Big morning in St. Francisville. A gift shop caught on fire downtown, and it spread to the Blue Horse Saloon, where the mechanical bull lives. As soon as I heard about it, Lucas and I jumped into my car and sped down to see what we could do. People were rushing into Dahn Savell’s antiques store in the same complex, hauling out furniture, dishware, fabrics, rugs, and everything else, in case the fire next door spread. It was something to see. Old people, young people, black, white, Hispanic (one of the hardest workers was a Latino man whom I’d never seen before, and who didn’t speak much English) — no one asked questions, everybody grabbed something and took it out to the parking lot or the lawn next door. Somebody went to get tarp to protect it all from smoke. By the time the firefighters had the thing out, and told us we didn’t have to haul any more furniture to the curb, our impromptu crew had taken out about 2/3 or the stuff in the shop.

Somebody gave Dahn a hug, and I heard Dahn say, with emotion in her voice, “We have such a great community.”

Indeed we do. I was so proud of my son Lucas, who is eight, and who busted his butt carrying whatever he could out of the shop to protect it.

The gift shop and the saloon appear to be total losses. I saw my brother in law Mike Leming, a Baton Rouge firefighter, working the fire. He told me he was inside the saloon when the roof caved in on them, but thank God nobody was hurt. Dahn’s shop, Bohemianville Antiques, was okay when I left, but it smells pretty smoky in there. There’s a rumor going around that the Magnolia Cafe burned down, but it’s completely untrue. The fire was not in the Mag’s building. It’s perfectly fine.

We were supposed to go to Baton Rouge to Ascension liturgy, but police blocked the street out of our end of town. It’s just as well; I couldn’t see ceasing to help a neighbor who stood to lose her business to a fire, just to go to church. That would be kind of missing the point of the Christian life, wouldn’t it? I trust the Lord will give us a pass on that.

Let me say again: we have a great community. I saw the hospital administrator, a man who is not from here, and whom I do not know, soaked with sweat, his shirt stained with some kind of paint from hauling antiques, hustling in the heat and smoke to help Dahn. It’s awful, what happened. Two businesses destroyed, and probably three (I don’t know how Cy D’Aquila is going to cut hair in his little shop now, with all that smoke damage), and who knows what will happen to Dahn’s place, given all that smoke. But boy, did the spirit of St. Francisville show itself this morning.