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Voices from the Bayou,
An Oral History

by Charles W. Frank

Author Charles W. Frank, a long time decoy collector and carver, has devoted many years of his life documenting Louisiana’s wetland heritage, particularly the history of its decoys and decoy makers, writing two books on the subject, “Louisiana Duck Decoys,” published in 1975 and “Wetland Heritage, the Louisiana Duck Decoy,” published in 1985. His third book on the subject, “Voices From the Bayou, An Oral History,” lets the colorful makers of these wonderful floating sculptures and the hard working denizens of the marshes where they were used speak for themselves.
While researching his first two books, Frank conducted many interviews with the aging generation of Cajun decoy makers, including Mitchell LaFrance, Victor Alphonso, Jules Frederick and Charles Joefrau, as well as hunting club managers, family and friends. Most of the interviews were taped in the bayous, where the memories of unlimited bag limits and endless bounty were still alive. These conversations were the foundation for his first two books.
“Voices from the Bayou” is simply a book of 82 transcribed interviews, edited only to “sanitize” some of the language and clarify the Cajun tongue, which allows the reader to savor every word. Frank taped most of the interviews himself, although he included a number that were conducted by David Hall, a former employee of the Federal Wildlife and Fishery Commission, who made them available.
Each of the interviews is preceded by a brief lead in that sets the scene of the conversation and introduces the person being interviewed. Other than to mention that there are roughly 70 black and white photos of the makers, unfortunately of poor reproductive quality, grouped in the center of the book, there is little else to say.
For the author, it’s a nostalgic trip, an opportunity to revisit with many of the colorful men who created some of Louisiana’s finest folk art creations. As he put together the final touches of this book, he could probably smell the many cups of strong chicory coffee that he shared on these journeys. He certainly heard their voices. Enjoy.

“Voices from the Bayou, An Oral History,” by Charles W. Frank, 520 pages, 8” x 10” soft cover format, 70 black & white photos, Garrity Printing, New Orleans, LA, $50.

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