By Sig Lanoux
Daddy was orphaned as a teenager and made it on his own by fishing, hunting and picking berries. As he grew older he accepted whatever work he could find including a stint in the Army, then as a roughneck on oil rigs. He became a barber, worked in grocery stores and did a little bootlegging when the opportunity presented itself. For 36 years he remained a bachelor and during part of that time he lived in Idaho and California. That is...until a dark headed beauty snagged him and he came back to roost in Cankton! And roost he did as we only remember dad being away from home one night during the entire time we were growing up. How great it was as children to come home and find dad and mom always there to welcome us and what a contrast to today's latchkey kids.
As soon as we got off the bus we would run out in the field to see he and mom among the flowers and the vegetables. The truck farm was always manicured with the neatness and organization of a fine European garden. Being very extroverted, dad did not hesitate to show off his garden and tell everyone that his vegetables were the sweetest, biggest, juiciest, tastiest and the best that could be found. As kids we were a bit skeptical, but in retrospect he was right! They were all he said, plus more. He had the inside scoop about the earth and its small creations. He was truly a steward of the earth, not because it was fashionable, but because he thought it was the right thing to do. Time has proven that what he believed in was environmental sustainability and if these practices had been followed we would be far better off today. Utilizing weeds, plants and leaves as organic soil enhancements and staying away from pesticides he was an pioneer organic gardener. The down side was that in the summer the green worms proliferated in the tomato patch and it was our job to hand pick them--needless to say, it encouraged us to stay in school.
Not having much of an aptitude or appreciation for machinery, dad found it less frustrating to manage his one acre truck farm by hand. He was unbelievably strong and healthy so he did it all with a few simple tools. It took tenacity and love for his work to eke out a living off of one acre tilled by hand, but he considered it a challenge and loved every minute of it. Every year his crop was better than the last one and each season brought him more joy as he nurtured the new plants to maturity. He grew his last garden when he was 90 with mom always helping him. And when you grow the best vegetables in town, then surely you like eating them...and he did. He bragged on every meal that mom fixed because the last meal was always the best meal he had ever eaten in his life. Mom did cook a hearty, tasty plenty, but wouldn't you if someone raved about your cooking every day?
They didn't make `em much tougher than Camille. In his 70's he still climbed trees and cut them down, leaving those watching him spellbound. He tooled around town in his old chevy truck till his late 80's. During that decade he survived two moccasin snake attacks, when snake bites were really serious! When he was 90 he lived to tell about slipping into a drainage ditch and staying there for several hours in freezing weather.
Daddy liked everybody and everybody liked him. He had a place in his heart for the down and out and maybe it was because he had been there. He had a sense of fairness and his friends were just good folks, both black and white. He didn't care about social status and he didn't covet anything anyone had. He was content with what he attained.
4 scores and l5 years he lived and we believe it is due to his good German and French ancestry, the garden he loved, the wholesome food he ate, the clean air he breathe and the simple life he lived.
Camille was a character--no doubt about it. He always had a joke, a little jig, a story. ---- and a bunch of fresh vegetables for everyone that came to the house ---- and they all left happy.
Editor's Note: Camille Joseph Speyrer died at his home in Pride, La on May 2, 1993