It was a bright morning in early June when we received a surprise visit from a local legend. Mr. Larry Miller, Cajun instrument maker from Iota, came that morning bearing a gift. It was a rudimentary instrument fashioned from 2 spoons and a piece of wood, and he brought it to be used for a Cajun & Zydeco Musical Instrument Display, located in the lobby of the Acadia Visitors Center.
Mr. Larry is known for crafting more than just spoon instruments. He spent many years as an accordion maker, taking up the trade at the mature age of 52 and having since produced thousands of accordions under the brand name Bon Cajun Accordions.
The spoons, as Mr. Larry explained, were an important part of the small three-piece Cajun bands that played at house dances, known in French as a “bal de maison” or “fais do do.” Typically, only a fiddle and an accordion player were needed to provide music at the bal de maison; however, the addition of percussive instruments, like spoons or triangle, helped the musicians keep their rhythm in the loud, crowded Acadia homes.
Mr. Larry used to make triangles, too. Known in Cajun French as a “t-fer” or “little iron,” these iconic folk instruments were made using iron rods from antique farming implements.
The iron used to make triangles wasn’t easy to come by, so spoons provided a convenient alternative. The hostess of the bal de maison would offer up spoons from the kitchen. A small piece of wood would be taken from the yard and two slots carved in it would hold the two spoons in place, acting as a handle for the simple instrument.
Larry Miller stopped making accordions, but not before teaching his son the tricks of the trade.
Acting as a culture bearer, passing along these folkways and traditions, is an honorable thing to do and Mr. Larry readily shares his wealth of knowledge with those interested.
People like him are a huge part of what makes Cajun Harvest Country so special.