Smiley: Land of arpents

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Malcolm Wright tells of his encounter with south Louisiana’s unique culture:

“Back before interstate highways, when I was about 18, my sister (13 years older) and I were driving from Welsh to New Orleans via U.S. 90 when we got lost somewhere near New Iberia.

“We stopped at a farmhouse, where an old Frenchman was sitting on the porch, and asked for directions.

“He came down off the porch and talked directly to my sister through the open car window.

“He said, ‘Mais chere, you go down dis road for two arpent and turn to the front.’

“My sister thanked the old man, rolled up her window and signaled me to drive on.

“When we were again in motion, I looked at her and asked, ‘Where in the world are we going?’

“She grinned at me and said, ‘It’s obvious. Go on down this road about half a mile and at the next intersection you turn toward the bayou.’

“The explanation? Although the arpent is a square measure of land of about one acre, the old Cajuns often used their own visualization of an arpent as a straight line measurement of distance.

“And the ‘front’ of any property was always on the banks of any navigable stream originally used for transportation.”

New meanings

Dr. George S. Bourgeois, of Opelousas, says he’s been compiling “a list of words or phrases that have acquired new, or at least additional, meanings in the technological and sociological advances of our times:

“Click: What you do with a mouse.

“Mouse: What you click with.

“Viral: Something that spreads like wildfire. Perhaps ‘like the flu’ would be more appropriate.

“Dot: Formally also known as a period or a decimal point.

“Under the bus: Not a good place to be, especially if the bus is moving.

“Out of the box: More room than in the box.

“Perfect storm: I have no idea what they mean by this.

“Perhaps your readers can come up with some additional ones.”

Night flight

Gene Capeheart, commenting on a column item, says driving while reading a newspaper is alarming, but how about reading a paper while FLYING?

“Stationed in Germany in the ’60s, one morning I was ordered to take off to photograph some ships in the Mediterranean.

“After 12 hours, 3 mid-air refuelings, and landing in heavy weather in southern Spain, the aircraft had failed systems requiring several days of repair.

“I and my copilot were ordered back to Germany, and had to catch a civilian C-46 in the wee hours to Madrid to board a military flight there.

“At around 2 a.m. the stewardess told us ‘The Capitain requests your presence up front.’

“Opening the door to the cockpit, we were bathed in a sea of red night lights and the ‘Capitain’ was laid back with a newspaper spread out in front of him.

“The poor copilot was focused on his job, with his head almost touching the console, attempting to read the instrumentation.

“The ‘Capitain’ folded his paper, turned to us and said ‘Señors, welcome! Come in.’

“We enjoyed trading ‘war stories’ for the remainder of the flight until he felt obliged to take over for landing.”

Phone fun

Buddy Holden says, “Regarding Carl Causey’s story about calling your party line neighbor, that sequence of numbers was 1191 — and then hang up.

“When our family moved to Baton Rouge in 1937, our phone number was 3121, and the State-Times’ number was 6121.

“Needless to say, we answered lots of wrong numbers.

“Small city then — with population of 30,000.”

Worthy causes

Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society fundraiser, will be held from 5 p.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Sunday at NRG Community Field on Mill Street in New Roads.

Contact Gwen Davis at (225) 268-1170 or gwen@lascrapmetal.com.

Special People Dept.

Louis and Anita Bonfanti celebrate 63 years of marriage Monday.

By degrees

Betty Abadie says our seminar on traffic circles or roundabouts reminds her of her days in Boston, where they’re called rotaries:

“A friend in college, who was a whiz at math, would tell a first date to ‘go to the rotary and take a right at 120 degrees, and that’s my street.’

“That way she could tell right away if he shared her love of math.”

Birds, bees, etc.

Shirley Fleniken came across this story and liked it:

“On the way back from a Cub Scout meeting, my grandson innocently said to my son, ‘Dad, I know babies come from mommies’ tummies, but how do they get there in the first place?’

“After my son hemmed and hawed a while, my grandson finally spoke up in disgust:

“‘You don’t have to make up something, Dad. It’s OK if you don’t know the answer.’”

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.