Blow your troubles away at Camp Dularge!

Before you start conjuring images reminiscent of “Up in Smoke” of decades gone by, know this story has nothing to do with taking a toke.  Not in the least.

Spontaneous.  Eclectic.  Those two words used together to describe one event could mean anything, and in this case you would almost had to have been here to appreciate this little slice of bayou life.

Things in life don’t always come together like we planned, but once in a while, everything lines up like it should, and a tiny miracle of life, fellowship, and sharing evolves.  Such an event occurred recently at Camp Dularge down on Bayou Dularge in southern Terrebonne Parish, LA.

To set off the sequence of events, Capt. John Swallow paid me a visit and brought along his trusty red-headed sidekick pyrate they call “Irish”!  You might remember meeting them through this blog last spring after coming down for a wetland tour.  This year, I had the distinct honor of meeting the lovely, talented Quarter Master Seika Hellbound (or Capt. Swallow’s wife).  She makes all their period costume and clothing and is quite the historian, too.

Guess who they drove down and visited with after our time together?

You guessed it!  Bayou Fabio!

Capt. Swallow and his wife founded and continue to organize the NOLA Pyrate Week down in the French Quarter.  The week consists of a parade to get things rolling, and the next day a market selling hand-made artisan pieces, and a few philanthropic events to go along with their slogan, “Take what ye can!  Give something back!”  This year a new event was introduced–the Pyrate Wench Pageant.  We’ll hear more about the pageant winner later.

This year, Capt. Swallow and his mates took part in the Bayou Lafourche Cleanup before heading down da bayou.  With him was the Creole Queen you met last year, Creole Farmer, whom you will meet later, and then the first Miss Louisiana Pyrate Wench (in the black sunglasses)!  It was an eclectic group, and we shared a marvelous day together.

After their bayou cleanup, they drove down the bayou and jumped right onto my boat, with Termite at the helm, and we took off on a sunset cruise.  For the first time, in a very long time, I just kicked back and enjoyed the ride.  The bad part of that is, I forgot my camera, so I can’t offer any photos of my guests during the tour.

The next morning at Camp Dularge began with meditation and music.  Capt. John is blowing his didgeridoo, Creole Queen is playing a drum, and so is our Creole Farmer, whom we will call Ras.  We let Miss La. Pyrate Wench sleep in since she had been burning the candle at both ends for about four days.

As the morning wore on, Ras shared stories about his Creole ancestors, who lived on the levees up around New Roads, LA.  He told bits and pieces of stories he heard from his grandmothers over the years.  One of those stories illustrated how much of a real community the Creoles were in the early 1900’s living on the levee.  They lived off the land and the water and helped each other survive–the truest sense of “community”.  The thing that stuck with me most was the story of how one of his grandmothers never had a need for American money until she reached the age of 30 years old, when she had many children and could no longer provide everything they needed with her own two hands.

Once the pageant winner, Ms. Ashley Martinez, joined the conversation, it was about time for us to break our fast.  I was intrigued to listen to her talk of her family heritage.  Her family came to Louisiana from the Canary Islands, and she is what we call an Islenos.  Islenos make up just one slice of the Louisiana cultural pie.  I was so excited because she is the first Islenos I have ever met.  Furthermore, her mother’s people are from the Philippines, so she had some very interesting multi-generational stories of her own to share.  I’m sure we will hear more about her in the near future!

Ras reaches back to his roots as an organic gardening and farming consultant working toward building more sustainable gardening in the inner city and educating the younger generation about how they can benefit from Mother Earth.  Creole Queen is working with him.

While we were visiting, Bayou Fabio called and said he was dropping off a very special gift of oysters straight from the seashore, which Ras and I  shucked and prepared for consumption.

The little orange bits you see on top of the oysters are Habenero peppers Ras grows.  Oh yes, they will make your eyes water and set your heart on fire!

We added extra chairs around the little rectangular table my friend Shawee crafted of old cypress lumber reclaimed from a ramshackle building up near Napoleonville.  As we crowded around the table, each person contributed something to this rather eclectic makeshift meal.  While we were snacking on olives, artichoke hearts, raw oysters, salami, crackers and Brie, Termite showed up from a fishing trip.  He said he hadn’t caught any fish with his rod and reel, but using the castnet, he had caught enough mullet to cut up and use for crab bait.

Below is his contribution to the meal . . .

Upon hearing all the comments about the industrious spirit of my youngest son and the fact that he boiled these to perfection without any assistance from me, I was reminded what an outstanding young man he is and realized I should never, ever take his abilities, desire, and willingness for granted.  He and his buddy joined us for the meal, and there we were with about eight chairs around a table built for four.

