Interview with Mr. Jules “Poss” LaFrance, Age 91

June 1, 2004
Ansley, MS

Interviewer: Russell B. Guerin, Hancock County Historical Society

Poss

Poss

 
Though his gait has been slowed, “Poss” LaFrance’s straight, 6-foot frame belies his 91 years. He is lean. His memory is keen, his speech is strong, and his dark complexion is a reminder of his many working hours in the sun. He still cuts the grass on his lovely spread in his Piney Woods home, which he designed himself. He takes pleasure in showing a visitor around.
 
Principally known for the marina at Ansley which bears his name, Mr. LaFrance has been successful at a variety of pursuits. Though having had the benefit of only three years of formal education, he is nonetheless a truly educated man.
 
Fully respectful of Mr. LaFrance, this interviewer has chosen to report his words as they were heard. Considering his background and long residence in the area, the representation is idiomatically correct; his manner of speaking is part of the man.
 
LaFrance’s description of a lifetime of experiences discloses no regrets. If anything, a quick sense of humor is displayed in the telling.
 
We begin with Mr. LaFrance describing how the site that became LaFrance Marina was acquired.
 
 
 
Mr. LaFrance: Oscar Green was never married. My wife, she had married John Schwartz, who died. They was married for ten years, and he died. He was the brother of Charley Schwartz and Henry Schwartz. Mabel [Mrs. LaFrance] was their aunt. I married her in 1939. We started the camp in 1940. She had got the property from him [Oscar Green] because she had taken care of Oscar. Just before he died, they had bought it, for how much I don’t know. This old man, old man Green, he had two rooms. He had a little bungalow. He had two rooms. He lived in one room and the chickens and the cats and whatnot lived in the other room. [Laughter] The chickens would roost on the bed, and he wouldn’t knock them off or anything. He would just turn around. That’s really true, I’m telling you. He would just turn around. And my wife, she’d take care of him; she would bathe him and stuff like that on that last go round. He was just not able to. So anyhow, she and John bought the property from him. And there is where we started, in the little two-room bungalow. We started fixing the house up; it was made of 1x 12 boards with laths and stuff. Things were tight. That was back in depression time. Things was tough, so we started off with the camp. We trapped, run cow, raised hogs.
 
Guerin: How many acres did you have?
 
LaFrance: In the old homestead they had 210 acres, and in the other place they had 50 acres. We started raising cattle, hogs, and stuff like that. The cattle got lice. We could not sell to New Orleans.
 
Guerin: Were they free-ranging?
 
LaFrance: Free ranging. Old Man Carrol, down a little further, had 1000 acres. We had that and we had this end, we must have had about 3000 acres on the south side of the railroad.
 
Guerin: Part of that you rented?
 
LaFrance: No, we didn’t have to rent it. We just had the cattle run there; we didn’t have to rent it.
 
Guerin: Whose land was it?
 
LaFrance: Well, Weston owned it, and later on, Lusich wound up with it. It was OK. At them times, everybody had cattle in these woods. No such thing as stock laws in those time; you had hogs, goats, and everything out in the woods.
 
Guerin: Where would you market cattle?
 
LaFrance: Well, you first started off we would bring them to the stores, like Shaddrick [?] at Waveland – he would buy calves from you. Wilmer (?) at Bay St. Louis – he’d buy chickens, eggs, anything you had from you. What we did, years ago we dipped cattle, but they had quit it, so I cleaned out the old vat, built a lot and everything else and went up to Pearl River station and got this pecky cypress and I got the railroad to get me some cross ties – I knew the foreman up and he would bring them down there and dump them off and I’d go down there and pick them up – I’d use that for posts. [We] made chutes. Stones was county agent at that time, back in the 40’s, so he came down and he charged the vat for me. With DDT at that time. So we dipped them every two weeks. Others had cattle in there, DD Green, about 60 head among the three of us. First year we got rid of the lice, so then we would bring them to New Orleans.
 
Guerin: Would you truck them to New Orleans?
 
