Well, I’ve only been home about an hour, and I hurried and unpacked, threw my dirty laundry in the washer, and uploaded a couple photos so hopefully I could sit down uninterrupted and get this post started and finished tonight. First off, congratulations to Mrs. Coach for winning the copy of Judy Christie’s book, Wreath a Girl.
It was raining cats and dogs early Friday morning as I carried loads of stuff to the car using the umbrella as a shield. Not the best way to start a five-hour trip. I was headed to Shreveport to attend the 71st annual conference and awards banquet for our state’s professional outdoor journalists organization, LOWA (La. Outdoor Writers Association).
The rain continued to pour, but I hit a bright spot in the otherwise dreary morning when my cell phone lit up with the photo and number of my middle child, 29-year-old Capt. Dan.
“Hey Mom, where ya at?”
“I just got on Highway 90 headed to Shreveport. Where are you?”
“I’m headed to a boat in Houston, and I’m a few miles behind you.”
So, we chatted for few minutes, hung up, and carried on with our separate trips and thoughts. About an hour later, I made a quick stop at a gas station in New Iberia. As I exited the building in the still pouring rain, I saw a car in a water-filled ditch just off of Interstate 49. I called Capt. Dan when I got back in the car and told him about it, and he said he had just passed up that car, meaning he was now just ahead of me. I jumped in my car and sped up the on ramp and slid into traffic somewhere behind him.
Just minutes later, traffic came to a slow creep, and my son called me again. I put him on speaker so I could keep both hands on the wheel. By this time, it was obvious the rain wasn’t stopping, and so much had already fallen that the ditches were filled to overflowing and the service road was covered. As we talked and inched along, we began to see cars stranded on the service road with water up to the door handles. How in the world did this happen so fast?
We were stuck in double lines of traffic heading west-bound on Hwy 90 as far as the eye could see. I tried to find a local radio station that might give us some clue as to what the holdup was. We assumed a wreck, but before long, part of the problem became evident as my son inched his way into standing water.
“Mom, the highway is flooded up here. There’s a Lexus in front of me, so if they can get through, you can too. Just get in the left lane, hug the yellow line on your left and go really slow. I’m about four cars ahead of you, so just be careful. Let’s stay on the phone.”
Okay, can you say nerve racking? Can you say high tension? We all know the power of sweeping water, and that water was coming across that highway from right to left with a vengeance. I was holding my own and doing fine until an 18-wheeler decided the water wasn’t a threat to him and came up on my right side hauling you know what. He pushed a nice wake ahead of him and out to the sides and I could hear the water lapping against my right door. I honked my horn, screamed at him, and gave him some universal sign language. Then came truck number two. Really? How can they be so rude and inconsiderate?
Once we made it through the water, the traffic brought us to another standstill. He and I were still talking while he inched along looking at the maps on his smart phone trying to find an alternate route for us. We came to a left-hand crossover to Youngsville, which Dan decided we should take. Big mistake. We got down that road several miles and stopped at a big grocery store to use the facilities and talk to the locals. They informed us that our plan to take the back roads up to Interstate 10 would not work, as the back roads were already flooded. So, we had to GO BACK to Highway 90. Meanwhile, I called Lil Sis in Shreveport, patched her into a three-way call, told her our dilemma, and she put her genius brain and tekkie map skills to work. She found localconditions.com that showed real-time updates of flooded, blocked, and open or closed roads.
She then mapped us out a route on back roads on the north side of Highway 90 instead of the south side. She stayed on the line and navigated us through some flooded waterways that once again made me very nervous, meaning I prayed aloud the entire time. We had to take lots of detours, twists, and turns on roads I’ve never traveled before; but finally she got us to Breaux Bridge, (because we could not get to Lafayette on the closed highway) where we could get to Interstate 10, with Dan heading west to Houston and me heading east to I-49 just north of Lafayette. All in all, it took us FIVE HOURS to get to that point, when ordinarily it takes us only two hours. The entire trip to Shreveport took me eight hours instead of five and took him nine hours to get to Houston instead of five.
The conference was great. The awards banquet was a blast, and I want to as humbly as possible share with y’all that I had a banner year as far as Excellence in Craft Awards go. I’ve worked really hard the past year trying to turn out quality writing that people would enjoy reading. Also, I added newspaper to my repertoire this year by writing for the Houma Times for six months–something I’ve never done before.
Lil Sis went to the banquet with me and used my cell phone to take some photos. And I swear to you that I did NOT fan out those certificates that are in my hands! A photographer came over, fanned then out, and then handed them back to me saying, “Now, don’t you think that looks great?” Well, it just meant the world to me that I had won so many awards, and I really didn’t feel the need to flaunt them. But guess what? I’m going to flaunt them now because many of you have followed this blog since its birth in 2007 and have watched as I branched out into other areas of outdoor journalism, cheering me on every step of the way. So, I hope it’s okay if I share my awards with you!
Here’s what I won:
3rd Place in Newspaper for my article about bird watching, “For the Birds”, written for The Houma Times
3rd Place in Broadcast for a Hunt Fish Talk radio show episode about “Blue Crabs”
2nd Place in Broadcast for a Hunt Fish Talk radio show episode about “Freshwater Diversions”
And then . . . .
1st Place Magazine Short Feature for “Muscadine – Fruit of the Vine” written for Country Roads
2nd Place Electronic for “Vibrio” written for this blog
1st Place Electronic for “Alligator Returns” written for this blog
And the award that I am the MOST excited about:
Regret the Egret won over two other adult books, and I just could not be more proud and thankful! Also, many thanks again to Kayla Harris Johnson whose illustrations helped tell the story so well!
And for those of you who might want to know a little more about this competition: LOWA is the only professional organization for outdoor journalists in the state, which includes print, electronic, TV and radio broadcast, and digital media. We all compete at the same level in the different categories. The judges are outdoor journalists from other states. Our names are blacked out of the submissions, so they have no idea whose work they are judging.
So, the new journalistic year began for me on June 1st, and the only way I can outdo myself next year is if I produce something in each of the above categories plus magazine long feature and photography. If I had won in those two categories, it would have been a clean sweep, and I’m not certain if any other LOWA member has ever done that. Again, I’m not bragging. I just can’t stop grinning about these awards knowing that all my hard work paid off TWICE (because each one of these certificates has a check taped to the back of it!)
In my next post, I’m going to write about the Youth Angler of the Year Awards, so stay tuned!
Yes, it was a long weekend of worry about friends and family members in the midst of all the rain and rising water. There is vast devastation of homes. Having been through three floods myself, I can truly empathize with them. Not to take anything away from those poor folks, but Capt. Dan lives in Baton Rouge, the proud owner of his first house purchased not quite a year ago. His wife had to evacuate Saturday, and with all the high water and road closures near their house, it was not until TODAY that they found out whether or not their house flooded. Praise God! The water stopped before it got into the house. We are so very, very thankful while we continue to pray for those who’ve lost everything. Our hearts truly go out to them, and if I didn’t have to be here caring for The Capt. and Miah, I’d be up there helping somebody do something for these people. Lil Sis and I shopped yesterday for essential toiletries and put together care packages to put on an 18 wheeler today headed down to the flood zones. I just wish it were more . . . . .
I’ve checked on reader Choupiquer who lives in the flood zones, and his house is still dry. I tried to check on reader Steffi, but I have not heard from her yet. Anybody else? Please let us know how you fared the flooding. I hope the rest of our friends are high and dry and were spared. Truly, I really do know how it is, and if I can help from this desk, do not hesitate to ask me.
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