the tale of lezime, the traiteur
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The Monsieur spelled his name: lezime bonhomme and he lived on borrowed land.
No rent was paid nor did he farm the land like the man to whom it belonged. When the man needed help, he’d offer a hand but both knew it was unnecessary. He had performed a great service for the family a long time ago- one they would not forget. To them, He was closer than family and thought of only as Uncle. lezime bonhomme had a great gift. He was a traiteur-a faith healer. In the bayou, doctors were few and far between. If the injury or sickness was too great to treat with household cures the people would seek out the traiteur. Through prayer, folk and traditional medicine, the traiteur cared for the souls of the bayou.
Long ago, Monsieur bonhomme had saved the life of the eldest son of the man on whose land he lived. The young boy had been bitten by a copperhead and the traiteur had prayed the boy from death’s door. But the land was not payment for this miracle. No, the man never paid the Monsieur for this great service. The people know the healer could not accept payment. His gift comes from God and if payment is accepted, the gift will be lost forever.
When the boy reached young manhood and Monsieur bonhomme had begun to gray, the man went to him and told him of an empty cabin at the edge of his land. It was falling down with no one to live in it and fix what needed fixing. The man asked Monsieur to move into the cabin and take care of it. It was not considered payment. Too much time had passed between the miracle Monsieur had prayed for and this offer of a home. The boy was nearly grown.
From the time he was a small boy his time was spent with his grand-mere. She taught him the secrerts of the gift as her uncle had taught her. For a traiteur only passes on the gift to a younger person of the opposite sex. The boy learned how to use the herbs, roots and vines in tisanes and poultices. He learned the prayers to offer and the charms to give to ward off sickness and fever. He learned to listen and observe; to see what others could not. But the hardest lesson to learn was not to offer help. The person needing help must find the traiteur and ask for help. They must believe that God will work through the traiteur to cure. It was not until he was a man that Monsieur fully understood the power of faith.
But he understood early on how hard it was for the bayou people to ask for help. So, Monsieur bonhomme made sure he was easy to find. Each morning he put on his battered old hat and walked down to the bayou. There he would sit and fish all day just so anybody who might need him would know where to look. The people could come and inquire if the fish were biting. They might sit as if to enjoy the day, Monsieur would casually ask after this family member or that. This made it easy to mention the need for the faith healers help. Monsieur bonhomme would roll up his cane pole, tuck it into a nearby hole in the pier and away they’d go. More often than not, a string of fish would go with the cure he brought.
He gave to all…but never took. Bayou Souls knew his name…He was lezime--un bon homme-A good man.
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