The Cardinal and Mr. Smith’s Plane

Stories from the Creekbank is the first short story collection from author Curt Iles


The bird crashed into the plate glass window. My friend and I walked over to where a red cardinal lay on the grass.

She said, “It’s dead.”

“Let’s watch for a while. I’ve seen birds, knocked silly from a collision, get up, wobble around, and fly off.”

But it was evident this cardinal’s flying days were over. He was D.O.A.

I took his body home, and my young granddaughter joined me for a backyard bird funeral.  Don’t laugh. I’ve officiated at many animal funerals in my life.

Pondering the cardinal’s sudden death, I thought about this: he wasn’t eaten by a cat, starved to death during a harsh winter, or wasted away by disease.

Mr. Cardinal died doing what he loved best: flying.

* * *

Then I recalled the story of James Smith, Jr. and his flight over Dry Creek.

In early December 2000, Jim Smith took off from an Austin, Texas area airport, bound for Gainesville, Florida. He was flying to the manufacturer’s plant of his Team Tango experimental plane.

Mr. Smith, an experienced pilot, had retired from the military as well as school teaching. At age 73, he still enjoyed flying and adventure.

I’m sure he was proud of his plane.

Flying solo across the South.

The wind in his hair.

A contented smile on his face as passed over the vast pine forests that cover Southwest Louisiana.

Then something happened as he flew over my hometown of Dry Creek. Folks heard the plane’s engine sputtering as it came over low in the clouds.

This was followed by a loud crash in Bundick Swamp.

The next day, searchers found Mr. Smith’s body and his plane in Bundick Creek.

* * *

A few days later, I hiked into the swamp to the crash site. The fuselage was buried in the creek, but there were no broken limbs along the bank. Evidently, the plane had plummeted straight down.

Bundick Creek is a very special stream in my life.  It’s where I learned to swim and was the site of baptisms during my childhood. My Dad and I set trot lines along it, and it was always a good spot to crawl up on wood ducks.

I sat on the Bundick sandbar and wondered about this man named Jim Smith whose life ended near the community I love.

I never met him, but I know I would’ve liked him, and I believe he would’ve liked a place called Dry Creek.

In the end, James A. Smith, Jr.  was a man who lived life to the fullest, even to the end. He was doing exactly what he loved best- flying.

There are all kinds of ways to die at 73. Most of them involve a slow decline in health.  That slow creeping death never touched Mr. Smith. His life didn’t end in a nursing home or on hospice.

The chances are slim that we’ll live and die doing what we were born to do.

Mr. Smith did, and I guess so did the red cardinal.  Flying.

Two life lessons.

A plane flying low over Bundick Swamp in Dry Creek, Louisiana.

A red cardinal buried in my backyard.

Aunt Mollie and The Big Fire. Excerpts from “The Wayfaring Stranger.”

Ten Mile Fire

Perkins Road Ten Mile, Louisiana

The Wayfaring Stranger

Excerpts from Chapter 42:  The Ten Mile Fire

Aunt Mollie and the Big Fire

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Yesterday, I drove through the devastation of the Ten Mile Fire, which burned 8,000 acres along the Rapides/Vernon Parish lines.  

Ten Mile refers to the creek that winds its way across our section of the Piney Woods.  Ten Mile Creek received its name because it is ten miles from Sugartown, the earliest settlement in Louisiana’s Neutral Strip.  

The Ten Mile Fire burned for nearly a week among the vast acreages of pine plantations. It was a fire previously unseen in Louisiana as it raced through the crowns of large pines.  It showed no respect for roads, dozer lanes, and even backfiring. It took on a life of its own before finally being contained. 

 I saw an equally amazing sight as I drove was how many homes were spared.  This was partly due to surrounding pastures, but much of the credit goes to local fire departments who worked day and night keeping water on roofs and siding as the flying embers spread the fires.

As surveyed the destruction, I thought about Aunt Mollie, a fictional character in my first novel, The Wayfaring Stranger (2007).

In Chapter 42, the hero of the book, Joe Moore, rescues the widow Aunt Mollie Weeks from a raging fire in Ten Mile.

