Read the first chapter
The Cajun Bomber's
Knock Out Cookbook
Boxing to Beignets
by Victoria Olsen
and Dale Bellard
Copyright © 2000. Reprinted by permission.
All rights reserved
De Cotton Fields of
All us boys workin' in de cotton fields of Port Barre,
Louisiana, waited 'till de end of day for our entertainment. I was 'bout
six years old when I'd wake at five in de mornin' an' milk cows, an' at day's
end, I hand in my cotton pickin's for two-cents a pound, along side other
boys an' girls an' older peoples, colored an' white-folks alike. Daddy say
my big strong muscles was from milkin' dem cows, an' workin' like a man.
We was all poor, but we always had lots of good food, yeah.
I found everyone was not Cajun when I started school.
Dat very first day, wearin' my new feed-sack shirt Mama sewed, I got paddled
hard for speakin' French, me. Mama an' Daddy always talk French with jus'
some English words thrown in here an' dere. It's hard to say whether I like
school or workin' in de fields better, me.
Daddy grew a five-acre vegetable garden. He raised
pigs an' cows. 'Sides pork an' beef, we ate duck, geese, chickens, an' lots
of other birds. Bayou Cortableau passes in de front of our home, so we fish
for big ol' fifty-pound catfish an' garfish dat were even bigger den me.
Could easy mistake a garfish for a 'gator, dey look almost alike from far
away. In de swamps back of our house, we used Paw Paw's handmade knitted
nets to snag crawfish an' hunt down turtles. Alligators, two or t'ree foot,
made a good catch. De young ones taste much sweeter.
No one had TV, no, an' usually never had 'nough
money for de ten-cent picture show in town. But, at day's end, with Mama
cookin' supper an' Daddy on back to de barn, us boys would use a cane knife
to cut down a patch of cotton plants an' make us a boxin' ring.
Now, most of us didn't really know how to box,
no, an' we end up just plain fightin'. Lotsa peoples from de fields would
crowd 'roun' de ring an' cheer or wanna fight us demselves.
Ol' black man Wilton Brown live down de road
apiece, where him and his family ran de sugar cane mill and work in de cotton
fields. Dere ol' mule make de mill work, yeah. He walk roun' an' roun' with
a feed sack in front of him, breakin' up dat sugar cane to make syrup. His
couple-dozen kids always like to fight us, dem.
With seven kids in our family alone, my oldest
brother Shelton was definitely strongest, yeah. He kinda kept de peace an'
made sure no one got hurt really bad. Nobody messed with him, no. One of
my big sisters, Mercy Lee, was definitely de toughest girl. She'd punch out
anyone. Even de strongest boys didn't stand a chance with her.
In fact, all our family had de strongest
muscles in Port Barre, maybe even everywheres, cause no one ever beat Mercy
Lee, an' since I was six years old, no one never beat me, no. Never.
Plenty of Cajun recipes included!
begins with the recounting of Victoria's
onset of multiple sclerosis in 1986. Her story is based on her real-life
experience; however, she has changed the names of people and locations.
Carnival Stories, we meet Victoria's
character, Julia, at three different stages in her life, stages all connected
by the fact that she was at a point of transition, building a new life for
herself out of the ashes of the past. The thread tying these points together
is her encounter with one remarkable man when she was a young, newly single
The lessons she learns over the course of her short
contact with the mysterious Jonathan becomes more valuable over the years,
as her life progresses. And it is not until twenty years later that she is
fully able to understand the implications.
Victoria Hobbs Olsen is the past GCWA President
and former editor of the Magnolia Quarterly, a publication for creative
writers. Utilizing her master's degree in Consulting Psychology from Harvard
University, she has held many workshops over the past twelve years, most
recently facilitating a fundraising event for the Gulf Coast Writers Association
called The Tapestry of Psychological Type, Temperament and the Creative
Process, held at a local community college.
Victoria came to Pass Christian, Mississippi from
Long Island, New York, in the fall of 1994. She was completing a novel,
Carnival Stories, based on her short stay in
Mississippi back in 1976. She fell in love with the area and the ambiance,
and decided to move her family to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Hurricane Katrina blew Victoria to her current home in