This was a Working Wetland — 40 Comments

  1. M’dear – never apologize for sharing yer heart. Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with ye (via blog or in person) knows how much ye love yer home, family & community – and we are ALL the better for it that ye have the grace and generosity to share that love with us.
    It is our privilege to honour that gift by sharing it out further into the world so that in some way, we too can be a part o’ this rich culture.

    What we call our “WGL Initiative” – Save the Wetlands, save the Gators, save Louisiana – because if we lose the first two, the third is already gone.

    As always, we salute ye, yer family and all our ancestors!

    • Spoken like a true friend, and I’m very grateful that you continue to encourage me to share my heart. So, when are ye pointing yer sails in this direction, Captain? We salute ye back and welcome ye and yer mates any time.

      • At this point we sail no earlier than spring…ye know, unless we win that proverbial “lottery-we-never-buy-tickets-for” ;]
        Of course we sail there frequently in spirit…I’m convinced part o’ me never leaves!

        Me very late Sat. breakfast awaits and so I must part…with thoughts o’ warm sunny days looking out on the life that is the bayou, sharing it with good mates…

  2. Thanks BW for telling the story like it is. My family came from hardy stock that oystered and fished in the Apalachicola bay in NW Florida. The fishing industry there is also dying. Precious water flow that comes down the Apalachicola River from Georgia is vastly decreased and that affects the oyster beds and fish nurseries. That small fishing town is now being taken over by people from out of state opening businesses that cater to tourists; restaurants, gift shops, and lodging. The local people are hurting and alot of them out of work. The way of life that I grew up with is almost a thing of the past.

    • I so appreciate your response, Mamabug. So things have even changed there? I know that time changes things, but it’s because man has manipulated Mother Nature so much. Do you know what has decreased the water flow? While this is the country based on free enterprise, and tourism certainly has its place, I think it is a terrible twist of events when native peoples (no matter their race) are left not choice but to leave their generational homesites to have them taken over by those with more means for purely recreational purposes. That is what appears to be happening here, slowly but surely. We share sympathies and compassion.

      • BW, the water authority between GA and FL have been fighting over the water for years. They won’t open the damns in GA to turn the needed water loose. GA claims they need the water for munincipal drinking water and recreational lakes. The low water also affects the barge traffic. We’ve not seen barge traffic on our waterways in quite awhile. On 9-27 I have a post about our beautiful Dead Lakes drying up. So check it out.

  3. It’s a shame to see how rapidly things can change. I only hope some of these people who still Shrimp, Crab, hunt, garden…are at least teaching some of these skills to a younger generation. Even if they can’t make a “living” doing these things, there is always the recreational value for them to learn. I personally get great satisfaction from growing a few vegetables and crabbing. I don’t think I’d want to do either for a living though. It’s too hard of a life for this city girl!

    • Steffi, I so admire your commitment to gardening. I could only ever hope to have a thumb half as green as yours. I don’t even bother any more because of the saltwater intrusion. It’s hard to lose everything I plant year, after year, even in regards to flowers and such. Yes, there is the recreational aspect, but they will have to make sure they stay in public waters now, won’t they? Because as these leases are taken over by weekend warriors, no trespassing will be tolerated. And I’m sure you’re familiar with the debate over gated waters . . . let’s not even get that started. Yep, things have changed a lot in the 33 years I’ve been here . . . . .

  4. That makes me very sad, but I’m glad you wrote it. I was appalled at the leases, $235 per acre? That’s insane. Not worth it. Very sad to see what’s happening and wonder what will happen in the future. I’m sure if some of our ancestors could see what’s become of our country, they’d be plenty upset. “Progress” carries a heavy price.

    • Hi Mikey, it’s so good to have you continue to visit here. I think $235 is on the low end, too. Some are much more. And even at that price, the alligator lease is not included in that. That price only allows us to hunt deer, rabbit, water fowl, and to fish that leased area within the marshlands. You are so right . . . . our ancestors would roll in their graves if they knew what has become of our country . . . . . thanks for sharing your thoughts. BW

  5. It made me sad to read this. Especially since I went thru part of my old home area today. What was once cotton, corn, wheat & maize fields is now part of a toll road, a huge lake, malls and homes packed so tight that you could sit in your window (if they opened!) and talk to the neighbor in their window without ever raising your voice! We played, skated, rode bicycles and flew kites in the middle of the road because most of the traffic was farm tractors and they only passed every few hours.
    The busiest time of the year was spring planting and fall harvesting times. We stood in the road and waved at the crop dusters as they passed over us while spraying the crops. (I wonder if that is why I am so short? All the stuff stunted my growth!! LOL)
    But, you are so right regarding the passage of time and the “progress” it has produced. I fear it isn’t always for the best and unfortunately, the simpler times of living by our wits, hard work and hands has fallen by the wayside. Life as we lived it has been replaced with “get it now”, “get it ez” and “the government said”. It saddens me to think that my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will never know the joy of simply sitting in a porch swing w/neighbors, watching what we planted grow, sleeping with the windows open, chasing fireflies without a care or even walking down the street and feeling safe. I loved those nights we camped at the lake, with a small fire going, swatting mosquitoes, listening to the splash of fish & turtles, the bellow of the bull frogs, seeing shooting stars & running the trot lines. And waking to a breakfast of fried fish, campfire biscuits and hashbrowns from potatoes buried beneath the coals.
    Progress is ok in its own way but, I would rather go back to the times when life was actually lived each day instead of just trying to make it thru each day.