LaFrance: In 1948 I bought a little ¾ ton truck, just the cab and chassis. $700 from the Ford place behind the courthouse – Fritz, the Ford Company. ’47 hurricane had carried some of the beacons from off of the lake, so I found one of these beacons and I tore it all down and I made the body for this truck – my uncle helped me – and I got an adapter – dual wheels – I put springs on it, and that’s what I used to bring to New Orleans. I could pull two big cows or 10-12 head of hogs. And I’d take some of the hogs over to Dedeaux’s. With the hog business, I had Campbell’s Island.
 
Guerin: If you look due south from the marina, and you see a stand of tall pine trees, is that it?
 
LaFrance: Yes. What I did was, I had some piney woods hogs running all over the place – I had a bunch of hogs out there in the swamp – so I come out here and I got about five females – sows – and I carried them out there and I put them on that island, and I bought a good boar – a male – he was half Guinea and half Poland-China and I’d go over there every other day and feed them. I’d bring some corn over there and feed them. I’d carry my rifle – if I’d catch a wild boar over there I’d kill him. He would take up with the sow and I wouldn’t get no good pigs out of them. They wouldn’t amount to anything; they wouldn’t have the weight. They was wild hogs, you see. But the ones from the Guinea and Poland-China I would go over there and get them and put them in the boat –tie them down – and I had a pen at the house and I would put them in that pen for two or three days and feed them a sack of corn and then bring them to New Orleans. For you see, they had corn and they would figure they were corn fed, but on that island they had acorn trees, hundreds and hundreds of acorn trees and they had a grass over there – they called it three-cornered grass with a nut on it, like a little [?] on it. Them hogs loved it.
 
Guerin: This was on Campbell’s Island? How did it get its name?
 
LaFrance: I knew Robert Campbell and his sister, Miss Tattie Campbell. They lived in Hattiesburg after they left the island. The house [had] burned down. He had two uncles from Scotland and they had got that land from the government and what they’d do, they’d use that live oak there for bow stems for boats – that wood, it was hard. One brother died and the other was getting old, so he wrote to Scotland for some of them to come over to work there, so Campbell said him and his daddy and mother and his sister, Miss Tannie was the baby, they left Scotland and it took them three months or longer to get there at that time. So they raised a family -.they got a cemetery over there. It’s a family cemetery, six, seven eight, maybe more of them are buried over there. They are all Campbells. The last one that died, Miss Edna, I took her body from the [island] and carried her body down to the camp on that same boat I showed you [the 35-foot Biloxi Schooner]. Myself and LaFontaine over there, we dug the grave for her. We carried her over there and buried her. That was about sometime in the 60’s.
 
Guerin: I want to go back to the camp. When you took it over, was it already a fishing camp? Were people launching boats? Was there bait to buy?
 
LaFrance: No. This old man that I was telling you about, Mr. Green, he had dug a ditch by Bayou [?] . The ditch was about, say a hundred feet and he took the mud from the ditch and made a little roadway and he had one skiff. And my daddy, he used to get that skiff every other day to go fishing down there, crabbing, fishing. At that time it was hard. We didn’t have nothing to eat but fish and crabs and whatever we could get. So, when I started down there, I started finding boats. If I found a skiff somewhere I would buy an old skiff second-hand, work on it, patch it. I started off like that. I got some lumber. I got my uncle down there. He knew how to build skiffs, so he come down there – I think he built three for me, and then I learned myself. Built them out of cypress. So then, I think I had about ten skiffs when the ’47 hurricane come along.
 
Guerin: And you rented them by the day?
 
LaFrance: Yes, by the day, a dollar and a half a day.
 
Guerin: And you sold bait?
 
LaFrance: No. There was no bait. Those old fellows, they would come down from Picayune, They had that little old four hp motor and they’d go down the river down there and catch croakers and stuff like that. I didn’t get no bait until ’53 when I bought the boat and I started handling bait. I had to build as I got the money. When I got the money, then I’d build. I’d build a skiff, I’d build a wharf or whatever. Then, in ’48, I started working for the county.
 
Guerin: Well, the ’47 hurricane did you some damage?
 
LaFrance: Cleaned me out.
 
Guerin: The boats just disappeared?
 
