Serendipity, Beasts and the Southern Wild

In the slow, sinking, reptilian darkness of the Louisiana swamp, mysteries abound. Along the Great River, down the Atchafalaya, through interlacing bayous and across fringed wetlands mystery flows, quiet and languid until forced from its banks by circumstance or time.

That my great-great-grandfather, David Crowley, should be caught up within those shadows and flows with Hushpuppy, the leading character of the film Beasts of the Southern Wild, is both remarkable and strange. To appreciate their mysterious connection, perhaps the best (if equally mysterious) place to begin is with Horace Walpole.

A British art historian and man of letters, Walpole appears to have been a bit of an odd duck.  In his introduction to Walpole’s Hieroglyphic Tales, Thomas Christensen describes the author and critic as an exemplar of a long-lived and somewhat peculiar strain of British tradition, one distinguished by “absurdity, ridicule, wordplay, wit, wickedness and just plain madness”.

There’s no question Walpole had plenty of energy, a vibrant imagination and a taste for high jinks.  When he wasn’t busy shepherding tourists through Strawberry Hill, his home outside London, he wrote volumes of letters.  One of his most famous, a 1765  faked letter to Jean-Jacques Rousseau,  was written after Rousseau fled persecution in Geneva to take up residence in France. 

The letter was purported to have been written by King Frederick of Prussia, offering Rousseau asylum-with-a-twist. Among other things, “King Frederick” said, “I will cease to persecute you as soon as you cease to take pride in being persecuted.” Rousseau first attributed the letter to Voltaire. Later, in England, as his paranoia increased, he suspected his friend David Hume, and the letter played a role in a spectacular falling out between Hume and Rousseau.

When he wasn’t stirring up trouble, Walpole delighted in renovating Strawberry Hill, which he called his “Gothic mousetrap” of a house.  Like most collectors, he wanted his objects to be ­admired, and Strawberry Hill was the perfect showcase. 

Writing in The Guardian prior to the re-opening of the newly restored house in 2010, Amanda Vickery notes that Walpole “gave personal tours to posh visitors, but left his housekeeper to herd the hoi polloi – for a guinea a tour.”  Walpole even produced a guidebook to his own home,  but eventually he wearied of the traffic and the numbers of guests peeping over its merlons and crenels. “I keep an inn,” Walpole said. “Never build yourself a house between London and Hampton Court. Everyone will live in it but you.”

Still, he loved his home, with all of its “papier-mâché friezes, Gothic-themed wallpaper, fireplaces copied from medieval tombs, Holbein chambers evoking the court of Henry VIII, Dutch blue and white floor tiles, modern oil paintings, china and carpets.”  It seems reasonable to assume Walpole was creating in Strawberry Hill a concrete analogue to his writing. ­”Visions,” he said, “have always been my pasture. Old castles, old pictures, old histories and the babble of old ­people make one live back into centuries that cannot disappoint.”

Michael Snodin, ­curator of the Walpole exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum, suggests Walpole’s cultural legacy was “to pioneer a kind of imaginative self–expression in building, furnishing and collecting”. His fixation on the house and its furnishings wasn’t to the exclusion other interests, however. Much of Walpole’s “imaginative self-expression” was centered on language. In fact, it was Walpole who created an extraordinarily useful word that’s become familiar to nearly everyone: serendipity.

Writing to his friend Horace Mann in 1754, Walpole defined serendipity as “a propensity for making fortunate discoveries while looking for something else”. He said he’d derived the word from the title of a Persian fairy tale titled The Three Princes of Serendip. In that story, the heroes “always were making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of”.

Today, we tend to equate serendipity with accidental discoveries, but “sagacity” is equally important. The ability to link apparently unrelated, innocuous or irrelevant facts can open even more previously unsuspected pathways for exploration and delight. As John Barthes says in his retelling of the Sinbad saga, The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor, “You don’t reach Serendip by plotting a course for it. You have to set out in good faith for elsewhere and lose your bearings in the process.”

When I set out one quiet spring evening for dinner with a friend and a viewing of Beasts of the Southern Wild, I hadn’t plotted much of a course at all.

I’d been wanting to see the film for several months, for a variety of reasons.  I had acquaintances in Louisiana who’d been on the fringes of the film’s production. I’d been intrigued by the choice of Quvenzhané Wallis for the leading role and I was more than a little curious about the great, hulking beast shown nose-to-nose with Hushpuppy in the pre-release publicity. 

The creature, one of a group of large, mythical and possibly magical beasts called aurochs, had been frozen for millenia in Arctic ice. Once unfrozen, they headed  straight for The Bathtub, the self-contained, harsh yet fragile bit of real estate that was Hushpuppy’s home. 

When the aurochs finally show up, it’s clear that, whatever else happens, Hushpuppy is going to prevail. Despite the absence of her mother, the failing health of her father and the apocalyptic storm that arrives to wreak havoc on their tiny, defiant community, her mysterious connection with the aurochs helps to ensure her triumph.

Still, by the time the film ended, I felt as though I were the one who’d lost my bearings. Bemused and befuddled, I turned to my friend and said, “What was that?” Equally perplexed, she said, “I haven’t a clue. I was hoping you’d tell me.” 

Clearly, another viewing was in order.

After watching the film twice more, I found myself agreeing with Roger Ebert, who described Beasts of the Southern Wild both as an allegory and as “a remarkable creation, [a vision of] a self-reliant community without the safety nets of the industrialized world.”  “Someday,” he added, “they will run out of gasoline for their outboard motors, and then they will do – well, whatever people did before they needed gasoline.”

Thanks to Civil War researchers and a small assortment of family documents, I know a bit about life in Hushpuppy’s world before gasoline and outboard motors became convenient facts of life.

The great-great-grandfather I mentioned happened to be a member of the 34th Iowa Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, and his service included many months in Louisiana. After mustering in at Burlington, Iowa on September 15, 1862, the Regiment moved to Helena, Arkansas. They served in Sherman’s Yazoo Expedition and the Siege of Vicksburg, then moved on to Carrollton, Louisiana in August, 1863.

Ordered from Carrollton to Morganza, the men made their way north and west along the eastern edge of the Atchafalaya Swamp, where they ended September fighting in The Battle at Fordoche Bridge, which lay near to Stirling’s Farm. Moving on to Alexandria, they constructed a dam across the Red River, retreated again to Morganza and then engaged in a final expedition from Morganza to the Atchafalaya River.

In his book The Civil War in Louisiana, historian John D. Winters documents the May, 1864 arrival of Federal troops in Morganza under the command of Nathaniel P. Banks. 

“The unbearable heat drove the men to construct arbors and bowers to shield themselves from the sun. In a short time an orderly city of tents and company streets stretched along the banks of the river between the water and the levee.
Early in the morning and in the late evening the troops were called out for drill periods and gymnastic sports, but most of the day they were free. They spent much of this time lounging in their tents and in the shade, wearing as little clothing as regulations would allow. Some of the men braved the sun and went fishing, or swimming, or visited the sutlers’ tents. For more than a month the sweating troops lazed away the long, hot summer days with only an occasional review or alarm to break the monotony.
“The heat and the excessive rainfall began to tell upon the troops. Epidemics of scurvy, chronic diarrhea, swamp fever, and smallpox began to take an appalling toll. Many times a day the death march sounded, and new victims were carried to their graves along the river bank.

