Monday, December 22, 2008

Crunchy Cons Meet Real Life- Progress in St Francisville Louisiana

I really loved this post by Rod Dreher now at the big City Dallas paper on "progress"in his old home town of St Francisville. See Change comes to the Shire. St Francisville is a very lovely town.

A few observations

These days, when I go down to visit my folks in rural south Louisiana, I feel a bit like Frodo returned to the Shire after his quest, finding that its pastoral nature had been defiled by industrialization. Progress is coming to West Feliciana Parish, a hilly, sparsely populated idyll on the Mississippi River north of Baton Rouge, whether people like it or not. What I can't get straight in my mind is whether I have a right to an opinion on the matter.
For a couple of years now, the state's bulldozers have been leveling the trees and fencerows along Highway 61, making way for the roadway's expansion. The landscape I grew up with is gone. Yet it's also true that my landscape was not my father's. He grew up in a cottage on top of a hill overlooking Highway 61. He remembers standing on its shoulder as a boy, waving his flag as Mrs. Roosevelt's caravan passed by on what was then a gravel road. As a student on vacation in the 1950s, he got a job working the road crew that blacktopped 61. And now, at the end of his life, he's watching it all change again

Let me give a North Louisiana viewpoint. For many of us in the Northern part of the state if we want to go south to Baton Rouge or New Orleans we have to go through Mississippi if we want to save time. If you are going to Baton Rouge you hit that wonderful 4 lane road at Natzhez (Mississippi still looks pretty with it) but when you near Louisiana it gets to two lane. With all due respect to memories of FDR getting stuck behind a log truck and all of us doing about 75 to 80 miles a hour on this winding road can be taxing and a dangerous experience. Try it coming back after a LSU game at 11 pm at night where you hope the excitement of the night has got everyone Blood Alcohol Content down. On a related note Louisiana will be far better when we get 167 and 165 finally FOUR LANED!!! Didn't we vote to do that like in the Buddy Roemer days? St Francisville will survive

It would fit my crunchy-con, sense-of-place nostalgia nicely if the family patriarch railed against the dozers and the forces of Progress. Actually, he’s fine with it. He hopes they’ll build a Wal-Mart. He’s tired of having to drive 20 miles to the nearest Wal-Mart to buy things you can’t get in St. Francisville, the nearby town. My mom would like to have a good place locally to buy groceries, instead of having to drive, yes, to the Wal-Mart Supercenter. And wouldn’t it be nice, my mom says, to have more stores to shop at than the gift boutiques that cater to the tourist trade?

So true. Our Walmart just closed down and we have to go twenty miles to get basic stuff. What a pain.

am congenitally opposed to Wal-mart and all its pomps and works, but if I lived in St. Francisville instead of Dallas, where I can easily obtain the freshest vegetables and the highest quality meat, where would I stand on the matter? It's easy to admire the simple pleasures of country life while standing in the bright shiny gleam of Whole Foods' fruits and vegetables, beaming like Christmas ornaments. The view is different standing in the comparatively shabby produce aisles back home (trust me on this one).

Thankfully we in our town still have a good grocery store. As much as people want it I doubt many small towns will have a version of the French Market like you see in the French Quarter.

My dad and his friends can’t figure out why the town of St. Francisville, six miles north of Starhill, their one-stoplight hamlet, turned down the big bridge spanning the Misssissippi now going up in their part of the parish. “It’s going to kill business in town,” said my dad, not altogether ruefully, as the commerce he predicts will bypass St. Francisville will benefit Starhill.The answer, I suppose, is that putting a major thoroughfare too close to the old town would all but destroy its historic Old South character. The preservationists in town have been death on the subject of the bridge and Wal-Mart, I’m told, and I don’t fault them one smidge. If it hadn’t been for the haute bourgeois ladies of the Historical Society, the town would have lost more of its architectural heritage in the last century than it did

What? Can't they put it by the Mcdonalds and Filling Station in St Francis ville (they don't look like Plantations Homes or Oak Alley in case you are wondering) or just outside town. It is not like everything is that road (Most of the gems are in town are off the road) are something historical.

Anyway a nice piece to read for those that about to go home for the holidays and have a tad of sadness about what is gone and what is changing

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