Wednesday, July 15, 2015

St. Landry Parish, Louisiana: Little Bethel Baptist Church



George Henry, WWI veteran, Little Bethel Baptist Church, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana.


My maternal grandfather was a World War I veteran. There were things he saw that he never wanted to speak of.

When I saw the grave of George Henry, a World War I veteran, in the Little Bethel Baptist Church cemetery, I thought of my grandfather. I also thought about A Gathering of Old Men, by Louisiana author Ernest J. Gaines, which included a story of a World War I veteran:
Coot was there in his First World War Army uniform. The uniform was all wrinkled and full of holes, but Coot wore it like it was something brand new. …. 
“I shot him,” Coot said. ….. “I was the only man from this parish ever fit with the 369th,” Coot said. …. “The 369th was a all-colored outfit. You couldn’t fight side by side with these here white folks then. You had to get your training in France, take orders from French officers. They trained us good, and we helt our ground. … we helt our ground. …
And I was proud as I could be, till I got back home. The first white man I met, the very first one, one of them no-English-speaking things off that river, told me I better not ever wear that uniform or the medal again no matter how long I lived. He told me I was back home now, and they didn’t cotton to no nigger wearing medals for killing white folks. That was back in World War One. And they ain’t change yet – not a bit. Look what happened to Curt’s boy when he come home from World War Two. Because they seen him with that German girl's picture, they caught him – and all y’all remember what they did to him with that knife. Korea – the same thing. That colored boy had throwed his body on that grenade to protect his platoon. Still the politicians here wouldn’t let them bury him in Arlington like the rest of them was buried there. Vietnam, the same thing. It ain’t changed. Not at all.” … 
“I used to put on my old uniform and look at myself in the chifforobe glass. I knowed I couldn’t wear it outside, but I could wear it round the house. Today I told myself I was go’n put it on and I was go’n sit out on my garry with my old shotgun, and I was go’n shoot the first person who laughed at me or told me I had to take it off. … “ 

George Curtis, Army veteran, Little Bethel Baptist Church, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana.

There were two women's graves in the cemetery that suggested they might have been strong women, that of Ms. Helen Sanders and "Big Mama" Elizabeth Curtis.


Helen Sanders, Little Bethel Baptist Church, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. July 2015.


"Big Mama" Elizabeth Curtis, Little Bethel Baptist Church, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. July 2015.


Both lived long, long lives. The things they must have seen.

Little Bethel Baptist Church, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. July 2015.


The church grounds had just been mown when I arrived. It was a hot day. Why do I always seem to be in cemeteries on sweltering days?

The wasps under the church eaves seemed lethargic from the heat.

Little Bethel Baptist Church, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. July 2015.


The church has pretty bones.

Little Bethel Baptist Church, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. July 2015.


A splash of red draws the eye.

Little Bethel Baptist Church, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. July 2015.

Someone laid markers carefully atop the grave.

Little Bethel Baptist Church, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. July 2015.



Little Bethel Baptist Church, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. July 2015.



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