The numbers lost from the 34th Iowa tell the tale of those days. Of the 258 men who died, twelve were killed in battle. Two hundred and forty-six died of disease.  David Crowley had survived.

Just as the effects of a terrible storm lingered for Hushpuppy and the people of The Bathtub, the effects of his time in the swamp lingered for Grandpa Crowley.  His filing of a Declaration for an Invalid Pension and the accompanying affidavits include reminders of a war he carried with him through years of farming and raising a family.

On this 21st day of May, A.D. one thousand eight hundred and ninety-five, personally appeared before me, S.D. Hickman, a Notary Public within and for the County and State aforesaid, David Crowley, aged 63 years, a resident of the town of Chariton, County of Lucas, State of Iowa, who, being duly sworn according to law, declares that he is the identical David Crowley who was enrolled on the 9 day of August, 1862, in Co “K”, 34 Iowa Vols, as Private, in the war of the rebellion, and served at least ninety days, and was honorably discharged at Houston, Texas, on the 15 day of August, 1865.
That he is almost totally unable to earn a support by reason of heart disease, general disability and partial blindness, with rheumatic afflictions. That said disabilities are not due to his vicious habits, and are to the best of his knowledge and belief permanent.
That he makes this declaration for the purpose of being placed on the pension role of the United States under the provisions of the Act of June 27, 1890.

Sorting through the obituaries, funeral tributes, regimental records and copies of other official documents, I learn even more: that he was admitted to Jefferson Barracks Hospital, that he suffered heat stroke in Louisiana, that he became the first Colonel of the reorganized Company A, that in 1864 he became a wood-chopper’s clerk.

Amid the records and documents were more personal narratives, tales of the Paxton, Crowley and Deyarmon families who traveled together from Ireland to make a new home in this country. Intrigued by the history, I began piecing together snippets of fact into a more understandable narrative. Imagine my astonishment when, in the process, I discovered this image of the Crowley family crest.

Needless to say, my imagination was piqued. According to websites specializing in heraldry, the beast shown here is a boar, symbolic of fierce fighters. On the other hand, it bears a certain resemblance to an aurochs, which raises some questions. Could that be Grandpa David standing nose to nose with Hushpuppy in The Bathtub? Did Confederate forces experience the Union Army as beasts from the North? Have I found the explanation for my inordinate fondness for hushpuppies?

It’s easy enough to laugh, dismissing any connection between a modern fantasy film and a family lineage extending back through the centuries to Ireland.

On the other hand, an experience of serendipity certainly does have the power to re-shape our view of things. I’ll never think of Beasts of the Southern Wild in quite the same way, just as I’ll never see another wild hog without thinking of David Crowley. I’ll certainly never forget Walpole’s wisdom. The world overflows with discoveries waiting to be made, both by accident and sagacity, and within every landscape of life, mystery still abounds.

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94 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Probably one of the most interesting and well-written stories I’ve read as a blog. You captured me from the first paragraph. I may even look up Beasts of the Southern Wild!

    • kayti,

      It’s such an unusual and interesting film. I think you’d like it. And I’m pleased you enjoyed my telling of the tale. Hearing someone say, “You captured me from the first paragraph” is the best thing in the world!

      Linda

  2. Wow. You touched on so much, brought chuckles to me from time to time (“What was that?’ was the first one!) the stats about disease and illness – wow, how sad that enduring those conditions brought such loss.

    You mentioned ‘Morganza’ and I thought, ‘flood waters.’ Ah, there’s something so primal about the cypress swamps.. Thanks for transporting me back, though I wish the mosquitoes would not be part of that welcome wagon!

    I was thinking about hushpuppies yesterday! For some reason i’m suddenly craving them again today!!!

    • Lisa,

      Neither my friend nor I are rendered speechless by very much, but the movie did it. I’ve tried to think of another film to compare it to, but so far haven’t succeeded. I will say this – Dirty Dale would have fit into the Bathtub community just fine.

      Of course you thought “flood waters” when you read “Morganza”. My first exposure to Morganza was during the 2011 flood. Watching the spillway open was quite an experience. I’d already read some of McPhee’s writing on the Atchafalaya, and been to Bolivar County, but that was the year I finally read “Rising Tide”, cover to cover.

      Good hushpuppies are one of life’s great gifts. Too many restaurants around here produce dry, shriveled, hard little things that would best be used by a nine year old boy playing marbles. Of course, I don’t have to describe a good one to you!

      Linda

      • Rising Tide is such a great book. Once I started (ironically during Costa Rica’s extreme rainy season) I could barely put it down. I should read it again!

        I”ll bet watching that spillway open was an amazing experience. The ’73 flood still burns in my memory. Witnessing the power of the River and my ‘elders’ unspoken respect for that current had a profound effect on me..
        I also remember catching bushels and bushels of crayfish along the side (middle!) of the levee!

        • It was amazing, and scary. More than a few people were holding their breath, wondering, “Will it work?” Some were asking themselves, “Is this it, at last? Is the river going to escape and make her new channel?” No, not yet.

          The biggest amazement was the effect of the drought conditions on the behavior of the water after the Spillway was opened. The Atchafalaya Basin didn’t flood as badly as folks had feared, because a good bit of the water just soaked in.

          • That’s one good blessing that the water soaked into the parched earth. I’ll bet those trees and plants said, ‘Ahhhhhhh!’

  3. EXCELLENT sharing of information researched and your wonderful gift of storytelling. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I have followed its goings-on. Quvenzhané Wallis is from my hometown. Thank you for sharing such in-depth piece! :D

    BTW — Early … but Happy 4th of July!!

    • Becca,

      I thought of you often while I was writing this. How’s this for serendipity? The day they began filming the movie also was the day the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. At the time, I was down on Bayou DuLarge, getting to know Bayou Sale, Grand and Little Caillou & so on. I didn’t know about Deepwater Horizon until I got home, and didn’t know about Isle de Jean Charles until a few months ago.

      There’s so much to learn, and so much to enjoy! I’ve still got Chester’s in my bookmarks. One of these days I’ll get there. Happy 4th to you – I hope it’s enjoyable.

      Linda

      • I am in Houma now with my mom. My sister and niece are here for a few more days! It will be a very quiet 4th – but a blessed one!! :D

  4. I always begin reading your posts thinking, ‘I’ll just skim over this,’ but I never do.

    Thank you for weaving these wonderful snippets into beautiful prose.

    • Louise,

      Thank you so much for reading, and for your gracious comment. There were a few times when I felt less like I was weaving than beating this thing into submission, but I always enjoy the work.

      I hope your Independence Day is a good one!

      Linda

      • Linda,

        I’m an Aussie, so it’s just another dreary, mid-winter day here. Good for writing, though!

        Happy Independence Day to you.

        Louise

  5. Linda, you have a captivating way of telling a tale, and I truly admire it! What an interesting possibility, considering the wild boar and the auroch as serendipitous!

    One of my late uncles traced our relatives back to Ireland, too, but because of fires and poor record-keeping, he was unable to solidify his research. Sounds like you were more fortunate!

