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.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Hot style for fans (and beyond) > The easy dress for game day is perfectly done for fall with a flat boot. And few colors make a statement like bold red. Perfect for Cajun girl fans now and everyone all year long. Brother's on the Blvd. is home to this precious little red dress that can do day with brown boots or night with sexy heels. At Maven Womenswear the body con midi dress is just right for low moto boots. And at Vertage a red dress with stripe trim is laid back cool with bare legs or svelte leggings.
Four bedroom Acadian or three bedroom traditional
Prestigious honor annually recognizes a single attorney for excellence in public interest/pro bono work.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
"I have never seen anyone who worked harder for our people than Sen. Mary Landrieu, so I would like to share a synopsis of a few of the many things she has done to help Louisiana."
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
Corporations spending in state elections; Kenny G and Hong Kong; states resist gay marriage and more national and international news for Thursday, October 23, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
Three bedroom Acadian or a two bedroom town home
Ready to geaux in purple and gold
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
The recently established Downtown Lafayette Restaurant & Bar Association will host a special viewing of the upcoming New Orleans Saints taking on the Carolina Panthers in the open air of Parc Sans Souci on Thursday, Oct. 30.
Belief in a national outbreak of the Ebola zombie virus is becoming more of a threat every day, and The Hayride — Louisiana’s one true bastion for unrelentingly conservative political commentaries — thought it wise to share a certain special someone's “important message” with readers Tuesday on what to do when, not if, it comes.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.
JPMorgan Chase is giving $1 million to Louisiana's community and technical colleges, to help with workforce training efforts to match students to available jobs.
President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person.
Law firm unveils newly renovated 200-year-old building.
UL grad named web developer at BBR Creative
Lafayette-based emergency department staffing and management company raises $120 million in senior credit facilities through GE Capital, Healthcare Financial Services.
High-rise apartment building, parking garage, hotel and retail part of new development.