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"This city always smells like a good dinner," said Stephanie as she and Eric walked across Audubon Park on a Friday afternoon. "It's brown sugar and bananas, cloves and thyme, olive oil and garlic. And the French Quarter always smells like malt."
"We have some fine breweries there," Eric replied.
"I'll miss that when I go home for the summer."
"At least you won't be here in the heat."
Stephanie grinned. "Oh, we have our share of that."
It was a Friday afternoon, and Classes were finished for the week. The two young people had headed down to the river and then back to campus across Audubon Park, walking beside a long, narrow lagoon.
"What a perfect day!" cried Stephanie. "It's warm, it's bright, and there's just enough breeze."
"And wonderful company," Eric contributed.
"That boat bobs up and down so softly."
"Look at the squirrels!" cried Eric.
Stephanie looked and saw a mother squirrel leading three young ones along a narrow branch that hung over the lagoon. It was spring in New Orleans.
"As usual, the mother gets stuck with the rearing," she noted.
"Have you ever seen it otherwise?" he asked.
Eric Kaufmann was an only child. His world was an adult world. Stephanie was the oldest, but her twin brothers provided her with more childish folly than her mind could take in. It came as a happy revelation that there were men who were not like her brothers. In the first decade of the twentieth century, men wore ties to school, and often jackets as well. Eric was a man of his times.
Stephanie was his first experience of an Indian, actually a half-Indian, only through her mother. Her long, black hair fell softly behind her. There were no ringlets, which were going out of fashion among women at that time. Her hair hid her ears; it was about four weeks before Eric noticed that she wore earrings. That was so feminine to Eric that he began to find in Stephanie the ideal woman.
Eric was twenty years old in 1909. He was close to completing his junior year at the College of Arts and Sciences at Tulane University. He loved history, was good at writing, and had a good ear for music. His blond hair, hazel eyes, and square face contrasted with Stephanie's swarthy features and black tresses.
Stephanie Weaver was three years younger and was a freshman at Sophie Newcombe College, a women's academy that was part of Tulane University. Saint Charles Avenue separated their campus from Audubon Park. She was Cherokee on her mother's side, but her father was an Easterner from Pennsylvania. He was from mixed English and Ulster Irish families. In spite of the occupational surname, he was a cattle rancher.
As they walked, they passed a live oak tree with roots going everywhere. Stephanie was so focused on the squirrels that she tripped over it, started to roll, and headed for the lagoon. Eric saw what was happening and jumped after her. She kept turning over, but Eric managed to catch her ankle and hang on firmly. Stephanie stopped rolling, although her head was up against a crawfish chimney.
"Now I really feel awkward," Stephanie complained. "I can't believe that happened. And to be rescued by a man!"
"Couldn't you at least say a gentleman?"
"Nothing against you, Eric."
"Did you get your hair wet?"
"Not really, but this muddy thing ..."
"The crawfish chimney?"
Stephanie gave a short scream. She had an unusual fear of crustaceans.
"Don't worry," the young man reassured her. "None of them came out. Are you all right otherwise?"
"Give me a minute," she pleaded.
Eric gave her a hand and lifted her until she was standing next to him. The top of her head came to just above his nose. The young woman was not hurt, but she was very embarrassed. Finally, she did manage at a low volume, "Thanks. No injuries. And the memory of this will be a good one overall."
"I'm glad to help you. It isn't about men and women — at least, that's not the first thing here. I would help anyone who fell like that. But you are an attractive woman, which is something I cannot put out of my mind when I'm talking to you. Once that comes into it, nothing can drive it away."
As they resumed their walk, Stephanie replied, "To be fair, then, I should also say that you are a handsome man."
"Then being together is something we like ..."
"Until we start on politics."
"And sooner or later, we have to face that. Right?"
"As long as I live, I will be devoted to women's rights."
Eric took Stephanie's hand. "There are so many things that politics addresses. There are trade policies, railroads, currency, foreign relations, industrial organizations ..."
"Eric, all of those are important, but can't you see that they affect women as well as men?"
He stopped and turned to face her. "Was that ever in doubt?"
"No, but that makes women's rights all the more important."
Eric thought for a moment and then took Stephanie's hand again and began walking toward the campus. "What about the status of the territory?"
"Do you advocate statehood?"
"I think it makes a lot of sense. But I was wondering if, as an Indian, you might have a different perspective?"
"I have relatives who will never come into mainstream society. To them, it makes no difference whether or not the Territory becomes a state. But my family would like to see statehood."
The wind blew off Eric's straw hat. He chased it over toward the lagoon. Stephanie came after him and caught her breath while he put it back on. "You see, we need the railroads, the agricultural grants, the state university, and a way of fairly distributing the oil revenue."
"Do you write about those things?"
"Not yet," she admitted.
Eric stopped again. "If all of your work is about women, it will make you seem too specialized to be taken seriously. Join it together with statehood."
They arrived at St. Charles Avenue. There were live oak trees giving afternoon shade, their Spanish moss reaching downward. They were more lateral than vertical, and every branch was curved. They sat down under the live oaks. Stephanie asked, "Why do you call these oaks when they don't have oak leaves?"
