It wasn’t supposed to be this hard.
When Bonnie and Kevin Hauke began their overhaul of the faded Goodland Water Tank mural last March they couldn’t possibly have foreseen the obstacles which would be thrown in their way. First, the record rains of spring (19 inches in a month) drenched the water tank day after day. Then came the crews laying a new water line along Goodland Road, parking their equipment next to the water tank, some days making it almost impossible to get near it. In the midst of this, an almost biblical invasion of salt marsh mosquitos swarmed the water tank, waiting for their prey to show up. And then came Irma, coating the work site with slimy, smelly sludge, soon drying into a pervasive, choking, and some say, toxic dust.
The sight of Bonnie (Kevin helped when their sign business would allow him to get away) soldiering on amidst the chaos, heat and humidity, moved the hearts of the pilgrims and residents traveling Goodland Road. Through the auspices of the Goodland Civic Association, they donated over $3,000 to show their appreciation for what the Haukes were doing. (For this and a related article, search “Bonnie Hauke” at coastalbreezenews.com.)
Irma brought almost everything to a standstill – everything except Bonnie Hauke. The Haukes’ scaffolding reappeared shortly after the storm. Until the November 21 board meeting, the GCA’s efforts where concentrated on the relief of Goodland’s beleaguered residents. The Town Meeting that preceded the board meeting on November 21 was devoted almost entirely to the Goodland Relief Fund. At the board meeting which followed, time was finally found to remember the Haukes. Sentiment on the board was for the GCA to match the $3,000 previously donated by residents. After discussion and a report from the treasurer that the hurricane had substantially reduced available funds, a compromise was reached, and a $1,000 donation to the Haukes ap- proved. A check was presented to Bonnie and Kevin Hauke a few days later.
On November 25, 2017, a quiet, sundrenched Saturday, Bonnie accepted the check, with members of her family looking on. Her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter had come down for Thanksgiving. In this peaceful scene, it was hard to imagine what this site had gone through in the last eight months. Bonnie, as always was moved to tears and as always, insisted that this was only a “labor of love”, and that she had expected nothing in return, quickly adding that she was deeply appreciative for everything that they had received. And then Bonnie began to wax eloquent.
When the Haukes first painted the mural in 1995, it was largely out of Bonnie’s concern for the threatened and endangered indigenous animals in the surrounding wetlands. “I wanted to call attention to the fact these animals might not always be here,” she said, “all of the animals [appearing on the mural] were on the threatened or endangered species list 22 years ago.” She had a story about each one.
Of most concern to her was a dark brown bird, which although in the center of the mural, is the least conspicuous. It is a snail kite, and it is endangered. “These birds eat only the snails which live in the shallow grassland mudflats,” Bonnie said. “[Because of increasing droughts] a lot of this habitat is drying up.” She notes that although beautiful to look at, proliferating cattails are a bad sign, because they only grow in drier ground.
Most of the rest of the animals on the mural would be familiar to us, but there is something to be learned from all of them. For instance, the bald eagle was given a prominent place, closest to Goodland Road, when first painted 22 years ago. It was at that time (but is no longer) on the endangered species list. The brown bear, although now considered more of a pest, was on the threatened list.
A large bird rises into the air at the top center of the mural. It is a tricolored heron, Bonnie explains. Its major feathers are gray and its undercarriage, white. “In Louisiana they are entirely white,” she says. “They are threatened and I don’t know exactly why. It all comes down to the habitat.” This time around, as Bonnie has repainted and touched up, she has emphasized more features of the habitat. “When it comes to flora and fauna,” she says, “you can’t have one without the other.”
Another example of this is the wood stork which stands at the extreme left of the mural. This threatened bird also depends on shallow mudflats for food, Bonnie says. “It’s troubling and telling that they are now beginning to appear along canals. Some of their habitat is either disappearing to development or drying up.”
Bonnie’s obvious favorite is the alligator that is crawling into the mural from the left edge. Whether it is threatened may be up for debate, but she couldn’t resist this one. “It is a teenager,” Bonnie says, “You can tell because it is still green, while adults are gray. I wanted to capture that alligator grin, which gets people to come look at it.” She has succeeded admirably. This one, by itself, is worth stopping for a closer look.
The entire mural takes place in the spring, Bonnie says. “You can tell by the mangrove leaves. They are darker in color with new leaves budding forth.” A leitmotif begins to emerge. It is the concern for our habitat, which we share with our beloved and unique animal friends, the hope of regeneration, and perhaps a warning and lasting memorial after much of it has gone. It has become the culminating climax of Bonnie’s life. It is her legacy and gift to Goodland, where she spent much of her life.
This beautiful panorama is admired by many in passing, but few actually pull over to examine it more closely. That is a shame. Each depiction on this mural is as accurate and colorful, as any of the illustrations of John J. Audubon which I have seen. I used to pour through his books as a kid. Bonnie’s work on this mural rivals in every respect, the love, urgency, and great talent which Audubon showed in depicting America’s birds. Take a closer look. You will be glad you did.
But what happens in another 22 years, when the painting needs to be redone again? Suppose Bonnie and Kevin are no longer able to undertake such a massive project. Maya Manfred, their 18-year-old granddaughter was present on Saturday. She is studying to be an artist at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and was moved by the beauty of the mural and the outpouring of support from the community. “It would definitely be an honor to touch up such a beautiful piece of art, let alone a landmark,” Maya told me. Of course it would. She has her grandmother’s DNA.
Barry was a practicing attorney before he worked as a Special Agent of the FBI for 31 years. Barry worked for several government agencies another ten years before retiring to Goodland in 2006. Barry is presently the Secretary of the Goodland Civic Association.