Transcript of Dry Wood
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Part 1-A Mardi Gras run.
A capitaine (Morris Ardoin) and costumed men gather chickens and other provisions around the community for a gumbo and dancing party. In the opening scene "Bois Sec" Ardoin and Canray Fontenot are at the edge of the group, neither man wearing a costume or mask. Ardoin holds his accordion and Fontenot his fiddle.
Capitaine (speaking in French with English subtitle): You're welcome to a gumbo at the Cowboy Club tonight.
The capitaine throws the chicken into the air for the men to chase, and an accordion begins "The Mardi Gras Song." The Mardi Gras runners travel down the road and make stops in other yards. Musical instruments drop out of "The Mardi Gras Song," and a cappella singing continues in French in a call-and-response style. The singers urge the visited households to "give a lot" (donnez beaucoup).
A man wearing a cowboy hat and jumpsuit comes out of a store and tosses coins onto the ground in front of the masked Mardi Gras group. They are laughing, talking, and singing, mostly in French. The capitaine collects the coins from the men.
Capitaine (in French with English subtitle): Don't put that in your pocket, boys. That's the law for you.
Onlooker: You all won't see that money again. (Laughter)
One of the Mardi Gras runners shakes the hand of a man in overalls as he walks up, then calls out to Bois Sec.
Runner: Alright, boys, let's go. Come on, boys.
Young boy: Daddy, Daddy!
He tosses a coin he has been holding, catches it and holds out his hand to show the coin to his dad.
Father: Give that to [the capitaine].
The young boy takes the coin over to the capitaine, who is holding a bag of Louisiana Rice, and hands the coin to him. The violin starts up again, playing a waltz. Canray Fontenot is playing "Lovebridge Waltz" as the maskers dance in couples in the driveway in front of the store.
Back in the truck on the road, the Mardi Gras troupe meets a group of Cajun celebrants led by a white capitaine on horseback, wearing a cowboy hat and big black cape and waving a white flag. The men that follow the Cajun capitaine on horseback are singing and drinking beer. They are costumed and masked. Some are young; one is on a pony. The two groups of Mardi Gras celebrants are traveling in opposite directions and exchange greetings in French as they pass.
Young Cajun horseman (singing "The Mardi Gras Song" in French with English subtitle): The Mardi Gras comes but once a year, once a year, asking for charity from the master and mistress, even if it's just a small sweet potato, a small sweet potato and some cracklin'.
Another group of partying Cajun participants approaches, also traveling in the opposite direction. They are sitting and standing on an open trailer pulled by a John Deere tractor. Most are costumed and masked. The tractor driver, in blackface, stops the tractor to tip his hat and speaks in French. The two groups wave, tip hats, and greet each other as they pass. The men riding on the trailer begin to dance to what sounds like recorded music. They are followed by another capitaine also wearing a big black cape and riding on horseback. A Budweiser van follows the cloaked capitaine, playing "Lovebridge Waltz" through loud speakers on top. As the van passes them, through the open rear doors, the men in the truck can see a fiddler playing inside the van.
Part 2-The Gumbo and Dance
Mardi Gras revelers, more subdued, pour water into a kettle cooking over an open wood fire. A woman adds pieces of chicken to the pot.
Woman 1 (in English): That's enough? Okay.
Woman 2: Put some more.
Woman 1: Put it all?
A Dance at the Cowboy Club That Evening
Canray Fontenot and Bois Sec Ardoin's sons are performing the tune "Lachez-les". Fontenot plays fiddle and wears a gold lamé vest. Gustav "Bud" Ardoin sings, plays accordion, and is wearing a gold ruffled shirt. Morris Ardoin is playing a second accordion, and Lawrence "Black" Ardoin is the drummer.
Close-ups of dancing couples, including the sheriff, on the crowded dance floor. None are costumed or masked. Adults and children, including a young girl, sit on pew-like benches around the dance floor's perimeter and watch the dancers. Both dancers and onlookers are dressed up, though not in formal wear.
Part 3-Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras
Inside a Roman Catholic church
The Reverend J. W. Mott: Almighty God, we ask that you send down your blessing on these ashes, which are the burnings of the leaves from Palm Sunday. Grant that these ashes which we distribute on the part of each of those here may remind us that the glory of this world comes to an end, and we must all return to the Father from whom we have come.
"Kumbaya" is sung in the background as the priest marks worshipers on the forehead with ashes.
Section 4-Work, Music, Food, and Family Life
Gustave "Bud" Ardoin is in a flooded rice field, digging troughs in trenches to let water through.
A violin begins playing "Jolie Catin" over a series of vignettes: a close-up of a bow playing across violin strings, a handmade wooden chair sitting empty in a yard, another chair with fishing net draped across the back and two small carved bulls in the seat, Canray Fontenot standing over a wooden sawhorse, deftly mending a net with a wooden tool, close-up of Fontenot's bare foot tapping time to the fiddle tune (a trademark), Fontenot chasing and catching a frog.
Interviewer: Canray, can you tell us the story of your first violin, how you made it?
