In my last column, I presented 10 of what I felt were the Top 20 articles that appeared in Acadiana Profile during my 35-year tenure as editor of the magazine, 1975-2010. Those stories were penned by writers other than me.
This second batch of the Top 20 are among the ones I wrote over the years, stories I felt would have strong appeal to the reader.
As I was going through the back issues of the magazine, reviewing articles I’d written, I realized there were some common themes in the stories to which I was most strongly attracted. I observed a clear pattern: my apparent fascination with the supernatural and paranormal; my admiration for people who perform heroic deeds; and my determination to defend the good name of the French-Acadian, or Cajun, people – my people.
As with the first batch of stories, I’ve listed the titles of the articles and added the date of publication plus the volume and the number, in case anyone would like to look up these articles and read them in their entirety. (Try your local library, and if that doesn’t work drop me a line and I’ll mail you a photocopy of the article.)
“The Forgotten Hero of My Lai” (March / April 1998, 18/6)
U.S. troops had killed hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese women, children, and old men in the infamous My Lai Massacre in March of 1968. Then Hugh Thompson and his crew stepped in and stopped the slaughter. What Thompson got for his trouble was to be treated as a traitor for 30 years before finally being recognized as a bona fide American war hero. (I also wrote a book on this subject).
“The Terrible Storms of 2005” (Oct. 2005, 25/2)
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita mauled the Gulf Coast in quick succession, striking less than a month apart. Katrina’s massive storm surge collapsed bridges, wrecked houses and businesses, and caused the failure of the levee system designed to protect New Orleans. Rita did similar damage in southwest Louisiana’s coastal parishes. (This article was the lead story in the first of five editions covering the impact of these hurricanes.)
“An Airboat on the Streets of New Orleans" (Sept. 2006, 26/1)
A Breaux Bridge couple rescued nearly 800 people from the floodwaters in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina breached the levees. Doug Bienvenu and Drue LeBlanc used their airboat to save people trapped in their homes and on their rooftops. (I also wrote a book about this adventure.)
“A Fire Truck Called ‘The Spirit of Louisiana’” (July / August 2002, 22/1)
Louisiana’s heroic response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks included the gift of a bright red fire truck to the New York Fire Department. Thousands of ordinary citizens, students and businesses gave from the heart to make it happen.
‘‘A Confederacy of Dunces Author Taught at USL” (Sept. / Oct. 1981, 9/4)
John Kennedy Toole’s novel was widely acclaimed as brilliant and hilarious – one of the funniest books ever written. He is remembered by his friends and peers as witty, bright, and entertaining. In the 1960-61 school year, he could be seen about the USL campus, always with a half-smile as he observed “the human sideshow” around him. (Accompanying this article was one about Toole’s mother, Thelma Toole, and her relentless crusade to have her son’s novel published after his death. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981.)
“ Grand Coteau: The Holy Land of South Louisiana ” (March / April 2002, 21/5)
This is one of the truly holy places in North America – a town of mystery, with well established ties to the supernatural. Featured are the town’s major religious institutions: the Academy of the Sacred Heart, Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House, and St. Charles College/ Jesuit Spirituality Center and Novitiate. (In addition to this article, some years earlier I wrote the story of the first authentic miracle in the U.S.; it’s titled “The Miracle of Grand Coteau,” May 1976, 5/3.)
“ The Canonization of Katharine Drexe l” (Sept. / Oct. 2000, 20/5)
“The Patron Saint of South Louisiana,” Katharine Drexel was canonized in Vatican City on Oct. 1, 2000. She was recognized for her boundless compassion and generosity toward blacks and Native American Indians in the South and Southwest. Several of the schools and religious centers she founded in the 1920s and ’30s to serve blacks and Indians in Acadiana are still in operation.
“The Spirit of Oak Alley” (March / April 1981, 9/2)
A psychic visited Oak Alley plantation house in the 1970s and found it to be alive with the spirits of some of its inhabitants from days gone by. A lady in a black veil was sighted on the widow’s walk, and the housekeepers kept hearing footsteps upstairs even after the tourists were gone for the day.
“The Three Faces of Dudley LeBlanc” (Second Quarter 1977, 6/1)
The late State Senator Dudley J. LeBlanc of Abbeville, whose political career spanned half a century, was a legend in his own time. Some remember him as a powerful and cunning politician; others as the developer and brilliant promoter of the vitamin supplement called HADACOL; and others as the generous and protective political leader of the Cajun people.
“The Truth About the Cajuns” (Aug. 2005, 25/1)
This is an excerpt from a book I wrote that was designed to dispel the myths and stereotypes about the Cajun people. To read some of the articles in national magazines and newspapers, one would think that Cajuns are unambitious, simple-minded, hedonistic types whose lives revolve around eating, drinking, and dancing. Determined to not let that false impression stand, I tried to set the record straight by portraying our people with the accuracy and dignity to which we are entitled.
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