LaFrance: The boats come up here next to Port and Harbor in there and before I could get there – I had an old Model A – and before I could get it out – Mr. Arceneaux got it cleaned up and running for me, somebody went in there and set the woods afire. {I lost} all the boats except one skiff I got out of there. It burnt it all up. So I started off again, working on the house, building boats, and I went to work for the county in 1948.
      When I first started, the first two years, Joe Jones (?) got elected. Mr. Murphy was supervisor for years and years, but old man Joe Jones (?), he come out and he run, and the roads were so bad, you couldn’t hardly …halfway to the house, bogged down, had to go to the house, get the wheelbarrow, go down there and get the car out. So I met Mr. Jones in the courthouse, so he reached in his pocket and said, “Son, I want to give you five dollars, and I want you to campaign for me.” I said, “Mr. Joe, put your money back in your pocket. One thing I want to ask you. If you get elected, will you build roads?” He said, “By Golly, I sure would.” He was as poor as I was. He had an old Whippitt out there and I think it had two flat tires out there outside the courthouse, but he got elected. He got elected. So he took office January 1948. I got done trapping in February. So I went back to the courthouse, and he said, “What are you doing?” I told him I got done trapping and pulled up my traps and he said, “Get yourself a couple of fellows and go to work.” And I had that truck I was telling you about, it was brand new. So I got two fellows, and we started off, cutting bushes and stuff of that nature, you could hardly get through the roads. They had tore most of them away, Lower Bay Road going into Pearlington, White’s Road and all of that. A horse and wagon could hardly go through that. So, I worked for a year and a half like that. So one day we was down in Pearlington working, putting a culvert in for a lady there, and a fellow by the name of Tom Wright – he come out there, and we was working, and I knew him from working at the Rigolets – he had a camp down there – and he come out there and he told me, “Where you going from here?” I said, “We going down on White’s Road to cut bushes.” He said, “Wait here till I get back.” Well, I didn’t know where he was going, you know, so we go out there and dug the culvert. Later, Joe Jones was told by Tom that he wanted to put Poss on a road machine. I told him, I said, “Mr. Tom, I have never run a road machine in my life. He said, “Anybody can run a road machine, if you will work. One thing about you, I looked at you out there, and you work.” He said, “You can be the best in the world, but if you don’t work, you just ain’t no good anyhow.” A man by the name of Dawsey – Cliff Dawsey – he was the road man, so I went up there that evening, I took the two fellows with me. I said that Joe sent me up there and for me to take the machine down below for six months and bring it up to you for six months. He said, “No, Poss, you go ahead and take it, it’s a starvation anyhow; I don’t make nothing at it.” $650 a month is what he was paying me, so we loaded it up the diesel tank. You know what kind of a [?] they had? One of these big old combines, a big tractor with dual wheels on it. It had little blades on it, about six feet. They didn’t have no ditches by the roads – they had never known what pulling a ditch was on a road – the roads was about six inches from the woods, so I said, I’m going to pull one of those wheels so that thing can get in them ditches. So when I pulled that dual wheel off, it had this axel sticking out about six or eight inches. So I was down in the ditch and there was a little cab on the tractor. I got about a mile down the ditch – there was a lot of stumps – the old axel kind of worked itself around the stump and went about four foot and there was little oak tree hanging over the road. The cab was about a foot inside that oak tree. I couldn’t go backwards, the stump had me, the axel had me, and I couldn’t go ahead in the cab. I got mad, and I just plugged right on and that little oak tree just took the cab and set it off. I said I don’t need no cab anyway. [Laughter] It ripped it right off, and about an hour after that, I was down in the ditch pulling and who come by but old man Joe – he passed me up, he didn’t recognize me. He come back and said, “What happened to the cab?” I said, “I had to take it off, Mr. Joe, I was hung up, but I wanted to pull ditches.” He said I ruined it and I said, no, I didn’t ruin it, it was in the way anyhow. And that’s how I started working for the county.
 
Guerin: You mentioned trapping. What did you trap?
 
LaFrance: Muskrats, mink, otters and at night we went shining alligators, to sell alligator skins. My wife could skin more rats – oh yeah! –she was raised there. She’d skin a rat in about three minutes. We had wire stretchers, and we’d hang them outside in the sun, right there by the marina.
 
Guerin: Where did you market them?
 
