Inspired by the stories of his 95-year old grandmother years ago, Mr. Clyde Vincent has dedicated most of his life to learning and keeping Cajun traditions & stories alive. Growing up in Port Neches’ neighborhood deemed “Little Abbeville”, he found his passion to rest in Cajun history and genealogy. Respected by many, he served as the president of Les Acadianes du Texas, a cajun cultural club in East Texas, for 30 years. In my grandfather’s words, “He is very honest, sincere and dedicated to Cajun culture…that is Clyde’s life.”
Yesterday I went to meet Mr. Vincent with my grandparents in his Beaumont home. At one point, I shared with him that I’m learning Cajun songs on the banjo…but that maybe one day I’ll pick up a guitar so I can play along with other, more traditional, players. This morning, he called. He wanted to give me his guitar.
I headed over this afternoon to meet Clyde again. We sat on his couch and talked. He showed me his library of Cajun books. A kind, gentle soul…this man knows Acadian/Cajun history and genealogy like the back of his hand. He talked to me about raconteurs, traditional storytellers, and traiteurs, traditional faith healers. I listened. I listened more. In the end, Mr. Vincent expressed his disappointment and sadness for the dwindling numbers of club members attending Les Acadianes du Texas. He hopes the club can sustain itself until he has passed, because it would be far too painful to watch it fall apart while he’s still alive. “People are getting old and there are so few interested in keeping it going”, he expressed.
I can only imagine what it would feel like to put your heart into something for so long…only to see it fade away with time. I reassured him that I have seen many young people interested in keeping traditional Cajun music going. I also told him the story of friend of mine that caught wind of a mother speaking Cajun french to her baby in a San Francisco grocery store! But ultimately, I ended with a loss for words. What he says is true…some things are disappearing with my grandparent’s generation.
I suppose this is where we come in. Ways to honor Cajun culture looks different for everyone, but caring goes a long way. It’s one day later…and I have a beautiful guitar. I’m signed up to attend the Louisiana Folk Roots Music Camp next week in Lafayette and when I get back to Port Neches in a few weeks, I’ll be heading over to Clyde’s house. He promised me an interview…and I promised him a song. Beautiful pastimes and connections are finding places to rest and awaken…one step at a time.