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Archive for December, 2013

Saut crapaud

Saut crapaud ta queue va brûler.
Prends courage un autre va pousser.

This little ditty is the first French I ever learned in a classroom.

Growing up in South Louisiana, you learned other French words outside of class, but they couldn’t be repeated inside class unless you felt like being sent to the principal’s office.

Saut crapaud ta queue va brûler.
Prends courage un autre va pousser.

These were my first French words from a teacher.

Technically, she was a student teacher. Miss Chauvin was her name and she worked with Mrs. Zeringue, my third grade teacher at W.S. Lafargue Elementary School. We didn’t learn our teachers’ first names back then. I learned later in life that Mrs. Zeringue’s name was Suzanne. I never learned Miss Chauvin’s, which is sad because I had a huge crush on Miss Chauvin. She taught us about Acadian history and culture in the spring of 1966.

Saut crapaud ta queue va brûler.
Prends courage un autre va pousser.

I know it was the spring of 1966, because at the end of August 1965, Hurricane Betsy destroyed our brand new classroom. We held class in the teacher’s lounge until they built a new classroom for us and we didn’t move into it until after Christmas break. It was one of those “temporary” buildings that were still in use a decade after I graduated high school.

Saut crapaud ta queue va brûler.
Prends courage un autre va pousser.

Driving back to Tennessee from Louisiana was uneventful this week. Christmas with my parents and all of my siblings together for the first time in 10 years was great. Short visits with dear friends are always priceless. But the drive back was uneventful, other than me finding the pepper grinder I’ve been looking for. I found it at the outlet mall in Gonzales on my way out of the state.

Saut crapaud ta queue va brûler.
Prends courage un autre va pousser.

I kept singing this ditty, over and over as I drove what is now an extremely familiar route. We learned the song with a somewhat slow tune, but you can sing it fast or slow, as I’ve done a zillion times. I couldn’t get it out of my head all afternoon and into the evening on Friday.

Saut crapau, — Jump frog,

ta queue va brûler. — your tail is on fire.

Prends courage  — Take courage,

un autre va pousser.  — another will grow.

There are other ways to translate this (some rather risque) and other ways to spell the French words. Cajun was a spoken language, so there’s no right or wrong way here.

I’m sure it has a deeper meaning than a warning to a frog. Frogs don’t actually have tails. They have to lose their tails before they can become a frog. And if they did have a tail afterward and it burned off, another wouldn’t grow.

But whatever it means, to me it’s a ditty from a simpler age that pops into my head from time to time, like a post card to me,  from me when I was 8 years old.

Don’t ask me what I had for lunch on Monday, though.

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Tom Laughlin died this past weekend and in his honor, I watched “Billy Jack” last night before I went to bed.

Mr. Laughlin’s “Billy Jack” character has been a hero of mine since I was as kid. I wish I could say that movie had a profound effect on my life, but the reality is I didn’t see “Billy Jack” until it came on cable when I was in my 30s. I was in eighth grade when the movie came out, too young for its “M” rating.

But I did see the previews and they helped shape my world view. To an impressionable 13-year-old, the previews were awesome. The way Billy Jack calmly talked before unleashing the worst butt-whipping you could imagine was just amazing to a kid like me with a quick temper. How in the world can you stay calm when you’re so mad, I’d wonder. I tried to do that when I was mad. I sucked at it.

As I grew older, I learned the role that introspection, being alone with your thoughts and at peace with yourself, can play in learning to diffuse your anger. But those lessons were learned before I finally saw the movie.

Not seeing the movie enabled me to fill in the blanks in my mind, letting my imagination shape the story in my head to fit my preconceived notions. I learned right from wrong in Sunday School. I learned to stand up for what’s right from Billy Jack.

From an early age, I always identified with Robin Hood and Robin Hood-like characters. I wanted to be like them: A righter of wrongs in the battle for truth, justice and the American way. Equal parts of Dudley Do-Right and Under Dog mixed with Billy Jack and “Grasshopper” Caine.

But as life would have it, I can take a punch much better than I can throw one, (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). After the first time I got punched in the nose and ripped a knuckle on a guy’s tooth, I decided there were probably better ways to settle disputes. Except for that one time an off-duty cop poured a beer down my back and I hit him with a beer bottle, ending up in USA Today’s state roundup page in the process, I’ve stayed out of trouble for the most part.

That doesn’t mean I don’t stand up for what’s right. I just don’t use my fists to do it. But I can if I have to. And when I finally saw the movie, I realized that was the secret to Billy Jack’s strength. He felt that way, too.

Tom Laughlin has passed away, but Billy Jack abides in the psyche of me and my generation. One tin soldier rides again.

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A group of trendsetters in the tiny house movement has put together what promises to be a great weekend in Charlotte on April 5-6. And if you sign up between now and Christmas, you can save $50 from the $300 registration fee using the code TR2013. In addition to panel discussions and seminars on a variety of topics including codes, building techniques, off-grid living and more, there will be a variety tiny houses on site for tours. It promises to be a great weekend for people like me who are ready to start building. You can learn more at http://www.tinyhouseconference.com/

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