The farther South I drive, the more North I feel. I haven’t spent much time down this way, so it’s a journey of discovery and wonder.
I ate pig’s feet last night. (I’m not sure if it should be written pigs’ feet) Trotters, they called them, and just now I see the sad irony in that name. I’m not an adventurous foodie. I’ve declined roasted beetles in Thailand and fresh octopus in Greece. But if someone brought another plate of pig feet trotters right now, I’d snatch them up even though I just finished an oversized lunch.
This morning I drove through southern Arkansas and into the Mississippi Delta. I’ve passed bayous, cypress trees, and endless fields of cotton. Just before spotting The Catfish Kitchen (you buy ‘em, we fry ‘em) I watched two dozen prisoners mowing lawn while a couple corrections officers oversaw the work from horseback.
I’m feeling pretty Yankee.
Names that have lived in myth and imagination now pass on road signs. Eudora. Choctaw, Texarkana. Natchez. Houma.
Houma. That’s where I start getting into trouble. My northern brain can’t figure out Louisiana names. I say Hoo-ma, they say Hoe-ma. Chauvin. I say Show-vin, they say show-Van. Apparently, plain old Herbert sounds more like Ay-Bear.
Yesterday on the phone I mentioned to a Cajun shrimper I was headed to Delcambre. He said, “What?” and I tried a different pronunciation. “Come again?” he said and I tried version three. Finally, he said “I’m sorry, I still don’t understand.” I spelled it, and he said, “Oh!” and followed with a word I couldn’t recognize.
I’m just plain scared to pronounce Dumas. I thought I’d venture a guess and say something like Doo-mahs, but have decided to remain silent rather than sound like a Dumas.
The people here are nice. They mention how unseasonably cool it is and I wonder why am I sweating while standing still in the shade. Apparently I don’t need to open my mouth to stand out. I just have to shine all over and wipe my brow while my new friends grab a sweater.
Yankee, Yankee, Yankee.
All that said, I like it here. It’s new. It’s fresh. And it challenges my notions of the South. That’s why I love the road. Maybe I’ll challenge their notions of a Yankee as well…or maybe not.