If you love to ring in the new year with a few fireworks, there are a couple of things you may need to know.
For instance, there is a city ordinance that allows fireworks in Minden 15 days prior to New Year’s Day but not afterward, which generally means patrons should stop discharging them on the holiday.
Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper said, however, there is no scheduled time (day or night) when fireworks cannot be discharged.
“We just ask people to respect their neighbors,” Cropper said. “We will respond to calls from people complaining in reference to fireworks if the hour is unreasonable and request them to stop.”
The chief’s other safety issue: Do not discharge firearms within the city limits.
“It is against the law and very dangerous,” he said. “Bullets fired into the air will come down somewhere, and bullets do not have a name attached to them.”
Also, he said, do not discharge fireworks toward houses or people. Be safe and respectful.
Below is the local ordinance governing fireworks.
The city council has adopted, for the purpose of prescribing regulations governing conditions hazardous to life and property from fire and explosion, that certain code known as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), being particularly the NFPA codes current editions thereof, and the whole thereof, or subsequent editions, changes or amendments to subject code as published by the National Fire Protection Association; save and except as to the section pertaining to “fireworks”. The sale, discharge, use and possession and the manufacture and storage of fireworks shall be prohibited within the city with the exception of allowing the placing, storing, locating or displaying of fireworks in conformity with the provisions of state law concerning fireworks, for the periods of 15 days prior to the Fourth of July and 15 days prior to New Year’s Day. The city council shall itself be the appeals board instead of having a special board as recommended in the section of the code, of which not less than three copies have been filed in the office of the city clerk; and the same is hereby adopted and incorporated as fully as if set out in length herein, and the provisions thereof shall be controlling within the limits of the city.
(Code 1987, § 9-16; Ord. No. 969, 4-4-11)
State Law reference— Authority to adopt codes by reference, R.S. 33:1368.
For those living outside city limits, state law is observed by the Webster Parish Police Jury and Sheriff’s Department.
With the new year only a couple of days away, it’s time for reflections and remembrances. Your favorite rockin’ chair sitter respectfully asks your indulgence as we wade through a year of what has often been serious silliness.
What would reflections of year past be without giving the Minden City Council and administration well deserved recognition forsome of the most entertrating (that’s entertaining and frustrating) moments we had the (mis?)fortune to observe. From up here on the porch, the view was disturbingly clear.
Rocker’s favorite moment: Hizzonner Gardner deserves a spot on the U.S. Olympic team after displaying his talent for the official chair buttbump following yet another contentious council meeting. His target, Councilperson Bradford, showed good moves in avoiding the butted object but displayed serious demeaner deficiency as he put on his best WWF Smackdown imitation. No punches, thankfully. No Pay Per View offers, regretfully.
Other tempers flared, including from attending local constabulary, and the word “restraint” is now omitted from our local dictionaries. Also missing is “decorum.”
That incident, however entertrating, put the entire city on the locally televised map. Our visual reach could expand, we understand. We have it on good authority that representatives of a reality television network are developing a pilot featuring city politicians and associated shenanigans. No actors required.
Other council happenings of the past year that bemuse more than amuse: We must admit the council is consistent in two areas. One is the consistency with which members vote 3-2 on simply adopting the minutes of previous meetings. We’re still waiting for an explanation. That, students, should be the simplest vote cast, even by the simplest. Wethinks the reason may be that comments made on the record stay on the record, and that could be dangerous for political careers.
The other constant from this council is “no” votes cast for grant money dedicated to infrastructure projects in the city. We never hear an explanation, only the eloquence of one councilperson telling his cohorts to “Move on.” We think that advice should be followed by the folks who apparently couldn’t care less about their constituents or the city.
Wewould certainly be remiss if we did not mention how proud we were when the council voted five times (or was it six) to refuse passage of the city’s operating budget for 2022. Such a lack of concern hasn’t been on display since Scrooge snatched Tiny Tim’s lunch money. All that obstinance simply because someone doesn’t like someone. We often wonder if we’re being governed by ignorance or apathy.
A related thought: While the council was in absolute violation of state law governing timely adoption of budgets, where were the public officials tasked with enforcing that law? Malfeasance was mentioned by a number of sources, and we even heard mention of a grand jury being impaneled to look into the matter. But, typically, nothing came of this. Nada. Zip. Zero.
Selective prosecution apparently remains alive and well in our little corner of the world. Guess the proper response is Happy Reelection.
We’ve hit the high spots of lowlights, but we would be remiss if not offering solutions. Let’s begin with the most obvious and, perhaps, all encompassing. Consider, if you will, the last five letters in the word “community.” Unity. As our country’s motto proclaims, E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. Until we come together as one, for the good of our city and not for ego or personal agenda, we will not move forward.
There’s an old proverb that tells us, “The same hammer that breaks glass, forges steel.” It applies to our governing authority. We, unified, need to ask whether our representatives are breakers or forgers. Unfortunately, in some cases the answer is obvious. The breakers need to find other means of releasing their hostility and allow others a chance to fire the forge.