Fontenot: Oh, yeah. I made it with a cigar box and some piece of cypress. We made a neck, got a neck of a guitar and then we made a bridge. And we had a switch for the bow with some sewing thread for the hair. (He laughs.)
Interviewer: How did you make the strings?
Fontenot: We took some wire from the screen doors and made strings with that. And then we went to the woods and got some pine rosin-pine gum to make the rosin. So that's how I got started with-
A woman scrubs clothes on a washboard, or frottoir.
The film cuts to shots of daily life. First, work in the yard of a sawmill. Loud sounds of electrically powered equipment play over a close-up of bark being stripped from spinning logs. A man is smoking as he feeds logs into the stripper. An electric saw cuts the end of the logs as they travel on conveyer belts. The logs are guided along the conveyer belt, then Alcius "B-5" Fontenot pushes them off the belt and rolls them onto a stack on the ground.
Canray Fontenot drives a tractor, dragging a disk around a field. He is standing at the wheel and he's flying.
Next, to the sound of a violin playing a waltz, a yellow school bus comes down the road beside the field where Fontenot is working. The bus stops at the end of the road, and three of Bois Sec's younger children get off and walk down the road toward the camera. The children, an older girl, boy, and younger girl, are carrying books, talking and laughing.
The film then cuts to children playing baseball with a stick-bat in the large shared yard. A teenage girl in curlers is dancing.
Interviewer: What do you do when you're at home?
Marceline Ardoin: Oh, cook and wash and work in the garden and feed the hogs and chickens, turkeys. And work the flowers, too.
Marceline Ardoin chases a biddy running around under the chicken coop. Sound of little biddy peeps. She uses a net. A young girl catches the biddy with her hands.
Three young girls, one in curlers, are fishing for crawfish with a string in the flooded fields. They talk and laugh quietly together.
Girl 1: He'll bite you?
Girl 2: Don't think so.
Girl 3: Get him, girl. Look, you can see him right there.
Girl 1: Catch him, catch him!
Girl 2: Got him! (Squealing as they handle the crawfish)
Girl 3: He better not bite me.
Boys and one young girl are shooting baskets into a hoop, a bicycle-rim nailed to a tree in yard. A teenage girl in shorts is on the porch. She alternately seems distracted, calls to someone in the yard, and poses. Another teen in curlers stands by a car in the yard, talking to someone in the car. The same young women are with a group of young men, talking and joking about drinking wine. One young man is opening a bottle of wine and offers some to another young man.
Young Man 1: I don't drink.
Young Man 2: Ooohhh! (Laughter)
Morris Ardoin loads seed rice into a seed drill. Canray Fontenot, standing, is driving a tractor pulling a seed drill followed by a disk to bury the seeds. He's driving fast, and dust is flying up.
Bois Sec Ardoin wades through a flooded field with a shovel over his shoulder. A violin plays "Jolie Blonde" as rice shoots come up and the fields become green.
Bud Ardoin is walking down the road with a shovel over his shoulder, whistling "Jolie Blonde." The sound of hunting hounds can be heard in the distance.
Men's party outdoors at night
A group of men are gathered around an open fire cooking gumbo in covered cast iron pots over a wood fire. They stir and taste the gumbo, talking and joking in French.
Man 1: But there're not enough tomatoes
Man 2: Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry.
Man 3: Is this here horse meat or deer meat? It's dark meat, and I don't eat deer meat.
Man: He's used to eating possum, but not armadillo.
Fiddle starts playing "Quo'-Faire." The men laugh and dance with each other. Morris Ardoin plays a piano accordion, Canray Fontenot plays fiddle, and Bois Sec Ardoin plays accordion. The party becomes more raucous as the men become more inebriated. They dance, stage mock fights, roll around on the ground scuffling, throw a snapping turtle around, and fall to the ground drinking.
A young man is trying to get a good shot at a hog kept with several others in a barbed wire pen.
Man (off camera): Go ahead, man, do what you got to do. Kill him.
Woman: He's got to get a good view.
Man: Do what I told you, man. Go ahead and kill him.
The young man shoots the hog between the eyes. The hog falls on his back and begins to quiver. The young man jumps inside the pen and attempts to stick the hog with a long blade knife. B-5 Fontenot and a young boy come into the pen to help.
Woman: Oh, look at all the blood.
The men turn the hog over. Two young women are standing by the pen in curlers watching the boucherie. An ax comes down between the vertebrae of the butchered hog's backbone. As Alcius "B-5" Fontenot chops from the ax methodically separate the vertebrae along the backbone, family members and neighbors tease and encourage him.
Family members: Now you hit it right. That's the first one you hit right. (Laughter)
That's another one he hit right. That's another one! What you say? Now you go! That's it now! Watch your hand! Watch your leg!
"B-5" does a little dance, and everyone laughs. When he finishes, the vertebrae are still connected along the spine, but are separated from each other. A young man carries the prepared backbone away, most likely to make backbone stew.
Family members and neighbors are cooking and tasting sausage as they cut up and prepare the meat. All this work is being done outdoors. Eva Fontenot and a woman in curlers are around a large tub cleaning the intestines for use as sausage casings.