While we sat around talking, there came a knock on the door; and much to my surprise, it was Bayou Fabio stopping by for a visit.  Listen, friends, that doesn’t happen often.  With him was his  eleven-year-old son wanting to see the pyrates!  Capt. John Swallow gave him a “piece of eight”, and you would have thought he had given that boy a million dollars.

At that point, around that table were quite a few slices of the Louisiana pie:  Creoles, Native Americans, Islenos, European American, and one Canadian who bound us all together.  Maybe it’s just my imagination, but that gathering smacked of similarities to meals shared at the home of author, Marjorie Kinnan-Rawlings.  Maybe I was dreaming . . . . or living a dream I’ve dreamed for a very long time.

And with that thought, just let me say that this blog has led me to the most amazing people on this planet, including all of you who take the time to read the ramblings and rantings of this bayou woman and care enough to even leave a comment now and then.  Life on the bayou is tough.  We’ve had more than our share of trials and challenges, but that which doesn’t kill us just makes us more determined to continue to live Life in the Louisiana Wetlands.

I am thankful to my Creator for every creature he has brought over the threshold of Camp Dularge, and may we continue to be so blessed.


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  1. If it wasn’t for this blog I wouldn’t have found my “bayou family”!!! That table will always hold special memories for me and I’m sure for this group as well. When I posted a picture of the shrimp I received the other day on my FB, someone asked if they were flavored by BP. Two years ago I would have never given any thought to it but after reading this blog, coming down there and getting the area anchored so deep into my heart it just cut into me that so many people don’t understand just how far reaching that really was. I don’t even begin to understand it and I know way more about it than I would have taken the time to learn had it not been for my interest in you and your family and the way of life you love so much.

  2. In case I wasn’t missing life on the Bayou enough already…LOL

    We are all indeed blessed to have such a tremendous friend in ye, Cap’n. Wendy! The knowledge ye share so willingly, the friendship ye share and the pride we all take in seeing what fine things ye do with yer family and community (and most folk only know a little o’ that story).

    We are certainly some o’ the most fortunate Pyrates to ever sail into S. Louisiana – to be able to call ye “family” and the bayou “home”.

  3. Colorful. Scrumptious. And a good time was had by all. Good for you’s! I especially like the highway worker vests the Canadians are wearing.

    1. As it happens, I’m the only Canadian…the rest o’ the crew there are all from La. The vest were fabulous though, weren’t they LOL especially as we were cleaning up the ROADWAY (that used to be a railway) next to Bayou Lafourche, so it was about 110 degrees with no breeze…the bulk o’ the other volunteers that day were young Scouts who worked very hard, but in the cooler and safer shore o’ the Bayou.

    2. Brenda, aren’t those vests CRAZY?!!! A little clarification on my part, though, only Capt. John Swallow, the true pyrate, is from Canada. The Creoles are from New Orleans and the Miss La. Pyrate Wench is an Islenos from Chalmette, LA! I forgot to even mention her in the story, but I need to edit her in. She’s a magnificent young woman. I was in a hurry to get to my TV interview with FOX 8 New Orleans and posted it up too quick. I’ll go back and fix that! Thanks! Hey – write me an email!!! I miss your letters.

  4. BTW, there are a couple more photos posted over here o’ the crew – including the love o’ me life, aka QM (Quartermaster) Seika Hellbound (that’s second in command on a Pyrate ship, so behave) and our Master Gunner, Mr. Irish (aka The Irish Tortuga)…along with the lovely Capt. Wendy, the fabulous Bayou Fabio (in a shirt AND boots…he was feeling a bit off that day)…and two wayward sea creatures from Alaska!

    Did anyone notice Ms. Ashley’s blinged out shrimp boots in the photo above? Black with crystal skull & crossbones!

    1. I thought I had used that link in the original post? Maybe it didn’t activate. Anyway, thanks for giving a heads up that there were more photos. This is by no means a complete report, but as I said, I was pressed for time and truly wanted to get this up before too much more time had passed and something else noteworthy happens around here! I will be doing edits this a.m. if time allows. Thanks, Captain, for completing things!

  5. So happy to read this blog! You and Termite were the most gracious and amazing hosts! That was definitely a great and memorable weekend and I can’t wait to come back and visit again soon! And no worries about not writing about me winning the pageant in your blog…the focus definitely should be on the wonderful memories we all had together getting to know one another and the great hospitality we received. And I bedazzled my shrimp boots myself for when I go to different festivals on behalf of NOLA Pyrate Week and coastal restoration 🙂

    1. You are such an amazing and outstanding woman, I want to include you. So will you attend other festivals as the Miss La. Pyrate Wench wearing those lovely one-of-a-kind boots? I wish I had seen them when you were here. I missed that. I had a wonderful time getting to know you and hear stories of your family. Thanks for coming down, Ashley!