Eric didn't know. These were the only oak trees he had ever seen. His answer was, "Because they have acorns."
"These acorns look more like olives."
They were brown with yellow heads, and very hard. But to Eric they were acorns. "What can I say?" he said. "This is New Orleans."
That evening Eric was having dinner with his father in the dining room of their white brick house on Second Street, just south of Prytania. An old brick walkway led from the iron gate to the steps that led to a small landing before the front door. George Kaufmann, Eric's father, lived there with him and two servants: Olivia the cook and Essie the maid. They brought the dinner to the two gentlemen of the house and then had their own dinner in the kitchen, where they dined on whatever they liked. George trusted these two women to manage his house. When they left for their dinner, Eric and George were alone at the table. "I had a nice walk across Audubon Park with Stephanie today," Eric began.
"Where did you say she came from?"
"Tulsa," Eric replied, "in the Indian Territory. Her mother is Cherokee, and her father is Irish."
"Like your mother," said George. Eric's mother had died eight years ago in the yellow fever epidemic. "She lived off Magazine Street in the Irish Channel."
"And you are a German immigrant from 1870 who had better things to do than serve in the army," Eric added.
"Her family were immigrants too, before the war. They lived through the occupation, and the chaos that came when the Treaty of Spotsylvania was signed and the Union army left, but no local authority had been established. She was fourteen when I met her in the family's butcher shop on Tchoupitoulas Street."
On the mantelpiece was a picture of Mary Kaufmann. She had dark brown hair and an olive complexion. The next picture showed George in his uniform; he was captain of the Jackson Avenue Ferry. Before that, he had been in the merchant marine, sailing often out of the city. Working for the ferry kept him permanently in New Orleans.
"I remember coming to St. Louis when I first moved to America," said George. "I worked with a grain company at first, and then with some teamsters. But when I saw the river, that changed everything. I saw riverboats flying the Stars and Bars. They told me they were from the South. What they told me sounded better than what I was doing, so I came down here. These coal-burning ferries are my life now."
"From the Garden District to Gretna and back again. Doesn't that get monotonous?"
"It does involve repetition," George answered, "but there are always different ships and boats about on the river."
"I'll have to take Stephanie for a ferry ride."
"Why don't you bring her here? I'd like to meet her."
Olivia came in and asked, "Are you gentlemen ready for dessert?"
"That would be great," Eric replied.
"Were you answering me or Olivia?" George asked.
"Oh. Olivia," Eric answered. "But I'm sure Stephanie would be able to come here. I'm both local and a student, so the university's rules would permit me to bring her here."
"She isn't going to talk about Cubism, is she?" That art form was very popular, but George had no use for it.
"Don't be surprised if she talks about women in politics," said Eric.
Olivia brought in a bread pudding, which she covered with rum. She dished it out to George and Eric. Then Essie brought in coffee, which Olivia mixed with a small amount of cognac. George and Eric stopped talking and dug into the food.
The following week on Saturday, after a picnic lunch in Audubon Park, Eric and Stephanie crossed over the levee to walk on the batture. A short way from the park, there was a bench on the batture, where they sat down to talk. Looking at the river was stimulating for both of them.
"This comes all the way from Minnesota," was Stephanie's way of beginning. "I've never seen the northern part of it."
"Where else have you seen it?"
"Really? That's where my father used to live."
"My parents took me there when I was about eleven. I remember the riverboats. There were always more of them there than anywhere else."
Eric sat very close to Stephanie. He found her very interesting. "Do you like New Orleans enough to want to stay here?" he asked.
"Do you mean, would I rather go back to the ranch?" she asked.
"I have two brothers," she said. "They're twins, about fourteen years old now. They have red hair like my father. They used to play mean tricks on me. Sammy and Danny are more than enough to take care of the ranch."
"Did your father arrange a marriage for you?"
"Like the New Orleans girls? Nobody in Oklahoma does that. We don't come out when we're seventeen. And I don't think the New Orleans girls like the way they're put on display."
"I really never discussed the matter with them. But I know the men are very independent about it. They don't like being told whom to marry."
"Your father doesn't expect you to marry his choice?"
"He isn't high society. And personally, I think the debutantes are too young. College is the place to find a good woman."
"I was seventeen when I enrolled here," Stephanie replied.
A large steamship came pushing its way upstream. "Let's go up on the levee," said Eric. "That wake is going to splash the batture."
"I'll put the picnic cloth on the ground."
"That should work. I think Missouri wishes it were part of our country instead of the United States. It's an agricultural state with few large urban areas."
"From what I've seen of both countries, they aren't all that different. Do they think their allegiance would make a difference?"
"It was divided during the war. Troops from Illinois came over and subdued it. But the Germans were nearly all on the side of the Union."
"Why was that?"
"The large number of Forty-Eighters. They were socialist agitators who left Europe after they were defeated in 1848. It's true that the Saxons came earlier, for religious reasons. But it only took about ten years, and then they were the minority of Germans."
"Tell me about the religion."