    Happy Fourth of July!

    • Debbie,

      I have been fortunate when it comes to tracing the Crowley family line, but I’m certainly working on a base laid by others. I’m not certain who went to the trouble of obtaining copies of things like the Civil War records, but they contain a wealth of information. There are notarized copies of things like a genealogy from the front of a family Bible, and hand-written histories of the early travels through Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.

      One of the coolest things I’ve found is that my great-great-grandfather David’s own grandfather and great uncle were with Washington at Valley Forge. That gives me chills, just to think about it.

      Like so many people, I’m sorry I wasn’t more curious, more willing to listen and more willing to ask questions when I was young and some of the “old ones” still were around. At least there are clues to follow!

      Linda

  6. WOW! Susan

    • Hi, Susan – and thanks for the word of affirmation! This is the year I decided to push myself a little, and this required some effort. That’s ok – it’s exactly how we build up our writing muscles.

      I’ve not forgotten your generous offer. We rolled into summer awfully fast, and it’s a little hot for enjoyment out on the prairie, I’d think. But come September, I’ll be in touch. It’s my favorite season, and I’d think the perfect time for another look!

      Linda

  7. Your post has me wanting to see the movie now, Linda. I hadn’t heard of it before, and probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought if I had, yet your personal story begs me to see it. How harsh it was then, and how tragic for your great, great grandfather to lose his health from his exposure to that environment.

    • Lynda,

      You probably would have had a hard time finding the movie when it first was released. Even though Quvenzhané Wallis received an Oscar nomination, it was an independent film in limited release. When it played here, it was up in Houston at a single theatre, and never came to any of the suburbs. That’s one reason I bought the DVD – that, and my desire to add it to my “South Louisiana” library.

      You can see the trailer here.

      As for Grandpa David (as I’ve come to call him), his life actually was pretty good. I’ve written one post about his Civil War service and included his photo. You can see that here. He married the year he came home from the war, had seven kids, created a prosperous farm and lived to the ripe old age of 75. (There’s a story there, too. The woman who married him was at home waiting for someone else to come back and marry her, but Gramps apparently got there first. More research is required!)

      Linda

      • It is available to rent from Netflix, and I’ve added it to my cue. ;)

        I am also happy to hear about Grandpa David’s good life. So, now I will be waiting for the “more research” on his wife! :)

  8. An absolutely fascinating trail of storytelling that culminates in bringing it all together – why you are truly a magician!

    • eremophila,

      I just had a funny vision of me pulling an aurochs out of a hat, like a cute little magician’s bunny. Put a #2 pencil in my hand instead of a wand and I’ll be good to go.

      I’ve been trying to find a way to tell this story since coming across the family crest. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Linda

  9. An interesting read as usual. How lucky you are to have those old family documents. It is so sad to read of the miseries that were suffered by troops in the Civil War. What an apologue you have woven here whch includes some family history.

    Linda, simply put, you never cease to entertain me with your keen observations. You possess the abilty and insight of knowing what you can weave into a good read.

    I’ve tried to figure out how you make your stories so interesting. Do you run your stories through your mind or do you begin with a vague or a general idea and then build upon that? You need not reveal your trade secrets here. I just put into words what I have always wondered about short story writers.

    I discovered a blogger that is published and who is on WP. He has been churning out a short story per day. Sort of an O.Henry read.

    • Yvonne,

      The truth is those family documents have been languishing in a drawer for nearly twenty years. I didn’t become interested in them until I made my first trip to Louisiana, after I began blogging. The purpose of my trip was to visit Evangeline country, but on the way I stopped in the town of Crowley to get gas and something to drink. Suudenly I thought, “Crowley?” When I got home, I pulled the file out of its drawer and took another look.

      I’ve always thought one key to keeping readers interested is to write about things that interest me. If I’m bored by what I’m writing, why should I expect a different response from anyone else?

      Of course, there aren’t any trade secrets. I get an idea, I think about it, I get a direction, I start to write. Then, it’s just a matter of thinking-and-writing-and-thinking-even-more until it’s done. There’s usually something that triggers the process. In this case, it was finding the family crest and being amused and intrigued by the similarity between the aurochs and the boar.

      As for being published – you’re published, and I’m published, and every blogger on WP is published. The button we click to send our blog posts out into the world says “Publish” for a reason. Everything we post is in the public realm and copyrighted, and “real” publishers take it seriously. When I had some poetry published in an anthology, it had to meet the “never previously published” criteria, and that included personal blogs.

      Of course some people think there’s added value to having their work published as a book, either by a publishing house or by self-publication. For myself, I’m no so sure. I did notice that the fellow you linked to is retired. No wonder he can do a story-a-day. On the other hand, I’m not sure I could (or would want) to do that, even if I were retired. As he says in his bio, we all have our own ways of approaching these things!

      Linda

  10. Linda,
    There really is a resemblance between the wild boar and the auroch. I haven’t seen the movie.

    This is quite a research project. Thank you for sharing it with us. I enjoyed it very much.

    Great information about your great-great-grandfather. Can you imagine the suffering that occurred in that sweltering heat?

    You’ve piqued my interest again. I keep saying I’m going to do some family research. I’m sure we’re good for at least one horse thief.

    • Bella Rum,

      I just learned something since posting this. “Aurochs” is one of those funny words that’s both singular and plural, so we can have a group of aurochs, or just one aurochs. Who knew? Not me, until one of my readers let me know. He went on to mention that aurochs is a German word, and that “ochs” is “ox”. Isn’t that cool?

      I’ve learned a good bit more in the last day or so about how the aurochs were created, but I’m glad I knew nothing of that when I saw the movie. When they came rumbling down the road, my disbelief was about 100% suspended, and I was watching like I was five years old. I have to love a movie that can do that!

      I wouldn’t bet against the horse thief. They were around. Look at this paragraph I found in the family papers:

      “The Crowley family were enroute from Jefferson County, Ohio, to an area near Knoxville, Iowa. They were in a single covered wagon. After camping overnight…they awoke to find the team of horses had been stolen. Nathan [David's father] grabbed a gun and took out after the Indians or brigands and he was never heard of again.”

      As the oldest, David took over as head of the family, and the rest, as they say, is history. ;)

      Linda

  11. Just this morning I was reading an article by Kenneth T. Jackson which reminded me that through all of history until our lifetime, it was usually the case that more soldiers died of disease or infection than of wounds. Here’s a relevant paragraph from the article (which was about New York City during World War II):

    Other New York factories were equally busy with work. Inside a converted ice plant on Marcy Avenue in Brooklyn, Pfizer — a Brooklyn company founded by two German immigrants in 1849 — built the first factory to mass-produce the world’s first life-saving antibiotic, penicillin. Having beaten other companies in finding a way to mass-produce the brand-new drug, Pfizer bought the ice plant on September 20, 1943, and quickly converted the factory into the first penicillin factory in the world.

    Amazingly, within three months of the plant’s opening on March 1, 1944, it produced most of the penicillin to go ashore with American troops on D-Day, June 6, 1944. By that date, American penicillin production was one-hundred billion units per month, and Pfizer was making more than fifty percent of it. An advertisement of the time depicted four military men and women at the center of a line of civilians. Beneath them, a caption read, “These are alive today…because of PENICILLIN.”

