September 29, 2010
Local documentarians chronicle Acadiana’s equine traditions. By Walter Pierce
|Photos by Allison Bohl|
The man who will be king is skill and valor in a silver tunic astride his horse, galloping break-neck around the semi-circular track, vanquishing the enemies of the cotton crop — flood, drought, boll weevil, boll worm, silk, rayon and nylon — by collecting their symbolic rings with his lance. He wins a kiss from the maiden. A trophy. Boasting rights.
This medieval scene is from Le Tournoi, a jousting-like tournament with roots in Napoleonic France that was brought to Ville Platte in the 19th century, died out, and was revived after World War II. It’s held every October as part of the Cotton Festival, one of many unique equine traditions native to southwest Louisiana that captured the eye of Breaux Bridge documentary filmmaker Conni Castille.
“I just kept noticing more and more of these horse traditions, and it got me curious as to why we have so many,” says Castille, who slakes her curiosity first in an hour-long radio documentary that will air Tuesday, Oct. 5, on KRVS. A film documentary is in production and will be released in 2011.
Castille turned to UL anthropology professor Ray Brassieur, who has researched the many facets of Cajun and Creole horse culture — trail rides, bush track racing, Mardi Gras courirs — that sprang from ranching on the prairies west of the Atchafalaya Basin. These traditions have their origins in colonial America, when wealthy New Orleans planters established ranching outposts in what is now called Acadiana, leaving slaves to mind the business. The descendents of those slaves became free men of color, some of them inter-marrying with Native Americans. Many identify themselves today as Creoles.
“I would even propose that Creoles were the first American cowboys, way before these romantic notions of the wild, wild West,” adds Castille, who interviewed Cajun jockey Calvin Borel and Creole musician and rancher Geno Delafose, among others, for the documentary.
Ranch culture in southwest Louisiana predates the arrival of the Acadians. Castille characterizes it as an expedient means by which the generally disenfranchised could generate wealth. “Free men of color, Indians, women, could own cattle,” she explains. “And in a lot of ways, especially for free men of color, it symbolized so many things. You might not have been able to afford land to grow a mass crop like sugar cane or cotton, but because of the laws for cattle, for ranching, your cattle could roam au large, so you had no boundaries. It was a much more quick way to get rich, in a sense, to establish yourself, to having freedom without having to own a lot of property.”
Castille and creative partner Allison Bohl, who served as technical producer for the radio documentary, routinely collect top honors at film festivals for such documentaries as I Always Do My Collars First, Raised on Rice and Gravy and, most recently, King Crawfish. The horse traditions doc — Castille says she has yet to saddle it with a name — will add to an impressive cache of works that chronicle the quirky quintessence of south Louisiana culture.
Castille also enlisted the expertise of Cajun musician and archivist Kristi Guillory, who researched horse references in our indigenous music.
“If you look at Creole and Cajun music, a lot of them talk about horses and mules,” says Castille. “And I think here, because of our joie or ethos to act crazy, have fun, it was just a matter of time before these horses that were work horses that we used on our farms, we started playing with them, racing them, having Mardi Gras, having the jousting competition in Ville Platte, trail rides. I think that has a lot to do with our culture.”
Castille’s equine traditions radio documentary airs at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 5, on KRVS during the program “Lacouture Lagniappe.” It was funded in part by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts through its Decentralized Arts Fund and the Cinematic Arts Workshop at UL.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
Three bedroom in Port Barre or two bedroom in Opelousas
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
“I am only getting a little nervous about two projects — the proposed Sasol GTL facility [not the new ethylene plant] and the proposed G2X facility — both in Lake Charles. They need a hefty difference between oil and natural gas prices to make sense.”
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Lower oil prices also might slow the growth of oil production in parts of the U.S., Canada and elsewhere because it will no longer be so profitable.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
A Lafayette woman faces up to 20 years in prison for running up more than $1 million in unauthorized charges to her company credit card.
Signs that our state’s banking industry is undergoing a downsizing in 2014 were further confirmed today with the FDIC’s latest figures showing a third straight quarter in which Louisiana lost more banks and earned less money.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
State police say a 47-year-old Lafayette man, who collected more than $83,000 in disability benefits, is accused of operating two businesses out of his home at a time when he claimed he had no income.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Saints Street cottage or River Ranch condo
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Facing opposition from a powerful industry, the governor and many in the Legislature, a New Orleans-area flood board's lawsuit against dozens of oil, gas and pipeline companies seemed doomed early on.
"I want to take an opportunity to thank the people of Lafayette for allowing me to serve you for the last three years as your school superintendent."