LaFrance: They had fellows come around buying. They’d buy and then bring them to New Orleans.
 
Guerin: What’s the biggest alligator you ever caught?
 
LaFrance: We could have got some 14 but they wouldn’t buy them. Anything over eight foot they wouldn’t handle; they was too tough. They had some [big ones] in that pit there. That big pond just before the camp [LaFrance Marina]. That’s the sand pit; they dup that when they built the railroad. They got an outlet through Magnolia Bayou, they got a ditch comes in there. They didn’t years ago, but after ’47 storm, they cut a ditch, so they got salt water fish. So, from that pit, just up that hill, that’s where my wife was born and raised there, from that pit going back to the woods. Her granddaddy had a pecan orchard in there. That was the Dorn family.
 
Guerin: How long ago did they settle that area.
 
LaFrance: Oh, I wouldn’t know. My wife was 92 when she died and she’s been dead six years, and that was her granddaddy.
 
Guerin: She was born there almost a hundred years ago then.
 
LaFrance: Her daddy’s name was Chris Dorn. The old man killed himself. He shot himself. I had his gun till a couple of years ago.
 
Guerin: By accident?
 
LaFrance: Intentionally, they said. He got bad about a bull tearing down a fence or something. He went inside and got the gun. It was a 32, one of them old 32’s and I give it to my grandson Wade and someone broke in the house a few years ago and stole the gun. If I knew that I never would of …
 
Guerin: Let’s us go back to your lineage. You were born in this area.
 
LaFrance: I was born in Ansley, this side of the track.
 
Guerin: Was there much of a town in those days?
 
LaFrance: Well, there was a few, but the mosquitoes got so bad – I’m telling you, when we was living in Ansley, there was some mosquitoes in this country at that time. We walked from Ansley to over here about two miles to school. At that time, we wore knee pants with stockings, my mother would take newspaper and wrap it around our legs and pull the socks over it, and my daddy took these palmettos, and he’d strip them, and we’d fight it.
 
Guerin: Did you have any repellant?
 
LaFrance: No, we’d be looking for something to eat. [Laughter]. We didn’t have no screens in the house. Old houses had wooden shutters. My grandmother’s house over there, she don’t even remember when her daddy built it. Two rooms in that house. We had open windows, and at night you couldn’t even burn a lamp because of the mosquitoes, and you know what we used for repellant? We’d go out and get this cow manure, that dry cow manure, put it in a bucket and set it afire and take a little water and sprinkle it to keep it from burning. You had to keep the smoke going on. You had to smoke them out of the house. They couldn’t stand smoke.
 
Guerin: And it did help? Was there an odor?
 
LaFrance: No, it was dry; it didn’t have odor from it. Every time it would catch fire, you’d have to sprinkle it.
 
Guerin: Would you say Ansley was a town?
 
LaFrance: Well, when I was a kid, they must have had 10 or 12, maybe 14 houses. Ansley is a big town: it starts from over here, but it’s about a mile wide and a mile or mile and a quarter long, and all that’s cut in streets, but now it’s just that one road running through it.
 
Guerin: Your father was raised here?
 
LaFrance: No, my daddy was from Point a la Hache, Louisiana. My mother was raised here. My daddy come here, he was 17 years old and she was 14 years old when they got married. And she was raised right here. She was a Ladner; her mother was a LaFontaine and her daddy was a Ladner.
 
Guerin: Did you speak French when you were little?
 
LaFrance: No. I hated it.
 
Guerin: Did your mother?
 
LaFrance: Yes, all the family. All of them spoke French, but I hated it. The reason why I hated it, I had two uncles, married to my aunts, and neither one of them could speak French, and they [the aunts] would just rattle that French away, and they would sit up there like fools, and that used to burn me up. I could understand it, but just never did speak it. Her granddaddy would speak French pretty near all of the time but I just never did take it up.
 
Guerin: Going back to your early childhood, was there still some Indians living around here?
 