      1. We are certainly fortunate to have the lovely, talented and very organized Ms. Ashley as our “Louisiana Pyrate Wench” and representative. Her genuine concern and effervescent personality combined with her thirst for knowledge are an excellent combination that we trust will serve the wetlands well – and make folk form all over sit up and pay attention!

        1. Aww, thanks Wendy and Capt. John! I am attending other festivals in the boots, especially the ones where all the other visiting queens are asked to (it happens fairly often, most of the time at the festivals where seafood is being celebrated). I’m representing NOLA Pyrate Week next weekend for the Louisiana Creole Tomato Festival but it doesn’t call for the cool boots sadly. Next time I visit, I’ll be sure to bring the boots with me. I’m going to add more decorations to them when I get some free time.

  6. Great blog. I followed up on the links too. Ashley, you did a great job on your boots!!
    When is Bayou Fabio going to be on TV? BW will you let us know?

    1. Bayou Fabio says that Animal Planet is coming to film him soon. I have no idea what show it will be for. I tried to act as his (free) agent in order to help him sort through the maze and not get taken advantage of, but that didn’t work out. I just hope they compensate him some kind of way for his efforts. I will let you know, though.

  7. Isn’t it wonderful when the planets and friends align so perfectly and spontaneously? What an interesting day it must have been with the fascinating Pyrate people and their stories to share! A spontaneous gathering around here would more likely include hamburgers and sausages on the grill, with some tasty potato salad on the side. 🙂 Always so fun to hear about Bayou life. Thank you! And what a sweet boy your Termite is. You do educate and enlighten us!

    1. Before we knew it, it was 4:00 and they had to leave. None of them wanted to go, though. We could have talked into the night, I’m sure. My new Creole friends are only 90 minutes away in the city of N.O. so maybe they will come back more often! It really was nice.

    1. That is some serious hardware. Bells a nice touch. Is that a flashlight? Don’t see these around here or NOLA, unless you count the ones used a newest mode of transport in French Quarter. Drivers of vehicles HATE them. Retirement close. The Ole Reprobait is selling out. You got fishing camp nest egg? Will rent out when not in use.

  8. I’ve seen that “Hardware” online. Thats a chunk of moola there. BW, you could buy a new outboard for what one of these cost tricked out.

  9. I got side-tracked and had to go find out what a catrike is. Now I know. Not only that, I know that’s what the fellow in my neighborhood is riding. Pretty amazing. I do like the fleur-de-lis bell. (Is that yours, blu?)

    You do such a great job of recounting your adventures, BW, and this was a good one. I was pretty interested in that Louisiana Creole Tomato Festival. Surely you don’t have fresh tomatoes already? Or do you?

    We don’t have any neat contests around here any more. Before Hurricane Ike blew Maribelle’s away, they used to sponsor the Miss Wharf Rat contest. Another tradition, gone… Maribelle’s was great. I used to know a guy who was there the night they found the body in the men’s restroom…

    I’m excited to hear Bayou Fabio’s got a gig. And how’s the radio show going? Still fun? Inquiring minds want to know!

    1. Yes ma’am. There are folks in the harvest research I am doing who picked their first last week! And cucumbers have been coming in for about two weeks. Because of the mild winter, some folks were inspired to get started on their gardens early, and the weather allowed them to. Everything here is a month ahead of schedule, including the trout migration to the coast. Oh, I hear a story coming on about the body in the men’s room . . . . And I am working with a local news producer to do a little piece on him possibly next week. The radio show has happened 3 times so far, and I am still very challenged by it and thus enjoy the homework, preparation, and the show time!!!!! Thanks for asking!

  10. Yep that is mine. Retirement self gifting not the 5 series BMW I wanted but I been watching this bike for years. Great American/immigrant story too. Real good Diabetes Type 2 therapy too. I never had a big wheel. 🙁

    R_S hooking up with M_D? So rumor is….

    blu is working on a 4-7 day blast and cast to Texas hill country.

  11. Girl you just have the most interesting life and you do know how to spin a good story. i have shared on my facebook page. Iam going to mention this to my children as a possible summer trip. HOW LONG DOES THE REDFISH SRASON RUN?

    1. Well, thanks so much, Louise! I do get to meet some very interesting and great folks in my line of work! Thanks so much for your kind words and for sharing. Sometimes, in the doldrums of the everyday tasks, I lose sight of these unique moments, so comments like yours remind me and keep me going! The redfish season is pretty good right now, but soon it will be so hot, even though lots of folks will fish all summer long out at the coast for speckled trout. The reds can be fished year round, and some times are just much better than others!