    • Steve,

      Apart from the marvel of the penicillin itself, I have to wonder if that kind of mobilization would be possible today. By the time the studies were done, the permits applied for, the review process undertaken, the contracts awarded and the caveats issued – well, who knows?

      What I do know is that penicillin helped save my life. I came down with very serious pneumonia when I was quite young. I don’t remember much about it, but I do remember a high fever, a house call from the doctor and then being swooped up for a fast trip to the hospital. Back in those days, the preferred method for reducing fever in a hurry was an immersion in an ice bath. Somehow, a rubber sheet was involved.

      After I recovered, there was a good bit of talk among the family and friends about the new wonder drug they’d given me. Of course it was penicillin.

      Linda

      • Penicillin came in (fortunately for you), and before too many years house calls from doctors went out. Win some, lose some.

  12. I haven’t seen ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ yet. I don’t know if it was at our local theaters or not. I watch all my movies on HBO or Showtime and it hasn’t shown up yet. I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled.

    I do find it a bit confusing that the scriptwriters would call a prehistoric, giant wild boar an ‘auroch,’ though. I know the movie is a fantasy drama and anything goes in fantasy. I still picture really big cattle with really big horns.

    What I found most interesting was the story of Grandpa Crowley in Louisiana during “The War.” It was generally the case that more soldiers died back then from disease and infections, than were killed outright in battle. Medical care was horrible.

    I’m not surprised to hear that he had lifelong issues with his sojourn in the Atchafalaya. He was apparently made of stern stuff and didn’t let it hinder him in getting on with his life after the war.

    If you ever find out how he sneaked in and snatched Grandma Crowley from under the nose of his rival, I want to hear it.

    • Gué,

      When I watched the film – all three times! – I completely missed the significance of a scene early in the film. At Hushpuppy’s school, her teacher shows the children a tattoo of aurochs and says, “This here is an aurochs – a fierce creature. Ya’ll better learn to survive…” The unspoken message may be, “Or you’re going to go extinct, too.”

      Here’s a pic of the tattoo I clipped from the movie trailer. Obviously, this is more in line with “the real thing”. Is what Hushpuppy confronts in the wild her imaginative reconstruction of the more literal aurochs her teacher showed her? Perhaps. But I suspect forever and always “aurochs” will be, for me, those creatures pictured above.

      Grandpa did get on with life, and pretty quickly. He and Annie were married in 1866. He clearly knew her before the war, and it may have been a second marriage for her. I’m more confused than ever now, because I’ve figured out that Annie was a Deyarmon, and her aunt, also a Deyarmon, was David’s mother! So – two generations, two Deyarmon girls. It may have been David’s dad who did the bride-snatching!

      There’s a hand-written family history that has other tales in it. It’s going to take some time to decipher, but I will. Any document that mentions “horse thief”, “shootings” and “lover” deserves a very close look!

      Linda

      • Ah, I see, now how the oxen auroch became Hushpuppy’s auroch. I am no longer confused.

        Dad’s family tree has quite a few family surnames that weave in and out, as the Deyarmons do in yours. We agreed that it was probably the fact that they lived in a small farming community and the available marriage pool was often limited to families who lived in nearby towns. Transportation was slow and people didn’t tend to travel far.

  13. Um, an aurochs is an extinct species of wild ox. Those which confronted Hushpuppy must have been mythical beasts. That said, I think I shall have to save my pennies, nickels and dimes and obtain a copy of this film. It sounds very interesting. Wild boar still roam free (and are a pest) in the Schwartzwald in Germany.

    Family genealogy is a fascinating study. Apparently the Crowleys are from Roscommon in Ireland, and there is a reel called Master Crowley’s which is sometimes paired with the Roscommon reel. Since the wild boar became extinct in Ireland in prehistoric times, this argues that some of the Crowleys may have come to Ireland from England. Do you know when his family came over to America? Was it earlier than 1846 (Famine)?

    • WOL,

      Regarding the aurochs, see my reply to Gué just above. There is a linkage in the film between the real, if extinct, aurochs, and Hushpuppy’s creatures. I simply missed it as I was watching. That’s actually quite a tribute to the film-maker. I was caught up so quickly into Hushpuppy’s world that, by the time the aurochs showed up, I was willing to accept them at face value.

      I’ve got so many documents and hand-written notes it’s going to take some real time and attention to sort it all out, but this is clear: David Crowley was born in Jefferson County, Ohio, in 1832. One of his grandparents, David DeYarmon, was born at Cargy-gray, Annahilt Parish, County Down, in 1771. David Deyarmon came to America as a young man, settled near Philadelphia, and then moved to Jefferson County, Ohio, after the turn of the century (early 1800s). His occupation in the 1850 census was “drayman”.

      Since there’s reference to the DeYarmon, Crowley and Paxton families coming together to this country, this suggests they all got here early – and it also helps to explain all the intermarriages among the group.

      It’s fascinating stuff, that’s for sure. And what little research I’ve done certainly explains why friends who are interested in genealogy disappear from time to time. They’re back in the archives.

      Linda

      • You might be interested in this One of the many things that is interesting about genealogy is how it brings British and European history into sharper focus. It would be interesting to learn how a group of Irish immigrants ended up in Iowa. That there were three families who came together suggests they were closely associated in Ireland before they left. One wonders what tales hang there? Crop failure and disease were factors in Irish immigration even during the 1820’s to 1830’s

        We often forget that up until fairly recently, a widowed woman with children had very few options for supporting her family, with remarriage often being the only socially acceptable option. Widowed women were often forced to make difficult choices in such circumstances. I know the harsh reality of this fact from my own family’s history. Employment opportunities for women were severely restricted even up into the 1900’s.Teaching school, was the most respectable of the limited number of occupations open to an unmarried woman, especially one who did not want to marry for whatever reason.

  14. A post full of serendipity. (That word was so popular in the ? 70’s was it?) Enjoyed the Walpole jaunt. I’ve seen a bit of the movie with Hushpuppy – she’s quite a little actress.

    Funny how people scramble when disaster takes back modern conveniences? Even on the cruise ship a tent city sprung up – your description of the heat and bowers of the Civil War soldiers reminded me. So many died from injuries and disease – medicine not far from Barber’s arena. (One young soldier was warned by his dad to make friends with the cooks, and if hurt, go to the men in charge of officers’ horses for treatment – not to go to the docs under any circumstances.)

    There is some connection about Ireland and the Crowleys – seen it in literature…that would be interesting to explore.
    Well, promised I wouldn’t spend time on the computer. It’s so humid and hot again, not sure what else is available.
    Have a nice 4th of July (and think of all that teak getting dried out from salt, water, and sun…..as someone might say, meat on the hoof?)
    Loved being swamped!

    • phil,

      Usually, I can track your thoughts, but you’ve stymied me with “Barber’s arena”. I need a clue, here. I keep thinking about Barbour’s Cut, and that’s surely not it.

