Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Grand Coteau, Louisiana, pop 1,058

I love the town I live in. I grew up a few miles south of here in Lafayette Parish and I've always loved St Landry Parish but I never thought I'd live here.

The anchor of the town is the Academy of the Sacred Heart. The religious order of the Society of the Sacred Heart was founded in France in 1800. The Academy here was established in 1821. It is the oldest of a network of over 200 Sacred Heart schools throughout the world. My cousin, Mary Burns, is currently headmistress. Mary and I are both descendents of Pierre Simeon Patout and Napolionne Pauline Fournier Patout. In 1825 Pierre Simeon Patout emigrated from Ussy, France and established Enterprise Plantation in Iberia Parish, Louisiana. The family continues to run Enterprise Plantation. It is a National Landmark and the oldest continually operating family owned sugar plantation in the United States.

I live accross the street from St Charles College in an updated 150 year old Cajun cottage. St Charles is a Jesuit Novitiate and retreat center. It was founded as a boarding school in 1837. The Jesuits have also operated Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House since 1938.

I love Grand Coteau and it's people but I hate the politics. This has been a bad year for Grand Coteau. Last summer we lost our fire rating. More recently we've been threatened with fines by the Louisiana department of environmental quality. It seems our sewage treatment is not in compliance. We stand to be fined as much as $27,500 for each day we are out of compliance. Our annual budget is only about $500,000. This could wipe that out in a matter of days.


Last summer I joined the Grand Coteau Volunteer Fire Department. I could not justly complain as I was not involved. I had no idea how bad it really is. Now I know. Thankfully we also have the Sunset Fire Department within two miles and the Prairie Fire Department within five. Tomorrow night I will begin attending the meetings of the Sunset Department. I'm hoping they'll allow me to join their department as well. I think cross-breeding would be good for both departments.

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