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Cajun Night Before Christmas

by James Rice, 1973

Cajun Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas an’ all t’ru de house,
Dey don’t a ting pass Not even a mouse.
De chirren been nezzle good snug on de flo’,
An’ Mama pass de pepper t’ru de crack on de do’.

De Mama in de fireplace done roas’ up de ham,
Sit up de gumbo an’ make de bake yam.
Den out on de by-you dey got such a clatter,
Make soun’ like old Boudreau done fall off his ladder.

I run like a rabbit to got to de do’,
Trip over de dorg an’ fall on de flo’.
As I look out de do’in de light o’ de moon,
I t’ink, “Mahn, you crazy or got ol’ too soon.”

Cux dere on de by-you w’en I stretch ma’neck stiff,
Dere’s eight alligator a pullin’ de skiff.
An’ a little fat drover wit’ a long pole-ing stick,
I know r’at away got to be ole St.Nick.

Mo’ fas’er an’ fas’er de’ gator dey came
He whistle an’ holler an’ call dem by name:
“Ha, Gaston! Ha, Tiboy! Ha, Pierre an’ Alcee’!
Gee, Ninette! Gee, Suzette! Celeste an’Renee’!

To de top o’ de porch to de top o’ de wall,
Make crawl, alligator, an’ be sho’ you don’ fall.”
Like Tante Flo’s cat t’ru de treetop he fly,
W’en de big ole houn’ dorg come a run hisse’s by.

Like dat up de porch dem ole ‘gator clim!
Wit’ de skiff full o’ toy an’ St. Nicklus behin’.
Den on top de porch roof it soun’ like de hail,
W’en all dem big gator, done sot down dey tail.

Den down de chimney I yell wit’ a bam,
An’ St.Nicklus fall an’ sit on de yam.
“Sacre!” he axclaim, “Ma pant got a hole
I done sot ma’se’f on dem red hot coal.”

He got on his foots an’ jump like de cat
Out to de flo’ where he lan’ wit’ a SPLAT!
He was dress in musk-rat from his head to his foot,
An’ his clothes is all dirty wit’ ashes an’ soot.

A sack full o’ playt’ing he t’row on his back,
He look like a burglar an’ dass fo’ a fack.
His eyes how dey shine his dimple, how merry!
Maybe he been drink de wine from de blackberry.

His cheek was like a rose his nose a cherry,
On secon’ t’ought maybe he lap up de sherry.
Wit’ snow-white chin whisker an’ quiverin’ belly,
He shook w’en he laugh like de stromberry jelly!

But a wink in his eye an’ a shook o’ his head,
Make my confi-dence dat I don’t got to be scared.
He don’ do no talkin’ gone strit to hi work,
Put a playt’ing in sock an’ den turn wit’ a jerk.

He put bot’ his han’ dere on top o’ his head,
Cas’ an eye on de chimney an’ den he done said:
“Wit’ all o’ dat fire an’ dem burnin’ hot flame,
Me I ain’ goin’ back by de way dat I came.”

So he run out de do’ an, he clim’ to de roof,
He ain’ no fool, him for to make one more goof.
He jump in his skiff an’ crack his big whip,
De’ gator move down, An don’ make one slip.

An’ I hear him shout loud as a splashin’ he go,
“Merry Christmas to all ’til I saw you some mo’!”

The Cajun Night Before Christmas® has been a part of Louisiana’s holiday traditions since it was first published. Now, more than forty-five years later, a new generation is discovering the charm of Gaston® the Green-Nosed Alligator. First conceived by J.B. Kling, Jr. writing as ‘Trosclair’, the CLIO award-winning sales jingle for the Bergeron Plymouth Company in New Orleans was based on the Clement Moore poem. The exclusive rights were purchased by Pelican Publishing Company and the illustrations of then fledgling artist James Rice brought the story to life. Beloved master storyteller Coleen Salley narrated the read-along CD. Radio personality and voice talent Tommy Joe Breaux became the voice behind the recordings at City Park and on the audio version of the adventures of Gaston®. The book also created what has become the largest segment at Pelican Publishing—the children’s book division.