      I certainly understand that advice to go to the ones responsible for the horses, although I did chuckle that dad specified those “in charge of officers’ horses”. You know how many times I’ve made noises about the level of care Dixie gets and her vet’s wonderful “bedside manner”. If only every human patient could get such skilled and attentive healthcare.

      See my comment to WOL just above for some more details about the history of the clan. I suspect I have enough names and dates to do some real digging. The one I’m most interested in is one of David’s daughter’s, Inazel. She was a teacher in one-room schools, graduated from the same college I attended when it still was a “Normal School” and wanted to be a writer. She had at least one poem published in a pulp magazine before running off to Hawaii… but that’s another story, for another time. ;)

      Linda

  15. Thanks for this wonderfully woven, intricate tale, Linda. I loved reading it. And I know what you mean about sometimes feeling one is beating a piece of writing into submission rather than crafting it….

    • Anne,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story. And you know how it is. You can work and work and work, but until the stars align properly, nothing’s going to happen!

      Linda

  16. Oh, how I love the pieces of life you weave together! I watched and enjoyed Beasts, a movie I’m apt to see differently having read this post. (In a rare turn, Anthony has yet to see it, so I’ll be watching it again with him.)

    Your parting words are especially beautiful.

    • Deborah,

      Now that I’ve written this and enjoyed the comments, too, I think I’ll watch the film again this weekend. I’ve gained some context (there were real aurochs!) and I’ve learned a good bit about the making of the film (I’m still laughing at the way in which Hushpuppy’s aurochs were created).

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’m not much of a film buff, so it was fun for me to be “caught up” in one, and have the chance to share some of my responses.

      Linda

  17. Serendipity indeed. The world sure is a wonder, for good or bad, things happen, and life goes on. Like the movie, even after the passing of her daddy, and the community under destruction by flooding, and whatever else that happened to them (as a matter of fact, I don’t quite recall much details), life goes on…

    After this recent flood two weeks ago in our City, however much destruction has been done, while some thousands of evacuees still not back home, and maybe not ever, life goes on. You know, the Stampede Parade will go ahead tomorrow as planned, and ‘the greatest show on earth’ will not be deferred. The singing Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is the parade marshal tomorrow, kicking off the Calgary Stampede.

    Of course, it’s a show of resilience, unfurling the spirit of the City. But then again, shall I say, also a bit callous considering all who are still stranded and trying to salvage whatever remains of their homes.

    • Arti,

      What a wonderful idea, to have Chris Hadfield as parade marshall. it seems only yesterday we were talking about Ian Tyson filling that role. Time certainly does fly.

      I’m glad for the city that things have sorted themselves out sufficiently for all this to be happening. I understand that a bit of caution, a little sensitivity, is called for. Still, thinking about what things were like here in Houston after Tropical Storm Allison – and as one of those who was involved in salvaging rebuilding a home – I’d be all in favor of carrying on. This is how I expressed it in one of my blog entries:

      “After Allison, many of us shared that instinctive comprehension of what it means to be trapped, overcome by events, no longer in control of our own destiny. Prisoners of a natural disaster, locked up by circumstance, lying sleepless in borrowed beds, we were most concerned with bread: with the necessities of life that had to be restored and replaced.

      And yet, as people struggled to reestablish routines, rebuild structures and move beyond the destruction of their lives, the yearning for a bit of beauty couldn’t be denied. Instinctively, people seemed to understand that any rose would do. A song, a smile, a slant of sunlight, a patch of blue or a freshening breeze could lift and feed hearts that still hungered for the fullness of human life.”

      Normalcy is a wonderful tonic.Ordinary days can heal the effects of extraordinary events. I wouldn’t be surprised to know that many residents of flooded Calgary feel just as we did when it happened to us – happy for a little break, happy to be reminded of happier days in the past and of better days to come.

      Linda

      • Well said. Thanks for your support of our City. ;)

        • I can’t imagine anyone who’s been through “it” not having greater sympathy for others who have to endure similar events. It’s not something you forget!

          • You might want to see how the flood actually looked like. I’ve got the photos up on my blog now. ;)

  18. I’m in awe at how you tied that all together and sweetened it all up with humor! Great story!

    • montucky,

      I’m so glad you caught some of the humor and enjoyed it. The fact is that life can be funny (ironic, strange, improbable, amusing) and there’s nothing wrong with any of it. Not everything in life has to be Very Serious, after all!

      Thanks for the compliment – I’m really glad you enjoyed it. By the way – before Grandpa David came back to Iowa to help form Company K, he was “in the Rocky Mountain region seeking for gold when the news came that the flag had been fired upon.” He’s reported to have said, “I am going back to Iowa to volunteer. If the flag is going down, I’m going down with it.”

      Of course, this could be only half-true (or less) since the story is included in the memorial speech given at his funeral by Warren Dungan and others, his commanders in the 34th Iowa. Hagiography was pretty common in those days. ;)

      Linda

  19. But in order to experience these events of sagacity, one might have to do some digging, as you have done, inspired by curiosity and that desire to just plain know more.

    While you were asking your friend, “What was THAT?” at the end of the film, I was hiding tears. Those of us who live near the now desolate spit of island where much of this was filmed know all too well about sense of place and the aurochs we battle every hurricane season. Well, heck, Galveston has also had its fair share, but somehow, living in the Bathtub seems different somehow, more remote, and always on the brink of disappearing forever, swallowed up by the saline waters of the Gulf.

    What a great piece, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Your ability to sniff and ferret out information and piece those bits together into a viable image continues to astound me. Oh, if I only had the patience and perseverance to do the same!

    • Wendy,

      But it is different in Galveston and along the Texas Coast. Ike was terrible, but I’ll never forget driving from Tyler to Nacogdoches on Sunday morning after landfall. The storm still was at hurricane strength when it rolled through the area. Trees were down everywhere, roofs were gone and the power was out. But the highways already were clear. No one had waiting for FEMA, the military or anyone else to show up. People with chainsaws had gotten out and cleared the roads themselves – the recovery had started within hours of the storm.

      Fast forward to yesterday. I was in Galveston, and drove down the island to San Luis Pass and Surfside. It was an amazing sight, the whole way – beautiful new plantings, fresh paint, clean, high dunes and a vibrant tourist business.

      The difference between that and The Bathtub? The land – and the water, and the interaction between the two. The truth of The Bathtub seems to be that, even absent the storms and the personal tragedies, nearly invisible forces are changing everything.

      I’ve been around there enough to feel it. I haven’t been around enough to be able to identify the specifics, or explain them very well. But that sense of “now you see it, now you don’t” is real, and this film brought it home to me. The question is, can we stop the forces, and are there some changes that can be reversed?

      Linda

  20. Oh I got really excited by the Walpole Word Invention bit and then there were even more gems to come! Superb beating into submission has taken place ;). I definitely recognize that British tradition – it’s still in circulation, in fact maybe we’re all touched by it in varying degrees.

    I’m slightly confused by hushpuppies though. Here, they are a brand of sensible comfortable shoe favoured by the more mature among us. Definitely not something you’d find in a restaurant!

    That’s an interesting motif for a crest – maybe they were originally Celts who were by all accounts a fearsome warring lot originally hailing from Europe – hence the boar. I’ve seen a family of them in France crossing the road, Dad,Mum and babies….actually very cute.

