet up to telling the stories of his ordeal.

From a surprise visit from Spring to a late and unusual visit from Old Man Winter. As I said last month it’s a crapshoot here in Lousiana. I said January but you can include December through March.

I was so excited about the coming snow. I ran out into the night as the big thick, heavy flakes began falling and snapped some photos.  It looked like the entire universe was falling into our yard. Or at least a baby star shower. I hopped into bed and dreamed of sugarplum fairies, Snow Queens and everything winter.

 I woke up early the next morning and without missing a beat or eating breakfast put on all the warm layered clothes I could find. It was still snowing.  The dogs, who refused to go out for Robert earlier, were now raring to go when they saw how excited I was. 

So here we all go I said, out into the beautiful photogenic gorgeous snow and…..my camera batteries were stone dead. Ha. I said. We don’t need no  stinking pictures  (silently wanting to scream because of the former photojournalist in me and not wanting a naked blog entry). Well, fine, is what I say in these situations.  We’ll remember it better without pictures because we’ll have nothing to remind us. 

And with that as my mantra I charged off into the snow with Robert and two and a half dogs: Daisy May Moses(Golden Collie Mix), Sparkle Farkle (Lab) and Lucy the Wonder Wiener (mini-wienie).  They weren’t sure what to think of the white stuff. It sank when they stepped in it and  made  funny muffled groaning sounds.  Plus it was wet at the bottom and Lucy HATES getting her feet wet.  Until they got used to it they looked at every step they made and listened for the noise. I threw a couple of snowballs at them and they got the idea real quick.  I don’t think any of us stopped romping for the next three hours.

I started  a respectable snowman. Couldn’t get  a photo til much later when he was leaning to one side and looking drenched. But I have never seen the yard and surrounding area look more breathtaking,  The hundred-year-old oak and pecan trees were snow coated six inches deep on the west side of the branches and it was still coming down in large wet flakes.  Aja and Niko came over from next door and helped with the snowman building until everything deteriorated into a take-no-prisoners snowball fight. Even the dogs got into it. I think Robert had the most completions but I managed to shove a big ball of snow down Niko’s shirt.  (Southern kids don’t know these kinds of tricks).

I spent the first 11 years of my life in Maine so I had a repetoire of snow wrangling at my disposal.  I am, however, Southern by choice if not by birth. 

Of course the duck started looking forlorn and quacked insistently  so I sprung  the jailbird out of her pen and brought her over to the action. She looked at the snowman and quacked.  I don’t think she had seen one before. Then she chased Sparkle around a bit and spent the rest of the time digging in the snow for bugs.

When you live this far out the weather is everything. In the city you can still go places and carry on somewhat (unless you are in D.C.) but weather is boss in rural Lousiana. During hurricane season it is boss everywhere. When you live far outside the city limits you not only get more in touch with weather but you become part of it.  I can only imagine how our pioneer ancestors survived without weather radar and forecasts.   Apparently, a lot of them didn’t. 

But here in Louisiana we took snow and made a party out of it in true Louisiana fashion.

Our boys The Saints won the Superbowl last week, we got snow and Mardi Gras is just around the corner. What more could a person ask for? A nice big King Cake from MacKenzie’s maybe and some K&B ice cream?  That is the subject for another day….Happy Mardi Gras from Louisiana!

Spring made a surprise appearance  in Monterey today.  Beautiful would be an understatement.  Glorious, may be a little much, but more accurate.  When you live in the middle of Nowhere and Not Much Else, you either have to drive somewhere to have fun or make your own.

Today we made our own fun and I had a perfect moment.  Can’t really ask for more than that is my philosophy (more on that another time).  The dogs (Daisy, Sparkle and Lucy the Wonder Weenie) needed to run and the duck (Samantha) was making a louder than usual racket in the side yard.  It was nice out so we all went to the temporary lake in between our property and the field next door.  Some beavers have been busy down on Cocoudrie Bayou and between their dam and the ubiquitous rain, the water has stuck around in the yard. In places it is thigh deep.  After a good rain it usually dissipates quickly, but thanks to industrious wildlife, we have a good sized pond.

Robert keeps threatening to call a police juror or something like that to take care of it, but I like the water and so do the dogs.  And Samantha the duck lives for it.