Once a Super Bowl champion football coach, Madden became a cultural icon after leaving the sidelines in 1978 and moving upstairs to the TV announcing booth. His everyman personality, candor and unabashed joy doing anything he did captivated us. Above all else, he was authentic, a man of the people, unpretentious.
His football commentary entertained and educated unlike any announcer in any sport ever had. It quickly made him a hot commodity for advertisers. His series of commercials for Miller Lite and Ace Hardware, among others, expanded his audience outside the sports world. If he liked something, we wanted it. Heck, he introduced turducken to the rest of the country after a Thanksgiving Day game in New Orleans.
That likeability brought him into the living rooms and mindsets of America. As his profile grew, a third dimension of his public life exploded: Madden NFL, the football video game launched in 1988 that provides gamers 8 to 85 with a realistic portrayal of pro football action offering actual playbooks, stunningly accurate player depictions, and commentary in the style of an NFL TV announcing crew. The founder of EA Sports came up with the idea in 1984 and pitched it to Madden, who wouldn’t lend his name to the project until it was strikingly accurate enough.
If you haven’t played Madden, your neighbor has. It’s one of the top 10 selling video games ever. Sales of well over $4 billion. More than half the guys playing in the NFL not only grew up playing Madden, but they continue to.
So much so that when a Philadelphia player walked into a hotel suite where Coach Madden was holding court in the runup to a game at San Francisco, he asked, “Where’s Madden?” Somebody said, “right over there.” The player responded, “no, the video game.”
When he passed away unexpectedly Tuesday at 85, a scant three days after an epic Fox Sports 90-minute special on him that aired Christmas Day, reaction rippled around the country far outside NFL territory.
The cascade of admiration for Madden is not about what he had done as much as who he was. That childlike wonderment, shared with all, about what he was seeing and doing. That ceaseless appreciation of the opportunities he encountered. Most of all, his eagerness to engage people from every walk of life, from the woman serving him Skyline Chili over the counter in Cincinnati (he’d walk out with a couple stains on his shirt), to the drivers at the truck stop in the middle of the night somewhere in Arizona, to the kids flipping Frisbees at the rest stop along I-20 in Mississippi, and everyone, anyone associated with the game he loved: football.
That’s why we’re hearing and reading tributes from the biggest names in and around the NFL, the Peyton Mannings and Sean Paytons and such, as well as those production assistants, those assistant coaches, those free agent signees, and everyone in between. And you, and me.
Two-time Super Bowl champion linebacker Gary Reasons, a Northwestern State graduate, was one of Madden’s favorites while playing for the powerhouse New York Giants. Wednesday, his wife Terri recalled the time in the late ‘80s when Madden invited their son Nic onto his “Madden Cruiser” tour bus, which he used to travel the country to avoid claustrophobia on airplanes. John and preschooler Nic shared a Coke on the bus, in the parking lot at Giants Stadium.
According to the History Channel website, the ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the new year—though for them the year began not in January but in mid-March, when the crops were planted.
During a massive 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, the Babylonians crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. These promises could be considered the forerunners of our New Year’s resolutions. If the Babylonians kept to their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favor—a place no one wanted to be.
A similar practice occurred in ancient Rome, after the reform-minded emperor Julius Caesar tinkered with the calendar and established January 1 as the beginning of the new year circa 46 B.C. Named for Janus, the two-faced god whose spirit inhabited doorways and arches, January had special significance for the Romans. Believing that Janus symbolically looked backward into the previous year and ahead into the future, the Romans offered sacrifices to the deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year.
For early Christians, the first day of the new year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. In 1740, the English clergyman John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service, most commonly held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Also known as known as watch night services, they included readings from Scriptures and hymn singing, and served as a spiritual alternative to the raucous celebrations normally held to celebrate the coming of the new year. Now popular within evangelical Protestant churches, especially African American denominations and congregations, watch night services held on New Year’s Eve are often spent praying and making resolutions for the coming year.
Despite the tradition’s religious roots, New Year’s resolutions today are a mostly secular practice. Instead of making promises to the gods, most people make resolutions only to themselves, and focus purely on self-improvement (which may explain why such resolutions seem so hard to follow through on). According to recent research, while as many as 45 percent of Americans say they usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8 percent are successful in achieving their goals. But that dismal record probably won’t stop people from making resolutions anytime soon—after all, we’ve had about 4,000 years of practice.
Children’s advocate Sandra Samuel was checking the annual list of foster children in Webster Parish who would be getting Christmas presents from people who wanted to help. A pair of names who didn’t yet have sponsors caught her eye: Two sisters who had been molested for years and whose testimony at trial had helped send their abuser to prison for life.
She knew who to turn to: A detective, an administrative assistant and a lawyer who had prosecuted the girls’ case.
Through their generosity, and that of strangers recruited to help, two teenage girls will get back a little piece of their childhood that circumstances had taken from them.