    I’m intrigued by Beasts of the Southern Wild – to be added to the lovefilm list.

    Thanks for a wonderful read.

    • thinkingcowgirl,

      Here’s a tiny bit more serendipity that I couldn’t fit into the post, even though I smiled every time I thought of it. Take a look at this photo of the old state capitol building in Louisiana. If that’s not a direct descendent of Strawberry Hill, I don’t know what is!

      Hushpuppies are a southern delicacy. There are varieties – I’m sure every cook has her own favorite recipe – but this will give you the basics. The recipe is simple – all purpose flour, white or yellow cornmeal, buttermilk (sometimes beer), onion, and sometimes jalapeno for those who like a little kick. There’s a link to a recipe with the article so you can see.

      As for the crest – wild boar hunting is a Big Deal here in Texas. If Gramps was around now, he could get some land, put that crest on his letterhead and start a big-time operation with a cool slogan. You know, like “Don’t be Bored – Get a Boar at Crowley Camp!”

      I think it could work. But I know you’ll love the film.

      Linda

  21. Wow, what a trail of discovery you’ve followed here. I haven’t seen Beasts of the Southern Wild once, let alone two or three times, as you have, yet I think I may like the real stories you tell here most of all.

    I love perhaps most of all this question from you upon discovering the Crowley crest: “Have I found the explanation for my inordinate fondness for hushpuppies?”

    • Susan,

      I do think you’d like the film, partly because you’ve had some experience in that part of the world. It’s a strange one, for sure. There’s no good answer to the question, “What’s the movie about?” But that’s part of its charm and intrigue.

      As for the rest – the crest, the Crowleys and the hushpuppies – just remember what the Bard said. “There be more in them bayous and swamps, Joel, than you can dream of in your pirogue.”

      Or something like that. ;)

      Linda

  22. Oh, what a great read, most enjoyable, thank you.
    I know what your hush puppies are, as you have told me before, but I have to agree with thinkingcowgirl, to me they are something I would wear on my feet!
    Each time I read the word auroch, I had a vision of a bespectacled Daniel Jackson, in Stargate SG1, telling the rest of the team about the mystical beasts, the aurochs. See, even ogling TV can provide one with interesting facts! I have not seen the film, and not being a movie goer will not see it at the cinema, but will look out for it now, as I am sure I would have a better understanding after reading your thoughts on it.
    Hope you had an enjoyable day with C:)

    • Sandi,

      Oh, I’ve had the worst evening of it! I can’t get into my own blog! I’ve just now been able to open the comment section here, but I still can’t see my blog. I’m going to try and leave this comment, but I’ll copy it first so I can post it over at your blog if it doesn’t “take” here.

      Funny that I’d never heard of aurochs, and I haven’t a clue what this Stargate business is all about! While you’re searching out Hushpuppy and her friends, I’ll have to snoop around and see what I can see about Stargate.

      I’m not one for movies in the theatre myself. Actually, as you know, I’m not big on film generally. But because of my connections with Louisiana and some really intriguing publicity, I thought I would enjoy this one. And I certainly did.

      In a way, the movie reminded me of some of your fanciful woodland creatures – Hushpuppy has a connection with the natural world I think you’d appreciate.

      Well, now. Let’s see if this will “take”.

      Linda

  23. I adore this quote: “I will cease to persecute you as soon as you cease to take pride in being persecuted.” How very apt for the age we live in. Reminds me of the endless celebrity escapades and their outrage over being photographed and followed.

    You are a master of serendipity. I love connections and I try to make them in my art as well. I’m also very interested in seeing that movie and I’m going to seek it out. Thank you for a wonderful, delight journey of a read. I’d love to see some of the papier-mâché friezes at Strawberry Hill.

    • SDS,

      I swear – we’ve raised being offended and being offensive to a high art in this country, celebrity and celebrity-wannabe alike. Even a prowl through social media or the internet forums and comment sections makes it pretty clear that there is a high percentage of our population who could use a dose of Walpole. Of course, if they really understood his point, they’d just be further offended, so there you are.

      When you get right down to it, “Beasts” is all about connections – with other people, with history, with the land, with self. It makes pretty clear how tenuous those connections can be, too. But it’s a hopeful film in the end. It doesn’t glamorize anything, which probably is part of the reason some of the critics just don’t get it.

      If you do see it, let me know and I’ll send a couple of very interesting reviews to you. And I’ll give you the scoop on the aurochs, too – but no spoilers here!

      I do think you’d enjoy this fine video about the history and restoration of Strawberry Hill. It makes me want to do a bit of a restoration myself, but of course I need a name for my home. To keep a Texas flair, how about “Dewberry Ditch”? ;)

      Linda

      • Dewberry Ditch sounds lovely. It does. It has character – no one would expect a facade there.

  24. Linda, once again I am amazed at your gift of telling a story with all sorts of twists, turns and connections! I haven’t seen this film, yet another I have missed but probably on DVD. I think when I DO see it, I will see it with new eyes and insight. Thank you! (And thanks also for telling us about Strawberry Hill. Paper Mache friezes? Please!)

    • jeanie,

      At least you may be a little more patient and a little less befuddled than I was when I first saw it! On the other hand, there’s something about it that allows folks with no experience of the bayous, wetlands and swamps to get a feel for it beyond the tourist board stuff. Cajun food and cajun music is great – I love it all. But there’s a grittier side to life down there, a side that’s richer and more appealing than many of the film critics would allow.

      I know what you mean about those friezes. When I saw “paper maché”, the first thing that came to mind was a puppet I made in grade school. Oh, my. The good Mr. Walpole wouldn’t have allowed her within a mile of his home!

      Linda

  25. What a superb tale. I did not know much about the Civil War until I moved to Georgia and am now only 3 miles from a large National Civil War Battlefield Park – which I have been driving through now for decades. I had seen the word “serendipity” before but I was not that familiar with it (had not been taught in my English class in France!)

    What really surprised me was when you said that out of the 258 men who died in the 34th regiment 246 died of disease! So when I see the total number of casualties for the Civil War, I wonder what is the percentage of death from disease? What a tragedy. I really enjoyed your story with all his connections.

    • vagabonde,

      I knew the basic facts about the Civil War from school, of course. But when I found that my grandfather David spent the bulk of his service in Texas and Louisiana – even on some of the same beaches I’ve played on! – I became much more interested. I’m lucky enough to have a detailed itinerary of his Regiment’s service, and bit by bit am hoping to put together a collection of stories.

      The percentage of men dying by disease in his Regiment is directly attributable to their time in the swamp, of course. I suppose the percentages would vary, depending on geographic and military conditions. We do tend to forget that war was a very different thing during the American Revolution and Civil War. Strange to call it more personal, perhaps, but it was. The old saying has been attributed to many commanders, but it gives a sense of the realities of combat in their time: “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes”.

      Serendipity is a great word and a wonderful experience. May we all enjoy more of it!

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your gracious comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the read.

