Poor old Kaw-Liga. After his unrequited love, he got swept down the street.|
Unfortunately, the last line is for real, not a song lyric.
The old wooden tobacco store Indian returned home three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, a bit battered but whole. It wasn't exactly "home" since all that had been Vieux Marche Antiques in Biloxi was destroyed in the storm, including the 1930s house that partners Peter Webster and Wayne Williams rented for their downtown business.
Three weeks after Katrina the American Legion called to tell Webster and Williams that the Legion had been storing the Indian since the storm. A member had recognized and rescued it from a pile of rubble three blocks from the store.
Since the 1999 opening of Vieux Marche Antiques at that location - 120 Lameuse St. - the vintage wooden Indian had been the official porch greeter.
It had no name before the storm, but Webster and Williams decided he deserved one and the tune of the wooden Indian, who fell in love with a wooden Indian maiden popped into their minds. So he became Kalija, the "Kaw-Liga" of the song written by Hank Williams Sr.
Webster and Williams, who like many antique dealers were underinsured for a Katrina-type disaster, also lost their own home. Immediately after the storm, with no shop to tend to, they used their antique knowledge as hurricane damage appraisers. That, combined with the insurance money they did get, allowed them to re-open in January at Centuries Antiques Mall in D'Iberville.
They hope to eventually reopen in downtown Biloxi, but in the meantime are concentrating their antique buying trips on the more functional items and furniture required as people rebuild.
Kalija is at the D'Iberville mall, too, greeting customers as he's always done.
"He'd been through a lot so we had to name him," said Webster. "Poor old Kalija.
"People say in the antique business everything is for sale but he's not. We were offered $5,000 and turned that down. He's a true Biloxi Indian who stayed."
- KAT BERGERON