By: Larry Hyatt.
Recently I celebrated the 31st anniversary of me leaving my boyhood home to “try” and find my fortune. I remember thinking I was moving to the "Try-Parish,” to give it a whirl, and like many my stay was not to be extended. My stint was going to be nine short months.
In my New Orleans’ suburban driveway I said, “I’m going to be OK mom, I’m only going down there to learn the radio business. I’m coming back, I swear. I’m going to be the next Walton and Johnson.”
Not knowing who they were and a bit confused, she put her hand on my shoulder and asked, “Is that two people, son? There’s only one of you.” Then, she rolled her eyes.
That didn’t stop me.
I jumped into a just bought, beat up Chevy Impala with a side swipe so bad you couldn’t open either door on the passenger side. I kid you not. The entire right side was crushed shut. It was $500.00 and it leaked like a sieve. When it rained the windshield wipers pushed the water up to the crease where the glass meets the metal. With each swipe water would fall on my lap. Friends would eventually ride in the back seat with an open umbrella.
That night I started on KJIN-1490AM, when a show called the “Swap Shop” was the number one rated show. Back then each small town had its own radio station and disc jockeys were always in the building. The music couldn’t play on its own.
Driving down to Houma I had it all planned, every step, every move, learn the business, go back home, get a radio job and be a radio star. But Tri-Parish, you ruined it. You ruined everything.
From the very beginning, that very first night, you opened your arms and rapped them around me hugging so tight I just couldn’t shake you. With each passing month your grip got stronger. I tried to stay my distance, keep my head down, lifting it only to push you away, but over and over again you kept telling me of your history, showing your love of family, and laughing out loud. My god, the laughter was deafening. Never before had I laughed so hard. And the clincher, you weren’t afraid to be seen having a good time. You always acted as if no one’s looking. I heard, “If deh gonna talk, deh gonna talk. What I’m gonna do, me.”
How dare you change the lives of those just passing through?
Through the years I’ve known many you’ve changed or perhaps enlightened. We’ve come from all across the country, oilfield men and their families, teachers, students, transplants and their spouses, all not knowing that here in Cajun Country is where one might find room and once rooted, could get caught up in what I now know, is heritage.
Or possibly you’re a conspirator. You’ve learned that if we, “TRY-Parish” we will linger longer, be loved, and learn how life can be led in a place that knows what it is like to live life to the fullest. Your ancestors were driven out of their home. Maybe it’s hardwired. You don’t want others to feel unloved.
It’s quite remarkable how life works out, or doesn’t, taking us on a path with the family we’re born into, people we’re lucky enough to meet, decisions we make, or indecisions we’re fortunate enough to have.
“Damn it! This wasn’t supposed to happen. I’m going to leave you, I swear, tomorrow.”