Mr. Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin   November, 2005
Do you ever get that aching in your cheeks from smiling? That’s what I endured at the 90th birthday party for Mr. Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin. I had heard about the party on my car radio while driving around Lafayette. It had been over ten years since I had last seen Bois Sec. So the following weekend, I drove myself up to Opelousas, took a left, and headed for Eunice.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bois Sec, you know that you are welcome to share in the celebration of his life. And that is exactly how I felt the instant I walked into the church hall. I picked up a few souvenirs (A Bois Sec calendar and water bottle) at the front door as I signed the guest book (dual residency; Lafayette and Port Townsend just to jog the memory). The crowd included probably a hundred relatives. Many of his kin wore red which helped me to identify them. (His son Morris Ardoin (red shirt) is dancing in the photo). And there were friends and acquaintances, instrument makers, plus the usual sprinkling of dance gypsies.

I headed straight for Mr. Bois Sec. He was seated in his pale blue easy chair at a receiving table in the rear of the auditorium. All the decorations were pushed to the side. He was shaking hands and holding hands with well wishers. His tie was adorned with currency, much like a Cajun bride’s veil. Later on, his suspenders and shirt would be covered with 5s and 20s. People sat or bent down to his left to speak into his ear. He looked well. I shook his hand and told him I loved his music.

Bois Sec’s sister sat beside him in a wheelchair to his right. Later on a tall man all dressed in black with a grey cowboy hat plucked me out of the gumbo line to dance a two step. He turned out to be a brother. Maybe he could see that I couldn’t stand still as long as Ed played those old Creole tunes. He asked me if I knew Bois Sec. I told him I’d met him about 20 years ago and didn’t expect that he would remember me. He joked, “More like 18 year, four month, and 9 days.” I explained just a little bit about how I met him with Mr. Canray. He said, “He was like a brother to us, we growed up with him”.

Well, I can’t look into Bois Sec’s face and not think of Canray Fontenot, and the music they made together. Eddie Poullard was doing a great job dusting off the oldies. Eddie Poullard, Cedric Watson, grandson Dexter Ardoin, and Preston Frank were amongst the musical line-up for the day and night (I hear the party went well on into the night.) I stayed for the day shift. I watched four generations of Ardoins party. Twelve of his fourteen children are still living. Food was set before him, sandwiches, gumbo and cake. I amused myself taking photos of dancing children, musicians and women in hats. 

The friends I had run into had drifted out the door to catch Christine Bolfa’s hot new mega-women’s band Bon Soir Catin at the Liberty Theatre. About then I noticed my cheeks were aching. I glanced over at Bois Sec one last time, all snug as a bug in his chair, holding hands with some woman in red. And then, it was like the Cinderella at midnight thing. It was time for me to go. I slid through the dance floor towards the door and headed for home before the magic wore off.