In Haughton, everybody knew Joe D. The tracks of the Illinois Central Gulf line cut smack through town, but that doesn't mean the white folks are all here and the black ones over yonder. Instead, there is a crazy quilt pattern. The Galilee Baptist Church, for example, is in a white enclave. "We have some worldly peoples around here," the Rev. James says. Still, Baptists and fishermen predominate—both creatures of abiding faith.
Joe was a fisherman, was he? "Called hisself one," Eunice says, chortling.
She's in her house, the old sagging place where Joe grew up, where eight people live now, where Joe's trophies are all over and the television set is on all the time. This afternoon she's caring for Joe's children. After he signed his first contract Joe made his mother stop working as a cleaning lady, and he was going to get her a better place to live.
"Muh," he said. He called her Muh. "Muh, I'm going to buy you a house in Kansas City."
"No you ain't," she said. She didn't want to leave Haughton and her family.
What Joe did instead was build a house down the street for himself and Carolyn and the girls. Carolyn had lived in an old house on that plot. She was the girl down the street all the time Joe was growing up. The new house isn't large, but it's trim and immaculate, with plastic covers on the chairs, Joe's trophies all over and the television set on all the time. "Joe wanted to build here," Carolyn says. "We wanted to feel in place." In Kansas City, he always introduced Carolyn as a home girl, but he was a home boy, too.
If Joe had lived, there would have been a star's contract, lots more money, and then he could have moved his family into a subdivision. In that neck of the woods in Louisiana, and in a lot of places in the U.S., subdivision has come to mean what uptown once did. There may be all sorts of neighborhoods, but there are no bad subdivisions. You can be sure of one thing, though. No matter how much money Joe might have made, and no matter where he might have gone to live, his '81 baby blue Cougar would always have been parked outside.
Joe spent a lot of time over at his mother's house. Carolyn has to devote a great deal of time to her own mother, who is blind. She says she really isn't a home girl; foremost she's a family girl. She lost her father in March and her grandfather in June, just two weeks before Joe died. "Joe, all I got now is you," she had said then.
"You'll always have me," he had replied.
In the mornings, Joe would bring JoJo over to Muh's, sometimes not much past six o'clock. Then he would roust everybody, get the music going. He was almost never still. "Sit down and rest awhile, Honey," Eunice would say.