MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) Joe Cain's Merry Widow and I sip together.
And celebrate together...
And we cry together...
And we've done this together for nearly two decades now.
But Thursday night, at True Midtown Kitchen, I decided I would try to learn more about this secretive organization... beyond the fact that each claims to be the widow of the late Joe Cain, the man who revived Mardi Gras after the civil war.
"He did that during the occupation by federalist Yankee troops, here in Mobile all over the street of Mobile," wailed one of the black veiled widows.
Yankees are a touchy subject.
No, this year, I decided to find out what a woman has to do to become a Merry Widow.
I immediately learned there are two things you must posses.
"An overwhelming love for Mardi Gras and Joe," proudly stated another widow.
And you must have been married to Joe.
That's not an easy accomplishment, since he died nearly 150 years ago.
But there could be another widow around.
"There's always the possibility," chimed in another weeping widow.
"Should they contact you?" I ask.
"Well, no!" was the response that set all of the widows laughing.. or weeping.
Sometimes it's hard to know.
There are always, it seems, a maximum of 20 widows at any given time.
And each must prove that she was Joe's favorite, even in death.
"I go to the graveyard weekly," said one widow, proudly.
"Wait! You mean the other girls don't?"
"I go every day!" chimed in another.
"I go three times a day!" yet another cracked.
And then there's that weeping.
You must do it well, and you must do it every Sunday before Fat Tuesday over old Joe's grave at the Church Street Graveyard.
And you must, must dress properly.
"I had to dig out this ratty old thing that I've been wearing for years out of the attic and try to freshen it up," said Sue Ellen Cain, weeping, of course. "And it just looks terrible! I need to get a fund going form somebody to get us some new things to make a new hat!"
There you have it.
To be a widow, you must be true to Joe.
That's why the announcement I was about to make to them would come as a major shock:
" Ladies," I said, with much flourish, "I have been told by good authority that one of you... is a Yankee!"
"What?????" the collectively bellowed.
"I have been told that Joe referred to her as his Yankee Doodle Dandee!"
The sound that followed was that of a dozen mad, wet hens in a chicken coop.
But in the meantime, let the back biting begin!