Samantha was a rescue duck who was the sole survivor of an attack on her flock over in Mississippi last summer.  She now is the happy owner of a large, secure pen complete with swimming pool, mud hole and a big redwood rabbit hutch she sleeps in at night.  So I picked her up (she doesnt’ walk too well after the attack) and carried her out there.  Give the duck a few inches of water,  some grass and mud and she is happy for hours.

The dogs splashed around. Daisy patroled the water very seriously for fish and I didn’t have the heart to tell her it is only a pretend lake. She grew up around real ponds and lakes and is part fish herself. But it is comical to see her get so serious walking in neck deep water, looking carefully left, then right with some silent doggy fish radar.   Sparkle splashed around like the big labrador goofball she is and Lucy the weenie dog ran in the shallows. She tried to play with the duck.  Samantha was having none of it and would swim  just out of reach, which meant three inches of water instead of two — Lucy is a mini-wiener.  Then Samantha would chase Sparkle for a few feet and scold her (they are old friends since Sparkle was a tiny puppy) before deciding it was useless and returning to her mud diving.  Two or three of our 8 cats showed up (Burt, Smudge and Ali) so of course we had to take the horse out, too. Kalyth, the Arabian from Hell, was feeling left out so Robert tied her out under the tree to munch on a little grass.  He brought me a chair and I plunked it down in the water, took a few pictures and just took the whole scene in.  

It’s a fine day when you can get two humans, three dogs, three cats, a horse and a duck  to commune peacefully around a lot of standing water in a pre-Spring romp.  It is January after all.

Louisiana in January is a crap shoot. You might freeze, you might go swimming — all in the same week.  You definitely appreciate a gorgeous day when it  happens, especially after weeks of rain and some bitter cold (13 degrees here one night recently). 

Later that day after we had all retired to the veranda (front room with glass screen door) Lucy and Sparkle began making a fuss.  I looked out to see Asia and Neiko, Robert’s great-neice and nephew who live next door playing on the tire swing with their  uncle Jake. I let them out for a supervised playtime with the kids who also have a 10-week-old puppy named Bo.  It was a joyous and happy reunion for dogs and kids and puppies.  The sun was beginning to set and the pecan trees out front had a beautiful golden glow.  Overhead the clouds were bright white and scalloped against a cornflower blue sky. A flock of birds flew overhead on their way  home for the evening.  It was Beautiful Downtown Monterey Lousiana in January.   You really can make your own fun here.

There is something quite unique about Monterey, Louisiana. It is not a town, not a village, not on the way to anywhere in particular. If you are here in Monterey, it is because you mean to be. You are here on purpose.  Or you took a wrong turn hours ago because GPS is notoriously inaccurate in this part of the country.

The closest thing to a city is 30 minutes away in Natchez, or an hour and a quarter the opposite way in Alexandria. There are no Wendy’s, grocery stores, or even a Dollar Store here. There is one school, K-12 with one of the finest reputations in Louisiana. One bank, a feed store, three mini-marts (more about those later), a sheriff’s department, a volunteer fire department and a car wash.  One auto mechanic place, a place to put in your boat that doubles as a bait shop and serves food on the weekend and lots of family graveyards on the same street as the family and some in the side or front yard.

Monterey is a tightly knit community that is interconnected by family mostly and friends. Many are both.  Grandmothers babysit their grandkids here and Snow Geese spend the winter. Sisters and brothers live next door to each other and visit daily.

You don’t have to be related to anyone to have visitors.  Today Virgie Poole and her mom Rita stopped by to see how I was doing.  I had been on their minds and I hadn’t seen Virgie for months. She used to work on the bookmobile but neither of us had been on the bookmobile lately.

Their church is in the middle of making their world famous peanut brittle.  It is $2 for a pie-plate-size chunk and they are selling like, well, peanut brittle. A rare commodity these days, especially the good stuff. All profits go to the Pentecostal Faith Tabernacle Church on Hwy 129. To order, call (318) 386-2845.  Meeting times for the church are 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday. Everyone is invited.

That is the news in Monterey for today.  Peanut brittle and caring friends. Beats the heck out of drive-by shootings.