This account, from my imagination, takes place in 1849 in the same region where last week’s fire burned. Continue reading “Aunt Mollie and The Big Fire. Excerpts from “The Wayfaring Stranger.””

Full Chapter 42 of ‘The Wayfaring Stranger: The Big Fire

The Wayfaring Stranger    The Big Fire

Full. Chapter 42

Joe Moore was making what he called his “firewood rounds”: he would go by Aunt Mollie’s, then the Sweats, and finally Miz Girlie’s. By the end of the day, he would have supplied every family with plenty of smaller sticks for the wood stove, as well as larger ones for the fireplace. In return, he would have a bag full of canned vegetables, meat, and supplies on his return home.

He was at Girlie’s house. A big red oak had blown down during the ice storm and it would supply enough wood for the remainder of the winter. Catching his breath, he stopped, leaning on his ax. It was a cold, windy day, perfect for chopping wood.

He watched Miz Girlie scampering about the yard and could easily tell she was troubled about something. A dead giveaway was when she puffed rapidly on her pipe. Watching her now, Joe thought she looked like one of those steamboats he’d seen on the river.

He dropped his ax and walked to the house. ”Miz Girlie, something’s bothering you. What is it?”

She refused to look at him but spoke, “I’m just troubled in my heart, Joe. I had a bad dream last night when the weather changed. This north wind has an evil feel to it that I can’t put my hand on. I’d swear I smell smoke in it.”

The cold front had moved through during the night. It didn’t have a great deal of rain in it, but the subsequent cold wind that it brought was unusually strong. By noon that day, the wind had only intensified and was blowing down pine straw and small limbs.

As Girlie stood staring off, Joe commented, “This is the strongest wind I’ve seen since arriving in America. It does remind me of how the wind often blew near the sea back home.”

Girlie continued, “This is an evil wind. If fire breaks out anywhere, with all of the limbs and trees down from that ice storm back in December and the grass being killed by those heavy frosts, it could mean trouble for everyone.”

Continue reading “Full Chapter 42 of ‘The Wayfaring Stranger: The Big Fire”

Suzie Q

Somewhere in China.      October 2003

I’ll always remember her dark unforgettable eyes.

We only met once in a bustling train station, and I never got her name. I don’t recall her speaking since we had a language barrier and a brief visit.

This young Chinese woman was in danger, meeting four Americans.

Our contact told us she would meet us at the local train station. A young woman approached, followed by two porters shouldering a bamboo pole with four heavy bags. 

Her eyes darted back and forth nervously as several policemen stood nearby. She handed our leader a cell phone and four train tickets.  Then she looked into our eyes as if to say, “Now, I’ve done my part.  It’s time for you to do yours.”  

Without a word, she waved us toward the crowded train platform.  

Then she turned and walked away, never glancing back.


The four bags contained hundreds of ziploc bags containing DVDs of The Jesus Film* in the heart language of her people.  For the first time, they would see and hear the story of Jesus in their native tongue.

Continue reading “Suzie Q”

Early Chapters on ‘Where We All Belong’

Where We All Belong


Curt Iles














“A prisoner of war is someone who was trying to kill you, but then asks you not to kill him.”

—Winston Churchill


13 May 1943

Tunisia, North Africa


“The first five minutes of a POW’s captivity determines whether he lives or dies.”


German Wehrmacht Korporal Noah Becker stood in the North African sun surrounded by a half circle of grim-faced American soldiers. Slowly lowering his weapon to the ground, he raised his hands as he was prodded along with five other prisoners.

Noah limped due to grenade shrapnel in his left leg. The grenade had killed two of his comrades and wounded the others. He was the only one who could walk.

An officer approached the American GIs, giving a series of commands in English. A tall, sunburned GI motioned to them, “Move, Jerry,” as they were marched behind a nearby sand dune. 

Noah knew the fear of death, but this was different. He was no longer a soldier but a prisoner of war. Killing him would not result in any great victory for the Allies.

