After a beautiful drive along Gulf Shore Drive (the road along the Gulf of Mexico in Mississippi and Eastern Louisiana) admiring some old mansions, new homes built to look like old plantation homes, and way too many commercial buildings and casinos, and on the left, a beautiful, sandy beach, we veered away from the coast and headed to the north, through forests of tall, tall pines, bayous and a very wet terrain. We arrived in the small town of Loranger (about an hour north of New Orleans), birthplace and childhood home of Keith’s dad Howell B. Joiner. We actually stayed a bit south of the town of Loranger, on the grounds of the Oak Grove Church of God, in the area that was known as Joiner Town. The cemetery at the Oak Grove Church of God is the resting place of Keith’s paternal Grandparents, the future resting place of his father, and many other relatives and family friends.
We had a lovely time visiting Howell’s childhood friends and relatives. We ate way too much good food, but you cannot possibly visit this neck of the woods without trying fried catfish, hush puppies, gumbo and, of course, red beans and rice! The visits with old friends and relatives gave Dad a chance to reminisce, relate some new stories and share old memories once again. We never tire of hearing his stories! We got to see his favorite cousin Arlette and share more stories and tears. We visited Arlette’s husband Steve who is suffering with Parkinson’s.
On Saturday we drove over to the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge, and took the elevator up to the 27th floor observation deck and looked over the city, the mighty Mississippi River and as far as the eye could see. We walked the grounds, visited the grave and statute of renowned Governor Huey P. Long (assassinated long ago right there outside of the governor’s office — apparently the bullet hole is still visible in the wall!) We all enjoyed the trip, although we did tire Dad out that day. Remember in an earlier blog Keith mentioned he had a pacemaker put in about a month ago. We decided to stay for church on Sunday, visit several cemeteries and then head home to Tulsa to return Dad to his bride, Janet, who was patiently waiting for his return.
Sunday was set aside for church and cemeteries. Saying good by to living and the departed. Remember we were in Joiner Town, fittingly there is Joiner Cemetery. Because Louisiana and particularly Tangipahoa Parish were settled so long ago, there isn’t just one or two cemeteries. Each branch of each family had a resting place, there are numerous little cemeteries, some off of the beaten path, a short walk in the woods from the main highways, some are on family ground still.
We left Loranger on Monday morning, heading back to Tulsa. We didn’t exactly retrace our route, but we did spend another night in the Maumelle Campground outside of Little Rock along the banks of the Arkansas River. Dad and Janet were happy to see each other on Tuesday. We enjoyed a great meal with them at the Rib Crib that night and with mixed emotions said our good byes on Wednesday morning and began the next leg of our journey. Keith, Joanette, Goober, Kona, Coach and Toad!