Oilspill Anniversary updates . . .

Photo taken in 2010 by my friend who works for a major news network

In case some of you missed it–April 20th was the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion.  This time last year, reporters and journalists sought me out for interviews about how the oil spill affected my business and my family.

Through those interviews, I’d like to think I made connections with people who really cared and were doing more than just “their job”.

Prior to the anniversary, the phone was ringing for follow-up interviews wanting to know how we are doing one year later.

I haven’t talked much about how we’re doing one year later.  Acting like a victim is diametrically opposed to being tenacious.  The two just don’t go well together. So, I probably won’t talk about that here.  Rather, I’d like to just see where this post takes us.

One of the anniversary interviews I agreed to do was for WRKF, the NPR radio station in Baton Rouge.  Tegan Wendland, the “All Things Considered” host had heard the Story Corps piece and wanted to followup on that.

Tegan, a newcomer to south Louisiana, had to wind her way down to Chauvin, LA the day of the Folk Art Festival and the Blessing of the Fleet to find me.  Then, with a band playing, and boat motors humming, she was further challenged to find a quiet spot for us to do the interview.

One of my friends called to tell me he heard my voice on the radio on his lunch break on the anniversary of the explosion.  I missed it both times it aired.

Thankfully, Tegan was kind enough to send me the link, and the resulting interview can be heard here.

Another one of those journalists that I had the pleasure of meeting last spring and who contacted me for a followup is Stephanie Fontenoy, a soft-spoken Belgian/French writer living in New York. She has the most charming French accent and such a gentle soul.

I felt compelled to take her to talk to Bayou Fabio and whomever happened to be at his dock that day last year.

And then there is another link in this chain–Lori Mould, about to graduate Genesee Community College in Batavia, NY.  Even though Lori had already been down for a wetland tour, venturing out from the recovery work she and her college mates were doing in New Orleans, she was down again working on a video about the hardships of the oil spill on the local people.

With video camera in tow last spring, I took her to meet another one of my neighbors–a commercial shrimper.  I felt then, and I still feel, that these commercial fishermen have way more to lose than I do.

Now, here’s the one-year later story on these two amazing women.  They both wrote me about coming down for a visit, staying at Camp Dularge and going out on my boat.  And get this, they both asked to come on the same dates.

So, you know what I did?  I asked them if they would like to share the camp and the boat ride, and they agreed!  When things line up like this, I know it is not coincidental.  There is a very good reason these ladies, both in communications, need to meet.  AND they both live in the state of New York.  Interesting.  Very, very interesting.

Lastly, there is Rowan Jacobsen, a prolific author, who impressed me beyond belief with his writing accomplishments at his young age.  I could only dream of writing one book, much less actually writing and publishing one a year for five or six years as he has done.

For some reason, I was able to spend more time last spring with Rowan than the rest of the journalists.  I showed him the dead cypress–killed by saltwater intrusion.  I showed him the Houma Navigation Canal, our version of the New Orleans “MR GO” and explained how it was the beginning of the end for all the wetlands it touched. We talked about so many things.

Last May, all the while I was chatting with him, I thought he was gathering information for an article he was writing for a magazine, which he was.  Even though he lightly mentioned that he might have to write a book about the oil spill, it did not occur to me that a copy of that very book would be sitting in my mail box LESS THAN a year after we met.

I don’t know how he did it, but a copy of his new book was waiting in the mailbox on the one-year anniversary of the oil spill.

Shadows on the Gulf:  A Journey Through Our Last Great Wetland

I started reading the book last night and wanted to finish it; but at Page 119, my eyes gave up the ghost, and I crashed.

Actually, I had forgotten just how much I had shared with him or how much of  the information was of interest to him as relating to the oil spill until last night while reading the book.

So, here it is.  He first mentions his visit with me in Chapter 2, “The Last Hunter-Gatherers in America“.  And up to where I left off last night, he refers to his visit with me several times, and I’m amazed at how much he retained of what I told him.  He must have taken way more notes than I realized.  Or maybe there was a recorder on the table during lunch at Schmoopy’s?  I don’t recall.

Regardless of how he retained the information, he has (so far) kept the things I said in context.  It’s obvious he did his homework to confirm the things I taught him and to give background about and expound on those things.  I’m not that easy to impress, and so far he has done a pretty good job of impressing me.

It’s a first.  And to be very open and honest with you, I feel like I have arrived now that I’ve seen my name in a book.  A book.  A hardcover, professionally written and published B O O K.  Did you hear me people?  I’M IN A BOOK!!!

Of course, I wish the setting had not been related to possibly the worst man-made disaster (barring the canal breeches and flooding in New Orleans, post Katrina) in the south, but his book reaches back to our beginnings and why we matter, and our dismal future if America doesn’t pay attention.

Jacobsen’s book is reminiscent of  Mike Tidwell’s book, Bayou Farewell, wherein the author traveled down here to do a piece about shrimpers for a magazine and ended up coming back again and again gathering materials for his book.  That book became well known for putting faces on the wetland loss here, mainly shrimpers.

