More Than Just a Trade: Master Craftsmen of the Building Arts


Dwayne Broussard (Finish Woodworker)

My dad is originally from Kaplan and has been a lifelong resident of Patterson and we've lived in Morgan City back and forth. My mom was born on a houseboat on the bayou and she's from Morgan City. I have two older brothers and two older sisters. [We're] Cajuns, pure Cajuns. . . . I have an uncle doing a family tree and we came from Canada around 1750, by the Broussard side of the family. . . . My mamma's uncle was my great uncle Slim. He was a boat carpenter and he worked for Conrad's and stuff like that for many years. Back in the olden days he built wooden boats. That is stuff I watched and related to.

I played the trumpet. The teamwork is really what got me together with my guys at work. That is really how I relate my business, how we was a team in band. If you got on the field and you didn't perform properly, if you made a mistake, the whole band suffered. It took everyone's discipline to achieve. Our band done that. We was pretty much top. I wasn't a top band player, but my part was just as important as that number one. If I made a misstep, your marks would go down. I look at the man that is my lowest-paid man, and he is just as important as the top-paid man. Everyone is just as important. In fact, they are more important than me, because I make decisions, but when it comes down to it, they are out on the job right now making money.

[My children] love to come to the shop. The best pride a man can have is when their own child, like one of my daughters, says, "Dad, I just love this molding!" She walks in and she'll see something, and she has an eye for beauty. Not to brag, but I have an eye for beauty. I love to do things creative and original. If I go to a craft show and see something, I appreciate what I see, but I won't go back and try to build it. I make things original. I've always had the knack for it. My whole crew is kin to me. I've got two first cousins, and a first cousin's husband, that works for me. . . . I'm a hard worker; I come from a hard-working family. These guys are from the same breed. They are tough to the bone. I could call them on a Sunday afternoon and they will be at that shop pronto. They will drop what they are doing and they are there. They are dedicated and sincere, as I am, to getting a fine product out. They are dedicated to getting what I need done; no matter if they think it's [planned] wrong, or have never done it, they will do what I ask them.

Old cypress is just a good wood. It's something I've known all my life, and it's a plentiful source around here. I tear down old homes and I use recycled cypress. I go in the swamps. Mr. Hugh Brown and I will go in the swamp, and I bring my hibachi, and we pull eight or six logs and get them all strapped and ready to tow. I always go up-current, so when we are towing we can go down-current and just float with it. We'll bring the hibachi and steaks, and when we are towing back, you go very slow; it's like shrimping. We'll set up the hibachis and light them up and do the steaks and all. Sometimes we've gotten back at ten or eleven at night from a trip, just idling in to the boat landing, and then the next day we will load them up onto a trailer.

If I become a multimillionaire I'll still be doing what I do. I'm too simple of a person, and I love what I do. I don't think I could survive without a piece of wood. It's something that makes me happy. . . . My motto I've always had: "I can do anything." I'm not scared. If it is involving wood and you can explain it to me or show me a picture, I can build it.

Dwayne Broussard was interviewed as part of the New Orleans Building Arts Project. Laura Westbrook edited More than Just A Trade: Master Craftsmen of the Building Arts in 2004 for publication online.