The girls, now ages 14 and 16, had lived a hellish life, in the words of the lead prosecutor. Virtually abandoned by a drug-addicted mother and an absent biological father; molested individually and together; often denied food and adequate clothing if they didn’t submit. The abuse, which started around first grade and lasted nearly a decade, ended after one of the sisters told someone.
One of the abusers is serving a sentence of life-plus-38 years after being convicted at trial. The other pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years. Both victims were placed in foster care.
Samuel is Webster Parish supervisor of the Child Appointed Special Advocate office, whose volunteers act on behalf of children when their cases go through the court system. She’s involved in a program where, each Christmas, children in foster care submit wish lists for gifts. There are ordinary things like clothes and shoes, but also things their friends get that they normally wouldn’t. People sign on and grant the wishes.
“Foster care payments from the state don’t cover the costs of raising a child, much less give them a decent Christmas,” said Hugo Holland, lead prosecutor in the girls’ case.
Samuel was going over the list of 58 names in Webster Parish earlier this year when she saw there were not enough volunteers and the two sisters had no sponsor. She was familiar with their case, and called the Webster district attorney’s office.
Heather Boucher is a sheriff’s detective who had been assigned to the case. Tommie Clanton and Jimbo Yocom work for the D.A. Yocom said Clanton “hit the ground running,” and with the help of friends and colleagues had 90 percent of the wish lists filled in a day and a half.
One girl’s dream gift was $100. Volunteers provided that, plus another $600 for the sisters to split. Her sister wanted a McDonald’s gift card and some heydude shoes.
Boucher, Clanton and Yocom said both teens taught them the resiliency of the human spirit.
“They are an inspiration for those that have to keep powering on,” Boucher said.
Clanton said both have made the honor roll at school and are active in extracurricular activities.
“To look at a 14-year-old and see more strength in her than I can ever imagine at 46, and the hell they went through for years, my heart feels privileged to get to know them,” Clanton said.
“These girls have to carry it with them the rest of their lives. It was important to us that they realize – especially this time of year — that not all of life is tragic. The hope and understanding of better experiences in life is what gets you through the hard times.”
Boucher, Clanton and Yocom on Tuesday delivered two sacks containing the gifts. Both girls got lagniappe gifts from the prosecution team but will have to wait until Christmas to open the Santa sacks.
Holland, who has a reputation as a hard-nosed prosecutor, said that in a nation after George Floyd the story of the “three Santas” in law enforcement needed to be told.
“Their relationship didn’t end with the guilty verdict,” Holland said. “These two women and Yocom picked up the torch for these girls. They are truly dedicated to what they do, and bring all the emotions and passions of their humanity with them when they come to work.”
The Webster Parish Journal “WPJ” publishes paid engagement and wedding announcements, as well as anniversaries, for couples who reside in the parish, who have relatives in the parish or who are getting married in the parish. (Fees apply.)
This move by the Journal allows couples to showcase their announcement.
Information for engagement announcements include:
Digital photograph of the couple
The couple’s names
The couple’s hometowns
High school and/or college of the couple
Parents’ names and/or grandparents’ names
Ties to the parish
Wedding time, date, and place
An interesting fact about the couple
Information for the wedding announcements include:
Digital photograph of the couple
The couple’s names
The couple’s hometowns
High school and/or college of the couple
Parents’ names and/or grandparents’ names
Ties to the parish
Wedding time, date, and place
For engagement and wedding announcement fees and/or to submit information for publication, please email email@example.com.
EAST FELICIANA, La. (WAFB) – The missing 2-year-old boy from Slaughter has been found safe by East Feliciana Sheriff’s deputies. His father Orin Hollingsworth was also found.
East Feliciana Parish Sheriff Jeff Travis said he is pleased to announce that the missing child, Carson Hollingsworth, was found Tuesday night in good condition and will be reunited with his mother. Carson’s biological father, Orin Hollingsworth, was also located and arrested for cruelty to a juvenile.
The two were found at a camp in St. Martin Parish. A concerned citizen had become aware of the search for Carson from media reports and provided the information which led to his recovery, said Travis.
He thanked the multiple agencies involved, as well as the various news media and concerned citizens who helped bring this matter to a successful conclusion.
The East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office, Louisiana State Police, U.S. Marshal Service, St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office, Zachary Police Department, Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Office, and Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries all cooperated in the investigation into Carson’s disappearance.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has received a large volume of calls regarding the future of their lifetime licenses in the wake of the legislative session.
Act 356-HB 691, recently signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, does not eliminate all lifetime licenses from the agency. Rather, it consolidates lifetime licenses into three types:
Resident (including youth 17 and under) – $500 Resident Lifetime Senior (65 and older) – $100 Non-Resident Lifetime – $4,000
The new lifetime licenses will streamline and consolidate the old lifetime license structure and will include recreational hunting, fishing and gear privileges.
These new licenses will go on sale June 1, 2022.
