After several recent columns about my relationship with Jerry Lee Lewis, several readers have written to ask what I found so appealing about living in Ferriday. I think it’s more the slower pace of living in a rural area. I enjoyed my time there, particularly in my early years.
I had a yellow Ford pickup truck with a winch on the front and wide mud tires. I was living about 5 miles outside of Ferriday in an old plantation house I was restoring. To get to the house, one had to drive several miles along the Mississippi river levee on a gravel road. Often on my way home in the evening, I would park my car on the levee, pop a cold beer in an ice chest I always kept in the truck, and watch the sunset.
My truck’s tape player floated musical sounds through the open windows. Classical music. That’s all I played in the truck. My list of classical masterpieces included melodies from the likes of Jerry Lee, Mickey Gilley, George Jones, and of course Willy Nelson.
I met Willy in 1972. I was a Louisiana state senator at the time, and one evening went by the governor’s mansion for a reception. Willie was not that well known back then but was invited to the reception by a local friend. As I waited to order a drink at the outdoor bar, I made small talk with the fellow next in line. He told me his name was Willie Nelson and he was a songwriter. I ask him if I would know any of the songs. He mentioned Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. I had never heard of it. A few months later, I was driving in the North Carolina mountains, and Blue Eyes came on the local radio. I was mesmerized by the song and by Willie’s voice.
Willie’s songs go well with Louisiana sunsets.
I still consider Ferriday a resting place. Some might think that living a more pastoral life would be to slow a pace with little to do, and a hard place to meet friends that share similar interests. But any number of my close colleagues do not live in Northeast Louisiana. In fact, most of my friends do not. They live everywhere. I stay in touch and talk to them regularly online. Whatever one’s interests, there is a community of people out there they can connect with.
As century before the Internet, Franz Kafka wrote,” It isn’t necessary that you leave home. Sit at your desk and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t wait, be still and alone. The whole world will offer itself to you.”
Most tourists are not that familiar with the Ferriday area. Actually, our part of the Bayou State was settled long before the rest of our tourist-centric state. Indian tribes roamed the area for centuries, Jim Bowie fought a well-documented knife fight on the banks of the Mississippi, and one of the several transfers of power from France to Louisiana as part of the Louisiana purchase took place on the outskirts of Ferriday.
For years when I was living there, we had a country music jamboree at the Delta Music Theatre in downtown Ferriday on Saturday nights. Sunday mornings meant attending church for most of us, with dinner on the grounds (everyone brought potluck) following the service. The mud races were a big thing on Sunday afternoons in the fall and winter. Souped up trucks and go karts would race around a mud filled track. Fun to watch, and a great place to shake hands and politic. I’m still the highest-ranking public official who has ever been elected from this part of the state.
Now don’t misjudge living in a rural community. Folks will surprise you. They may not be all that fancy. But most of my many friends there are decent, hard-working farmers and merchants. They are not dumb country hicks, but solid salt of the earth locals who enjoy the slower pace of country living. So that’s about as eloquent as I can get describing my home for a number of years, and a domicile I still like to consider as a good resting place. Who knows? I might even be buried there one day.
Peace and Justice