Many people who now call East Tennessee their home or second home come from the southeastern United States. And lately a majority of them seem to be coming from south Louisiana. They are the “Ragin’ Cajuns”, and they say “Who Dat” quite often.
Buzz and Elaine Kiefer were the first of my Cajun friends here in WearsValley. They moved here from New Orleans about the same time we did in 1999. Their younger two children, Jeff and Aimee, attended Wearwood and went on to PigeonForgeHigh School. Jeff is an aspiring (and quite a good one) musician, and Aimee, in my opinion, is going to become one of the best ambassadors for East Tennessee there will ever be.
Aimee is outgoing, adventurous, full of pep, and anyone who meets her will not soon forget her. She has traveled internationally for several years with the People to People program. And while she is great with people, Aimee’s best character trait is courage. And that courage, mixed with a wonderful positive attitude, will move mountains.
This past Christmas, Aimee was involved in a car accident which unfortunately resulted in the loss of one of her legs. This tragedy, however, has not kept this wonderful young lady down. She has been fitted with a prosthesis, she is getting on with her life, and I have not yet heard of one down moment in Aimee’s attitude since the accident, though I am quite sure there have been some, will be more, and is certainly understandable. If you don’t know Aimee, you should; when you meet her, she will put a smile on your face and also in your heart.
And if you should need anyone else to boost your spirits, then you next need to meet Joe Fricano, a retired firefighter from New Orleans. He and his wife Joan moved here after Hurricane Katrina and have never looked back. Joe has the happiest spirit and the hardest work ethic of anyone I have ever met. He has no need to work, but that doesn’t stop Joe. He has a lawn mowing/maintenance business and works very long and hot hours with his job. When he is through with your lawn, you will say, why couldn’t I make my yard look like that. Joe has a real talent in that department, but you will want him to sit down and have a cold one with you before he leaves your yard. He will definitely be a bright spot in your day. And if you’re looking for where the “Who Dat” party is during football season, look no further than Joe and Joan Fricano’s house!
The LSU Tigers are also well represented by many Cajuns, too. Jim and Mary Maddox of Baton Rouge have had a second home in the Valley for fourteen years. They are neighbors and best friends with UT Volunteers Gary and Barbara Joines. But you don’t want to get between Mary and Gary if the Tigers and Volunteers are on the gridiron on Game Day! On that day, one might possibly shoot the other one, depending on how the game goes. But on any other day, Gary would shoot you if you messed with Mary and vice versa. College rivalry is serious business between the Tigers and the Volunteers!
Don and Ginger Miller are from Baton Rouge, too. Ginger is a true French Cajun, speaks French fluently, and cooks some “down on the bayou” meals that are to die for. We never turn down an invitation to dine at the Millers when they are in town. Don’s sister, Sharon with husband Francis, realized how beautiful East Tennessee was years ago and moved here. Now Don and Ginger call WearsValley their second home and get here as often as they can.
I have noticed that most Cajuns always bring their own food when they come to the mountains. They are all excellent cooks, and they bring coolers full of freshly caught shrimp, tuna, red fish. Every meal in their homes is a culinary treat. If you don’t have any Cajun friends, then please let me recommend that you make some. You will not be disappointed. Their Cajun hearts are full of love and laughter which they readily share with you, and their bellies (and yours) will be full of wonderful food whenever you are in their presence.
The “Who Dat” nation is well represented here in the Smokies.