Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile

This is the oldest hardware store in Louisiana – the Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile in Natchitoches, LA. It was founded in 1863, during the American Civil War, by Jewish Prussian immigrants who were looking for a welcoming place to settle. The store is still owned by descendants of the family.

This is an original working till from 1910. I LOVE hardware stores and have been known to loiter with intent in my local Ace store… Kaffie Frederick was the stuff of nostalgic dreams and totally unexpected. Despite it’s historical magnificence, it’s a working hardware store, with some unique old toys.

Look at the original paneling on the walls and those amazing tools! They looked as though they could have been used in battle…

It’s amazing to think that the store was opened before electricity was in general use, so you needed natural light, and perhaps some gas lights. I wanted to say thank you to the owners for preserving something so special, even if it was by accident.

This is so much more practical and sustainable that plastic packs of nails and screws. Below is a side view of Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile from the street.

The Cougar and the Cherokee

Once again my funny story comes from a shop – our local hardware store. It is one of these wonderful small stores that has retired tradesman who can tell you exactly what type of screw to use and you can just buy three! This time I was in a panic, because I was not brought up in the subtropics and the ecology is unfamiliar to me. I had a gardening problem which I will share closer to Halloween and it was solved completely by the lovely lady gardener. We started talking and she asked me if my Native genetics were Cherokee? I was perplexed especially since I believe we might have been from family lore. She had noticed my high cheekbones, profile and unusual teeth. My husband’s cousin is a dentist and he was puzzled by why my teeth were not worn down – I still have all the little indentations that children have at the bottom of their teeth. The gardener told me that a dentist had told her that Cherokee teeth, in particular, are very strong and that’s why the enamel doesn’t wear down. Now I was intrigued and asked her if she had white or brown earwax. Some Native Americans and Japanese people have white earwax which is dry and has to be scraped out. I have the white earwax which explains why my UK doctor thought I had eczema in my ears. There is an evolutionary reason for this – something to do with cold, windy plains in Siberia.

She told me that she had been brought up on a farm in North Texas – so we shared North Texas ancestry stories. When she was a child, a Native man dressed in regular clothes walked barefoot to their farm, handed a medicine stick to her and walked away without a word. She felt she had a natural affinity to the land and I have a natural stalking ability (you will want to be friends with both of us when the Zombie Apocalypse happens…) One day, when she was an adult, she was visiting the family farm with her young daughter. The little girl disappeared so the lady and her mother started walking across the Prairie to find her. They were shocked to find the little girl fast asleep with a cougar (mountain lion) sleeping alongside her. Her mother opened her mouth to scream so she quickly put her hand across Grandma’s mouth to stop her making a noise. Grandma then went back to the house to get Grandpa. The lady signaled to her father not to move and very gently went and picked up her still sleeping daughter. As she moved backwards the cougar stood up and stretched its front legs which is a social cat habit (to express friendship) and just walked off.

Before she told me the end of the story, I knew that the cougar was protecting the child from something and indeed it was. The property had a problem with venomous snakes that year and the child had fallen asleep with snakes all around. Mama cougar must have instinctively realized that she had to protect the human cub. It was such a wonderful tale that my eyes filled with tears at how amazing nature is. Today I was meeting friends at the local Starbucks and got chatting to a very pretty lady waiting for our coffees. She admired my skirt which I had ordered online from India. She showed me a photo of her beautiful children who are half Bangladeshi. She then told me that she was half Native American (Cherokee/Choctaw) but she was even fairer than me with translucent white skin and beautiful blue-gray eyes. It is actually quite common to be native around here because the tribes were corralled into Oklahoma so local European settlers intermarried. I bet you are wondering why I am called Chatty Kerry, eh? Life is so much more fun when you talk to people.