As Noah awaited his fate, another squad of GIs approached. The two groups had a heated discussion. Finally, the tall GI waved to the prisoners, and they joined a long line of Afrika Korps POWs filing into a large, barbed-wire cage. 

Noah was relieved at being spared but had no idea what awaited him.

One thing he knew for sure: The War was over for him.







May 1943


Sisters Emma and Maggie Loewer stood on the depot platform in Crowley, Louisiana, waiting for the afternoon train. They were there to pick up a thresher part for their family’s rice farm.

The passenger train arrived, screeching to a halt, and the sisters walked to the freight car. This New Orleans-bound train was scheduled for a thirty-minute stop, just enough time for passengers to stretch, smoke, or grab a bite to eat. 

A passenger door opened, and five laughing GIs, dressed in crisp uniforms, stepped off the train.

Maggie whispered. “I’ve never seen Colored soldiers before.”

“Me neither.” 

The GIs walked to a nearby cafe, stopping in front of a sign over the entrance: Whites Only.   

Maggie and Emma were close enough to gauge their reaction. The largest soldier, obviously the leader, took one last drag on his cigarette, stubbing it out on the sidewalk. “We’re on our way to fight a war for our country, and we’re still not welcome in an American café.”

Continue reading “Early Chapters on ‘Where We All Belong’”

Working Titles on ‘A Louisiana Journey’ Series Book 1: ‘Where We All Belong’

Where We All Belong is the first book in a three-book series, A LOUISIANA JOURNEY.


A LOUISIANA JOURNEY  will consist of three books:

Where We All Belong   A German POW, Noah Becker, comes to Louisiana during War World II and finds a new life and new love.

The American Woman  Louisiana girl Maggie Loewer travels to war-torn Germany to find and marry her true love, Noah Becker.

A Promise Kept     Noah Becker and Maggie Loewer build a life together in the rubble of a new Germany.


You can learn how you can be an early reader and be involved in Where We All Belong at


“Back Cover Copy” of our upcoming novel Where We All Belong

Where We All Belong

A Novel by Curt Iles


Visit to read “Early Reader” Chapters


Back Cover 


“Hitler said we’d march across America. He just forgot to tell us we’d be carrying shovels instead of rifles.”


During  World War Ⅱ, over 200,000 German prisoners of war, primarily members of Rommel’s famed Afrika Korps, were shipped to America.


Where We All Belong begins with the long journey across the LONG VOYAGE   SEA  of German POW Noah Becker. After a host of difficulties,  Becker lands in a Louisiana POW camp.


Where We All Belong is the story of two young people caught up in the life-changing years of World War II.


It was a remarkable time with remarkable people.


Maggie Loewer is fighting her own war on the home front.  Her family are German-American rice farmers in South Louisiana struggling to keep their farm going during the manpower shortages and difficulties.


It was a time when enemies became friends.


During the 1944 rice harvest, POWs are sent to work on local farms where there is a wartime shortage of manpower.  They work alongside the Americans to help bring in the rice crop.  In spite of the war, friendships are built and relationships bloom.

The sparks fly when Noah Becker and his friends are sent to the German-American hamlet of Mowata, Louisiana 


Everyone needs a place to belong.


That’s when Noah meets Maggie Loewer, and they begin a forbidden romance opposed by everyone except each other.


Sometimes the greatest battles take place far from the front.


As in his first thirteen books, Curt Iles’ warm and poignant storytelling style brings two different cultures together on the homefront during America’s greatest war.


“You cannot make up a story better than the Truth.” Introduction to ‘Where We All Belong’ by Curt Iles

Where We All Belong

by Curt Iles



You cannot make up a story better than the truth. 


Mowata rice farmer Jimmy Loewer shared the following story:


In the 1960’s a car drove up to his family farm and a well-dressed middle-aged couple stepped out. The man pointed at the farm’s windmill.  Jimmy’s visitors were a German couple visiting America. The man had returned to this spot to show his wife where he worked as a POW during the War.

He turned to Jimmy and in passable English said, “I remember the windmill and this house. We worked during the rice harvest that year, and the American couple at this house treated us well.

The German rubbed his head. “It was in 1944 and the wife of the house was pregnant.”