The current individual lifetime licenses (e.g. Resident Lifetime Fishing Only [$300] and Resident Lifetime Hunting Only [$300]) that are available through the current license structure will no longer be offered after May 31, 2022.
All current lifetime license holders will keep their existing privileges, and they will not be converted into one of the new licenses.
The Louisiana Department of Health has announced that 449 people in Louisiana are hospitalized with COVID-19 – a figure that has doubled in the last week. According to LDH, 80 percent of those people are not fully vaccinated.
A total of 9,545 new COVID-19 cases out of 59,139 new tests have been reported to the state since December 23. The testing data does not include results from at-home tests.
Another 1,231 people in Louisiana have been reinfected with COVID-19 in the same time frame.
Omicron includes multiple mutations across the SARS-CoV-2 genome. Emerging data show this new variant is more transmissible than previous strains and that Omicron may carry an increased risk of reinfection compared to other variants of concern.
Angie Greer, Director of Webster Parish Health Unit, said they test for COVID at the health unit.
“We don’t keep stats on how many we test per week or how many test positive,” Greer said. “And we test only for positive and negative results, not which variant.”
Greer said if a patient tests positive, they are immediately referred to their personal physician for treatment options.
With New Year’s Eve on the horizon and families gather again, LDH is urging everyone to follow public health guidance to stay safe and follow protocol.
Due to limited state supplies and distribution, Minden Medical Center posts online that their supply of Regeneron Antibody Infusion is depleted and infusion doses cannot be scheduled at this time.
For statistics on cases at Minden Medical Center and Springhill Medical Center, follow the Webster Parish Journal.
Many people enjoy the booming sounds and flashing lights of fireworks, but they can be terrifying and overwhelming for Fido and Fluffy.
During the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, pets can become so frightened by the noise and commotion of fireworks they run from otherwise familiar environments and people, and sadly become lost.
Joe Scroggs, DVM, of Trinity Animal Hospital in Minden, said there are ways to keep your pet calm during fireworks.
“One way is to be near them,” Dr. Scroggs said. “Pets like feeling the security of companionship.”
He recommends a product called a “Thundershirt” that mimics the pet being held by the owner, if the owner has to be away from the home during a fireworks display.
“Covering the windows so pets can’t see the flashes from the fireworks may also be helpful,” he said.
Being aware the New Year’s holiday is coming up allows the owner time to bring an outside pet indoors. Dr. Scroggs recommends keeping them inside as long as possible.
“I believe that having the pet inside provides them a sense of security,” he said. “You have to be careful leaving dogs inside unattended that normally live outside, considering they may damage household goods in reaction to the fireworks. I recommend all pets kept inside be attended while fireworks are being enjoyed by others outside.”
Medication can be helpful.
“There are several drugs that your local veterinarian may prescribe your pet for anxiety,” the veterinarian said. “My personal favorite drug for controlling anxiety in dogs is Trazadone. The nice thing about this drug is that is has little to no side effects, doesn’t have to be tapered down and it has a wide range for dosing to properly tailor the need for each pet.”
He recommends Fluoxetine for cats.
Some other pet recommendations include the following:
• Close the curtains or blinds and turn on the TV or radio to provide some distraction.
• Treat toys such as Kongs filled with their favorite food may help keep their minds busy and distract them from the fireworks.
• A quiet place, such as a carrier or crate may provide your pet with a sense of security and comfort.
• Use a leash or carrier if you must go outside with your pet to keep them from running off which is a common response to stress and fear.
• Take pets for a walk before the fireworks begin. Some pets are too frightened to go out once the fireworks are popping, and this may lead to an “accident” later on.
• Make sure your pet’s ID is current. Your pets should always have proper identification tags, with current information, in case they get lost. Micro-chipping is strongly recommended.
As we wrap 2021, which will go down in history as no one’s favorite year ever, especially if you who won the lottery but couldn’t collect it because you didn’t wear a mask to the presentation of the Big Fake Check and therefore were executed on site, probably by being beaten to death with the Big Fake Check, we must stress this:
Everything is going to be OK. Eventually. (I think? I’m pretty sure. Maybe … )
But — and the “but” is important here because the longer you live, the more you realize there is always a “but” (literally) or a “butt” (figuratively) that can mess things up. For everybody.
And by “mess things up,” I mean turn the world upside down. When grownups get involved — especially grownups with egos the size of any hemisphere you wish to choose — it is never a good thing.
Never never ever.
The hair-pulling-out frustration of the past two years has been that the people who have titles and are supposed to be “in charge” of such things and advising us — WE are paying them, for goodness’ sake — keep contradicting themselves with their scientific instructions, then them blaming US for not following orders.
I don’t mind “following the science” if they can tell me what the actual science is. I just don’t want to follow THEM. If science could speak for itself, then we’d be getting somewhere.
But it can’t, so we are stuck with the usual suspects, regular people in high places — remember, they are regular, make-mistakes people — who keep changing their minds. I realize we live in the most fluid situation ever; it would just be nice if once in a while, these Important People who act like they Know Everything would be less dramatic in their relaying of information and would, now and then, say something like, “Uh, I was wrong.” We’d even settle for, “I could possibly be wrong.”