Jacobsen does the same thing in his book, but this time, I know at least one of the people mentioned in a book about the Gulf Coast.  Even though he doesn’t always quote me directly, I hear my words coming through his.  His book presents the real dichotomy that is our life here in the wetlands that continue to be maimed in pursuit of local oil and gas and the symbiosis that exists between her residents and her attackers.

I haven’t called him to thank him yet, but I will do so when I finish the book.  Of course, that is all I want to do today is finish the book.

My head will be in the clouds all day, so if you need me, let the phone ring a REALLY long time!  It’s a long way down from where I’m at!

Yours truly,

Bayou Woman (with a grin)

(I wonder if Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is smiling, too?  Thank you, Marjorie.)

PS  Thank you to all the journalists who care enough to come back and just hang out with us bayou folk down here.

Epilogue:  I finished the book this afternoon.  Rowan Jacobsen is a genius writer.  He picked up and went way beyond where Mike Tidwell left off.  There are some hard truths in Jacobsen’s book, but truths they are, nonetheless.  He might not win any popularity contests, but his book is one I can wholly recommend you read if you have any interest at all in our lives down here.  GET IT NOW!

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  1. Ok. you’re in a book. I’ll look it up books is what I do when not fishing. I might write one when I get down there in a year or so.

    Wow some ads just popped up. Neat you’ll be rich.

    1. No, I won’t be rich, and stop making fun of me! I did not review the book, but he picks up and goes beyond where Tidwell left off. Lots of hard truth in the book.

  2. I never saw those ads before I must read and get gone before they come up. I was reading the end and Pow, there they was. Not here now either. ATC on NPR is pretty credible stuff….

  3. BW, your name was already in a book. It’s titled Before The Saltwater Came. I distinctly remember your name being printed as the AUTHOR of the 3 copies I purchased!
    BTW, we’re in Grand Isle right now. The beaches look great. We noticed signs as we drove into the campground you’d be interested in. Marsh grass was being planted today! I would have helped had we gotten here earlier.

    1. I was there the other day but I did not make it down to the State Park. Had a couple photos in the Art Exhibit and I didnt’ blog about it . . . . anyway, I heard you still can’t go on the beach at the state park. Let me know. There are plantings going on quite often now . . . . the baby steps of which I worked on during the six weeks I worked for Bayou Grace. We were forming partnerships with BTNEP volunteer planting projects. It’s good to see it come to fruition . . . I just don’t get to help out like I want to.

      I appreciate you reminding me of that, but this is different!

      1. Yep, the only beach on Grand Isle still closed is the State Park! I received an email from the state saying they “are hoping to have it open for the Summer season”. Apparently the Dept. of Health and Hosp. and the D.E.Q. have to sign off on it before they will open it. Hubby is talking about cancelling next month’s reservations. He is P.O.’d BIG TIME the way they are dragging their feet!

        1. Steffi, I have to be very honest with you. Last summer, the waters off that beach tested very high in the cancer-causing hydrocarbons, so my guess is that they are still waiting for those numbers to go down. So, if that concerns you and Gary at all, then you might want to bring your camper down here 🙂

  4. the book sounds awesome and will end up right next to Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’ one about the Everglades.(As you know-my first wetland love) I must also get theTidwell book!
    Speaking of books… what ever happened to the one about the crab and the shrimp and are there more chapters coming???
    Also speaking of books- Last trip to Avery Island I mentioned to the gift shop manager (actually MORE than mentioned) your children’s educational book “Before the saltwater came” told her where to look you up and who you were and your championing of wetlands conservation and restoration. She took notes! Avery Island is a special place! The McIlhenny family have made a nature preserve there where the first rock salt mine in the area was and also grow the lovely peppers and make that wonderful tabasco sauce there. Mr MckIlhenny is the one who made the great manmade rookery in so many of my photos.!!! I wish BP wasnt such a CORPORATION. (‘scuses the swear word there) then maybe theyd take care of the business of cleaning up thr rest of theit mess instead of so much taking care of their bottom line.

    1. MM, even though I’ve read quite a bit about the Mc.I. family, one member in particular, I have never made the effort to go to any of their places, and I’m not sure why. Once, I planned a huge La. studies family trip in that direction. We went to the Olivier House, St. Martinville, saw the Evangeline statue, went to the Indian reservation at Marksville, went to New Iberia, Konriko rice factory, and I can’t even remember where else. We just didn’t go down to Avery Island or the Tabasco place or the gardens. Maybe it’s because I am going to go there with YOU!

      I have not done anything with the printing of the series about the crab, oyster, red fish, and shrimp. You have a good memory. I think I posted all four on the blog already. Thanks for reminding me.

  5. Blu has the compleat works of Rowan on order from Amazon, well almost. Bees, chocolate, and oysters what not to like???

    1. I know, right? He is a fabulous author, actually approaching genius in my book . . . or opinion I mean. You will learn a lot and really enjoy his books.

  6. PS M S Douglas is one time friend or mentor of Choup n me’s friend Roger Hammer noted author hisself.