Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bayou country

Our 701st post on the Dot Matrix.  Welcome.

I went way out into St. Bernard Parish today, Terre-aux-Boeufs, Land of Cattle.  I did see some cattle grazing on flat land.

Ever heard of Ysclosky, Louisiana?  Me neither until today.  Even the volunteers at Wikipedia can't be cajoled to write an entry.

This is more hurricane-damaged territory.  St. Bernard Parish has about half the population it did five years ago.  The farther you go, the emptier it gets.  I was wondering what the people who live out there do for a living.  There are plenty of empty house foundations and there are some new houses too.  The new houses are mostly mobile units suspended on top of struts made from telephone poles.  There are some small oil refineries scattered through the territory and some truck farms but it wasn't until I was frantically looking for a gas station past the unincorporated community of Poydras that it occurred to me that most of these people may be fishermen.  Judging from the gear on the boat decks lined along the bayous, the primary harvest is oyster, shrimp and crawfish.  If I'm reading the evidence correctly, crawfish are caught in traps much like lobsters are.

As a New Englander, I tend to think of "bayou" as meaning swamp.  This isn't accurate.  A bayou is a waterway that cuts through a swamp.  This region is crisscrossed with bayous.  It's bayou country to be sure, a world apart and a world away, a fertile place yielding up its bounty for those who choose to collect it.  It is far removed from creature conveniences.  I never did find a functioning gas station so I had to call quits to the journey and head back to denser civilization.  Yup, it's that empty.  I did find a gas station sign and a bed of concrete where a gas station once stood.  It was about ten miles after that I decided it was time to turn around.

Nice people.  I asked a guy where the nearest gas station was.  He scratched his head a minute and told me to go over the drawbridge and take a right.  "Go to the end of the road.  There's a marina.  They should have gas there.  If you go left that's a really long drive."  I followed his directions with no sign of a marina in sight, plenty of parked boats though.  There was a man hosing down a trawler so I asked him if there really was a gas station at the end of the road.  "I don't think so," he said, "There's a marina but I don't know if they've got anything but diesel."  About face.  I only have so much reserve in the Little Ninja's gas tank.  Next time I'll plan ahead instead of venture through this bit of Louisiana on a whim.

I did see the museum of Los Islenos, but I was too worried about being trapped in this land of cattle and bayous to stop.  My mission was to find petrol in this land dotted with small scale petroleum refineries but no pumps.

An adventure of sorts.  The swamp is so green and virile.  I'm sure it holds as many mysteries as it's reputation leads me to expect.  I'll be back.


Anonymous said...

So, did you find a gas station in time or were you stranded?

Whalehead King said...

I ended up back in Poydras at the Green Store Meat Market with a gas station across street. I filled up but I headed back to New Orleans rather than venture out into the great beyond after that. That will be a June adventure!

Michelle H. said...

The word bayou reminds me of those boats with the huge propellor fans on the back and ornery drivers always giving a good story to the sightseers about crocodiles. As you describe, there is more to see than what we are always lead to believe. I suppose it's time to put away the misconceptions. I wonder how long it will really take for the community to come back to the land. Or will it eventually just dwindle away.

Whalehead King said...

I don't think these communities will dwindle away based on the number of fishing boats I saw. With this oil spill though, that opinion may change. Look at the satellite photos. It's terrible.


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