Ruthie’s older brother, Henry Moulon Jr., born August 14, 1930, was an odd fellow. He worked several jobs, including serving up beignets at Morning Call. He was also a car-hop waiter and occasional cashier at the French Market coffee shop. In exchange for rent, Henry also functioned as manager for Jules Cahn’s Toulouse Street apartments where he lived with his mother and Ruthie in the 70s. "Henry was such a serious person. Ruthie was more the fun-loving," Carol Cunningham remembers. It was Henry who helped Ruthie become a "sidewalk sideshow" in the French Quarter, supplying her with ducks and postcards of herself to sell.
Henry was quite an eccentric himself. For special occasions, he’d dress in his favorite glittering green St. Patrick’s Day outfit complete with hat, sometimes donning a wig and wearing make-up. During Mardi Gras, he sometimes dressed as a "wild man of Borneo" with a long dark wig and black face paint. He’d sneak up on people he knew and try to scare them with a native howl. "Oh, hi Henry," was often the reply. Although Henry thought he was fully incognito, everyone seemed to know who he was. "Dammit!" Henry fumed. How did they recognize him? Well, Henry never did take off the monogrammed belt from his pants with his name, "Henry Moulon", printed on the back.
Henry’s barber remembers Henry sitting in the barber chair spinning some tale about his involvement with the mob. Henry wanted people to perceive him as someone to beware, a tough guy, a Satanist, or evil-doer. In actuality, he was no more than a petty thief. But Henry did appear to be a complex character. Some Quarterites remember him as dim-witted, friendly, and amusing, while others saw him as a sinful, lecherous snake who often rudely propositioned women and men alike. He often visited the baths located next door to the family’s Toulouse Street apartment.
The most famous and most often told Ruthie story is about the time her duck was hit by a bus, and there’s also a legendary and often repeated story about Henry that still lingers on. Here is the story of the night Henry shot a man at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.
The Night Henry Shot A Man at Lafitte’s
On a hot July night in 1958, Henry Moulon, 27, had just finished watching a movie at the theater when he decided to go to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop bar on Bourbon St. before going home around the corner at 832 St. Philip.
Henry loved to sing and belted out one of his own compositions accompanied by the bar’s piano player, Juan Bobby Quinton, 41. Those who remember Henry’s singing confirm that he sang completely off-key. The song was titled The Lady With the Goose. "You see… my song… it’s got lots of other names. Sometimes I call it The Lady With the Duck. Sometimes, just The Duck Girl," Henry later explained.
Henry had such a terrible singing voice that Bobby couldn’t help but blurt out, "You got an awful voice!" This didn’t bother Henry too much, but he was soon driven over the edge by Bucknell Merrell, 33, a husky bartender who was off of work and enjoying a drink in the bar.
Bucknell approached Henry, who was described in the newspaper as a "scrawny little waiter who weighs only 108 pounds though he stands five feet seven inches tall" and decided to escalate the bullying. Not only did Bucknell agree with Bobby about the singing, but he began ridiculing Henry and making fun of his sheer black shirt with shiny silver threads and bebop cap of the same material.
Henry, not one to be messed with, answered him back, "I dress to suit myself, mister. I don’t dress to suit you or anybody else." Henry then made a remark about the Ivy League cap Bucknell was wearing. Henry later recalled, "He grabbed my shirt, and choked me so I couldn’t say boo. He said I was a smart punk." Henry remembered being grabbed around the throat and almost lifted up off the ground before Bucknell pushed him down. "Don’t pay any attention to him, Henry. Finish you beer a take a walk," the bartender on duty told him. And that’s what Henry did. But not before muttering, "If I had my automatic, I’d kill that son-of-a-bitch."
It was now about 2:15am. Henry walked around the corner to his house. He was steaming mad. And when Henry’s gorge was raised, he thought of his sister, the Duck Girl, who achieved fame and celebrity for just being her eccentric self. She was celebrated for being a free spirit who wore wild
dresses and hats and walked down the street with her pet duck. But for Henry, it was another story. He was not the Duck Boy. Nobody wanted to photograph him. Nobody offered him free drinks. He was just an uneducated muttering wimp to most people. When Ruthie sang, everyone laughed. It was entertaining. And she laughed right along with them. But with Henry, it was different. Now, he wanted revenge!
Henry went home and got his gun. Ten minutes later, he walked back to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop and scaled the 8 foot brick wall of the back patio. In the darkened empty courtyard, he looked through the dirty glass window of the bar. There he saw Bucknell Merell, sitting in the bar, drinking and laughing beside the jazz-pounding piano player, Bobby Quinton. He pulled his gun out and fired one shot through the glass window at Bucknell. The shot struck Bucknell in his left side, penetrating his stomach, liver, and spleen. Henry scrambled as fast as he could over the brick wall, knocking over a small yellow light that was mounted on the wall, and he scurried off home.
Sirens wailed down Bourbon Street, and the police soon arrived at Lafitte’s. Bucknell lay in a pool of blood on the floor, writhing in pain. The paramedics were on the way. Henry returned to the bar moments later to be part of the gathering crowd. In a daze, Bucknell scanned the crowd and spotted Henry. "That’s him! That’s the one who shot me!"
The officers had seen the small yellow light from the patio wall hanging down suspended from its wires. They knew from the bullet hole in the glass that whoever shot Bucknell had scaled the wall and took aim from the courtyard. The officers noticed a severe brush burn on Henry’s left wrist. Henry had an explanation, "I got part of the scratches when I scraped a seawall while out swimming and another part of it when I had to climb in a window of my house to let me and my sister in after we come home last night from seeing that movie about Gary Cooper in the Civil War."
Henry said his father, a heavy sleeper, was inside the house and could not hear him ringing the family’s upstairs apartment. He climbed the porch pillar aggravating the wrist bruise. Nobody was buyin’ it. "I did not shoot him. I don’t know who did," Henry tried to convince the officers. Henry admitted to quarreling with Bucknell, but claimed he left right afterwards. "When I went back in there, I saw that someone had shot him, and I was surprised."
Newsmen arrived to cover the story. Henry told reporters, "I didn’t shoot anybody. That fellow is lying. It’s true I was mad at that fellow, but I didn’t shoot him. I wouldn’t hurt anybody. I like people." The newsmen loved it. The Item ran a front page story, "A muttering, slender little French Quarter waiter who is known to thousands of tourists and residents as ‘the brother of the Duck Girl’ was held for attempted murder today after a shooting at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop bar, 941 Bourbon St." Another paper’s headline read, "’Duck Girl’s Kin Booked In Attack."
Police confiscated a .22-caliber rifle and an automatic pistol that fires blanks from Henry’s room. It is known that Ruthie was with Henry earlier in the bar, but it is not known if Ruthie was there during the altercation between Henry and Bucknell. There is no mention of it in any articles. Bucknell Merrell was in critical condition at Charity Hospital, but survived the shooting. It is believed that he did die years later as a result of the shooting injury. Although most people believe Henry did not serve hard time for attempted murder, a letter to Henry from his mother was found that may be evidence that he served jail time for his crime.
In later years, Henry admitted and bragged about the shooting incident. He even told people that the Merrell family called him to thank him because they were not fond of Bucknell anyway.
In the late 1980’s, Henry was placed in a nursing home. Ruthie went to visit her brother whenever she could get a ride there. And when Ruthie would arrive, Henry was proud to show off his sister, The Duck Girl, to the residents and staff of the home. Henry died on August 16, 1990, two days after his 60th birthday.