Photo by:  Kathleen Smith

Photo by: Kathleen Smith

What I Like about Living in the South (not so much Louisiana, though!)

I was born in New Orleans. According to a revered professor, Dr. Wilfred Guerin, New Orleans is NOT “the south.” I tend to agree with him on that. I’ve been to Chicago, San Francisco, Austin, Boston, London…and New Orleans has the flavor of those cities—eclectic, expansive, surprising.

But I don’t live there anymore, though I miss it every day of my life. I live in a little town in North Louisiana—Coushatta, population approximately 2200, depending on how intensive the oil and gas drilling and logging are at any point. I came to Coushatta via Shreveport, which is considerable larger. While I’m comfortable where I am, I’ve never been completely comfortable in this part of the state. Even Louisiana has its north and south, and I like the southern part of the state most—Lafayette, Grand Isle, New Orleans.

Why do I like living in the south, even if I am a Louisiana Yankee (I live north of Alexandria)?

Some of my reasons may sound slightly silly. For example, I like being able to wear the same clothes almost all year long. With the simple addition of tights and a shawl, I can wear a summer dress in the fall and early winter, sometimes into deep winter when the temperatures go into the 70s in December, which they do occasionally. I like having a longer growing season. Sometimes my tomatoes last until November if I cover them at the first sign of frost. The south is good for my chickens. I only worry in the winter when we have weeks such as this one, where the temperatures, day and night, hover around freezing. But that doesn’t happen often. Some years, Christmas Day resembles the Fourth of July, temperature-wise.

I like living in this town, even with unsupportive public officials and the annoying neighbor whose dogs harass and kill my chickens. I especially like that, when I give plumbers and electricians my address, then describe where my house is in the town’s layout, those guys always say, “Oh, you live at the old Cooper place!” I like that people refer to my house with a name. It reminds me of England, where all of the houses have names. One day, I’m going to have a “Casa Smith” sign made and hang it on my porch!

We have four seasons, but I like spring and fall the best. Right before spring shows up in all its green-ness, the Jonquils and Paperwhites bloom at the edge of the ditch. I didn’t plant them, but they show up every year. I’m eternally grateful to whoever put them there. I’m grateful for the birds that drop undigested seeds that sprout into mega-sunflowers at the end of the driveway. I love the odd flowering trumpet vine that’s grown into the Holly in the front garden and the Bridal Wreath that flowers pink, the Azaleas, the Irises, the Honeysuckle and Jasmine. I walk through my yard and the smells almost knock me down. I’m thinking someone’s grandmother has been sprucing up the place with color and fragrance.

Summer can be problematic (that means “hot!”), but I’m used to it. And we have air conditioning, so I only sweat when I want to. We have horrid winters once in a while, or maybe one week out of a blessedly short season!

I love the old man who used to live next door to me, who moved before we could become well acquainted. Mr. Ducot redrew the property line before he sold his house and enlarged my property, including two Mayhaw trees in the bargain, and saved me from having to remove or reduce my dining room, which was about a foot over the property line before adjustment (I have no idea how that happened). I remember, right before he moved, he saw me standing in my pie-shaped backyard, staring at the Mayhaws. He came over and said, “Those are your trees now. You need to learn to make Mayhaw jelly.” And I did!

I think that’s what I like best about the south. I can meet someone and, often enough, we become first-name friends—my favorite checker at the grocery store, Carol, and my favorite bagger, Cook. I don’t know many people in this town well, but I know quite a few well-enough. I have first-name or no-name relationships with many people here. The feed store owner, whose last name is Smith, will bring pallets to my house when he has an abundance of them. People in this small southern town will do those kinds of things.

As far as food goes, I like eating what I can harvest from the garden, when things grow! But I like simple food–pinto beans and cornbread, lentils, lasagna, baked (anonymous) chicken, and my homemade bread! Biscuits with the jam and jelly I put up. Really, just about anything I can cook from scratch. I’m trying to avoid fast food.

Life is cheaper here, in some respects. I couldn’t have this house and this .87 acre of land in Shreveport for what I paid for it, much less in any other state, north or south! The drawback there is that, if I wanted to sell, I might have trouble finding a buyer. Not many people are clamoring to move here—but that could be a blessing, too.

One thing I know about myself, though. I tend to adapt to wherever I happen to be. I can be happy in Durango, San Francisco, Austin, Boston, Chicago, anywhere in England! I’ve decided the place doesn’t matter as much as my sense of adventure. If I bring my amazement and curiosity with me, I can be comfortable nearly anywhere.

– by:  Kathleen Smith

visit Kathleen and her fun Chicken reports at Casa-Smith Coushatta on Facebook!

Next up – We’re finally going to find out just what it is that Gary loves about living in the North!