Young woman: I wish I knew how to start that off.
Eva: It's very easy.
The other woman looks away, and Eva casually takes the knife from her hand.
Young woman: Hey, Eva, don't grab that knife like that!
Marceline Ardoin walks by the men as they scrape hair from the hog's skin. The women speak in French.
Woman: How are you?
Marceline: Good, good. Beautiful weather.
Woman: Do you think we'll make it?
Marceline: Oh, yeah.
Marceline Ardoin and three other women, two in curlers, are cleaning intestines to use as sausage casing.
Marceline: I'm pushing all this stuff way down there.
Nearby the men are hanging sides of meat across poles set up in the yard.
Woman 1: I'm not comfortable.
Woman 2: Now you're comfortable?
Woman 1: No. (Laughing)
Woman 2: Well, this isn't something you have to get comfortable to do. Oh, Lord, but it's good to get comfortable.
A violin and accordion begin playing "La Robe Barrée." A young boy primes a pump with a glass jar of water, then vigorously pumps water into a bucket. He refills the jar with water and leaves it for the next priming before taking the bucket of water over to the men scraping the pig's hide.
"La Robe Barrée" continues as the family members and neighbors are cutting meat and making sausage. They are sitting and standing around the kitchen table, trimming meat, talking, and laughing.
Young woman: Alright, Bud, are you going to cut the cracklings?
Men are cooking over an open fire outdoors. Night is falling, and the men are silhouetted against a darkening sky. They are dipping cooked cracklings from the pot.
Man 1: Ooh, they're hot.
Man 2: That's all.
Man 1: C'est tout.
Man 2: Okay. You got it?
They slide a shovel handle under the pot handle to set it aside.
Inside, a young girl holds a crackling. Everyone encourages her to eat it.
Woman: Bite on it, Veronica.
On the porch, a man is cutting the end of the hog's snout off with a hacksaw. In the kitchen, Eva Fontenot demonstrates how to make hog's head cheese.
Eva Fontenot: Just put a little bit of water in it and boil it. Put seasoning in it. There you have your hog's head cheese.
Young man (turning the handle of meat grinder): Hog's head cheese? I thought it was-
Eva Fontenot: Did you ever eat it?
Young man: Me?
Female interviewer: I have.
Eva Fontenot: Did you like it?
Female interviewer: What's your favorite part of the hog?
Eva Fontenot (cutting up green onions): Oh, I think it's the sausage.
Eva Fontenot cooks the combined ground pork and seasonings in a cast iron skillet on top of the stove. She adds other seasoning and stirs.
Eva Fontenot (taking a casserole from stove to table): "Just call us Creole people. I don't know what the definition is. That's the cheese already done."
Male interviewer: What do you do with it now?
Eva Fontenot: You let it cool off and it's ready to eat. As it cools off, it's like a jelly. But you can eat it anyway. But it cools off faster in the refrigerator.
A teenager is eating a forkful of hogshead cheese as Eva is talking.
Male interviewer: Can you tell us how many children you've raised?
Eva Fontenot (laughing): You really mean I'm going to tell you that? Say all that on TV? I had sixteen and I raised fourteen.
Interviewers: Oh, wow.
The women are still in the kitchen, making sausage in a big washtub. As they work they laugh and talk in a combination of French and English. "B-5" Fontenot is talking off-camera with interviewers or camera crew about taking pictures.
Eva (irritated, in French with English subtitle): Every time we butcher a hog, you amuse yourself like it's your birthday. You drink and get drunk and I work! You damned bastard!
B-5: Shut up.
The family is preparing dinner and gathering around the kitchen table.
Eva Fontenot: When I was younger, I thought it was a great thing to be on earth and be alive and be healthy. Because you know the meaning of every day, what it meant. If it was a holiday, the family would get together and they'd stick together. You see, one of my grandmothers, she would cook a big gumbo in a wash pot outside under the trees. She'd hang some meat in front of the fireplace and just broil it. And all the children was playing one side. The men was outside smoking their pipe, their homemade tobacco, and talking. And the women was cooking, baking and cooking in the fireplace and the wood stove. And we had fun. We'd lie on the floor anywhere we could find a place, and we would sleep, get up the next day and just sit around and talk, talk about life. But now we don't have time to do that anymore. If you go somewhere, you've got the television on or put the record player on. But now, the way-life is too fast. If you get together for a holiday or something, they put the women and the children in one place, and the men's leaving to go drinking and come back. You can never say whether I'm going to set the table at eleven o'clock or twelve o'clock. I can't find-half of the family's not there. There's too many cars and too many-it's too fast. If you could bring the old days back-they say old days is past. If I could bring them back, those I remember, I'd bring them back. Because you would enjoy that time. But today-to me, you don't enjoy it because everybody [wants to go further down]. If you stay in one place, they don't want to stay. They want to go [somewhere to see something] else. It's just go and come. But as they grow up there's no jobs here or nothing to do. They're leaving one by one.
The film closes with "Home Sweet Home" playing over the family photos covering the walls inside their home.
Lyrics sung in French with English subtitle on the screen:
"It's time to go home,
And I know that my heart hurts."