Ho hum, the holidays are over. Christmas tree and decorations are put away until next year. Winter’s set in, nothing to celebrate till spring, right? No, not exactly–it’s just the beginning of Mardi Gras festivities. Break out the magenta, green, and gold. Every week, from now until Fat Tuesday, parade after parade. …Something for kids and grown-ups.
New Orleans gets all the publicity with its flashy, bawdy, Bourbon Street bash. Mardi Gras is celebrated around the world. Mobile, Alabamians would quickly point out–the tradition originated in their city before New Orleans. Their celebration is more family friendly, as it is, in other cities scattered along the Gulf Coast. Children and adults alike wait eagerly to catch beads and throws. Throws consist of, not only beads, but also small toys, and “Moon Pies.” Children beg “maskers,” (float riders wearing colorful masks), to toss goodies their way.
Mobile puts its own spin on Mardi Gras with two unique parades. Anyone that made news the past year, for notorious reasons, is skewered by the the “Comic Cowboys.” Even local TV personalities are fair game. Parade coverage is handled with kid gloves. Each mystic order has a parade and masked debutante ball. “Joe Cain Day” is celebrated during Mardi Gras. Joe Cain, according to legend, is credited with resuming Mardi Gras celebrations after the Civil War. He first lived in Mobile, later moved to New Orleans. Both cities honor his memory.
Joe Cain, a Confederate veteran, paraded disguised as Chickasaw Indian “Chief Slacabamamorinico.” This was intended as a slap-in-the-face to Union troops–as the Chickasaw were never defeated. Every “Joe Cain Day,” a contingency of veiled “grieving widows” parade through a local cemetery, then through the streets. Each “widow” does her most convincing, “He loved me best” routine. Someone disguised as “Chief Slacabamamorinico,” marches followed by parade floats and brass bands. The “Order of Myths,” mystic society parade, concludes Mobile’s celebration on Fat Tuesday.
Mardi Gras ends with the selection of a celebratory “king” and “queen,” someone from higher echelons of society. On Fat Tuesday, schools and businesses close for final parades and pageantry. Tired of snow and ice? Come to the Gulf Coast for Mardi Gras. Have some fun. Try on a magenta, green, and gold jester’s hat. You’ve always wanted to.
Time persistently, pushed, shoved
Pressured to the point of stumbling
Move faster! Still faster! Keep up!
Time mumbled and grumbled
Days were long gone
When opportunity charmed
Time preferred slow, easy, days of youth
Seemed amused by impassioned pleas
What happened to endless hours of play?
Step aside! Get out of the way! Replied truth
My perceived struggle, playing second fiddle to my precocious, first-born, older brother began in the late forties. My father was a returning WWII GI and an aspiring farmer. My mother put her teaching career on hold to raise a family. I would forever carry the baggage of a middle child.
Our first residence was a white, two-story sprawling farmhouse with a bay window four miles from town. The large shady yard was a great place to run and play. A storage building was attached to the house. It may have previously been used as a summer kitchen. Water came from a well. An outhouse provided restroom facilities. Tommy Cundall was our nearest neighbor a half-mile to the east. I don’t remember much about him–only that he was a bachelor. His single story home had a covered well in the yard with rope and bucket.
A windmill behind the house creaked and groaned as it pumped water for the livestock. At some point my brother attempted to climb the windmills ladder. My best friend and guardian was our dog “Brownie.” He was an Irish Setter mixed breed given to us by a relative. There were numerous cats and kittens. In an act of devilment a spring clothes pin was placed on a cat’s tail. The result was numerous scratches on my hands and arms. I got no sympathy from my mother.
I remember Dad kissing me good night at bedtime. His whisker stubble felt scratchy against my cheeks. He read me a story, tucked me in for the night, after prayers. My older brother was a tempting target one day, as he sat on the potty chair. I took my pair of toy pliers and pinched his chubby thigh. He cried, ran and tattled to Mom and Dad. That got me a well-deserved sound spanking.
Little boys were known for collecting creepy-crawly creatures. My brother brought a garter snake to Mom for her inspection. She screamed and almost fainted. I must have had numerous sore throats and ear infections. There are faint memories of doctor visits–being poked and prodded. At four years of age my tonsils were removed. I screamed and cried–didn’t want to go to the hospital. Doctors and nurses usually bribed me with lollipops. This experience entitled me to large quantities of ice cream.
Too much of my life had been based on false premises. Birth order didn’t determine success or failure. I could only be myself. I wasn’t out going–not comfortable around large crowds of people. One-upping my older brother was pure futility. Instead, I could be a good friend. …Help others reach common goals.
When thoughts raced a million miles an hour–they needed creative expression. I found expression through music, writing, and art projects. It all made sense. As a child my creativity came out in mischievous ways. My selfhood and uniqueness were finally realized. Only then, could I truly express what was inside. Yes, in the picture above, I’m the cute, curly-headed fellow on the right.
Inheritance of meek
Left scattered about
All bowed, before her
Muddy waters dashed
Dreamers, defiant, alike
With driftwood, flotsam
Cried out, for rain
Big Muddy, turned away
Revealed, her dead