    • Cammy, your comment should have been a guest post. Your feelings are so well conveyed. I can picture everything you write about. Can you share with everyone where you grew up that has changed so much? I personally have not drunk the global warming koolaid, but I have seen with my own eyes how urbanization of rural areas increases runoff, and because of all the concrete, summer temps are hotter in those areas than in the country. People are sometimes amazed at how much cooler it is down the bayou, and I continually tell them it’s because we don’t have all that concrete and we still have trees for shade. We, too, grew up in an area of a city that had just been urbanized. Even so, we rode our bikes anywhere, stayed out late on summer nights playing hide and seek and our parents NEVER worried about us. Daddy had small garden in the back yard, hunted public rural lands in the winter for dove and squirrel, and we drove to Toledo Bend to go fishing in the early summer. Even though we were city dwellers, Daddy made sure we appreciated the rural areas. I used to visit a farm north of town with my Cuz, and I loved it there—windows open, frogs and crickets chirping at night, fireflies in the yard at sundown. I often feel sad for those who have never connected with the earth like we have been able to do. I hope they can before it is too late. Again, it is sad, and I hate to dwell on these things, but it’s hard when I see it happening. And one more thing . . . in that same city where my great grandmother’s house was in the older part of town, very near the Red River, now sits a sprawling “River Parkway” complete with bowling alley, theaters, and a Bass Pro Shop. I can’t stand to go there for obvious reasons . . . . I have a lot of wonderful memories of my grandmother’s house and yard. In her day she raised chickens, kept a big garden behind the house, had an iris bed on the side of the house, and had a milk cow, too. My, my how city life has changed in less than 100 years . . . . .

      • I lived in Little Mexico in West Dallas until I was 5, then spent a year on the outskirts of Dallas before being shuffled from relative to relative when mom & dad divorced. Mom remarried just before my 8th birthday and we moved to a share croppers home on Princeton Rd in Rowlett, Tx. We lived in 3 different houses on that road. One actually had an indoor bathroom and running water!! We hunted in the bottoms behind our house, grew hay in them and ran our milk cow thru it also. Nearest neighbor with kids was about a mile away. It was pastures, crops and trees almost as far as we could see.

        Now, it is Lake Ray Hubbard and Rockwall and Rowlett are virtually one entity. You don’t know when you leave one to go to the other. Across the narrow, 2-lane road we lived on where crops flourished and I hoed and picked cotton, there are now homes that start at prices so high that I flinch when I see them. It is a gated community too. The road I walked from my school to my home with my friends is being turned into a toll road for part of the way. The houses we lived in our long gone and the bottoms behind them are part of a soil/reservoir conservation site now. This past spring, I had my husband drive me over there and my aunt and uncles home was still partly standing and her iris beds had spread down the fence line since the late 60s. I waded thru poison ivy to dig up some of them and have them growing out back now. Just a little piece of the past that I really needed to help me ground myself to so much change.

  6. I think you should write the book. Part of my enchantment with the wetlands goes back to 1959 when I read a series of books about a little bayou girl. I have never forgotten the experience of sitting in my room reading those books and thinking how great the stories were. I would give anything to be able to track those books down and look at them again. The little girl’s life was full of adventure and excitement. There were swamps and alligators. Your writing reminds me of those books. Of course, Debbie Reynolds was playing Tammy along about that same time, and she made living on a houseboat in the swamp seem like the most exciting thing a girl could do. Romantic themes dealing with nature and the past still intrigue me. Have you considered giving voice to a fictional character living during the times you describe?

  7. One of the things that strikes me is that the changes are everywhere, not just on the bayou. We were prairie people, born and bred from folks who lived in Nebraska “soddies”, camped on the high plains outside what’s now Dallas/Ft.Worth, and broke the sod for farming in Saskatchewan.

    The context couldn’t be more different, but the values were very much the same: independence, responsibility, care for the resources that supported life, respect for the worth of individuals and a commitment to community.

    When I listen to any of the arguments taking place in this country now, whether over global warming, economic policy, social commitments or resources, I’m just appalled. The nastiness, the obvious desire not just to win an argument but to destroy an opponent is overwhelming.
    This isn’t the world I grew up in, and the slow degradation of the world in which we live is only a reflection of the increasingly self-righteous and selfish people who inhabit it.

    Hmmmm… perhaps I should say what I really think? 😉

    But here’s the point – whether one lives in Dulac or Detroit, Shreveport or San Francisco, the struggle is the same. Only the details differ. One of the most important things we can do is help people to understand that it is one world, and even if you’re saving wetlands and I’m preserving prairies, it’s all part of the same effort.