With the passing of publisher Dr. Milburn Calhoun and his wife Nancy Calhoun, illustrator James Rice, and the loss of Colleen Salley, the people behind the creation of the story are mostly gone. What remains is a long legacy of delight. Each year at the Celebration in the Oaks light show featuring the classic cabin from the story, dedicated staff from Pelican Publishing collect memories of attendees as they flow through the premiere preview parties. From now grown children who remember it as the first Louisiana tale they ever heard to young parents who laugh about a non-Louisiana spouse reading it to their children in full-blown Cajun accent, the book is universally loved and remembered. Teachers talk about how they use it in the classroom, business people mention they send it to out of state clients, and children laugh as they try to mimic the dialect that has all but disappeared from everyday life. The classic tale has been interpreted in gingerbread houses in competitions as far away as California and in cakes at the Edible Book competition at NOMA in New Orleans. For years, the miniature book ornaments have appeared on Christmas trees across the country as a reminder of a faraway Louisiana home. Even the New York Times praised the lilt, the humor, and the rough-hewn drawings of the Cajun tale. At Pelican Publishing, a huge portrait of Gaston® and his bearded friend hangs in the boardroom watching over each new author and illustrator that joins the family.


I was diagnosed on 30-Nov-2020 with COVID-19 (a POSITIVE PCR test result)… and since that time I’ve been working remotely and struggling to function as near normally as possible.

While my symptoms were mild, I certainly will share with you that they didn’t go unnoticed. No temperature, but a dry (persistent) cough, runny nose, extreme fatigue, fluid retention (which may not have been due to COVID-19), and the inability to sleep soundly.

I can tell you that I’m certainly happy to see the worst of it in the rear view mirror — I got my second NEGATIVE PCR test result today (YEAH) — that and the expiry of my twenty day quarantine will allow me to return to the office.

There’s no way to know how long or what level of immunity I might have to the virus, but I will certainly redouble my efforts to keep a mask on my face, keep distance between me and others, and avoid any extraneous trips away from my home (which has had every surface sprayed and wiped) until after I’ve had two shots of the vaccine and time for them to have taken full effect.

There’s no question in my mind that a vaccine is by far a better choice than having another bout with this virus, and I encourage everyone to consider the science… ignore the hype and the publicity grabbing politicians.

Winter Solstice 2020

December 21 2020 10:02 GMT

Obituary – Lem Vinson Soles

Lem Vinson Soles, known to his friends and family as “Buddy,” passed on Saturday 12-December-2020 at home surrounded by family and loved ones, at the age of 85. Lem, a long-time resident of Milligan, Florida was born 07-September-1935, in Andalusia, Alabama to P. D. and Elmira Soles. Lem would become the third eldest sibling of seven. The Soles family moved to Crestview, Florida when Lem was fairly young. Lem graduated from Crestview High School in the Class of 1953 and enlisted in the United States Air Force. Soon after enlistment, Lem married Opal Rae Courtney, of Milligan, Florida in April of 1954. Lem, Opal, and their two children lived in several parts of the world as Lem proudly served as a Communications Specialist in the USAF. After serving 20+ years, Master Sergeant Lem V Soles, “Buddy,” retired and he and the family returned to their permanent residence in Milligan, Florida After returning home, they were able to reconnect with friends and family and spend more time enjoying their favorite hobby, fishing. In addition to fishing, Lem became an avid, licensed member of the Ham and CB Radio community. He developed a home based repair business for many local radio operators.

Lem was preceded in death by his loving wife Opal, his parents P. D. and Elmira Soles, and his eldest sister Laura Wilkerson.
Lem is survived by his daughter, Sonja Ann Spirakis, of Cantonment, Florida; his son, Lem Roger Soles, of Milton, Florida; grandson, Christopher Charles Gravat, of Harvest, Alabama; four sisters; one brother; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held Thursday, December 17, 2020 from 10:00-10:45, at Davis-Watkins Crestview Memorial, 492 E. Pine Avenue, Crestview, Florida, 32435. A graveside service will follow at Live Oak Memorial Park Cemetery at 11:00, 112 N. E Street, Crestview, Florida, 32536, with full military honors.

**Masks will be required at the visitation.

Please visit www.daviswatkins.com to sign the guestbook, express condolences and share memories.

Lem Vinson Soles
Lem Vinson Soles