LaFrance: The most Indian family I knew of was the Favre family. My grandmother, she was part Indian too. Her mama was Indian, she was a Favre.
      You know where Napoleon cemetery is now, since they moved it? When they built NASA, they moved. Part of it is on Napoleon Road, between Hwy 10 and Napoleon, and part of it is in Pearlington. When I worked for Bert Courege, when he was supervisor, I was a foreman for him for six years. I went up there where they moved it. The saplings had took over, and the graves had caved in and all that, so I did it over. I cut all the saplings. August Holden had given a piece of ground, so I went up there and took all the saplings and cleaned it all off. I dug some ditches and stacked the mud up in the yard and done all the graves over, built all the graves up again. They use the white sand to dress the graves up. When I was foreman, I’d get permit to go up and get it and bring it to the cemetery. From a kid, my grandmother always did that. And another thing they did, they would never burn a candle until All Saints night and they would stay there until 10 or 11 o’clock until every candle, everything was burnt. My grandmother wouldn’t go home with us unless all those candles was burnt. They had maybe two candles to each grave.
 
Guerin: Where does the name “Poss” come from?
 
LaFrance: Well, my uncle started that – most everybody knows me by the name of Poss. Ask lots of people about Jules LaFrance, they don’t know him.
 
Guerin: Tell me about the hurricane in 1969 – Camille. I understand you have an interesting story about your boat.
 
LaFramce: I bought that boat in ’53. We went up the river the morning before the hurricane hit. We went up the river in ’65 [Betsy] and then we had to go up the river again in ’69. ’69 was really bad.
 
Guerin: You took boats up from where?
 
LaFrance: I had about 20 skiffs, and I had a big old bait boat – that was a big skiff that we carried bait in, about 24-foot long, 7-foot wide – there was a 10-foot well in it and we kept it full of holes. We carried live shrimp in it. And I had a boat from my brother-in-law.
 
Guerin: So you tied them together?
 
LaFrance: We tied them all together, and went on up the river. It took us three hours to pull them up there.
 
Guerin: So it must have looked like a parade.
 
LaFrance: Oh, it did. I had the big skiff first and then I had all the little skiffs, and I had his boat – he had about a 26-foot boat – I had it on the side of mine.
 
Guerin: Where did you stay when Camille hit?
 
LaFrance: Just on this side of NASA. The river had a bad curve in it and NASA cut it straight through. The cut that big curve out and we went in that curve and there is where we anchored.
 
Guerin: And you stayed on the boat?
 
LaFrance: We stayed on the boat.
 
Guerin: Tell me about it. Was it at night when it came through?
 
LaFrance: It was at night. We went in there and they had two big cypresses and part of it was in the river – they were big old cypress, I reckon maybe 24 inches, maybe bigger – I anchored right along side them cypresses. I put three lines out. I put one on the front, one on the side, and one on the back. It was cutting up, it just sounded like jets was running over us, through the woods, you know? And they had a big, big live oak – not a live oak, but a pin oak – and the wind – I could see that tree move, and I had a boy with me, Bobby, and he was with me – from Hattiesburg, and I had the spotlight on it and I said, “Bobby, The tree is going to go.” So I cranked the boat up, and all I could do, I could go out there and wade out there and untie it and everything, so I just backed off, took all the slack I could get out of that rope and that big old tree, it just came down. Missed the bow of that boat by about three foot. So about 12 o’clock, it calmed down. It got calm, calm, so I told him, I said, “Well, let’s go to bed now. That’s the eye of the storm. So we crawled up in the bunks and went on to sleep. The next morning we got up and from where we were parked on the left hand side of that river, we was headed back this way – from the right side of that river on just as far as you could look, everything was laid down.
 
Guerin: And what about the little boats, those skiffs that you had towed?
 
LaFrance: We had them all tied along the river. We kept them all.
 
Guerin: Where was Mrs. LaFrance at the time?
 
LaFrance: She went to Waveland, she had a sister living at Waveland, and her brother Alphonse and her stayed with her sister and brother-in-law. She said that little house would just pick up and rattle… So then the bridge, the 90 bridge stuck, so we come down from up the river the next day, and couldn’t get out. The bridge was stuck. So I went to see CA Russ – he was the supervisor there at one time – I worked for his daddy, Charley Russ and then I worked for him – and I went over there and he told me, “Look, get one of them trucks and go see about your wife.” We got the truck and we went on down to Hwy 90 and we got to Waveland, and you couldn’t hardly get through the trees yet to go around them – trees and stuff, and we got there, and my dad done told everybody that we was lost, that we drowned. I had a ship-to-shore, but you couldn’t get out of that slough, I ket calling, calling, calling, SOS, asking “can anybody pick us up?” Never could get out, and I’m used to talking to the camp, nine miles out. Nobody ever could pick us up.
 
