Cajun Country

by Jeanne Tucker

As you can well imagine, I talk to a lot of people, even from around the world. And every now and then, we enjoy a friendly conversation over and above what Talic rack they should use to store their boats. Such was the case with a woman from Baton Rouge, LA. During our conversation, I mentioned that my dream is to visit all 50 states, and she said, “Well, if you ever come down this way, let me know.”

A year sped by, and in Nov of 2015, I really wanted to go somewhere, it had been a long summer of work. Where do you go in November? South! So I wrote to Kathy, simply asking what the weather is like in Louisiana in November, and if it was a good time to visit. A couple of emails later, she had our trip planned! She offered to pick us up at the airport in New Orleans, take us to the Plantations, the Lafayette Living History Museum and as a really special treat, she arranged for us to meet Greg Girard, the Keeper of the Basin. It turns out I’m even more Cajun than I thought (yes, my family hails from the Acadia region of Maine and Quebec, Canada). The locals we met were true Cajuns, and their hospitality showed it. We met Ray and Annie Blanchard (Ray is in the documentary Happy.) Annie could have been my aunt – she even sounded like her! Ray took us out in his homemade boat, and we toured the bayous of the Atchafalaya River Basin, as he entertained us with Cajun stories of the Basin peoples. Think about that, we were complete strangers – but they welcomed us as if we were best friends.

As mentioned above, we visited Greg Girard – a gentle, passionate man who has devoted his life to saving the Atchafalaya Basin. He too was born and raised in the Basin and his love for it shows in every word he speaks, every breath he takes. A photographer, woodworker, writer – this man is simply amazing. If I had the opportunity to visit him again, I’d go in a heartbeat. 

But I can’t. Louisiana is under water – again. Our friends, Kathy and Bob, have a camp on the Tangipahoa River and this spring the river over ran its banks. It’s not like here at home, where the house sits on the river bank. This camp is well 75’ up a hill from the river. And yet, the water rose, and reached the decking of the house that sits on 12’ stilts. I couldn’t imagine it!

I stood at the bank of the river, I walked the long hill up to the camp. Underwater? Just how does the water go that far?  And then, this August, it began to rain again. It rains a lot in Louisiana, but never two feet in 48 hours! I talked with our friends – and Bob says this time it is much worse. The water entered the camp, and didn’t stop until it was five feet deep. Five feet deep – inside the house! That means the river rose 80’! The interstates that we rode on are under water. Baton Rouge is an island, unconnected from the rest of Louisiana. Lafayette, where they just filmed the remaking of the movie Roots (we watched them work on the sets), has been flooded. And yet Bob says, “We’ll be okay.” I can’t imagine.

We read in the papers and watch on the news about the flooding, the devastation. And it’s easy to walk away from it. It’s worlds away, down in Cajun country. It doesn’t affect us, up here safe in drought stricken New York State. We wish we had some rain! But, it’s really not that far away. It’s our fellow countrymen, it’s our friends, that are struggling to survive through this disaster. Back when Katrina hit New Orleans, our friends Kathy and Bob opened their home to strangers. They had people sleeping there for days, weeks, feeding them, housing them. Baton Rouge is a good hour or more from New Orleans, depending on the construction and traffic. And yet, strangers found their way, and the good people of Baton Rouge opened their doors. Just like Kathy and Bob opened their doors to us, a couple of Yankees from Upstate New York, who simply wanted to visit their state.

Please pray for those affected in Louisiana. It’s time we all help Baton Rouge. Pay it Forward. Lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need. Love you Bob and Kathy.