    Now that Mom’s gone, my life has changed considerably, and your post makes me think that it needs to change some more. Just what changes need to come I’m not sure – but I’m going to be thinking about it a good bit. Thanks!

    • It’s interesting how we can give and take in our writing, because your work always invokes emotion from me and often inspires me to at least remember a time, a thought, or a feeling. It’s a question we could all ask “what changes do I need to make?” And we could all think about that a little more. Your reflections about the prairie are appreciated and respected. It’s true, as I said somewhere . . . this is not the only way of life that is being lost. We all know change is inevitable, but I wonder why change seems to hurt those who can handle it the least? I guess if I had lots of money and could take a gamble, I would be buying up all this property and developing it as camps to sell to the folks who can pay cash and not worry about huge insurance rates or insuring at all. It is a crime to me that as the locals move out, the weekenders move in. I know this is American free enterprise, but the fact that this is happening is just wrong, wrong, wrong to me. If anyone is allowed to stay here, it should be the folks who have been here for generations. But life is a choice, I guess. Life is not always easy, and sometimes we just have to change routes and take the road called Easy.

  8. Just read/watched something very startling – residents in the Antelope Valley, California (who are self sufficient, off the grid and miles away from anyone) are being forced to destroy their homes and move away from their land.

    While this is a far more “obvious” attack, it smacks of something very near at hand all over Louisiana’s Bayous…

    Keep a weather eye out…know yer rights…stand fast!

    Be sure to watch the video report too:

    • It is startling, as I can see no real reason why their way of life should be impacting anyone else. So the question as to why really remains unanswered. And it just blows my mind with all the other civic problems that govt. agent could be working on, that evicting these people is on his list of things to do. I just don’t get it. Thanks for posting, mate.

      • Apparently being self sufficient, creative, resourceful & not eating the “gummint cheese” is a threat…once upon a time, this was how everyone lived.

        We need to celebrate our ancestors and emulate their fortitude – if more folk were self-sustaining, helped each other out and were off the grid (or at least feeding back into it) we’d all be better off.

        “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common:
        instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views, which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that need altering.” (Dr. Who)

        • Ha! What a brilliant quote! One would think with all the prior talk about “cap and trade” and making every home conform to energy conservation standards, the gummit would be more than happy to see folks using solar panels and being off the grid. They can’t have it
          both ways now, can they? I mean, just LOOK at the tax incentives for doing things like adding insulation or switching your home to solar power. Making these people destroy their homes, especially on their OWN property, makes absolutely no sense at all–as if I needed another soap box to stand on!

          PS I like gummit cheese : ) though

          PPS A friend of mine from Lafayette called me yesterday to ask if I was aware that a blog site called NOLA Ladder picked up my blog post. I went there, and it looks like they picked it up from your Tweeter feed. Could that be right? If so, thanks so much for tweeting that for me!!!

  9. You know I love when you pour your heart out! I love when you write about your life and the life around you. It takes someone like you to let the “outside world” know what really goes on in the bayous of south Louisiana. I agree with Brenda – that you should write “the” book – any book about your life in LA!

  10. Thank you BW for all the nice comments on my blog! I really appreciate it. You can find Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) at your local plant nursery. They shouldn’t be hard to find. You can also order them online. One of my favorite websites to buy plants from is

  11. I landed here through a google search and boy, am I ever so darn happy that I stumbled upon your story. Although, I’ve never visited Louisiana, since I was younger, I’ve harbored a longing to visit and immerse myself in the culture. Thanks so much for writing from your heart and with such beautiful detail. Your story was a pleasure to soak up with my milk and cookies 🙂

    • Hi Chaka! I’m so glad you landed here through a Google search! Now, I wonder what the key words were! This blog is definitely one way you can immerse yourself in the culture and way of life. The blog is four years old now, and all the stories of past and present bayou life are archived by date and by category. So, please do browse to your Louisiana longing’s content! And we welcome you back to the bayou any time! BW

  12. I accidently came across your writings and photos this morning while searching for chocolate cake ballsl. In your writings I noticed the word Dulac. I was living in Houma in 1958-1960, and taught 1st year 1st grade at the Dulac school. Mrs., Dillard was the principal. I have not been back since I left in 1960 so was interested in hearing something about the area. I was Billie Margaret McDonald Slack at the time, I am now Billie Richmond.

    • Hi Billie and welcome back to the bayou! My husband, Houma Indian, has spoken with great fondness of Mrs. Dillard. She was there when he started first grade and could not speak English. She put him at ease by speaking French to him. He has never forgotten her for that. Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know you were here, and I hope you have fun browsing the site and seeing more about bayou life as it was then and now.

    • I think I just received a compliment from one of my inspirations, yet I fear she is more of a ghost to me these days . . . . . . . where y’at, lady? Thank you, Stephanie! Means a lot coming from a writer of your caliber! Truly.

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