Guerin: You mentioned the Russ name. You know that’s and old name in the county. One Russ sold Christian Koch his land, and I know you know of the Koch family.
 
LaFrance: Yeah, oh yeah, I knew Aunt Nettie.
 
Guerin: Someone at Bordage fishing camp recently mentioned Russ Island. Is that the same as Point Clear Island?
 
LaFrance: No, no. You can go from here and go through this pass there – years ago, they called it Fig Orchard on this side. The bank owns a piece of ground there that belonged to the Russes on this side, on the north side. Russ is just on the other side of the railroad, between – you know where Bayou Pistache is [?] – after you leave Bordage’s there is a bayou you turn to the right. It is a small bayou. On this side of the bayou, between there and the railroad, it runs all the way to the railroad. It runs all the way across. That’s Russ’s. That’s called Russ’s Island; they had a big house there.
 
Guerin: There was a big house?
 
LaFrance: Oh yeah. Bordage’s uncle – they called him Johnny Lakeshore – I don’t know why, but they called him Johnny Lakeshore, but he was a Bordage – he used to take care of that. He trapped the land, and he’d take care of the house over there.
 
Guerin: But the house is gone now.
 
LaFrance: Oh yeah, the house is gone.
 
Guerin: Whose house was it originally?
 
LaFrance: It belonged to the Russes. I imagine it went in the ’47.
 
Guerin: But there is some high land back there?
 
LaFrance: Oh yeah. You go right on through here, and there’s a road turns off before you get to the cemetery. It goes through what they call   ? Pasture, and when you cross the track, you’re in Russ’s.
 
Guerin: I’ve been to the cemetery, but I don’t remember a road to the right.
 
LaFrance: Yeah, there’s a house. When you pass that house, that’s my nephew’s house, where my grandmother lived. That old house is her house. I don’t know how old it is. My cousin has got a house there, and the old house is right by it. On the corner of that road, you go on through that pasture, you go across the railroad track. I haven’t been back there in years. The last guy had cattle roaming. He run a bunch of cattle in there. They got rid of the cattle. My cousin was telling me, you can’t even ride a horse through there anymore, it got so thick, bushes and stuff.
 
Guerin: Did that road dead-end?
 
LaFrance: It went on up to the old house, you see. They had a big well in there, an artesian well and a big house up there.
 
Guerin: Did that road connect up with anything else. 
 
LaFrance: No, it just went down to that house.
 
Guerin: Well, I might still drive down to the right turn, just to see your grandmother’s house.
 
LaFrance: I think they’ve got a gate there now. I don’t know if they’ve got it locked or not, but they’ve got a gate, just when you pass my cousin’s house.
If you want to go up to the cemetery over there, they’ve got [?].  Ladner. They’ve got it on a big stone over there.
 
Guerin: Yes, I found Cadet LaFontaine’s grave there.
 
LaFrance: Yes, that’s the old man.
 
Guerin: He settled this area, right? And that’s how Bayou Caddy got its name?
 
LaFrance: The way I understood it, when he first come here, he settled at Point Cadet, Biloxi. He left from there on a schooner and come up Bayou Caddy, and when it got so narrow, he got to this hill, and there’s where he built that house. That’s just past the graveyard, that same road I was telling you about. Just inside that gate was his house.
 
Guerin: Is that house still standing?
 
LaFrance: No. His son, old man Raymond LaFontaine, he had a log house right here, just across the railroad. Raymond and Celeste and [Siss?] – two sisters; one married Falco and one married Riemann [?]. All this land in here was Caddy LaFontaine’s land. All this land in here belonged to them. At that time, they homesteaded all that stuff.
 
Guerin: Do you know how he managed to survive in here?
 
LaFrance: No. I imagine he done like the Indians, he just hunted and lived off the land. I reckon that’s what they did.
 
