Cover, Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xi

I landed the job, but I already had other plans. I had arranged to tour Angola, Louisiana’s maximum security prison, with a group of criminal justice students. And this new gig was getting in the way...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xv

Thanks to all of the people who are featured in these pages. It takes a huge leap of faith to allow a complete stranger into your life to ask you a grocery list of questions. Thank you for entrusting me to tell your...

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Angola Bound

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pp. 3-8

Ominous dark clouds lurk in the distance. The tour bus crawls though a field of soybeans, just one of the crops on the eighteen-thousand-acre plantation. The tourists recline in comfortable...

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Thanks for the Memories

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pp. 9-13

Joe Burge looks menacing sitting on a barstool behind the counter. He wears a red T-shirt with large dice and cursive white letters that read, “Hi-Rollers—Beau Knows Zydeco.” Next to the cash...

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Marc of Distinction

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pp. 14-25

In a field east of Eunice on U.S. 190 sits a large green building surrounded by trees and meandering chickens. If you’re driving sixty-five miles an hour down the four-lane highway toward town, you might...

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Line of Vision

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pp. 26-28

Elemore Morgan Jr. sees the fine line between the rice fields and the sky above him. You can call it the horizon. He’ll tell you that it’s where our planet ends and where the limitless...

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Down Home with Buckwheat

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pp. 29-33

Tex greets you with an uncertain look in his eyes. He’s either going to go straight for your jugular, or he’s going to lick you to death. His eyes are pools of blue and gray like a cat’s eye marble...

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Inside Santy’s Studio

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pp. 34-40

He can tell you the story behind every ax resting at his feet or he could go into detail about all the cats he’s played with, but Santy Runyon would much rather just blow...

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A Fighting Chance

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pp. 41-56

It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon, perfect weather for La Grande Boucherie des Cajuns. The pink cheeks of children are painted with butterflies, rainbows, and clouds...

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The Return of Swamp ’n’ Roll

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pp. 57-67

The room looks like an electronics morgue. Cables are piled on shelves. A large desk sits in front of a wall draped with wires. On top of the desk is a compact disc player and a plastic owl...

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The Man behind Dave Robicheaux

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pp. 68-83

James Lee Burke has seen and heard enough to fill a book. Actually, make that twenty-two books. Burke is best known for his novels featuring Dave Robicheaux, an Iberia Parish...

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Signs and Wonders

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pp. 84-92

Greg Kerr runs small ads in the local newspapers with his photo and his phone number. He’s dressed in a white suit with long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail and a long, flowing gray beard...

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The Last Perique Farmer

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pp. 93-101

Percy Martin farms 235 acres in St. James Parish. With the help of his five sons, the eighty-four-year-old raises tomatoes, bell peppers, and sugar cane. He’s planted twelve acres...

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Driving Jimmy to His Grave

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pp. 102-114

Jimmy Martin is being driven to his grave. He rides in the passenger’s seat, heading north on Old Hickory Boulevard through Madison, Tennessee. Driving over the Cumberland River...

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Strung Out on a Dream

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pp. 115-125

It doesn’t matter that it’s been raining all week or that the water is rising in the streets. It’s a joy ride for Santeria. Things haven’t gone their way for so long that it’s just part of the journey...

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Going Home

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pp. 126-139

When Ernest J. Gaines was a kid growing up on the banks of False River in Oscar, he never dreamed that he would one day build his home alongside the big house of the plantation...

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Handfuls of Fire

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pp. 140-146

On a warm September morning, the sun slowly ascends over Avery Island’s harvest. A layer of fog blankets the thirty-five acres of Tabasco pepper plants. About thirty...

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Another Man’s Treasure

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pp. 147-154

The community of Hidden Hills near Grand Coteau is aptly named. Behind the wooden-gated entrance, with its no trespassing sign, narrow winding roads surround the thirty-five-acre...

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Shelter from the Storm

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pp. 155-158

Outside the Cajundome, a line of cars snakes down Cajundome Boulevard into the parking lots. On the corner of Souvenir Gate, the Lafayette Police Department Mobile Command Unit...

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No Room at the Inn

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pp. 159-161

In the parking lot of the Cajundome, Al Pape Sr. and his son, Al Pape Jr., are watching the local news on a small television resting on the tailgate of one of their company’s trucks. The two Avondale...

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The Record Man

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pp. 162-174

Country music superstar Dolly Parton has nothing but fond memories of her first producer. “Eddie Shuler was a gifted, special friend,” she says. “With him goes the passing of an...

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Don’t You Worry about Boozoo

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pp. 175-184

Anthony Wilson “Boozoo” Chavis lived out his life in Lake Charles, on a few acres he immortalized in the song “Dog Hill.” Born in 1930, he spent his life farming and raising horses...

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A Fistful of Hope

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pp. 185-196

A mound of trash, twelve feet long and four feet high, is piled up on the sidewalk—black trash bags, battered blue tarps, an old toilet, rotten boards, a door frame, and broken...

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The Forgotten

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pp. 197-207

The clouds, like giant dirty cotton balls, tumble in from the Gulf of Mexico, and the rain pours down. On a two-acre patch of land near Sweet Lake in north Cameron Parish, four campers...

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Ride of His Life

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pp. 208-214

The newspapers and sports announcers refer to him by name—Calvin Borel. The jockeys call him “Bo-Rail,” for his preference of riding the rail when he races horses. But his family...

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One Day in Jena

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pp. 215-225

Driving northeast on Highway 28 just outside of Pineville, it’s still dark, but the sun’s starting to rise and the horizon is a hue of deep purple. The headlights of eighteenwheelers...

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Mourning Elemore

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pp. 226-228

One morning in 2002, while Elemore Morgan Jr. walked through the paintings he had stored in his studio, he told me how he priced his art. It was based upon the emotional...

Index

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pp. 229-240