Around Louisiana: Regional Reports From Across the State
CAUSE TO CELEBRATE The wearing of the green
Celtic culture influenced the Old World and the New. When the Celts crossed the Rhine around 600 B.C., this fierce and brave race began settling across Europe and ventured as far as Turkey, where they were known as the Galatians. Iberian Celts were seafarers, and ancient ruins of their buildings are believed to lie in the area in and around New Hampshire, which means they probably beat the vikings and Columbus to the New World. When the Barbarians conquered Rome, Irish monks copied every book ever written up to that point, saving the written history of civilization.
Celtic influence is also felt in our state. Celtic people settled in the northeast corner of Louisiana. Doyle Jeter, who owns Enoch’s Irish Pub along with his wife, Yvette, sums it up: “If you check the [Monroe] phone book, over 76 percent of those names are of Scottish or Irish descent.” That’s cause enough to pull a pint and let the music begin. The Jeters, along with the Louisiana Purchase Zoological Society, have organized the first Northeast Louisiana Celtic Festival, to be held in late October, one week before the feast of Samain (Halloween), on the zoo grounds.
“Without the involvement of the Louisiana Purchase Zoo, the city of Monroe and several dedicated volunteers, this festival would not be possible,” Jeter says. “And several musicians who believe so much in this festival will perform at a cut rate.”
Uilleann pipes, Celtic harps and featured artists such as Paisley Close, Celjun and the Conly’s Irish Band with Tim Glennon will fill the air with the sounds of Celtic pride. Geneaology information, storytelling for children,Celtic crosses and claddaghs and Irish dancers are enough to turn a giraffe’s speckles into shamrocks. An intoxicating time should be had by all!
Northeast Louisiana Celtic Festival, Oct. 22, Louisiana Purchase Gardens, Monroe. .
FORK IN THE ROAD Pub Grub
When visitors from counties Mayo and Cork feel at home in a pub in northeast Louisiana, they know they’ve really tapped into something other than just a keg of Guinness. Enoch’s Irish Pub was established on St. Patrick’s Day 25 years ago. Both a pub and a café, Enoch’s is as dark and cool as any Irish public house should be, filled with the wailing cries of Celtic music – and Cajun music as well. Here you’ll find that nothing beats a pint of Guinness straight from the tap. Nurse this black brew and watch its ecru-colored head turn into “Belgian lace” on the sides of your glass. Nibble on the hearty appetizer “Royal Beefeater” nachos, made with beef, cheese, jalapenos, mushrooms, green onions, salsa and sour cream. Follow that with a house specialty sandwich such as “The Dubliner,” with roast beef, Provolone, and grilled onions in Guinness gravy. Enoch’s stout burgers are stalwart meals, especially “The Galway,” which is has beef, cheese, sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions and Guinness gravy. Don’t worry about cholesterol –the finest artery-clearing Irish whiskey are ready for the asking at Enoch’s. But if your tastes bud gravitate to food as green as the Emerald Isle, veggie sandwiches are available. The Roselawn sandwichblooms with avocado, mushrooms, carrots, olive mix and cheese. And the grilled Portobello sandwich called “the Park Avenue” is as light as tea at an Irish castle.
Enoch’s, A Café and Pub, 507 Louisville Ave., Monroe (318) 388 3662.
PROFILE Shake hands with Old Scratch
Long before paranormal investigator John Billingsley measured electromagnetic fields in haunted plantations, he lived in a 19th-century house in the town of Keithville, outside Shreveport. According to the story, one day in 1984, he noticed a crack in a wall of his kitchen that that revealed a ladder. Billingsley climbed up this secret passageway and found himself in an attic. Here he found a game board of sorts, faded and old, with a goat’s head and spider’s web drawn into its design, along with a pentagram. When his foot accidentally hit the board, it fell to the floor and shattered.
After his discovery in the attic, the old house where he had known such pleasant times became a dwelling even his mother wouldn’t visit. As the story continues, unbearable cold spots immobilized him; he felt that he was being watched when he was alone; objects moved or disappeared and then reappeared. Billingsley, who lived by himself, heard sounds of walking and whispering. Added to this unholy melange were periodic knockings that vibrated through the entire house and always came in threes. One night in the house, Billingsley had a vivid dream in which “Old Scratch” told the young man he now belonged to the devil, after which he shook Billingsley’s hand. Billingsley repudiated him and awakened, but a sickening, decayed smell clung to his hand in waking hours. His mother gave him a crucifix for the house, but Billingsley moved out.
The house, which once belonged to his father, has since been completely gutted and renovated. Billingsley lives there once again with his wife, Wynell. Except for some minor unexplained activity, they live in peace.
Billingsley has investigated psychic phenomena for years, in the belief that spirits are really just looking for help. Calling his work an act of love, he investigates for free. “Anyone who charges money for this type of work,” he advises, “should be avoided.”
LOUISIANA GROWN Warm Sassy Tree
At the turn of the 20th century, the landscape of Webster Parish had forests filled with
sassafras (Sassafras albidum or S. officinale) trees, which, during autumn, provided glorious color against teal-blue skies.
American Indians ground sassafras leaves and used them as seasoning and thickeners in their cooking, perhaps a forerunner of the filé used in south Louisiana gumbos today. Filé, the green powder produced from crushed sassafras leaves, provides a sassy, complementary flavor to gumbo.
This member of the laurel family has large, woody roots, the bark of which was once
used in root beer. The oil of sassafras root bark, safrole, is toxic and possibly carcinogenic; its use is forbidden, and sassafras roots must first be treated before any commercial products make it to the market.
The tree can grow as high as 60 feet, and it has shades of primary colors: Its flowers are yellow, and the blue berry of its fruit opens on a red stem. Sir Francis Drake brought this native American plant home to Europe, where it had widespread medicinal
use. Early American settlers fermented sassafras roots with molasses to make beer. During the Civil War, sassafras tea was a comforting treat. Sassafras timber makes excellent firewood.
This article appears in the Fall 2005 issue of Louisiana Life