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 remembermeeting themthrough 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.