Into the Bayou

Drive far enough south on Louisiana 56 and you’ll hit water. The Gulf of Mexico to be exact. Back up a little bit and you’ll find the little fishing village of Cocodrie. Further north still, is Chauvin. The towns are one road wide. Go east and you’ll hit water. West? Water. It’s not hard to get around.

The locals like to tell strangers who ask for directions to just keep going south. “When you run out of road,” they say, “just wait for the ferry.”

There is no ferry.

It’s Cajun country. The Cajuns are Acadian exiles and speak a version of French that might get them the same sideways look I received in Paris when I tried…and failed…to honor their language.

If you’re a Cajun, you probably know how to build boats and catch gators. You probably eat seafood most every day and think that hurricanes are no big deal. You’re also pretty sure there is nowhere you’d rather live.

“If civilization comes to an end, we’ve got everything we need right here,” Kenny Theriot told me soon after we met.

Five minutes after meeting Kenny, I was sitting in his living room. An hour later he was feeding me lunch. Later that day he offered me lodging in the RV parked outside and by morning we were searching for gators in his back 40.

Down the road a bit, he introduced me to his best friend Jessie, who was slowly restoring a boat that had seen better days. Jessie might not have showered this month. He wouldn’t mind me saying that.

“You don’t have to be crazy to get respect, “ Jessie said, by way of introduction. “You just have to act crazy. The problem is, I’ve been acting for so long that I can’t remember if it’s real of not.”

Jessie’s filled with wisdom and history of the bayou. The only problem is, you’re never quite sure what’s real and what’s bull.

There’s not much for services down in the bayou, buy you’ll find food, gas, and most any odds and ends at Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery. They’ve been doing it for 100 years.

When Kenny offered me lunch and I said yes, he opened the fridge and brought out a large pan of boiled crabs. He threw a half dozen on my plate and I stared at them. Mostly, I eat things with fur or feathers. I’m not afraid to ask for help, so pretty soon Kenny was giving me a tutorial on extracting the meat. Not long after, his wife Linda sat down next to me, started opening more crabs and putting the meat on my plate. “If you’re gonna feed yourself, you’re gonna starve.”

Humility is one of my specialties.

And hospitality is one of Kenny’s.

Every time I opened my mouth, it was clear I was an outsider, but Kenny never made me feel that way. By the time we found our gators in the morning, he offered to take me shrimping on the Gulf. The next day was the first day of the season, and he wanted me to see what it was like.

And that…will be the next blog post.

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