BY DON SHOOPMAN
THE DAILY IBERIAN
COTEAU — A somber, funereal salute to dearly and recently departed ducks was interrupted Friday night by a dog bite victim screaming bloody murder — well, threatening a lawsuit — at the host of the 45th annual Duck Wake.
The man, later identified as Marty Delaune, a retired local firefighter and photographer who works as a forensic investigator, walked with the aid of a crutch, his left leg and head bandaged, past mourners sitting at rows of tables inside the Francis Romero Memorial Building. A local lawyer, Quentin Simon, was at his side every step of the way.
“There he is! There he is! That’s him!” Delaune yelled several times as he approached the front to confront Gordie White of New Iberia, who had a microphone in his hand while telling an estimated 160 men and boys about the history of the Duck Wake. As the attendees listened in stunned silence, Delaune berated White, a retired lawyer, and fingered him as the owner of a dog that bit him and also caused him to injure his head during an otherwise friendly visit.
Aghast, White turned to the crowd and confessed, saying, yes, the charge was true. Fortunately, the accuser was his close, long-time friend who was playing the lead role in a planned skit (unbeknownst to White) and was having fun, which is what the annual events are all about … besides chowing down on delicious duck gumbo and bread.
Delaune’s performance would make any ambulance chaser proud and the crowd appreciated it. But in his haste, after going over his lines an hour earlier, the victim had forgotten a crucial prop, a dog leash, tweaked into a hangman’s noose, and had to retrace his steps with a gimpy gait, to go outside to a table to fetch the noose.
White had the last laugh at the end as Delaune, who had ketchup that showed through the white bandage above his left eye, walked away down the aisle between the rows of tables. As Delaune hobbled along, Simon called out, “Limp with the other leg! You’re limping on the wrong leg!”
That set the tone for the event that had its raucous beginning in 1975.
White’s son, Dr. Eric White, a local veterinarian who assumed chief cooking duties several years ago, said the dog bite incident happened a few weeks ago, Delaune went to his father’s house to donate ducks for the Duck Wake, he said, and the family dog bit him.
When Eric White heard about it, he asked if the friend of the family wanted to have the dog checked for rabies. Delaune told him, “No, it’s a good way to get the old man (via the skit).”
Consider him gotten.
White said, “Oh, it was so damned funny when Marty came in with that high-paid injury lawyer. That was funny.”
White, 82, oversaw the free event that has become a ritual attended by outdoorsmen near and far.
“Oh, it was probably the most fabulous one we had. Such a variety of people from all over,” said the elder White. “I enjoy it more and more every year.”
His son said it took 90 big ducks, 130 teal and 5 gallons of breasts, gizzards, etc., to get 40 gallons of duck meat for the gumbo. Sixty ducks were “cooked to oblivion” to make the stock,” he said.
The ducks were donated by Delaune, Keith Sellers, Charlie Mestayer, Steve Mestayer, Troy Dubois and Vince Dubois, he told the crowd.
While Sellers and White manned the big pots outside, Jeff Roy Sr. and his sons, Jeffery Roy Jr. and Thomas Roy, with the help of Melvin Pitre and Jimmy Anderson, collaborated on the potato salad. The elder Roy, the son of the late Earl Roy, one of the event’s co-founders, said 40 pounds of potatoes, six dozen eggs, 4 quarts of mayo, 3 1/2 quarts of mustard, 4 pints of sweet relish, 2 quarters of olives, and “the Cajun Trinity” of seasonings went into the potato sald.
After the skit and a prayer, the men and boys hit the serving table.
One of the guests was 75-year-old John Aldridge, who has been the advancement chairman for Eagle Scouts in the Kuna Nisha District. He was proud to see at least two Eagle Scouts on hand.
“Well, that’s all out future. Two of them here I knew of made Eagle — Matt Delcambre’s son, Thomas and Benjamin.”
Matt Delcambre, whose wife, Alexis, and mother-in-law, Penny White, prepared the desserts, said those two young men were the “bookend” sons. A third son and Eagle Scout is Travis, he said.
Aldridge said he attended the event for a second year.
“Gordie cornered me last year, said, ‘Here’s your invitation. You’re being subpoenaed.’ And handed me a card,” he said with a laugh.
Andy LeBlanc, Benny Lissard’s son-in-law, delivered the familiar duck in a coffin made years ago by Lissard.