      Linda

  26. As a lover of genealogy, and a civil war buff, I found this a wonderful read. I have to say, I love this line of your post (Walpole defined serendipity as ”a propensity for making fortunate discoveries while looking for something else”) because I do that all the time : – )

    • sherri,

      Truly, I think the experience of serendipity and creativity have a good bit in common. At the very least, both require openness to life and the kind of flexibility suggested by that piece of yours I admire so much – the one that says, “Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.”

      I used to think genealogy was dry and boring. I reacted to it in the same way I reacted when I first met the book of Leviticus, with all those “begats”. More recently, I’ve figured out that there are stories roaming those dusty records, and some of them are pretty interesting.
      I’m glad you enjoyed this one.

      Linda

  27. Once again beautifully written and my favorite part “Today, we tend to equate serendipity with accidental discoveries, but “sagacity” is equally important. The ability to link apparently unrelated, innocuous or irrelevant facts can open even more previously unsuspected pathways for exploration and delight. ”

    You’ve certainly accomplished sagacity here! Thank you.

    • WildBill,

      Now that I think of it, the ecologist and environmentalist probably need that quality of sagacity as much as anyone. Many of us notice the changes taking place in our world, even the most subtle. But taking that next step – asking what those changes mean, drawing connections among apparently unrelated facts – can lead to interesting and important conclusions.

      Of course, noticing what’s going on is the first step! The kid picking daisies out in right field may miss a fly ball, but who knows what he’ll find?

      Linda

  28. For some of us an example of serendipity might be clicking on “The Task at Hand” while surfing.

    • Ken,

      And I’m happy as can be that you did! I’m happy to see you here tonight, too – another sign that the eye part of hand-eye coordination is functioning as it should.

      Linda

  29. Congratulations, Linda! Happy for you that this post was featured at the “Beasts of the Southern Wild” site. A great piece of family history. By the way, love the way you connected your great-great-grandfather’s story with Horace Walpole and the movie. Beautifully written…

    — Matt

    • Matt,

      Thanks so much! Believe me, I couldn’t have been more surprised. When I looked at my stats this morning and saw “Beasts of the Southern Wild” as a referrer, I couldn’t figure it out until I clicked on the link and saw that the post had been picked up by the official movie site. I’m pleased, of course. It’s another of those rewards that far outweighs other measures of success.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the family story, too. Grandpa David’s from my mother’s side – the uncle who’s buried in Manila is from my father’s side. It’s really quite remarkable how much I’m learning about my family even as I write about other subjects. I suppose we could call that serendipitous!

      My best to Jojang. ;)

      Linda

  30. Your last three words reminded me of this poetic passage from Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers:

    • Steve,

      Like the film, this clip deserves – and needs – to be absorbed over time.

      I am fond of the last graphic, which I assume is an editorial comment by the videographer. It says, “Be the magic, not the magician”. It reminds me of one of my favorite sayings – “Play the music, not the instrument”. Cohen says it slightly differently here, but just slightly, when he says, “Magic is no instrument, Magic is the end”.

      Linda

  31. Linda, thanks for a fascinating track through a bit of history. I was especially intrigued by the idea of life after gasoline, since – to a degree – I spent two week on foot. Lesson learned: pack lighter (even though we had our luggage moved). Another lesson, of course, was that kindness is around the corner, just beside beauty, for those open to mystery. Allen

    • Allen,

      I had my first experience of foot travel in Liberia, and still profit from lessons learned there. It’s rather amazing to re-read Graham Greene’s “Journey Without Maps” and find in it an almost perfect description of what my travel was like, even though I came to the experience some forty or forty-five years later.

      I have a feeling when you say “kindness” you’re talking about the experience of hospitality – a welcoming people as well as a welcoming and beautiful landscape. I’m hoping we’ll get to hear about some of your experiences once you’re home and settled again.

      Linda

  32. What a wonderful post. You are a blogging rockstar.

    For me there are several great discussion launching pads in this one, particularly M. Rousseau and Civil War history (a great and once consuming interest of mine).

    But I reckon I’ll save those trails for another day. I’m intrigued by the reference to “a self reliant community without the safety nets of the industrialized world.” We used to have that here. We may again someday. I’m sure your grandfather and his comrades didn’t realize it, but they were helping further the process that would sweep those kind of communities away in this country (though that certainly was not their intention). But I suppose industrialism was destined to prevail anyway.

    Just last night was reading through an old journal. I’ve always known well the story of my family from my father’s side, but about my mother’s family I knew little. The journal entry was describing my surprise when, a few years ago, I discovered that her ancestors arrived in the U.S. from Scotland in the 1820s, making them relative newcomers to Virginia.

    There are indeed so many discoveries awaiting us–in history as well as in the world around us.

    You write beautifully. I absolutely love this sentence: The world overflows with discoveries waiting to be made, both by accident and sagacity, and within every landscape of life, mystery still abounds.

    Thanks for sharing this great post with us.

    • Bill,

      Of all the words I never expected to hear applied to me, I think “rockstar” has to be right up near the top. Thanks for the compliment, and for the morning laugh!

      Ah, the law of unintended consequences. I suppose the truth is that mixed motives were as alive and well during Civil War days as they are now. Apart from lofty patriotism, it’s a fact that Gramps was panning for gold in Colorado when the war broke out. It’s entirely possible part of his eagerness to sign up was his adventurous spirit.

      Beyond that, he had some obvious leadership abilities and was used to being in charge of things. As the family was traveling from Virginia (!) and then Ohio to Texas, his own father left their wagons one night to go after a horse thief. He never came back, and David took over as head of the family, looking after his mother and eight siblings. Heading up a Regiment may have been easier.

      I wonder now and then about how much history will be lost for lack of paper records. There’s something deeply moving about having facsimiles of pension requests, wedding licenses and so on in the handwriting of the people submitting them.

      Email has its place, but no email or pdf file ever could replace seeing David Crowley’s signature on his application for pension, or the hand-written records of his war service. They’re all signed, too – and the title next to the fellow’s name is “Copyist”. That’s only 150 years ago, and yet it’s closer to the cloisters of the Middle Ages than to our time. Amazing.

      Linda

  33. The word “Atchafalaya” popped into my head a couple of days ago, and I have no idea why. I’d never even heard of it until I read one of your posts, last year or the year before. (Please don’t tell me it was the year before that.)

    As for laughing off the connections, I think the ones you’ve made in this essay demonstrate true serendipity. You certainly couldn’t have set out to find them, but you had the sagacity to recognize them when they appeared through the tangle.

    • Charles,

      Suddenly, I wasn’t sure myself. We both can relax – it’s only been a couple of years. Still, as my great-aunt Rilla used to say, “Tempus fidgets…” Indeed, it does.

      And you’re right – I certainly didn’t set out to find these connections. Something else that intrigues me is how long it took for all of the ingredients for this post to come together. I gathered up bits and pieces of knowledge about my grandfather, the Atchafalaya, our family history and the film over a period of years. In fact, even after I purchased the DVD of the movie, it sat on my desk for a good long time. Taken together, all of these bits and pieces remind me of that old saying: “Life may be lived forward, but it’s understood backwards”.

      Linda

  34. Sagacity in serendipity — your post has me dizzy in the pivoting connections. I’ve always loved that word and now I’ve the history of it!

