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Hospitality, Southern-style

Paul Conrad/Aspen Times Weekly
ALL |

Some of those who lost everything are most willing to share anything.

That’s how is was with our hosts in Pearlington, Sharon and Clyde LeSieur. Hotels in South Mississippi are nonexistent (although moldy FEMA trailers come in abundance). So I wrote to the LeSieurs several weeks ago to ask if photographer Paul Conrad and I could stay in their spare bedroom while assessing the town’s recovery for five days.

I wrote rather than called so they could decline gracefully. They called immediately with a hearty welcome.

The LeSieurs are our kind of people. We met Sharon one month after Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005. The water in the storm surge had swept their one-story house off its foundation and destroyed it and almost all their possessions. The water hookup still existed, so they had gone to the nearest Wal-Mart and bought a washer. Sharon and some friends were drinking Bud Light and washing laundry next to her destroyed home the day we drove by. We had to interview her.

The LeSieurs aren’t the kind of people to sit around wondering what to do after the storm. They applied immediately for a Small Business Administration loan, which were made available to hurricane victims for residential redevelopment. They hope that grants the federal government says it will award for losses will take care of some of their debt. Sharon is 50 and Clyde is 48, but retirement will be postponed to pay the rest.They hired contractors to build one of the first new homes in Pearlington. They moved in June 2006. Their attractive and sturdy one-story home is now elevated 14 feet on pilings. (Their grown son also rebuilt in Pearlington, and their daughter just moved back to town with her own family.)

The LeSieurs’ home was our home when we were in Pearlington. Sharon had heapin’ helpings of Louisiana’s legendary red beans and rice waiting the evening we arrived. Long talks with them added valuable perspective to what we saw and heard about the hurricane recovery in Pearlington.

The highlight came on our last night when they held a crawfish boil. We figured they would throw a few mudbugs in a pot. Instead Clyde went all out by boiling corn, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and onions in an industrial kettle outside his killer workshop and hunting headquarters on their 3-acre property. We were awestruck when he added 46 pounds of live crawfish to the boiling water then stirred the mix with a boat oar.Clyde had fun teaching us mountain boys how to suck the heads and pinch the tales just right.

Good eatin’, good people and good fun. The LeSieurs showed why Pearlington will survive the storm.


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