Guerin: Tell me how you found the anchor that is in your front yard.
 
LaFrance: Well, we was catching bait, live bait. We catch shrimp in the river, down below the bridge and up above the bridge. South of the bridge and north of the bridge. So these Bordages, Ray told me, he told me there is something across the river there, you’ve got to make that bend before you drop over there. He said, “I lost nets there.” So this time we [went] up the river there, but I don’t know why, the boy threw the net overboard. We just left it out. We was 200 foot, 300 foot above the bridge. I saw this old schooner there for years, not the whole schooner, but part of it, you know. It was on this flat, and every time the march would catch afire, it would burn down to the water. So it just got so old it just disappeared. It had been down there for years. They had a factory down there at English Lookout.
 
Guerin: What did they make at that factory?
 
LaFrance: Oysters. That’s where the mail boat would come in. I can’t remember that factory. So, anyhow, this schooner must have come to that factory delivering oysters. Anyhow, I hooked this thing, and we just couldn’t get loose of it. We pull and see-saw, pull and see-saw, pick it up, pick up and almost sink the back of it, and pull and pull. I had a boy working with me, a deck hand, Jerry, and he hollered to me, “We moving it, not much but we moving it.” So I noticed the bank and I could see us moving, just a little bit. So I tried to pick it up and couldn’t get it up. So anyhow, they had a guy in there – Dean – he was in there shrimping with his little boat. He said, “Wait a minute. I’ll pick up and come back and help you.” And he did. He went down the river and picked up and he come back and took his winch and he hooked to it too and he pulled it, kinda back, and we set it on the back of this boat, on the platform of the boat. And we come back to the house with it, and I said I don’t know how I’m going to get it off. So, I backed the boat up to the wharf, and I went and got the truck at the house, and I hooked to it and I pulled it off on the ground.
 
Guerin: It’s about five feet tall. It must weigh a few hundred pounds.
 
LaFrance: I imagine that it did. It’s about half ate up. It had no barnacles on it.
 
Guerin: It must have been down in the mud.
 
LaFrance: Yeah, it must have been in the mud.
 
Guerin: When did you find it?
 
LaFrance: I bought the boat in ’53. It must have been sometime in the ‘60’s.
 
Guerin: Tell me again about the boat.
 
LaFrance: There was a fellow had a camp, Charley Hills. He told me about this boat. They used to go fishing on this boat. So he told me, he said, “Poss, I know a man down at Shell Beach. He’s got a fine boat…. The boat’s just been tied up there about a year.” So, I got my brother-in-law, Alphonse Dorn, and went down to Shell Beach. We saw the boat and found the old man, and went and talked to him. I asked him if he wanted to sell it and he said “yes” and he went with us and we went down and looked at it. It was dried out and had been setting there. It had a six-cylinder Chrysler engine in it, an old engine. He said that the boy had changed the oil in it. He cranked it up. So, I said, “How much do you want for it?” He said, “I want $3,500 for it.” I said, “Mister, I’m sorry. I’m going to tell you the real truth, now. I got $3,500 on me, but I’ve got to have money for gas. Now if you want $3,200 for it, I’ll take it right now.” But he said, “No. I can’t take that. I’ve got to have $3,500.” I said, “Well, if I give you $3,500, I wouldn’t have no money to put gas in it.” So, my brother-in-law and I come back. It was on a Sunday. Hills was still at the camp, so he said, “Did you get the boat?” I said, “No. The man wanted $3,500 for it, and I don’t have that kind of money. I’ve got every nickel I’ve got – $3,500 – but I had to have enough money to put gas in it to bring us back. So he said, “Let me talk to him for you.” So I said all right. So the following Saturday he come into the camp and told me, He said, “The old man told me to come get that boat.” I got my brother-ion-law and the next day we headed to Shell Beach. I paid him off, and put gas in it. My brother-in-law got on the boat, and he carried it to the camp.
 
Guerin: How long did you keep that boat?
 
LaFrance: I sold the boat with the camp. The name was the Mabel L.
 
Guerin: After your wife?
 
LaFrance: Yes. That was a fine little boat. All cypress. And it was shallow. You could get in any of them bays – it was 35 foot long.
 
