1) Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum reports on the last chapter of one of the most documented criminal love stories in America. Gibsland, where Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed has a funky little museum funded by private donor in Dallas and run by “Boots” Hinton, son of one of the law men who shot the famous couple to death on a nearby back road. A video from 1934 shows a re-enactment of the event. There is some question if Bonnie actually ever killed anyone herself. The museum has replicas of their tombstones (they were buried in separate cemeteries in Dallas) and Bonnie’s epithet is what she wrote for her mother’s tombstone 6 months earlier. “All the women like to hear that story,” Boots confided. There’s a replica car that was used in one of bio pics shot in the area, but the real death car is on loan to a museum in Washington D.C. Although you wouldn’t know it now, the museum is housed in the little café where Bonnie and Clyde bought their last sandwiches. “They only had two before they were shot,” said Boots. Gazing around at the photos, I can see Bonnie was very pretty. “Clyde met her at a restaurant where she was waitressing,” said Boots. In a glass case I spy her red velvet beret and the brooch from her dress. The wonky black and white newsreel style movie I watched when I came in said her belongings included a cosmetic case, just like any normal girl.
2) Second Hand Rose. The best reason to go to this jam-packed emporium is to meet Millie Rose, a dynamo with a frizz of red hair and two Boston Terriers that follow her everywhere. Poke around and you might find a treasure amongst all the knick-knacks.
3) Luigi’s Restaurant serves up a mean deep fried catfish that melts in your mouth. For dessert, bread pudding with buttery, sticky rum sauce is a must. The restaurant is located in a small strip of shops next to the site, which once housed the funeral parlor where the bodies of Bonnie and Clyde were taken after they were killed. It’s a parkette now, but across the street is the town’s little museum, which is filled with pictures of the criminal duo.
4) Melrose Plantation. If you go during the Fall Tour in October, you’ll see lots of docents and their daughters in period dress. Three families have owned the plantation over the years. The first was a freed slave who prospered, but then lost it all. Mrs Cammie Henry was last owner and she was famous for hosting an artists’ retreat. Author William Faulkner stayed for a short time, but Mrs. Cammie being a teetotaler was not a fan of his. People had to review what they had done each evening at dinner. The retreat was inspirational for a staff member, Clementine, who cleaned the rooms. One of the guests left their paints so she tried her hand at painting and did some fascinating scenes of everyday life. Some people are bigger than others. The more important people are bigger, and those she didn’t like are smaller. My favorite was the black angles with their hair flying straight up because of all the wind. You can view her cabin and an excellent gallery of her work. Her grandson is now selling pieces for $70 in the gift shop.
5) Natchitoches: See the house where Steel Magnolias was filmed, check out the uber modern Louisiana State Sports museum, shop the oldest retailer in the city, the Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile hardware store (lots of cool kitchen gadgets and Christmas gee gaws), and visit Northwestern State University and the Bead Town mural, a concept by artist Stephan Wagner to recycle discarded Mardi Gras beads.
6) Laysone’s Meat Pie: Lunch here is a must. Angela Laysone is the daughter of the original owner. A big gal with B&W striped chef pants and a black bandana, she is now rolling out a plan to sell the crayfish and beef meat pies in sports stadiums in LA and Texas. They are deep fried and delicious. Even the green beans are deep-fried! The décor is decidedly old school. In-window A/C units, brownish/greenish walls. But who cares, you are there for the pies!
7) Natchitoches Alligator park: We head over to Castaway Island where a crowd has assembled and is gazing out over a pond at what looked to be the tail of a crashed airplane. It was show time. A voice over the loud speaker told us two stranded pilots had to fend off hungry meat eaters. From a wooden, Cajun-style houseboat the pilots-cum-staff members hung a bloody parcel on a stick over the edge. Suddenly the water was boiling as 100 alligators swarmed towards the vessel. A huge daddy, at least 15 feet long, leapt out of the water and snapped up the meat. “What are they feeding them?” I asked a tour guide. “Chicken, mostly necks,” she replied. At lunch in the snack bar, I braved a plate of fried alligator. The chewy nuggets tasted just like….chicken.