Jimmy Loewer smiled. “That woman was my mother and she was pregnant with me.”

As I said, you cannot make up a story better than the truth.


As you read Where We All Belong, you’ll find a woven tapestry of stories like Jimmy’s woven into this historical novel.  It’s set against a remarkable time in Louisiana.

As the reader, you are welcome to separate the facts from fiction.  

As for me, I choose to believe it all happened.


Curt Iles

Fall 2023


Dry Creek, Louisiana

Alexandria, Louisiana


Visit to read chapters, back cover copy, and series ideas.

Upcoming: Where We All Belong



Many of you are curious about our upcoming novel, Where We All Belong.  We are currently putting the finishing touches on this 94,000-word novel. (that translates to about 370 pages.)

We are in the most challenging phase of publishing a book: finding an editor/publishing house.

I’d appreciate your prayer that God will open doors and Where We All Belong will find the right home.

Here are the current details:

One Word: Belonging

One Sentence:  A German POW comes to Louisiana during World War II and discovers love and friendship.

Three-Paragraph Synopsis: 

Noah Becker is a member of the German Afrika Korps captured in North Africa in 1943. His arduous journey across the Atlantic and America ends in a small Louisiana POW camp. Due to the severe manpower shortage, Noah and his fellow POWs are sent to work on local farms, and it is there where Noah meets Maggie Loewer.

Maggie is an older teenager on a hard-working family rice farm in Mowata, Louisiana.  Her family is German-American, and Maggie must fight through the prejudices, challenges, and difficulties of the American homefront during World War II.

During the 1944 rice harvest, Maggie and Noah’s lives collide, and the sparks fly.


As always, your questions and ideas help me as I write.  A book is always the result of so many people working together. Your feedback is valued!


Curt Iles

Dry Creek/Alexandria, LA



Rice University’s Connection to Beauregard Parish, La.

NEWS from Rice University.  Used by permission.

12/4/1997 12:06:00 AM

Updated: 31 August 2023

To our knowledge, the entire Rice Land pine timber farm was lost to the Tiger Island fire.

A Growing Tradition: Rice University in Beauregard Parish

The Rice Land Lumber Co. is more than a tree farm: its crop rotation provides a renewable resource and sustained income for the university.

By Christopher Dow
Special to Rice News
December 4, 1997

Let’s take a drive. We’re on the country highway between Merryville and Singer, two small towns in southwestern Louisiana. On either side of the road stand tall pine forests. We stop the car, get out, and breathe deeply of the scented air. To the casual observer, the woods on either side of the two-lane country highway are simply a forest; however, the ordered neatness finally reveals the truth. This is not a forest–it is a farm where trees are cultivated instead of corn wheat or rice. But this farm, known as the Rice Land Lumber Co., is more than a farm, so let’s explore. Let’s take a walk beneath the pines.

When the Civil War ended, this part of the country was completely undeveloped. A few settlers dotted the vast forest of native longleaf pine that stretched across Louisiana and into East Texas, but there were no towns here, no roads or railroads. The federal government owned most of the land and sold it at bargain prices to speculators who promised to develop it. William Marsh Rice joined in the speculation and purchased three tracts in Beauregard Parish totaling 50,000 acres. When Rice died in 1900, the Beauregard Parish property formed a significant portion of his bequest for the establishment of the Rice Institute. The institute’s first board of governors organized the Rice Land Lumber Co. to handle management of the property, and Benjamin Botts Rice, W.M. Rice’s nephew, served as president.

At the time, the land’s main value was in its trees, and during the first decade of the century, timber operations were in full swing throughout the area.

Continue reading “Rice University’s Connection to Beauregard Parish, La.”

The Friendship Land 2023

The Friendship Lane 


                   The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.

                                                             –Henry Boye


This story is about two men who refused to lose their friendship over a difference of opinion.  It is a story worth telling and one worth remembering.

It’s the story of The Friendship Lane in Dry Creek.

It’s now an overgrown narrow path.  There’s little sign that it was once a narrow country road. It is located just east of Dry Creek Camp’s property line.

