Sunday, August 10, 2014

Take a Trip to Miss Cammie's Dinner Table

Steve and I went to Natchitoches yesterday to see the Cammie Henry exhibit at Lemee House:  Miss Cammie's Dinner table.  It was a nicely done presentation and I got to see one of the famous tablecloths that Cammie did.  On special occasions she would break out the tablecloth and everyone would sign it.  She would go back later and embroider the names in colored thread.

I'm sure there were several of these tablecloths and the one we saw yesterday had dates after her death which was puzzling.  Another mystery to solve.  Someone else must have picked up the tradition.  Some of the names are family members, some friends, some writers and artists that visited her.

There was a descendant of Cammie's at the exhibit with (I presume) his son.  I wanted to try to talk with him, but so did everyone else, so I didn't get a chance before he made his exit.  Wish I knew who it was.  I'd like to ask him a few questions!

It was too hot to walk around much.  Front Street still had plenty of shoppers but it was light traffic.

We parked down by the river and walked up to Lasyone's for meat pies, then walked down to Lemee House for the exhibit.  Even though it was hot, I love walking around the Historic District.  It's just beautiful.

Even when it's hot.

We passed Bayou Amulet and we thought the marker was interesting.

After the exhibit we went back up Front Street and dipped into an antique shop (thank goodness for air conditioning).  I bought a vintage glass doorknob strictly for practical purposes -- that's what I have in my house and I needed one.  At Kaffie-Frederick I bought two reproduction/modern glass doorknobs (I have a doorknob problem) that are not nearly as cool, or as heavy, but are functional.  Doors without knobs are difficult.

We wanted to eat alligator at The Pioneer Pub for dinner but they don't open until four (although as it turned out later, they were closed up for vacation and we missed out altogether) so we got into the Jeep and headed down the river road to Melrose.  I needed the inspiration.

Steve sat on the back porch of the Bindery and I walked around the grounds.  He likes to sit there and listen to the cows, but even the cows were quiet and still in that heat.

I headed over to Lyle Saxon's cabin - the Yucca House.

It's so peaceful there...

...who couldn't write a book there?

I'd hang a swing at the end of this gallery...

...and watch the horse in the pasture just beyond the fence.

You see him?

I sat there for a few minutes pondering Lyle, Cammie, Ada, Carrie, and all the others that had come to Melrose in the 1920s and 30s for inspiration and camaraderie.  They had a wonderful time!  And part of the lure, or charm, was the isolation.  Even though Melrose looks a little different now, the grounds I mean, the aura or mystique is still there.  When Cammie lived there the place was a riot of color and blooms with something planted or growing just about everywhere.  The grounds are meticulously kept now and are certainly beautiful, but I suspect Cammie would want to sink her spade into the dirt and plant something.  I can just hear her calling Carrie Dormon:  "Bring me some of that yaupon!"

I wandered up to the Big House and went up on the front gallery where Mother Garrett, Cammie's mother, would often sit and visit with callers.

You can't see the river from up there anymore because of all the growth, but back then you could.  The river is on the other side of that road, although it's not really a river anymore.  Now it's Cane River Lake.

I sat up on the gallery for a bit listening to voices gathering below for the next tour through the grounds and house.  There are still remnants of bygone days here, too.

I looked over at "the pit" where Leudivine used to put her geraniums in the winter and where Cammie would store plants to protect them from the cold.  I wondered what was growing in all that open area when Cammie was alive.  There are pictures but the ones I've seen so far are all black and white, so it's hard to tell what was where.

There were a few dirt daubers up there with me catching the breeze, and I don't know if they sting or not, so I went on back downstairs.

I walked around a little more, I walked up to the road and the fence and looked at the house.  I wandered around the cabin Cammie moved to Melrose in 1934 for the purpose of storing her looms.  Cammie would escape the bustle of the guests and tourists and come over to her cabin and practice the lost arts of spinning and weaving.  She made beautiful fabrics, blankets, and upholstery.

Steve and I walked over to the barn and looked for the cat, but we didn't see her.  She was probably asleep in the cool shadows underneath.

We drove back to town, found the Pub still closed, so we headed back to Shreveport.

When I was falling asleep last night I was thinking about Lyle and the cabin.  How hot was it trying to sleep out there in the summer, cicadas singing, mosquitoes, gnats and who knows what other critters trying to get at you.  We saw a fox crossing the road out there and Cammie often wrote about skunks getting under the cabin until she rectified that by modifying the floor.  Malaria was a common malady for the Melrose folks.  But it was apparently worth it for the inspiration and peace that could be found there.

There's still a mystique in the air when you go to Melrose; I'm not sure I can explain what it is, but it's something.  Not ghosts.  Atmosphere, maybe.  I can see exactly why writers and artists longed to be there.

 Like Lyle Saxon said the first time he saw Yucca House, "I could write a book here."

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation


Tina said...

I love this "There's still a mystique in the air when you go to Melrose; I'm not sure I can explain what it is, but it's something. Not ghosts. Atmosphere, maybe. I can see exactly why writers and artists longed to be there."

It harks back to the opening and final paragraphs of The Foxes of Harrow. I don't remember the rest of the novel, but that little prologue set a haunting stage.

Makes me want to go see the place myself. :-)

Gary Cathey said...

Glad you came to our exhibit. One of Cammie's sons kept the plantation going for about 13 years after her death. Thus, the signatures on the cloth, dated after her death, were ones added while he lived there. We had one of Cammie's grandsons, a great grandson and a great great grandson at the exhibit on Saturday. Sorry you did not get a chance to visit with them. Thank you for your nice comments and photos. Gary Cathey, APHN Tri-Centennial Committee Chairman

Count Repugsive said...

It's so beautiful in your part of the world ...