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Growing up in a Small Community

Growing up in a Small Community: The Rich Life of Mrs. Eva Cole

“Oh, those small communities . . . “

-John Mellencamp

 

I grew up in Dry Creek, Louisiana.

It would be an exaggeration to call it a town.

It would be pretentious to call it a village. Reeves is a village. Dry Creek is a community.

I like the word community.  It denotes belonging and closeness.

It’s the right word for the place where I grew up.

One of the best parts of Dry Creek was how many families I had.  There was my extended family who all lived on our homestead at one time or another: great grandparents, grandparents, uncles, aunts.

Then there were the adoptive families I was part of.  I mean this seriously: there were homes in Dry Creek where I was always welcomed as family: Mrs. Eleanor Andrews, the Kings, Farmers, Ritchie and Ruth Young (Taylor) plus many others.

Then there was the Cole family. The home of Olen and Eva Cole.

Their sons, Danny, Larry Dale, and David were three of my best friends growing up.  Their mother, Mrs. Eva, always made me feel like one of the boys. Their home, on LA. 113 just south of the Dry Creek crossroads, was a natural stop on my daily summer bicycle rides.

 

   I come from Dry Creek, Louisiana: a land of tall pines and good people.

 

Today, I’m returning to Dry Creek where Mrs. Eva’s boys will place her body in Dry Creek Cemetery beside her lifelong friend and husband, Mr. Olen.

There was never a family in Dry Creek more steady and solid than the Coles. Mr. Olen worked at the plants in Lake Charles and probably drove a million miles commuting daily from Dry Creek. He was a big man with a rich voice and big heart.

Mrs. Eva, who was an Airhart before marrying, also came from big stock. She was probably six foot tall in her prime. Like her husband, she had that special kindness that tall people have.

Of course, their boys were big.  Danny, Larry, and David were all over six-foot-four. And what friends (and fun) they were. I cherish their friendship although I seldom see them now.

I’ll see them today. I plan to be there as a witness of the lives of their parents.  I plan to stand with them in their time of grief and farewell.

The legacy cedar tree in Dry Creek Cemetery.

I stood with them on the saddest of days when Mr. Olen drowned in their farm pond.  I can still see the calm way Mrs. Eva took the news.  I knew her heart was broken, but she handled that day with faith, steadfastness, and strength.

I’ve always admired how the three sons (and their wives Renee, Maxine, and Deleta) looked after Mrs. Eva in the years after Mr. Olen’s death.  Danny, Larry, and David, in the best Dry Creek tradition, built homes on their family land along Mill Branch.

Sometimes it takes going away to really appreciate where you came from.  Since leaving Dry Creek, I’ve lived in Africa for three years and Alexandria for over two.  And this self-exile has made me love and appreciate the community I come from more than ever.

And it’s people like Mrs. Eva and Mr. Olen that made the Dry Creek of my boyhood the best place in the whole world to grow up.

May their tribe increase.

Yes, I grew up in Dry Creek.

It’s not a town, nor a village. It’s a community, and it will always be my home.

 

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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