Living Ind


by James A. Smith

A simple man with a simple instrument does what he enjoys.

A simple man with a simple instrument does what he enjoys.

[Editor’s Note: We received a sweet, sincere packet in the snail mail in mid-May from Jimmie Breaux, a Kaplan resident who, for the simple sake of loving music, took up playing the cowbell and wants to spread that joy to others. The packet included a cover letter, Xerox copy of a photo of himself playing the cowbell, Vermilion Parish promotional materials and, to make sure we understood, a copy of the Wikipedia page for the cowbell. We fell for Jimmie on the spot. Unfortunately, miscommunication resulted in an aborted attempt to photograph Jimmie playing his cowbell in Kaplan, so instead we’ve reproduced the first three pages from his promotional packet. The story below was written by a news intern.]

Jimmie Breaux

On almost any given weekend in the small town of Kaplan, Jimmie Breaux plays his cowbell — in front of the stores on the main drag through the small Vermilion Parish town and sometimes even with a local band. We found out about him by way of a promotional packet he mailed to The Independent. In his cover letter he identifies himself as a “Percussion Cow Bell Entertainer” and closes with, “Keep me in mind if you need a short story.”

We needed a short story. The 59-year-old says he picked up his love for the cowbell after watching a nowfamous sketch from Saturday Night Live titled “More Cowbell.” In the skit, music producer Bruce Dickinson, played by Christopher Walken, repeatedly requests “more cowbell” in a song being recorded by an SNL version of Blue Oyster Cult. Will Ferrell is the obnoxious cowbell player in the sketch. Shortly after watching it, Jimmie acquired his own cowbell and began playing along at home with zydeco and Cajun music.

“All I’d do was keep a beat, and I liked it,” he says. More than a decade later, Jimmie is still keeping the beat. Most weekends, he can be seen in front of shops on East 1st Street playing alone, just keeping a rhythm. Some weekends he joins forces with local zydeco, Cajun and Christian bands willing to explore the sonic possibilities of the cowbell. He says he’ll simply ask either the lead vocalist or whomever looks most in charge if they’d like a cowbell to join their band for the performance, and more often than not the bands generously welcome Jimmie and his cowbell.

When he becomes irritable, his wife will tell him, “Go out and play the cowbell,” and he admits that she usually knows what’s best. Some of us could probably learn a thing or two from Mr. and Mrs. Breaux: having a simple hobby goes a long way in a marriage. No matter how simple the instrument may be — a cowbell for example — music provides a pleasure and peace that is seldom found in our bustling 21st century lives. For Breaux, whether it’s ringing a rhythm to himself or playing alongside a band, the fact that he’s playing music and doing something he enjoys is what matters most.

Jimmie Breaux doesn’t smoke, drink or gamble, but he plays a mean cowbell.

We ask him where he’d like his cowbell skills to take him, to which he replies, plainly, “I know nothing will come ... but I enjoy the music.”