A bit of France off the coast of Canada. The islands of St. Pierre, Miquelon and Langlade are rich with anomalies, not the least being their status as France’s last foothold in North America. A hermit of Langlade off the coast of Miquelon island rich with mysteries, not the least being his status as Langlade’s last human inhabitant of this soon to be uninhabited island of France’s last foothold in North America. Not much is known of this individual, but with our application of creative non-fiction, let’s fill in the blanks.
Where to begin? The mouth hell, shall we? The waters between Miquelon (Michael) and Langlade (a corruption of “l’île à l’Anglais” or Englishman’s Island) are called Gueule d’Enfer (Mouth of Hell). More than 600 shipwrecks have been recorded in this point since 1800. Half-wild horses, the survivors of earlier ship wrecks, graze on the grassy hillocks. The accidental equine tourists or Langlade, are joined by the intentional residents – white-tailed deer, brought over from Canada in the 1950’s. These fully-wild forest cattle have proliferated in the thick brush and stunted spruce forests. I’ve described how the largest of the four-legged creature of Langlade arrived. How the bi-pedals? That’s where creative non-fiction comes in.
According to the 1999 census, Langlade Island was almost deserted. Only one inhabitant. Langlade’s sole year-round inhabitant being Charles Lafitte. That’s it. Census data is sparse and anecdotal info curt, but the imagination can inveigle what’s missing. We know how the birds and the bees and horses and the deer got here. How did Charles la light here? And wh why does he stay? Perhaps, he prefers the anonymity of the near permanent fog to the exposure to the madding crowd. Or, more likely, a woman put him here (if he were to explain).
Assuming old Charles is no horse whisperer, who does he talk to when no one is listening? Mr. Lafitte has dogs. Those dogs surely accompany him in all kinds of weather, whether it be meteorological, psychological, or philosophical. The gods didn’t burden canines with the curse of mood. When a man locks his wife and his dog in the trunk of his car, when he lets them out, he always knows which one will be glad to see him. What kind of dogs were they?
If it were me, because my own experience with dogs, they would be Turkish shepherds. I love the hilarity of dachshunds, but the eventuality of back issues and totality of their uselessness would prohibit them from being companions at my hermitage. The beauty and power of the German shepherd appeals greatly to my esthetic appetite, but in a starvation scenario I might appeal to those great big teeth she has. No, give the soft mouth and hard bark of an Anatolian mix. Enough Pyr (Great Pyrenees) in her takes the lion out of Anatolian. Or Akbash (white face) mix, cousin to the Anatolian (Karabash = black face). You can’t beat having two companions, one of which you always know will be there, the other you never know where she is. But, the most curious thing about Charles Lafitte is not his chance to be a hermit or his choice of canine companions, but his nickname.
The hermit Charles Lafitte, at some point, acquired the moniker “de Gaulle”. I doubt that this name stuck simply because he is French. I would have thought Napoleon would have better suited for a superficial and derisive reference. I guess having the first name Charles would be a good start towards the application of “de Gaulle”. Seems too easy. Maybe he had a big nose. Well, come on, a Frenchman with big nose…doesn’t that go with the territory? Possibly, it disparagingly likens Mr. Lafitte’s estrangement to man as a distant comparison to Charles de Gaulle’s government in exile as a resistance to the Nazi occupation of France in WWII. If Charles’ isolation was known to be connected to some criminal connection, I imagine he would be known as “Jean” Lafitte, you know, like the 19th century pirate. If a woman sent him to Langlade, I might call him Charles “Defeat”. If he was simply a mad man, how about “Chucky”.
I could go on, but interest is probably waning for you the reader and the morning sun is waxing for me.
P.S. Charles Lafitte passed away in July of 2006…just before the road on the isthmus between Miquelon and Langlade opened to traffic.
P.P.S. I researched Charles de Gaulle and was reminded that the french general led the government in EXILE against the Vichy Government. This explains Charles LaFitte’s nickname.