This is a story of a pair of
hip boots. I first heard it in the Bayou Country of south Louisiana,
but have heard versions of it in Texas and Arkansas, with particulars
applicable to each locale.
There was a pretty
Cajun girl that married her girl-hood sweetheart. They lived
on the bayou and were very happy. He built a nice little cottage
with a wharf where he tied his boat. He was a trapper and hunter
and their table was always well supplied.
One day the trapper
came home and was very sick. He asked his wife to help undress
and before she could put him to bed he was dead. The cause of
death was not known. There were not many doctors around in the
bayou country and, when a man was dead, what use was there for
A few months passes by and
the pretty widow's loneliness was more than she could bear.
So, she married another young man of the community - also
a hunter and trapper. She was good to him and they were happy.
One day her young husband
went hunting. He left early in the morning and when nightfall
came, he had not returned. All night wife waited, but in vain.
The next day his body was found. He had died in his boat where
it had drifted into a clump of cypress trees.
After the funeral
the lonely widow waited in mourning for several months. Again
she was courted and won by a local young man. Again she had
a happy marriage, at least from all outward appearances.
The new husband (the third
one) left to go hunting bullfrogs one night with a friend.
They had been walking the fringe of a swampy old lake with
their boo-lies (headlights) for only a few minutes when he
complained of feeling bad. Soon he was unconscious. By the
time that his friend brought him home, he was dead.
The pretty widow pined away
in her little cabin. She was alone and the long days and nights
alone were more than she could bear. All she had was her cat,
and his company was far from enough for her.
This time she fell in love
with a Yankee - that's what they called him, because he was
from up north. He was from Shreveport. That is even further
north than Alexandria. He was a Yankee, for sure. This man
was a drummer. (A drummer is a grocery wholesaler who traveled
around and sold goods to grocery stores. They were considered
wise, because in their travels they learned many things.)
She married the drummer and
their happiness was apparently complete. He neither hunted
nor fished and spent as much time with his pretty Cajun wife
as he could.
A hurricane came in from
the Gulf of Mexico. Water rose higher and higher in the bayou
until it covered the highest part of the yard with over a
foot of water. The winds were furious, scattering debris everywhere.
Several houses were destroyed. The well built house of the
pretty Cajun wife stood strong.
After the storm the drummer
went out in the muddy yard to clean up. But, before he had
time to do very much, he took sick and like the others before
him, he died.
By now there was a lot of
gossip about the pretty widow. Some even said she poisoned
her husbands. Others said she was a voodoo queen and cast
spells on them. No one visited her anymore. The little children
gave her cabin a wide berth. Only her cat stayed to keep her
company and she was very lonesome.
Young men of the Community
The young men of
the community could not help casting covetuous glances at
her. She was such a pretty woman, and the air of mystery that
surrounded here and her cottage lured the most daring to make
visits. These brave rakes were soundly rebuffed. It was true,
she had many husbands - and all of them had died - but that
did not make her a loose woman. However, she really had no
problem with the young men of the community. Their families
would so strongly dissuade them that they soon ceased to pay
the pretty widow any attention.
One day a tall Yankee from
up north came to live in the little fishing village. He was
from Monroe, La. He was an older man, a retired army sergeant.
When he saw the widow he was drawn to her like so many before
him. Soon he came to court. The widow's reluctance to accept
another swain was soon overcome by the sergeant's ardor. Also,
he had not family to dissuade him.
He was a cautious man. He
had worked with the doctors, it was said, and was a smart
man, too. He asked many questions. Especially about the circumstances
surrounding the demises of his predecessors.
His questioning led to the
forming of a pattern in the manner of death of the husbands
of his intended. Each man had died with a pair of rubber boots
on. And it was the same pair of boots. He asked the widow
to examine them.
Soon he found a fang, a rattlesnake
fang, imbedded just above the heel of one of the boots. It
was obvious that all the wearers had died from the poison
of the rattlesnake fang.
The boots were burned and
soon the new suitor was married to the Cajun widow. They lived
a long, happy life. He clerked in the store and it was said
that he never went hunting, trapping or fishing. He stayed
home with his Cajun wife and their cat.
Tales of the Louisiana Bayous
by Ray Robinson