Introduction to Delta Pieces: Northeast Louisiana Folklife
Map: Cultural Micro-Regions of the Delta, Northeast Louisiana
The Louisiana Delta: Land of Rivers
Musings on the Louisiana Delta from a Native Son – H.F. Pete Gregory as told to Dayna Lee
Reflections on the Delta – Delta and the River – H.F. Pete Gregory
Reflections on the Delta – The French Delta – H.F. Pete Gregory
Reflections on the Delta – Places – H.F. Pete Gregory
Reflections on the Delta – An Owl Calls – H.F. Pete Gregory
Ouachita River Mounds: A Five Millennium Mystery – Lori Tucker
Noms de Bayou: French Place Names in North Louisiana – Kelby Ouchley
The Flood of 1927 and the Great Depression: Two Delta Disasters – Betty Jo Harris
Reflections on the Delta – The Delta is an Indian Place – H.F. Pete Gregory
Reflections on the Delta – Indian Mounds – H.F. Pete Gregory
Choctaw Heritage of Louisiana and Mississippi – Deborah Boykin
The Invisible Population: Mexicans and Central Americans in Northern and Central Louisiana – Lisa Abney
Italians in the Delta: "Pioneers of Monroe" – April Honaker
Delta Folks – Sausage Maker M. J. Varino – Stephanie Pierrotti with Susan Roach
The St. Joseph's Day Altar Tradition In Monroe – Stephanie Pierrotti and Madelyn Boudreaux
Delta Folks – Guy Serio: "They Had a Rough Go": Italians in the Delta – Madelyn Boudreaux
Delta Folks – Qin Lin: Chinese Paper Crafts – Susan Roach
Jewish Folklore in Northeastern Louisiana – Ben Sandmel
Working in the Delta
Working in the Delta – Susan Roach
Nets and Net Making in the Delta – Sheila Richmond
"Willing to Take A Risk": The Folklore of Cropdusting – Susan Roach and Janet Ryland
Big River Traditions: Folklife on the Mississippi – Ben Sandmel
Traditional Boats of Catahoula Lake – Dayna Bowker Lee
Reflections on the Delta – Traditional Boats in the Delta – H.F. Pete Gregory
The Rolling Store – John L. Doughty, Jr.
Delta Folks – Whitey Shockley: Mississippi River Fisherman – Susan Roach
Delta Folks – Oren Russell: Mississippi River Boat Pilot – Susan Roach
Playing in the Delta
Reflections on the Delta – Hunting and Fishing: Delta Life – H.F. Pete Gregory
Reflections on the Delta – Gigging – H.F. Pete Gregory
Delta Folks – "Horns and Dogs Just Go Together": James LeCroix's Revival of the Hunting Horn Making – Marcy Frantom
Delta Folks – Moses Poole on Pen Hunting in Catahoula Parish: "You've Got to Know Your Dog's Mouth" – Marcy Frantom
Delta Folks – Blowing Horn Maker Nalda Gilmore: "The Horn Man" – Sylvia Frantom
Gambling Money Don't Have No Home: Playing Poker and Shooting Dice in the Louisiana Delta – Don W. Hatley
Reflections on the Delta – Night Clubs in the Delta – H.F. Pete Gregory
Homemaking in the Delta
Making a Home in the Delta: Women and the Domestic Environment – Deborah Boykin
Delta Folks – Jelly Maker Maye Torrey: "Berries In The Winter" – Sylvia Frantom
Delta Folks – Hazel Dailey: "To Make Something Each Day That I Am Here" – Sylvia Frantom
Reflections on the Delta – Christmas Customs – H.F. Pete Gregory
Telling Stories in the Delta
Worshiping in the Delta
"Like a River Flowing with Living Water": Worshiping in the Mississippi Delta – Joyce Marie Jackson
"Take Me to the Water": African American River Baptism – Annie Staten and Susan Roach
Delta Folks – Lucille Stewart: Making Baptismal Gowns – Susan Roach
"Everyone Rockin' Together": Continuity and Creativity in the Louisiana Delta Easter Rock – Susan Roach
Asserting Tradition: The Building and Maintenance of African-American Baptist Rock Ceremony in Northeast Louisiana – Janet L. Sturman
Jewish Folklore in Northeastern Louisiana – Ben Sandmel
Making Music in the Delta
At Play in the Delta, From Memphis to Natchez – Michael Luster
Delta Folks – Po' Henry and Tookie: Delta Blues Duo – Susan Roach
Brownie Ford: Lifelines of a Woods Cowboy – Nicholas R. Spitzer
Delta Folks – Performer and Songwriter Kenny Bill Stinson: "Mixing Country Music with the Blues" – Susan Roach
Delta Folks – Vidalia's One-Man Band, Gray Montgomery: "Several Different Musicians Rolled into One."– Ben Sandmel
Delta Archival Materials
"The Big One": Deer Hunting in Northeast Louisiana
By Janery Wylie
With virtually every family member involved in some aspect of deer hunting, from the actual shooting to cooking the meat or to tanning the hide, this sport has become recognized as an important part of life in Louisiana. Getting ready for the opening of deer season in October is a major fall event. Preparation can start as early as the summer, with hunters slapping mosquitoes as they scout the woods searching for tracks and scrap marks.