"They were true Lutherans. When their king died, the Land of Saxony came into the kingdom of Prussia. The Prussian king wanted only one church in his realm, so he told the Lutherans and the Reformed to merge, say the same prayers, sing the same hymns, and share the Holy Eucharist — even though the Reformed do not believe in the Real Presence."
There was a small amount of fruit juice left in the bottle they had brought. Stephanie took a drink and then asked, "What's the Real Presence?"
Eric also took a drink and replied, "That Jesus gives us His very Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. That teaching goes back to the origins of Christianity, but the Reformed claim that the elements merely represent the Lord."
"I've never heard about anyone fighting about such a thing."
"It's been a long time since any blood was shed, but the verbal confrontations continue to this day."
"Did all the Lutherans believe this?"
"Many thought it was not a critical teaching, and so they went along with the merging. But Bishop Stefan's group emigrated rather than merge. They first landed here, and then they chartered four steamboats.
Most of them went on to Missouri."
"And the others?"
"They're still here in New Orleans. They have a couple of downtown churches, as well as Zion, which I showed you from the streetcar."
"Maybe we should start back," Stephanie suggested. Eric helped her fold the picnic blanket, and they started down the levee, back into the park. She asked, "Why did your father leave Missouri?"
"Economic opportunity. He met my mother when he used to live by the Irish Channel. She was Irish, and her father had a butcher shop there. But she died in the epidemic of 1901. My Grandpa O'Brien lives on Magazine Street now. He's very old and hardly ever goes out these days."
"Your family is nearly all men. No wonder you're so patriarchal!"
"My mother read Jane Austen books to me."
"Nice dodge. You don't want to talk about politics."
He smiled. "Talk? Of course I'll talk about politics. I just don't want to argue about them."
"I see your point. So think about the Court House on Royal Street. Think about the legend over the front door ..."
"This is a government of laws, not of men."
She said, "Right. Does that mean a government of laws is a government of women?
"Hardly. But no one ever has a government of laws."
"Then why do they call it that?"
"To deceive us. We have a government of men."
"Are the men above the law?"
"Have you ever heard of legislators?" he countered.
"Yes, of course."
"They have authority to change the law. So we really have a government of legislators. They can even amend the Constitution. If you really wanted a government of laws, those laws would have to be unchangeable. As it is, the law is simply a weapon the men hold, by which they govern." He tossed his straw hat in the air, but Stephanie intercepted it. She began to run toward the university. When they came to the live oaks, she had to slow down, and Eric overtook her. She threw the hat behind him. When he retrieved it, she came back to hug him.
Eric invited Stephanie to dinner at the German restaurant on St. Charles Avenue. As they passed by Zion Church on the streetcar, he pointed out that he had been confirmed there. He was at ease navigating the menu and explaining the offerings to his date. They enjoyed a local beer.
"Did you go to church in Tulsa?" he asked.
"No," she replied. "My father did pray at home. My mother read the Bible to me, but not very often."
"So you were never confirmed?"
"No. Neither were Sammy or Danny."
"Did your family ever have slaves?"
"No, but the Cherokee nation did. They were the last to emancipate them."
"Olivia had been a slave once," he said. "She worked for a free Negro master who owned a shrimp boat at Shell Beach on Lake Borgne. In 1888, Louisiana freed the slaves. She continued to work for him until he died, and then she came to New Orleans. She cooked for families, so my father hired her to cook the seafood she had known all her life."
"What did you say this was?" she asked.
"Wiener schnitzel. That means a chop from Vienna. We also have Essie working for us. She was born before 1888 but was too young to remember slavery. Her mother worked for a Creole family in the French Quarter. She's Catholic."
"And you've always been Lutheran?"
"When I was in school, my teacher asked me what denomination I was. I knew Dad was Lutheran, so I said that was what I was. He took me to Zion Church at Easter. When we got home, he showed me my baptismal certificate. It was from an Episcopal Church. But Pastor Clausner told me what confirmation was. So I learned the catechism."
"What about your mother? What did she think?"
"She died when I was twelve, in the yellow fever epidemic. She's buried in the cemetery on Washington Avenue, not far from our house."
After dinner, they went back to the streetcar. As they went around Lee Circle, Eric pointed out that the tracks were now on the neutral ground.
"I guess that term is strange to you. Back before the war, the English settlers who live in the Garden District migrated here from Virginia. They were 'uptown.' The Creoles who lived on the other side of Canal Street were 'downtown.' Often there was friction between their young men. Each stayed on his own side of Canal Street, but the median in the middle of Canal Street was available to both groups. Thus it became known as neutral ground. Ever since then, any median in a New Orleans street is known by that name."
Excerpted from "Fried Oyster Sandwich"
Copyright © 2017 Lloyd E. Gross.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
List of Illustration, xi,
Part I: The Lost Generation, 1,
Part II: Henry and Renee, 29,
Part III: WOPR, 77,
Part IV: Martin and Lisa, 127,
Appendix A: Southern Independence, 197,
Appendix B: The Career of the Confederate Expeditionary Force in the Mexican War, 219,
Appendix C: Presidents of the Confederate States of America, 224,