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Being from South Louisiana, you hear a lot of folklore. You never actually believe the old tales. You pass the stories on down to your babies and so on. You never quite believe in them until you meet a monster. Maybe then, you wonder: Could these stories be true?
It was the Louisiana State fair in Shreveport, October 13, 1972—Friday the thirteenth, for the superstitious. The sky was cloudless and the weather perfect for a night out. The lights from the rides twinkled and it seemed they competed with the stars in the clear sky with their brightness. It was cool and crisp, the temperature in the mid-sixties. All that was needed to keep warm tonight was a light jacket.
A handsome family of six was enjoying the sights and sounds of the fair. They had driven up this morning from Sulphur and would stay at the Holiday Inn downtown. Matthew Robert Gauthier (pronounced “Go-shay”), the father of the family, had chosen this hotel because it was rumored the king himself, Elvis Presley, had stayed here during his Louisiana Hayride days. He fancied himself to be “the coon-ass Elvis,” and was the only one who did. He loved to sing and would often sing as loud as he could, mostly off-key. It drove his family crazy. His wife often joked that Matthew couldn’t sing, so he had to work in the oilfield. Music had always been in their home and was a big part of their community.
Matthew almost always had a big smile on his face and a song on his lips and so if Matthew was singing, he was dancing. It didn’t matter to him when or where he performed. He truly loved to dance and sing, and if it embarrassed his kids, well, that made it even better.
Matthew and his wife Jessie had been married for just over sixteen years and he was still crazy about her. They had four children, three boys and a girl. The baby girl was his world. He loved his boys with all his heart, but “the Girl” as he called her, wrapped him around her little finger. She had them all under her spell. As the baby and only girl child, she got away with everything and usually all her requests were granted. In fact, the fair had been her idea.
Louisiana has two state fairs: one in Baton Rouge (which they always went to), and this one in Shreveport. She learned of the fair in Shreveport from school, and wanted to go up north. As usual, what “the Girl” wanted “the Girl” got! So, they loaded up the car and would spend their weekend here, in Shreveport, before returning south to Choupique Bayou.
They had been to the exhibitions, looked at the livestock, and finally made their way to the midway. Tomorrow they would go to the rodeo. Matthew loved the rodeo: it was where he first met Jessie. A fleeting memory of that meeting brought a smile to his face.
Music played through the outdoor speakers that surrounded the midway. The song playing “Smoke on the Water” by the band Deep Purple was so loud it drowned out the noise from the rides. The smell of hot dogs and cotton candy was strong near the food trucks parked in a row between the rides and the games. The games were on both sides of the midway alley and the carnival barkers yelled for the Gauthier family to try their luck and maybe win a prize. As they passed through the games, Matthew could sense his boys’ excitement and could barely prevent them from running off to the nearby rides. The boys were ready to break free from their parents’ supervision and he enjoyed delaying them. He liked to tease them and it made his day to embarrass them.
After he dispensed the rules to his boys as to the when and where of meeting back up, the boys ran off to enjoy themselves. Matthew called the boys back to give them each some forgotten money.
“Come see, boys!” he yelled to the fleeing trio.
He smiled when he heard them groan. They were worried he might begin dancing before they could get away. They looked back to see what he could possibly want. When they turned around, they saw a smiling Matthew as he held money up for them to see and waved the cash back and forth as if it were a fan. They grinned back at their father when they realized in their haste to get away they hadn’t remembered to get money for the rides. Their eyes lit up with excitement as they each were given twenty dollars from Matthew, and he reminded them not to be late when they met back up.
“Don’t make me come and find you,” he warned with a serious look on his face.
They laughed at their father and ran off toward the rides, thankful they missed his dance moves they knew were soon to begin.
As Matthew, Jessie, and the Girl made their way to the rides for younger children, Matthew began to dance. Elvis Presley’s hit, “Burning Love” vibrated through the speakers now and he couldn’t be contained. He grabbed up his baby girl and adapted his Cajun two-step to the fast beat of the music as he held his daughter. She laughed while she danced with her daddy and a bright smile spread across her little face.
The lights from the rides caught the five-year-old girl’s attention and twinkled back from her eyes. She was beautiful. She was tiny in stature.
“Tiny but mighty,” her daddy would say.
Her hair was long, auburn, and pulled back in a ponytail. Her skin was olive-colored and blemish-free. She also had a few light freckles sprinkled across her nose. She had recently lost her upper-front tooth and lisped when she talked. She was the spitting image of her mother with one exception: she had her father’s unusual amber eyes. Amber eyes were also known as wolf eyes, and as if nature wanted to increase their dramatic effect, they were fringed with long, dark lashes. Her eyes sparkled brightly and when the dance ended, she grabbed her daddy’s face and planted a big kiss on his cheek. He put her down between himself and Jessie and they each grabbed one of her little hands.
“Come on with your daddy, Girl, the frogs are laughing and time’s a wasting!”
They continued on to find the rides for her to enjoy. She was safe and loved and right where she wanted to be, with her parents. This night at the fair would be one of the last happy memories she would have with both of them. This was the night “the music” died in their home. This was the night her father lost his smile. This was the night she met the rougarou.
He watched them and saw her smile. He knew she secretly smiled for him. He grew hard as he thought about what he wanted to do to her. She was his. He would bide his time and follow them. He would take her. They didn’t matter. It was what she wanted. His breathing grew heavier and his heartbeat accelerated in anticipation.