Carencro

March 5th, 2012 pavy@pavy.com Miscellaneous No comments

   

   To the north of Lafayette about 6 miles there is the small town of Carencro. When I was in College there were  classmates of mine living there so we were always going north from Lafayette, driving around the countryside communing with nature in our Volkswagens. Carencro is a small town with one main street ending at a church. Passing by the church on sunday morning was like going to an old car show. If you take a left at the church about a block away there is a big house that most of the “back to the country” art crowd lived in at different times. For a while it was called the Amaranth Gallery. I remember going to a few art openings there and that’s where I met my many of my future best friends. 

    The original French  name for the town was St. Pierre, but the current  name, Carencro, might come from several sources. Most probably the name comes from “carencro tete rouge” the french name for the turkey vulture. But there are other colorful stories about the origins of the town name. In one legend the creoles called it Carencro after the flocks of carrion crows or vultures that would roost in the bald cypress trees there. The Attakapas indian legends state there was a great beast or whale that was stranded and died in the bayou and the flocks of vultures came to scavenge on it for weeks. The whale version seems far fetched as Carencro is about 35 miles from the coast. There is speculation that the great beast was a Mastodon, but they have bee extinct by 11,000 BC. Local historians say there were bones found of a Mastodon in bayou carencro in the 1700′s, and they were taken away, but shipwrecked on the way back to France. A certain Mr.Guilbeau supposedly had a femur of a mastodon that he used to crush his Indigo with. Another legend suggests the name comes from the spanish “Carnero” meaning piles of bones. The Spanish used to kill the buffaloes and what was left after they took what they wanted was fodder for the buzzards. This seems more likely the source of the legend of the “great beast”. The area around Carencro was on the southern edge of the range of the Plains Bison. Until recently in Carencro there was a racetrack and plenty of horse farms in the area, and as long as I can remember there was a stockyard there so regardless of the legends the area seems to have  always had grazing areas for livestock or herding animals and the buzzards feed on the remains.

    In the early 70‘s one of my friends played in a rock & roll Band called King Creole. He lived in country east of Carencro where his house overlooked  the escarpment, the ancient levee  of the Mississippi river. King Creole played at Jay’s Lounge and Cockpit frequently. My friend wrote a song entitled “Carencro” that they used to play on their gigs. It was the B side of a record and the A side was song called “Sugar Cane”. I liked the song Carencro so much that I made a ceramic sculpture  that looked like a carpetbag and titled it “Carencro Bag”. I showed this in a few shows and I also told my friend that I had made a ceramic bag after being inspired by his song. He gave me a puzzled look much like most people when I told them I just finished a ceramic accordion shoe or a life size ceramic cajun dance band.

    A few years later when I was moving and cleaning house I was getting rid of some work and decided to give the “Carencro Bag” to my friend.I called him up and he said he  would be happy to have it. I had some  time that day, but my Volkswagen van was broken. I called up my new friend Shannon, who wanted to go out that way to look for indian artifacts. We climbed into his 49 ford and set out for Carencro, going the back way and got lost. We were half heartily looking for familiar road marks when  we drove up the escarpment. Shannon was scanning the fields then pulled over and stopped suddenly. He said: “You see that little mound over there”? and pointed. I looked over to my right at a freshly plowed soybean field. There was a very slight rise in the field. “I guess” I said. Now you see the bigger mound that’s encircling that? He made a big circling movement with his arm. I squintedand yes there was a slight rise of about 4 inches farther off to the left and right. “OK, What’s that?”. He smiled and opened the door poking his head in through the open window. “The little mound is a Indian ceremonial mound and the larger mound was the Village. It’s in the perfect vantage point on top of this ridge”. He hopped the fence and yelled: “C’mon”. I looked around  thinking about the farmer, a shotgun and my butt. There was nothing but plowed fields as far as you could see. I slowly opened the door. it was warm and I was sweating. ”What the hell” I said to myself. I wiped my brow  and looked up to see buzzards circling overhead. I hopped the fence and made my over to the small mound. As I walked over the rows Shannon was doing a strange little dance. He puffed and said: “They didn’t plant yet, so don’t worry, the farmer won’t be around.” “What are you doing?” I asked.  he went on to explain that the ceremonial mounds are where he finds his best artifacts. He started in the middle making a spiral outwards scanning and feeling the ground with his bare feet and sometimes his hands. “ After they plow it’s the best time to look, you never know what you might find”. I started to look myself  keeping one eye on the road. Shannon bent down and picked up a clod. “Here, this looks good, hold on to it” and threw in in my direction. I picked it up , it was heavy. He bent down again, caught his breath, smiled, stretched, breathed out and walked off to the car not saying anything, like he was hypnotized. I followed him back trying to walk in between the rows. I caught up and held the barbed wire while he fit through and he did it for me. We got in the car and he grabbed a shoe box from the back seat. It held a brush and a few sticks. He held the clod over the box and started cleaning off  the dirt. “What is it”? I asked. “I think it’s …..he paused and started to clean harder. I looked down. It WAS a rock, red, smooth. He worked on  it with the brush. After about 2 minutes he held up the rock. It was about 5 inches long perfectly smooth like a beach pebble but it came to a blunt point on the front .The front was about 3  inches high and tapered down to 2 inches at the back. “It’s a ceremonial cert” he said. “ A hatchet”. I wondered out loud if he had some kind of indian radar to just go walk out in a field and pick up any artifact that was out there. He laughed and motioned after handing me a rag. “ Wet it with some of your coke”. I poured some coke on a rag and started to rub on the stone. The dirt turned to mud and I wiped it off and cleaned more. The stone turned bright red. He turned it over. I cleaned some more, there was a black swatch on the side. I cleaned more, and  rubbing the stone again the black streak grew longer, then a wing appeared, then another wing, then a head. I quit rubbing.“Whoa, it’s a vulture” we both said .The rock puzzled us. It was not like any indian arrowhead or hatchet I had ever seen. The image of the vulture had been chipped with a tiny tool. It was slightly more rough in texture than the other part of the rock and had pigment rubbed in. We passed it back and forth turning it over and rubbing it for probably 10 min. The shadows were starting to get long so I told him I had to go. Shannon handed the rock back to me and started the car. We turned the corner and there on the side of the road was a dead deer surrounded by vultures. Most of them flew off as we  approached, but there was one that stayed turning his head and watching us intently as we passed. Finally we arrived at my destination. I took the sculpture down out of the trunk, made for the front door and knocked .The sun had set and the june bugs were flying around the yellow bug light on the porch. I knocked again, nobody was home. I set the bag down and ripped a page off the notebook nailed to the door frame. I sketched a picture of a vulture and  tucked it in the screen door next to my sculpture, then followed the beams of light back to the car. We drove back to Lafayette in silence in the dark. 

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