Kyle planting at Shadowlawn
Beto Zuniga and Trent Downing
A vision for the city
Poule d’Eau Kyle will tell you that he was baptized Charles Edwin Kyle, and that his nickname came from his grandfather’s having remarked that Kyle’s infant feet reminded him of those of a poule d’eau (American Coot or water hen).
He will then add, “If you call me Charles or Charles Edwin, I will find out where you live, I will move in, and I will make your life miserable! It’s a talent, you understand,” with a grin.
Kyle speaks with enthusiasm and ease about whatever it is on which he is conjecturing, and he comes off as being sentimentally engaged when genuinely enthused about what he is speaking about.
These days, that engaged sentimentality points toward the revitalization of Franklin, starting with the grounds at Shadowlawn Plantation on Main Street.
Kyle is currently involved with manicuring Shadowlawn’s flower beds and trees, planting camellias, azaleas, weeping cherries, mulberries and yupons and cleaning up the grounds.
He said he got permission from the Shadowlawn Committee to do landscaping, and that anything he does on or to the grounds has to be approved by them. So, he has started with light work.
However, he also remarked that were he to attempt anything which might require the employment of funding past what he has so far mustered through donations, he is sure the plans would have to meet with several tiers of approval from various local and state organizations above and beyond the committee.
Yet, he is not deterred. Kyle’s visions of Franklin’s beautification seem articulated past the stage of merely acquiring permission, at least when one hears him tell them.
He describes butterfly gardens and manicured rows of oaks, wisteria arbors and lily ponds in parks with pathways interweaving them, and spring festivals celebrating azaleas and various other blooms, that if he has his way will be bursting forth all over Main Street and its arteries, all for the sake of beauty and the tourist’s dollar.
“How do we stop Franklin from dying further?” Kyle asked. “All we have to go on is our history. I don’t know if (plans for) Shadowlawn will work, but I’ve got to try something.
“This is what has come to my mind: Let’s clean up Shadowlawn, let’s put all of these things in there, let’s put a gate around the property, and at the back of the property we can have a little black box for the swiping of credit cards. Do you want to go to the butterfly garden? Do you want to go to the bayou? Anything developed there… two dollars to get in.”
This is how Kyle speaks of his dreams for Shadowlawn; and further, Franklin. He dreams out loud and it sounds great. It sounds like the hopeful poetry of enterprise yet manifest… and he keeps speaking.
“Another one is 3211 (Northwest Boulevard),” he said. “What is there to draw you from Highway 90—zero! Why are we not landscaped?
“People know about our houses and they know about how beautiful this little town is but there is nothing, eye-wise, to pull them off of that four-lane highway to come see us. Simple landscaping along 3211 and—bam! We’ve now made our entrance look very, very nice.”
He further envisions a parish bird sanctuary at the Atchafalaya Basin complete with “huge decks that go out over the swamp.”
He said he believes that these kinds of natural draws are the things that people might come to St. Mary Parish to see.
As for how he recommends funding his prospective projects—for now Kyle is doing it by “Peter sharing with Paul,” as he put it. He is procuring donations in the form of memorials, which is how the new camellias got planted at Shadowlawn.
Of course, it would be unrealistic to imagine one could botanize the entirety of Franklin’s Main Street, as well as the other beautifications Kyle has in mind, through donations alone. The city would be one big memorial plaque. But, Kyle knows that, too.
Donations are only how he is beginning his enterprises, and as they proceed toward fruition, each in their own right, the funding may become more available than if requested through a mere presentation at a council meeting.
In any event, Shadowlawn is currently ground zero for Kyle’s landscaping and beautification dreams for Franklin, and he has already seen some success there, with more to come according to him.
Ideas are the beginnings of acts, and acts are the beginnings of accomplishments.
And Poule d’Eau Kyle is not short on ideas. That is for certain.