Or if they would laugh once in a while … either at themselves or at this sometimes-happy, sometimes-heartbreaking situation. At least then we could tell whether or not they’re robots.
Wouldn’t that be refreshing?
All that to say I am glad Dr. Seuss passed away in 1991 at the rich old age of 87 and is not around to see this. He was a man of few words because he wrote for children. The Cat in the Hat, which I have read at least 2,457 times, and I still have my original, colored-in copy to prove it; GREAT book — is 1,626 words long. (That’s roughly two Teddy columns.) It uses just 236 different words, and the two longest words are only two syllables.
Like me, it is almost 65 years old, having been published in March of 1957. (I am only three or four syllables/years behind.) Unlike me, it is still a source of rich joy.
But Dr. Seuss could not have explained the past two years with just 236 words. Though he was a working man’s genius, he’d have needed to invent a whole other alphabet to sum up 2021, which, to quote an old Christmastime favorite, Is Beginning to Look a Lot Like 2020.
His final book was published by Random House in 1990. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! repeats his constant theme of encouragement to young people (and their parents?), a message to inspire and find the success that lies within. Dr. Seuss was always trying.
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
Except not so much in these pandemic times, which are now endemic times, which the higher-ups are having trouble admitting. Sigh … Been a tough time for everyone. But as we’ve nervous-laughed our way through it, together, though brow-beaten most every day, here we are on the brink of a New Year.
So far, so good. Pretty shaky!, but so far, so good.
And no matter what the smarty pants people too proud to check their egos at the door say, Dr. Seuss was right:
Have you ever been reading a really good book and you couldn’t wait to turn the page to see what happens next? Or, you aren’t quite ready to turn the page because it may not turn out the way you had hoped? I know some people who read the last chapter of the book first! You know who you are.
I was on a walk recently and my AirPods were not charged, so I just enjoyed my walk with the the birds singing, the sound of the traffic going by, and I got lost in my own thoughts. Then, out of the blue, an old Bob Seger song just popped in my head. Many of you will know it if you are a fan of his music. It was “Turn the Page.” If you know the song, you are probably singing it now.
This is the chorus: See here I am On the road again There I am
Up on the stage Here I go
Playin’ star again There I go
Turn the page
I couldn’t help but think about this past year and what is written on the pages on my own book. Some days I couldn’t wait to turn the page on a new day. Some days I knew what was on the next page and I just wanted to skip it. We are all on the stage of our own lives, but I know who the real star is and His name is Jesus. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” This we can count on to be on every page.
Anyone else like to journal? It has become a regular discipline in my life for a few years now. I have notebooks and binders filled with pages of thoughts, poems, prayers and just words. It helps me to process life. I have also found that writing is a means of worship for me. As you probably already guessed, I have new journals ready for 2022. But before I begin filling those blank pages, I find it is helpful to look back at 2021. Maybe you will find this helpful in your life as you look ahead to a new year. What has filled your pages in 2021? What lessons have you learned? Have you experienced disappointments, grief or joy? What will you carry with you into the new year? What will you leave behind? Where have you seen Jesus?
I don’t know what 2022 holds for me, but I know who holds tomorrow. He is my Shepherd who leads me. Here I am Lord. I am ready to go. Turn the page.
For the past 20-plus years, my final column in December is always a list of the top dining experiences I enjoyed throughout the previous year. In a typical pre-2020 year, I spent a few months working in Italy and a good bit of time traveling across the United States doing research and development for our restaurants, which always made it an easy piece to write.
The global pandemic may have slowed me down a little, but just a little. I traveled to Italy to do food research for three weeks and hit a few other U.S. cities this year.
This list is never about the most expensive meal or the finest atmosphere. It’s just a ranking of the meals that were most memorable to me.
So here is the list of my top 10 dining experiences from 2021, submitted in the hopes that 2022 brings us one of our best years, ever.
RSJ’s Top 10 Meals 2021
10.) Arrabiata Pasta with Jill, Caffe Degli Amici, Tavarnelle — The pasta at our friend Paolo’s is always great. His mama is in the kitchen and is a talented cook. We had just arrived in town and the Arrabiata pasta was made as it always is at Paolo’s, by crushing spicy red chilies and garlic into a paste, and then adding that to crushed tomatoes (the Italians would call it a “tomato sauce” but what they mean are canned whole tomatoes that have been pureed, not marinara). They sauté the pepper-garlic mixture with olive oil, the tomatoes, add salt and pepper, a little pasta water, and whatever type of pasta they choose, (Paolo chose spaghetti this day). Extremely simple, but so flavorful. The key is the peppers. It’s hot and it is meant to be as “arrabiata” translates to “angry” in Italian. I have eaten that dish dozens of times over the years, but that day— being back in the place we love— made it better than ever.
