Rayne, LA: the Frog Capital of the World

Don’t get sentimental about it, they’re for eating. I feel vaguely bad about eating frog legs, I always picture little disabled frogs rolling around the bayou in tiny wheelchairs. I mean, I know they kill them when they cut the legs off, and it’s not like I think being dead is preferable to being legless. It’s just that my brain is a bizarre place. But they are tasty–like a chicken and a fish had a baby. It’s about 35 minutes’ drive from Abbeville, north in Acadia Parish.

Saint Joseph's "wrong way" cemetery

St. Joseph’s Cemetery is “backwards”: they dug the graves north-to-south, and burials in every other Catholic cemetery in the world (as far as is known) are done east-to-west. They’re supposed to face the rising sun, symbol of Christ’s resurrection. No one knows why they did it; probably it was just an accident and by the time they realized they’d fucked up it was too late to do anything about it.

Saint Joseph's "wrong way" cemetery

Open mausoleums always disturb me. Either they’re vampires that never came back (or zombies?), or they got yanked out and thrown on the trash heap because their descendants stopped making payments. This is one of the reasons I want to be cremated.

Saint Joseph's Catholic Church stained glass

Stained glass in the church. The pelican is the state bird of Louisiana, but it’s also a heraldic device that conveys self-sacrifice for the greater good: in medieval times, pelicans were thought to feed their young with their own blood.

Hoyt's German Cologne mural on the 5 & 10 Worthmore building

There are a lot of murals in the town, most of them frog-related. This one looks old, it was on the Five & Ten Worthmore Building, which has been in business since 1936. That’s right, Rayne has an actual Five & Ten store. (Also, the ice cream store sells bubblegum cigarettes. It’s like the Town That Time Forgot.) I’m halfway convinced that the store is some kind of museum underwritten by the town, because most of the merchandise looks like it’s been sitting on the shelves since Nixon was in the White House. All the plastic wrap had gone yellow and brittle.

Hoyt’s Cologne is often used in Hoodoo, mostly in things to do with gambling. (It does sometimes occur to me that Hoodoo practitioners might not need works to attract money quite so often if they gambled a little less.) There was no Hoyt’s Cologne inside, but they had a pretty cool little religious section. Other than a few frog tchotchkes that they probably sell during the Frog Festival, it looked like the only merchandise that people actually buy. They had some items that I’ve never seen at the Catholic bookstores, like a Seven African Powers medal–that’s more of a Santeria thing–and a Saint Expedite holy card. He’s an official Roman Catholic saint, but Catholic bookstores never seem to carry his stuff. Probably because he’s such a favorite of spirit workers.

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