Around the Press in 80 Books: Cruise of the Pintail

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Acquisitions Editor Margaret Lovecraft writes about Cruise of the Pintail.

WinansPINTAIL_jkt_sketchOn the pages of this book I met a captivating young man. Back in the early 1930s, he spent summers traveling through south Louisiana, filming a movie and taking photographs of the region’s waterway locales and peoples. Twenty-one years old, he and his two-friend crew drove to Louisiana in an old Model T from their home in Ft. Worth. Then, on a leaking, rudderless boat named Pintail, powered by the Model T’s battery, they navigated rivers and bayous from Morgan City to New Orleans to Grand Isle.

Photographer Fonville Winans (1911-1992) and his pictures are legendary in Louisiana (see also the LSU Press book Fonville Winans’ Louisiana, by Cyril E. Vetter).  A journal he kept for two of those summers gives voice to the artist as a young man, revealing a multitalented, spirited adventurer who with equal parts ease and effort made mechanical repairs, shot  photographs, played the sax, read literature, wrote eloquently, caught and cooked seafood,  cut a rug, charmed the girls, and marketed his film, Cruise of the “Pintail.” This book puts together his words and his pictures, the two completing each other.

Like “stills” that add up to “moving” pictures, Fonville’s journal entries constitute the flow of experience and thought.

Tuesday, June 13th:

Took on gas and oil at noon and got under way for New Orleans. Travelled the rest of the day through tropically beautiful cypress swamps and spent the night in a canal which hugged the State highway.

Thursday, June 15th:

This morning we pulled across the bayou under a giant oak that grew on a clam shell mound. A little way up the shore was an ancient graveyard. The land back of the tree spread away in tropical softness and in that softness nestled a rambling old plantation house. . . . Pretty soon a small party of girls came frolicking along the bank and as they were all comely, we lost no time in getting acquainted. We spent several pleasant hours with them and bid them goodbye with the promise to look them up in Gretna, where they lived. . . .

Monday, June 26th:

We got up at 4:30 and watched the sun rise in glorious beauty through the piled up clouds over the island. . . . At noon we all gathered on the porch of the lighthouse keeper’s home and had our lunch, and after that we scattered again, some to fishing, others to exploring, and I with camera on shoulder, to stalk the pelicans that had settled in great numbers on a sand bar up the beach. I made some telephoto pictures of them, using a pair of binoculars mounted on the lens of the camera.

In the afternoon we all boarded the “Pintail” and returned to Grande Isle with our handsome strings of trout and sheephead, and tonight we had the fish fry of our lives. We simply gorged. After that I drove to the boat and returned with my saxophone. Bob, Mrs. Farquar, Don and Marian danced while I played what tunes I knew.

Wearied, we returned to the boat late and battled mosquitoes while erecting the net. Even then several dozen of them got trapped inside and gave us a restless night.

As an acquisitions editor, I was immediately won over by Cruise of the “Pintail.”  A double exposure of south Louisiana and Fonville Winans in the 1930s, it depicts the origins of a reciprocal love affair.

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