National Geographic : 2005 Nov
MAURICE, LOUISIANA sugarcane fields-it's difficult to imagine anyone walking anywhere. Maurice must have felt more like a town a few decades ago, before Mau rice Avenue got widened into a double lane and before Lafayette began creeping relentlessly along 167 toward the southern border of Lafayette Parish, as if stepping out to the beat of "March of the Strip Malls." Mau rice is just over the line, in Vermilion Parish, and traditionally it looked more toward Abbeville-the Vermilion Parish seat, which is about eight miles south-than it did toward the much larger city of Lafayette. Its motto is still "Gateway to Vermilion Parish," but a lot of its residents now get on 167 every morning and drive to work in Lafayette. The mayor of Maurice, Barbara Picard, who came to town as a bride 50 years ago, told me that when she arrived, the place was populated by people named Picard or Broussard or Trahan or Villien. All of those families are Cajun-descendants of the French settlers driven out of Nova Scotia by the British in the middle of the 18th century who eventually found a home in south-central Louisiana. Until recent years, the way a new house might come to Maurice was that some young Trahan, say, would build on a lot his mother's cousin had inherited years back from a great-uncle named Picard. Maurice is still palpably Cajun and still full of people living where their families have always lived. The City Bar, now run by the fourth generation of Trahans-Matthew Trahan, who is also chief of the volunteer fire department-is next door to the office of a dentist named David G. Trahan and down the street from Trahan's Barber Shop. One restaurant, Mr. Keet's, got its name because the owner was named Keith, and that comes out Keet in a Cajun accent. Soop's, a restaurant run by the Hebert family next to Hebert's Specialty Meats, has as its chef's special, for $13.95, a classic Cajun melange: seafood gumbo, shrimp-stuffed bell pepper, crabmeat au gratin, shrimp etouf fee, french fried potatoes, green salad, and bread. But outsiders are coming to Maurice. Its first STITCH IT Once the turduc large subdivision was just completed. Matthew seasoned, vacuum pac Friends for 30 years, Elaine Broussard and Obey Roy enjoy a Saturday afternoon at Touchet's bar. "People like the place because it's in the country. They can let loose,' says owner Calvin Touchet, who took over his father's business with his wife in 1986 when it was a bar, service station, and barbershop. Every other Saturday Touchet's hosts an all-day-and often all-night-Cajun jam ses sion, where the music and food are free (not the drinks). Calvin hopes his hometown keeps growing. "They quit making land, but they haven't stopped making people," he says. ;ken is put together, it's sewn ked, and frozen.