Monday, June 08, 2009

Dr. M's Louisiana Cattle Ranch

Harvey, my former father-in-law raised cattle and had a small pasture behind his house in Chalmette where he ran a few head. Harvey had an old friend, a doctor that had a large cattle ranch in the eastern Louisiana town of Vidalia. Dr. M became very wealthy when a company found oil and lots of it on his ranch.

Shortly after the discovery of oil, Dr. M retired from medicine and spent his days trading stock and traveling. A devout Catholic, the Pope granted him and his family a private meeting during a visit to the Vatican. Dr. M was also a member of the Krewe of Rex and had once paid a million dollars for the privilege of being King of that Krewe during one Mardi Gras season.

Wanting to experiment with different breeds of cattle, Dr. M hired his old friend Harvey to oversee the operation. Relishing the challenge, Harvey and wife Lily began splitting their time between Vidalia and Chalmette. On a trip to Chalmette, Gail and I stopped along the way for a visit to the ranch.

Dr. M and his family rarely visited the ranch any more so Lily and Harvey had the main house all to themselves. The living room, I remember, had a large mirror on one wall made of one-way glass. Dr. M was apparently a voyeur and liked watching his guests through the one-way glass from an adjacent room that most knew nothing about.

The ranch was two full sections of land and abutted the levee on the west side of the Mississippi River. Harvey and Dr. M were trying to establish a new breed of cattle for the area - Black Angus. The weather turned out too hot and humid for this breed and the experiment ultimately ended in failure.

The ranch had a bunkhouse large enough to accommodate a dozen hired hands, if needed. During our visit there was no seasonal help and Gail and I had the bunkhouse to ourselves. We spent the day touring the ranch, examining the barns, stalls and cutting pens. Lily seemed unhappy when we left the following morning and I am sure she missed her large family in Chalmette.

Perhaps Harvey was also missing Chalmette and his own cows because shortly after our visit, he quit his job as foreman and he and Lily moved back to their own home. Gail and I were glad to see Lily happy again, but I am also glad that we had the chance to see Dr. M's large working cattle ranch before Harvey finally quit.

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