For opening morning, every detail must be perfect. For the dedicated hunter, no detail is too trivial For example, many hunters will only bathe with unscented soap, wear no aftershave and refrain from smoking, lest these odors alert the deer to their presence. Nothing quite equals the hunters' excitement in the chilly dawn of early autumn, as they load four wheelers and rifles onto pickup trucks getting ready to ride out to shoot the "big one."
After returning from the morning and afternoon hunt, the hunters wearing their camouflage, congregate around the table to share gumbos, stews, and stories. Because the folklore of the hunt is such a vital part of life in Louisiana, these communal stories have become an essential rite for initiation into the world of hunting. Often these tales are not entirely true, but that is unimportant. "In the South, as elsewhere, myth and legend have a way of rewriting history to confirm to what is memorable" (Botkin 146). These folktales are based on the teller's original perception of events that often have altered with time or recounting.
A folktale with which every Southerner is familiar is the sighting of the "big one." The format for telling the "big buck" tale is similar in every camp. The youngest member narrates first, then the more experienced hunter follows. The bigger the buck sighted; the higher the teller's status. As each hunter takes his turn, the buck, understandably, grows in both size and beauty.
The theme of the story is also consistent. The hunter, who always gets a good look, never gets a good shot. The hunter usually blames his failure to shoot to being overwhelmed by the magnificence of the animal. Another consistent theme is the method of the sighting of the "big buck." Each buck just seems to materialize out of thin air. Suddenly, he is "just there." One hunter described his sighting: "Amazing. It was the largest buck I had ever seen. It was almost like he dropped out of the sky." Although overwhelmed by the sight of the buck, each hunter can provide specific details about the location and time of the sighting along with graphic descriptions of the buck, such as point spread, body size, and markings.
Apparently even the most experienced hunters do not question the veracity of the storyteller. It is assumed the hunter is telling the truth. After all, each hunter knows he will have his turn, and no one wants his story questioned.
To obtain information about the folklore of deer hunting, I interviewed hunters ranging in age from thirteen to sixty-eight. I collected this information in informal conversations and group discussions. From these interviews, I selected the following folk stories as most typical of the big buck sightings.
Billie Wylie, age 65, delivered this narrative of the big buck story.
Billie Wylie's buck story, indeed, illustrates his awe and respect for the deer, and contains the same sense of disabling excitement as do many other big buck narratives.
I asked a fellow hunter standing by his pickup on the side of the road one morning about his big buck story. His produced the following variant:
This narrative contains the mystic elements of the overwhelming power of the buck and a disappearance motif as well.
Ali Wiley, age 13, tells this narrative.
Like the other big buck stories, Ali's contains the same elements of nervous anticipation and awe at the sight of the huge buck. Similar to the other stories, the buck runs away upon the awakening or appearance of another human.
Another unidentified hunter age 23 recounts this tale.
Within such texts as the one above, the elements of the mystically disappearing deer and the loss of the opportunity find their ways into the tales. Note a similar pattern which occurs in the following passage. John Wylie Sr. related this story, and it is narrated here by his grandson.
All of the information gathered share three important aspects. Each story involves a large buck, only one witness, and a storyteller. Each teller whole-heartedly believes in his story. The fact that each hunter believes so forcefully in the sighting makes the story special. When people from each camp are asked if they believe these stories, they look at the questioner as if he has told a joke. Big buck stories are an integral part to deer hunting season and to deer hunters. A season would not be complete without every hunter telling his/her story at least once. Big buck stories run deep in the heart of Southern deer hunters. To these hunters, the stories are gospel.
Botkin, B.A. A Treasury of Southern Folklore. NY: Crown, 1932.
Randolph, Vance. Hot Springs and Hell. Pittsburg: Folklore Associates, 1965.
Wylie, Ari. Personal Interview. 10 November 1997.
Wylie, Billie. Personal Interview. 5 November 1997.