Lafourche Parish is geographically long and lean, over 100 miles in length but only 15 miles at its widest point. It is crowned northwest to northeast by the holy quartet of Assumption, St. James, St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes; southeast to the Gulf of Mexico by Jefferson Parish and west by Terrebonne Parish, which translated from French means “good earth” even though, like Lafourche, it is more water than earth.
Its southern boundary is the Gulf of Mexico, whose tropical storms have ferociously and often tried to destroy it. Only the resilience of the Cajun people has prevented that from happening.
My faith, despite my knowledge of hurricane patterns, assures me that no storm has ever threatened us from the north because of our sacrosanct border.
Because of the oilfield service industry at Port Fourchon, and being that most of the beachfront is privately owned, Lafourche lacks a commercialized area such as Biloxi, Mississippi or Gulf Shores, Alabama. But we do have, enjoy and appreciate Grand Isle, which is in Jefferson Parish but you have to travel through Lafourche to reach it.
Before the 1940’s, there was only an unstable shell road which was hazardous to travel on, but Governor Jimmie Davis had it paved. Some say it was because he had a camp there, but so what? Many politicians do things only for themselves and here was a win-win situation.
I admit that Harry Anselmi and I did enjoy the Governor’s frequent invitations to accompany him at his camp as he sang for his guests, and sometimes, just Harry, him and me. Although Jimmie sometimes posed with a guitar, he could not play one.
After his election in 1953, Assessor Hubert P. Robichaux kept his promise to appoint his chief deputy from South Lafourche, which, surprise, happened to be me.
At our first formal meeting in his office he was nice and cordial and asked me if I had any questions.
“Just one, Mr. Robichaux,” I answered. “Just what does an assessor do?”
He rolled his eyes as if thinking, “what have I done”, and I expected the worse. But his kind answer was, “Well, you start learning today.”
“Among your duties,” he continued, “will be to canvas the entire parish twice a year, visiting every local business and merchant to obtain their inventory reports and schedule another parish-wide tour to allow homeowners to sign their homestead exemption. The Police Jury (now Parish Council) will provide me a branch office in South Lafourche in an annex they are planning to build (1956) which you will supervise but that’s several years away.”
He went on to enumerate other duties and strange names of which I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, and since I would be his only male employee, it included any heavy lifting required. In those pre-everything days, some books weighed over 50 pounds and were usually on the top shelf. I thought for a brief moment that maybe I should have stuck to selling drivers’ licenses and playing guitar, but it was too late for that.
In my early years, Mr. Robichaux sent me to special appraisal and work related schools at L.S.U., Tulane and S.L.I. to learn the technical stuff. I began visiting every nook and cranny of our great parish, much of which I knew from having played in almost every dance hall and honkytonk of that time.
Years back, a book titled “The Longest Street in the World” had been written indicating that the continuance communities along Bayou Lafourche for 65 miles from Donaldsonville to Leeville were so close knitted that a football could be passed house to house without touching the ground.
Actually writers sometimes get carried away with their metaphors because there were gaps that even Peyton Manning in his prime could not have overthrown. But if you have ever traveled along Bayou Lafourche, I’m sure you get it.
The most important lesson I learned was that keeping a political job meant staying in office by winning the next election, and the next one, ad infinitum.
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Posted on Tue, July 5, 2016
by The Lafourche Gazette