9.) Raw Oysters with friends, Cooter Brown’s, New Orleans — Mardi Gras in New Orleans was cancelled this year, yet that didn’t stop New Orleanians from partying. Hundreds decorated their houses and yards. I loaded up a group of friends in a van and was the designated driver for a lively tour of the ‘Yardi Gras’ homes.
Our restaurant reservations took us all over the city into different styles and types of cuisines but the highlight for me was when the four of us ate raw oysters in Cooter Brown’s, the longstanding dive bar at the Riverbend. I have always believed that oysters taste better in a dive bar.
8.) Bouchon — A trade show for cinema owners landed me in Las Vegas for a few days. I have always considered Thomas Keller the best chef in America. His Bouchon in the Venetian Hotel is consistently next-level, and this visit might have been on an even higher stratum. Keller had a massive seafood tower waiting on us when we sat down and loaded us up with a tableful of desserts before we left. Everything that happened in between was otherworldly.
7.) Lunch with a view at Catinetta di Rignatta, Tuscan countryside — Catinetta di Rignatta is not only about location and view. The food is spot on. In true Tuscan style everything is simple, basic, fresh and grown within a few miles of the restaurant.
At 60-years-old, I have grown to appreciate these memorable moments more passionately. Meals such as this one, with the view of the Tuscan countryside, paired with a bluebird day, perfect food and especially one shared with people that I love, will be ones I will never forget.
6.) El Rayo Patio with the Kids — I spent a year working on opening a massive patio area adjacent to our new Tex Mex concept, El Rayo. Before we opened, I shared a meal with my wife and two children in the space. Just us. It was a perfect moment. I don’t know how many more restaurant openings I have in me, but I milked every nano-second of that one.
5.) Lunch with Italian friends, Forte dei Marmi — The Tuscan beachside town of Forte dei Marmi, is a place unlike any other I have visited in Italy. I can’t believe that I’ve spent so much time in that region and just discovered it. I ate a shrimp and lemon pasta which was — as all of the best Italian dishes are — extremely simple with limited ingredients. It’s one of those dishes that I should have taken a photo of but finished it before I could even think about it. It’s three months later and I am still thinking about it. The companionship of our Dutch and Italian friends made it a perfect meal.
4.) Breakfast with High School Classmates — The class of 1979 all turned 60 this past year. I arranged for the ones who were available to meet for an informal breakfast reunion. The thing about childhood friends you grew up with is that the bond is so deep that one might not see another for a decade or more but everyone picks right back up where they left off in an instant.
Halfway through the meal, I took a break from my eggs and bacon, pushed back from the table and took in the scene. It was at that moment that I once again reminded myself what a wonderful childhood I had.
My grandfather used to say, “A rich man has his first dollar. A wealthy man has his first friend.” He also said, “You can judge a man’s wealth, not by the size of his bank account, but by the depth and breadth of his friendships.” I feel like a rich man today, not because I have a bunch of money in the bank. I don’t. But because I have a wealth of friendships from as far back as I have memories. And for that I am truly grateful.
3.) Breakfast with a Co-Worker’s Son — We tragically lost a team member at one of our restaurants earlier this year. At the funeral I invited his elementary-school-aged son to breakfast. My dad died when I was young, too. I wanted him to know that things will be alright. For privacy’s sake, I’ll skip the details. Though it was probably as much a learning experience for me as it was him. Good stuff.
2.) Daddy-Daughter Breakfast, The Midtowner, Hattiesburg — The day before my daughter moved away to start her life as a career woman she asked if she could meet me for breakfast. I have told both of my children for the past quarter of a century that the answer to the questions, “Can we go to breakfast?” and “Can we go to the bookstore?” will always be answered with an unequivocal and enthusiastic, “Yes!” Last week I wouldn’t have been more excited if a total stranger walked up and said, “Here’s $10,000!”
On one hand I am so very proud of her and happy for her. On the other hand, I am not eager for this next phase to begin. The upcoming move has me feeling sentimental, reflective, and slightly melancholic. We sat and enjoyed each other’s company and talked about her future and our past. Perfect!
1.) 60th Birthday Dinner, Villa il Santo, Petrognano, Tuscany— I celebrated my 60th year on the planet in the villa we have returned to over and over for the past decade. The icing on the tiramisu was that I was surrounded by so many of my Italian friends.
It was a collection of many of the Europeans I love most. Annagloria and Enzo, the owners of the villa were there, along with Marina and her artist boyfriend, Marco. Our friends Barbara and Alberto drove down from Milan, and our friend Jesse took the train up from Rome. The dinner table sat 16, and two of the best Italian home cooks I know, Nadia and Rosanna prepared a six-course meal filled with all my local favorites. Annagloria and Enzo’s daughters, Gemma and Bianca helped serve.
