The legend of ‘The Peanut Man’
GUEYDAN - It is not an urban legend, it is just another one of those odd things that put Gueydan on the map, making national news in May of 1961.
Each year around this time, at the start of hunting season, folks begin a new discussion about The Peanut Man.
Most folks have fallen to the belief that he actually sold peanuts, which is not the case. He was indeed a peanut salesman, but not in a door to door way. He was employed by a nut company and posed as a wholesale peanut salesman. He walked and lived among the hunters and quickly became a friend of the folks in the community sitting and eating at their supper table nightly.
According to The Peanut Man’s (Anthony Stefano) accounts, May 5, 1961 was called D-Day (Duck Day) and became history’s greatest mass roundup of alleged Market Hunters. For those not familiar with the term, Market Hunters, it simply means one who sells (in this case) waterfowl/ducks and geese. Stefano told his side of the story to Paul Kalman of Sports AField Magazine, the side from the undercover federal agent. The Market Hunters never told their story to any newspapers or magazines, they simply went about their lives with a notable change in their future.
It was, and still is, a fact that it is unlawful to sell waterfowl/ducks and geese. But in 1961 in the now known Duck Capital of America, it was a friend helping a friend, a means of getting by and it was not a conscious criminal act.
Remembering ‘D Day’ for folks here can mean bringing up unwanted memories but in the case of this story, facts need to be separated from fiction.
Anthony Stefano lived under many aliases but while in Gueydan he was Joe Grecco, a name that will send a chill down the backs of many. Gaining the confidence and befriending folks in a close knit community is not always an easy task, but Sefano kept steadfast winning the needed confidence to uncover what was unlawful to some, but was a way of life for folks here. Because of the isolation of Acadians in South Louisiana, the rules of the “Americans” were not needed here, most lived by their community rules.
With the mass arrest of many citizens in Gueydan and the ultimate fines and penalties, a new era was ushered in. It was one incident that may have contributed to the loss of a unique tradition that sustained so many for so long. And thus the beginning of a new perspective on our responsibilities to the environment. So little was known about endangerment of animals back then ... All seemed so harmless.
Over 60 individual from Southwest Louisiana were indicted arrested by federal and state game agents on charges of illegally selling migratory birds that year. Bonds ranging from $500 to $1000 were posted.
Sadly, most of the arrested had never before sold ducks or geese to anyone one else but ‘The Peanut Man.’ He offered just the right amount of money that many who were poor could not refuse.
If anyone has more facts and stories about this case and would like to contribute more information please contact the Gueydan Journal at 536-6016.