Guerin: What was the draft?
 
LaFrance: You could get it in 18, 20 inches of water.
 
Guerin: Was that what they call a Biloxi schooner?
 
LaFrance: A Biloxi type boat.
 
[Mr. LaFrance shows picture of his grandfather on horseback, alongside a team of oxen pulling a “caralog.”]
LaFrance: That’s my granddaddy, on the horse, and the horse’s name was Billy. And this is what they call a caraolog. And this is the tail cart. Do you see the sack of feed. That was to feed the oxen. You see the yokes on the oxen? This Lucich, a blacksmith who used to live and work on Lakeshore Road, would make them yokes.
 
Guerin: It looks like eight oxen.
 
LaFrance: That’s what they call a four. Two oxen to a yoke.
 
Guerin: Were those oxen easily trained?
 
LaFrance: Yes, this was the lead oxen. That was a special yoke. This is the one you’d talk to, and the rest would follow.
 
Guerin: About this caralog. Would they get the log up from underneath?
 
LaFrance: Yes. This is the winch, right here. Do you see that pole? That chain went down enough with two hooks. That fellow Bill Lucy made the hooks. When they would grab the log, you would come down with that pole, that chain would roll and pick that log up. When you’d pull that pole, that pole would pick that log up.
 
Guerin: So it was a lever.
 
LaFrance: Yes. And you’d tie that lever down.
 
Guerin: And your grandfather, did he have a mill of his own?
 
LaFrance: No, he hauled logs for little mills. They had a little mill at Lakeshore – Krankey’s saw mill. And what they’d do with this thing, they would haul these logs over any landings – they got two or three landings back there – and when they would get wet they would throw them overboard and put five of them together, and take a pole and nail them on each end and then chain them together. And catch a tide falling, and then pole them down to the mill.
 
Guerin: They would push-pole?
 
LaFrance: Yes, they would push-pole along the banks.
 
[Mr. LaFrance shows an advertisement from the Sea Coast Echo of January 4, 1896, mentioning the April sale by Christian Dorn of the English Lookout post office.]
 
Guerin: What would a good ox sell for in your day?
 
LaFrance: I don’t know, but I can tell you what we used to get for a cow.  Five dollars. Three dollars for a calf, and it had to be a damn good calf, too. When they would get killed on the railroad track, we would get eight dollars. But they had two brothers – they would come all the way from Bay St. Louis to butcher a cow, throw a sheet over it, go back and put it in the ice house, and next day take it down to Main St. and sell it. They would go from here to Bay St. Louis with a horse and wagon with a cow with just a sheet thrown over it. It would take all day long.
 
Guerin: Was that in the summertime?
 
LaFrance: [Laughing} Yeah!
 
Guerin: Tell me a little more about logging. How long would it take a man to cut a good size tree?
 
LaFrance: Two men. They would use a cross-cut saw. They had a man every day who would do nothing but file saws. Bill Dawsey was the saw filer. You got five cents a log. They had 8, 9, 10 sets of saws. A tree about the size I showed you would take them about five minutes. We walked miles, and worked all day. You’d take a jug of water with you, and go back to it this time of day, and…we’d go to the bayou or a stump hole and knock the grass and those minnows out of it, and drink right out of that hole.
      They had a measuring stick at the mills, and it had numbers on it. You’d get the diameter [of the log] and its length, and that stick would tell you the board feet.
     At the little schoolhouse, we didn’t have no water, no toilet. They had a spring right there in front of the little church. We had to fill up that jug of water and carry it all the time. Our school was just past the church there. One teacher. Miss Krankey was one teacher. No toilets. You had to go to the woods out there. I didn’t even finish third grade.
 
                                                       ************
 
(Two hours with Poss had passed very quickly. The interview ended with a smile, a firm handshake, and an invitation to return anytime. Knowing the sincerity of that suggestion, the interviewer will probably do just that. – RBG)
 

Epilogue:

 
Poss has since died.
I visited him in his hospital room shortly before his death and presented him with a framed photo of himself standing next to the admiralty anchor, which he had donated to the historical society.
As he was during life, he was ready and resigned at the end. His memory and his voice were still strong. He was accepting, as was his custom.
RBG