In the middle of dinner, I did as I often do and pushed away from the table and took in the scene. Marco and his wife Christina who make the best pecorino I have ever tasted, at their sheep farm down the road, came bearing a five-pound wedge of aged pecorino. Massimo and Cecilia, owners of a fine restaurant in town where our guests learn to make ravioli, brought wine. Paolo who owns one of our favorite local restaurants arrived late after working the dinner shift. Toby and Susanna, from the local bakery I visit every morning, brought a beautiful birthday cake made from a Napoleon shaped in the numbers six and zero, and husband and wife tour guides Ricardo and Cindy drove down from Florence. It was one of the most memorable and meaningful dinners I have ever experienced.
After dinner, a band set up in one of the rooms and played American rock-and-roll until early in the morning. Perfect!
Here’s to a prosperous and joy-filled 2022!
Roasted Garlic Crostini
Simple. Flavorful. 1 loaf Ciabatta bread, sliced ¼” thick, about 16 slices 1 cup Roasted garlic, smashed 5-6 leaves Fresh sage, chiffonade Preheat oven to 300.
To make the crostinis, place the sliced Ciabatta on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake until crispy, about 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool completely at room temperature. If you are doing this ahead of time, store at room temperature in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
Spread 1 TB of the smashed roasted garlic on each crostini. Stack the sage leaves, roll them tight, and slice thin with a sharp knife (chiffonade). Divide the sage among the crostinis and drizzle with the best extra virgin olive oil you can find.
(Robert St. John is a chef, restaurateur and cookbook author.)
45-year-old A.R. “Pat” Patterson was a successful businessman from Fairfax, Virginia. In his spare time, he and Findall Marbury, a naval architect and friend, designed a small motorboat. As the design process neared completion, they hatched a plan. They wanted to build the boat and take it on a 1,000-mile trip from Washington D.C. to Jacksonville, Florida. For two weeks, they shaped ¼ inch boards and glued them to a light wooden frame. They used a special glue to seal the boards together to prevent leaks. They installed a lightweight awning to protect them from the sun’s rays. When the boat was finished, it was 15 feet in length, and weighed 150 pounds. Pat, alone, weighed 160 pounds. They mounted a used 10-horsepower outboard motor to the boat and made arrangements for the 1,000-mile maiden voyage. Pat’s total investment in the boat was about $35. Just before they were to begin their trip, Marbury was transferred away from the Washington D.C. area. Pat’s 10-year-old son, Tommy, begged to take Marbury’s place, but Pat decided to make the trip alone.
On Wednesday, June 22, 1960, Pat loaded the boat with a pump, some extra glue and cotton wadding, a folding chair, and began his journey. He set off near the Francis Scott Key Bridge on the Potomac River in Washington D.C. at full speed. Pat’s route would take him down the Potomac River, through Chesapeake Bay, and through various inland waterways which allowed him to stay in sight of land most of the way. He expected the trip to take about three weeks.
On Thursday, June 30, eight days after he began his trip, Pat reached Hampton, Virginia. The trip was taking longer than he had expected. On several occasions, Pat’s boat struck objects in the water and sprung leaks. “I started out full speed and with not too much caution,” Pat said, “but when I hit a stake in the Chesapeake Bay—well, I was careful from then on. The hull split like an innertube.” Pat patched the leaks with glue and wadding, sometimes without ever taking the boat to shore, and continued on his journey. He usually spent about 12 hours on the water before making port. At one port, a reporter asked him how he dealt with the loneliness. Pat responded that he was too busy to become lonely.
Pat’s closest call on his journey did not come from leaks or fear of sinking, but from something he had not anticipated. Pat reached Fernandina Beach, Florida, just a few miles from his journey’s end at Jacksonville, and pulled his boat out of the water. He left his 10-horsepower “kicker” on the boat. Just a few feet away was another boat in the water. Some convicts had escaped and made their way to Fernandina Beach in search of a boat to steal. They looked at Pat’s beached boat and motor and looked at the one in the water. They quickly decided to take the one in the water to save time. They paddled away and left Pat’s boat on the beach.
On Thursday, August 11, 1960, Pat finally made it to Jacksonville, Florida. The trip he thought would take him three weeks took him 50 days. Part of the time was spent fixing leaks. Much of his time on shore dealt with newspaper reporters and curiosity seekers. When Pat beached the boat in Jacksonville, a reporter asked him if he was planning to return in the boat. Pat replied that he planned to return home after a few rrest, but not by boat. He made it clear that he had no plans for another boat trip anytime soon.
Pat became somewhat of a celebrity because of his journey. On February 15, 1961, Pat was a guest on I’ve Got a Secret. In this show’s format, guests shared a secret with the show’s host Gary Moore. A four-person panel had a limited time to ask the guests questions to try to uncover their secret. What was Pat’s secret? The ¼ inch boards used in the construction of his boat were waterproof …cardboard. Pat made the trip in his cardboard boat as part of a promotion for his company to prove that the cardboard boxes his company produced were truly waterproof.