This path separates the land between the pioneer homesteads of Sereno Hanchey and Lionel Green. These two men, now dead for many years, were descendants of some of the earliest settlers of Dry Creek.

Mr. Rufus Hanchey, Sereno Hanchey’s son, took me to “The Friendship Lane” just before he died.

As we stood there, he related the following story: “Curt, at some point many years ago, there was a difference of opinion between the Hanchey and Green families over where the property line, running east and west, was between our properties. Each family claimed ownership of land that reached over into the other’s present field. Because there was no fence stood as the dividing line, the actual land line was open to dispute.”         

Mr. Rufus continued, “My Dad and Lionel Green had always been good friends, and they valued their friendship more than any piece of land—and showed it by their subsequent actions. They met at the very spot we are now standing and came up with a solution for this problem. They declared the disputed ten-foot-wide strip a “neutral zone.” Each man would build a fence on his respective side of the strip. Together, they agreed on using the strip as a pathway with neither claiming ownership. Due to this arrangement,  both families were satisfied and no further problem ever occurred.”         

 As the son of a land surveyor, I’ve seen some nasty fights between landowners over the difference of a two-foot strip along a fence. Some of the saddest things I’ve ever seen have been the sight of brothers and sisters falling out with each other over inherited land, going to their graves still holding a grudge against a family member. How sad it is when we will let anything, material or temporary, break a priceless relationship with our families or neighbors.

Continue reading “The Friendship Land 2023”

The Most Famous Man in Alexandria

The Most Famous Man in Alexandria.

It was late on a Tuesday night when there was a knock at our door.

I opened the door to see a man about my age, dressed in a loosely-fitting jogging suit and wearing blink on every visible spot of his body.  He had slicked-back hair with a coy smile. I immediately thought he was an insurance salesman or a Baptist evangelist.

He put his hand out. “I’m Jimmie DeRamus, and I used to own this house.”

I hesitantly invited him in, and he plopped on my couch and never stopped talking for the next two hours.  

He talked about the many twists and turns and careers of his life, family, and business ventures.  My favorite was his ownership of a donkey basketball team.

Jimmie DeRamus shared emotionally about the plane accident that killed his son Chad and injured other members of his family.  It was clearly evident this was still a deep source of grief in his life.    Suddenly I felt a surge of empathy. Like all of us, I’ve had grief in my life.

Jimmie said that his son Chad lived on our street before the plane crash.  Jimmie inferred that he’d never driven past the house until tonight.

Continue reading “The Most Famous Man in Alexandria”

Lloyd’s Teeth

Lloyd’s Teeth

Lloyd and Lana have always been one of my favorite couples.  I’ve always described  Lloyd as dapper.  He was impressive to be around.  His wife Lana was equally impressive, always looking twenty years younger than her age and possessing a contagious laugh.

Lana told the following story from the early years of their marriage:

She and Lloyd were on a Florida beach vacation. While enjoying the surf a rogue wave knocked them down and Lloyd lost his false teeth.

They searched the beach daily to no avail.

For the rest of the vacation, Lana ate fresh Gulf seafood, while Lloyd’s eating options were very limited.

Before leaving for home, Lana left their mailing address at their beachfront hotel, and the management promised to mail the teeth should they show up.

Lloyd and Lana never expected to hear from the hotel, so they were pleasantly surprised when a package arrived containing Lloyd’s false teeth.

He put the teeth in. They didn’t fit.


Each time Lana told this story with cackling laughter. Lloyd, always a good sport, grinned sheepishly.

It’s always been one of my favorite stories.

When Lloyd died, Lana asked me to give an eulogy. I was so honored. I asked Lana, “Can I tell Lloyd’s false teeth story?”

“Curt, of course. It would only be fitting for you to share.”

I warned the attendees. “I have Lana’s permission to tell this story, and you have her permission to laugh out loud.”

And they did.


There was so much more to my friend Lloyd Weldon than his false teeth. He was a man of character, a hard worker who provided for his family, and a Godly man. Lloyd was a dedicated and wonderful husband and father. 

I’m so glad he was my friend.