    In my “media light environment” (a term dubbed by a friend who’s always having to explain references to commercials I’ve missed), I hadn’t even heard of Beasts of the Southern Wild. I did read some brief headlines about a very young actress who’d been nominated for an Oscar. Sounds like the film has been a wonderful Serendip for you.

    Those sober statistics from that troop of 258 men had me sighing. So much loss must’ve been demoralizing.

    • nikkipolani,

      I love the term “media light”. I often have the same experience and find myself using the internet to explore this or that cultural phenomenon. Last night, it was “Breaking Bad”. I suppose you know what I didn’t – that it’s a made-for-tv drama.

      As for “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, here’s one other little detail that only you will appreciate. It’s a film that Arti hasn’t reviewed! I searched her site and didn’t find a single mention of it except in a comment or two. For some reason it tickles me that I should have gotten to this one before she did. Of course, part of the reason is the limited release, which also helps to explain why you hadn’t heard of it.

      The losses suffered by the 34th Iowa aren’t quite so stunning when seen in the context of the entire Regiment, which numbered 1,081 men during its three years of service. Still, that’s a high rate of casualties – and of course represents only a fraction of the total losses during that terrible time.

      Linda

  35. So many points of departure here Linda. Once again you weave so much so very tightly. I laugh and nod at your discovery of the boar/auroch on your family crest. But of course, that’s how delightful our world can be and is.

    In addition to your Crowley family crest, the visual of the auroch tattoo (I clicked on the trailer) on the woman’s leg accompanied by her powerful teaching regarding the auroch’s significance is the best testimony to sporting one I have heard and/or read about. Talk about intimate connections.

    I think my husband who spent ten years of his young life in LA, and I would enjoy this movie. I will be looking for it. Congratulations on the movie website picking up your post…what sweet recognition and acknowledgement. They couldn’t have picked up on a more “sagacious” viewer.

    • Georgette,

      Believe me, I laughed aloud when I came across that crest. The truly amazing part of the whole story is that one of my cousins had given me a keyring and mug adorned with the crest after her trip to Ireland. I’d used the mug, admired the keyring and read the history on the back, and never thought a thing about it. But of course, I hadn’t seen the movie at that point. Only after I’d seen the film, done some research and “re-discovered” the crest did I go back, take a second look at my gifts and think, “Good gosh!”

      When I first saw the film, the significance of the scene wasn’t clear at all. By the time Hushpuppy’s beasts appeared, I’d forgotten it. But you’re right – there’s a huge difference between a tattoo as decoration and tattoo as a living connection to history. I’ve been reading a series of posts about petroglyphs in the American West, and I can’t help seeing the tattoo as another form of petroglyph.

      I do think you’d enjoy the movie. Just remember – the only possible answer to the question, “Is it drama, documentary or fantasy?” is, “Yes”.

      Linda

      • There you go again weaving things ever so tightly! I learn so much from your posts and your comments. Like a river birch sprouting stems from the parent tree, there’s another sprout. I don’t think I will forget the last paragraph in your reply. You always inspire another stem.

        • And now I know why the river birch is on your mind, not to mention why the phrase “a clump of birch” is so appropriate. Look at this mural of a river birch from Alpine, Texas. The woman who painted it is living the artistic life in Alpine and Marfa. That’s one part of Texas I’ve not traveled through. The farthest west I’ve been on 90 is Bracketville. I always thought I’d like to take 90 the rest of the way over to the Davis mountains, but that’s not a trip I’ll be making any time soon. Too dangerous.

  36. I just adore your historical and poetic twists and turns, full of serendipity! I’ve yet to see the film, but of course I’m dying of curiosity, especially now.

    Always fascinating…. :)

    • FeyGirl,

      You’d better be careful when you’re out prowling around in your part of the country. There may be more than alligators in those backwaters! Just keep your camera handy…

      I think you’d like the film, particularly since it walks such a fine line between fantasy and hard reality at times. It certainly deserves all the publicity it gets – at least in my opinion.

      Really nice to see you. Here’s the better weather and less work!

      Linda

  37. Linda;

    Another totally fun and exquisitely crafted read. As usual I was enthralled by the beauty of your intro paragraph. And, I had to laugh as soon as I saw that crest and the boar bearing resemblance to ..as you say… the aurochs… and was totally into your manner of tying up the loose ends.

    There have been a couple of embarrassing times in my life when I learned that a favourite word of mine I’d been mispronouncing forever or had the meaning completely reversed. Did you know that hoi polloi is one of the most often misused words in existence? You, naturally, used it perfectly and not like me who thought the hoi polloi were the elite rather than the masses for a long time!!

    And, serendipity..a happenstance I extoll and can say I even rely on in a photographic sense….I’ve learned more of today than I ever had. But, never being one to have too many preconceived notions of what I want when I shoot ..or rarely so…I take the things I was not searching for with abject gratitude!!

    It only shows that there is magic in the world!!

    • Judy,

      As they say, you only get one chance to hook a reader. No matter how good your last paragraph may be, if the first one’s dull, lackluster and boring, no one’s ever going to get to the end!

      Since starting my blog, I’ve learned that appearance counts, too. “Simplify, simplify” applies to blog design as well as to life style. Some of the WordPress gurus say you get two seconds for a “yea” or “nay” when someone is surfing. That’s not very long. In that case, it’s the title and header image that makes the difference, as well as the overall appearance. The best words, the best photos, poorly presented, aren’t going to go anywhere.

      “Hoi polloi” was a term I learned from my mom. I can remember her using it from time to time. She didn’t want me to be part of them, I suppose.

      I was reading about the word and found one interesting tidbit. The article mentioned the fact that many do confuse its meaning and use it to refer to the upper classes. The suggestion was made that a confusion with “hoity toity” might be responsible. Interesting!

      Linda

      • In my case when we lived in Hawaii back when it became a state, my parents used hoi polloi and in context I thought they meant the upper class..and I think they did. For a long time I thought it was a Hawaiian expression since it rhymed with things things like poi. Things you misunderstand from childhood..right!!

        • That explains it! Since “hoi polloi” means “the many”, and since most people in Hawaii seem to be pretty sure they’re living the good life – it well could have referred to the upper classes in your context!

  38. I love it when you write about serendipity. I like the word and all it suggests and brings together, so to speak. I so enjoyed reading this particular blog : Louisiana and Ireland are special in their own ways. I have not seen the movie but reading you is a treat and an invite to go to the cinéma. Thank you Linda for all the valuable personal information and illustrations you shared.

    • Isa,

      I was thinking about your latest blog entry – all those beautiful photos of such a beautiful city! – and it occurred to me that one of the great joys of travel is that it allows for a greater number of serendipitous discoveries than we usually experience in our everyday routines. A wrong turn down a street, a misunderstanding of an address, a small conversation with someone on a corner, and who knows what we may discover?

      It is true that both Ireland and Louisiana have that certain “je ne sais quoi”. I think it may be that both the Cajuns and the Irish have relatively more stable cultures, and a great reverence for tradition. And they’re both quite green places, of course!

      I think you would enjoy the film, but I’m not sure it ever will appear in theatres again. It may be that DVD will be the answer. If you ever do watch it, I’d be curious to know what you think.

      A happy week to you!

      Linda


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