Sources: 1. The Times and Democrat (Orangeburg, South Carolina) June 23, 1960, p.10. 2. The Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), June 23, 1960, p.8. 3. The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia), June 23, 1960, p.8. 4. Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia) July 1, 1960, p.3. 5. The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Florida), August 12, 1960, p.3. 6. The Pensacola News (Pensacola, Florida) August 12, 1960, p.2. 7. “I’ve Got a Secret,” Airdate February 15, 1961.
Cause of a lake bed fire on Horseshoe Loop on Lake Bistineau is still under investigation.
Sibley Fire Chief Tommy Kelly, incident commander, said Monday the fire is under control but still being carefully watched.
“It’s just about going to have to be somebody that started the fire,” Kelly said. “But whether it was intentional or accidental is hard to say. When the lake is lowered due to the salvinia, people go out there and hunt and camp. It could’ve been a camp fire or somebody threw out a cigarette.”
If there is any evidence of intention, the chief said the Fire Marshal will be involved.
Kelly said after he received a call about the fire, he contacted Webster 911 around 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve to request aid from Doyline’s Fire District 3, Minden Fire Department’s side-by-side, Homeland Security and La. Dept. of Agriculture and Forestry.
Kelly also requested drone assistance from Webster Fire District 7 in Dixie Inn. Brian Williams, Director of the Webster Parish Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness, said the Fire District 7 drone was used to get an aerial view of the fire, but due to the windy conditions the drone was quickly grounded.
“The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry was contacted to get the plane in the air but due to the time of day, it was not available,” Williams said. “The fire departments were making progress containing the fire, so we contacted the Desoto Parish Sheriff’s Office to ask for assistance from their Aviation Division. “
Williams said within 45 minutes the helicopter arrived on scene. He said their quick arrival helped with the decision-making process.
“With Homeland Security in contact with fire units on the ground, two areas of concern were identified and crews dispatched,” Williams said. “The fire appeared to be approximately 150-200 acres and was contained within the fire line and crews were sent home to their families for Christmas Eve.”
Crews from Fire District 3 were dispatched at 9:30 p.m. to the 500 block of Tadpole Road for a burning tree on the lakebed that fell across the fire line. Crews responded with assistance from Minden Fire Department again with the side-by-side and contained the fire quickly.
Williams said on Christmas day, Sibley Fire Department members continued to check the perimeter every couple of hours. Also, around noon the same day the Department of Agriculture and Forestry flew the area and the fire appeared to be contained from their view.
An additional flyover took place Monday to check the fire again and provide a more definite number of acres burned.
“When the plane flies again, they will download the perimeter on GPS,” Kelly said. “I’m guessing it’s between 200 and 300 acres.”
Kelly said the “leading edge” of the fire is out and only trees continue to burn.
“We still have about 200 trees burning out in the lake, but you can’t get to them,” he said. “Even if you tried to go out there in an all-terrain vehicle, you’d get stuck.”
The trees will eventually burn out, and as long as one doesn’t fall across the containment line again, the fire will not spread, he said, adding that is the case as long as the weather cooperates and winds do not spread embers.
Bayou Dorcheat serves as the fire line on the opposite side. Kelly planned to go by water Monday and check it.
At one time during the fire, Kelly said he had four side-by-sides and seven fire trucks positioned among houses on Horseshoe Loop.
“I was staging a fire truck about every other house,” Kelly said. “That way, if the fire got into their back yard, there would be somebody there to put it out.”
He added firefighters were at the scene seven hours on the first day.
“If you’re at anything seven hours, and nobody lost a structure, and everybody went home safe, it’s a good day,” he said.
Williams said a discussion with Webster Parish Police Jury members, scheduled for today (Tuesday, December 28), would likely result in a burn ban for the Webster side of the lake. Bossier Parish has already issued one for its side.
“We hope the rain this week will help completely extinguish the current fire to prevent another long lasting fire from 2010,” Williams said. “Again, due to the quick actions by local fire departments this fire was contained quickly and will continue to be monitored.”
Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division has arrested a Minden man for the Christmas Day robbery of a local truck stop.
Trevor Ford Holly, 30, of Emerald Dr., has been charged with armed robbery.
Webster Parish Sheriff Jason Parker said Holly was caught on surveillance cameras entering the Outpost Travel Center, in the 18,000 block of U.S. 79, where he cased the property for more than four hours.
“At approximately, 8:30 p.m., Holly approached the checkout counter and asked for $300 in lottery tickets,” Parker said. “After the cashier placed the tickets in a bag for Holly, he moved around the counter pulling what appeared to be a small caliber firearm. He then demanded the money from the register.”
At that point, Holly reportedly ran from the Outpost and into a wooded area with around $1,200 and $300 in lottery tickets.
Parker said on Holly’s birthday, December 26, WPSO CID identified him as the suspect and a joint effort between WPSO and Claiborne Parish Sheriff’s Office led to a search warrant at a residence in Haynesville where Holly was located.
“During the search, the cash and lottery tickets were recovered along with all the clothing Holly was wearing during the robbery,” Parker said. “They also located the Sig Sauer air pistol he used during the robbery.”
This investigation is still ongoing with other arrests expected.