I’ve floated many rivers. The Salmon in Idaho, the Owyhee in Oregon, the Smith, the Missouri, the Flathead, the Yellowstone in Montana and the New in West Virginia. These were all in rafts, canoes or inflatable kayaks.
This past Christmas holiday I got to float the Blind River in Louisiana. In a motor boat. A totally different experience and one I’ll never forget.
Lesa and Jed LeBlanc invited us all (a family of 10) to their camp on the river. They called it a camp, but it’s a structure. A house. A house on raised footings to keep it above the swampy river’s edge. Everything in the camp has to come in by boat. They picked us up at the St. James Boat Club, a happening spot for weddings, reunions and blood drives as well as a boat launch to a multitude of camps. It was rainy and overcast on this winter day in Louisiana as we walked onto the boat. We were offered beer for the ride, the boat owners having already cracked one open. The Blind River must have been named due to the continues S-curves this river takes as it flows though the swampy cypress trees. You can never see past the next curve. We passed many camps on the way to Lesa and Jed’s. You could see the old ones that were no longer kept up slowly being digested by the river. Many different stages of houses being swallowed by the water. Other homes were alive and well and thriving with the vegetation and wildlife.
We pulled up into the covered boat slip and walked the dock towards the modified doublewide, careful not to slip on the slick wet wood. Everyone was offered beer as Lesa passed out Michelob Ultra to the group.
“Y’all like any of those fancy beehs?” Lesa yelled. “We got a couple of those fancy beehs in heh.” She held up a sample she’d dug up from the bottom of the large cooler. It wasn’t an IPA or a Wheat Beer as we were hoping, but an orange flavored Coors. No one was interested in the fancy beer.
The dock was clearly the place you hung out even in the drizzle. Being wet is just part of the package whether it’s drizzle, humidity or because you are walking through the yard. Lesa brought out her double basket deep fryer, a fancy Tupperware breading colander and a large bowl of just caught, cleaned and cut up catfish. We were having a fish fry. I popped open my Michelob Ultra and watched Lesa in action. She could start her own cooking show right here on this dock. She breaded, fried and talked; never stopping; dumping a basket of hot fish onto a paper towel covered plate as we all grazed and picked and ate.
The Louisiana accent is a character in itself. Not always easy to understand but definitely distinguishable. A combination of fast southern, French and black and a dash of a Boston accent. Don’t pronounce the r’s as well as a few other choice consonants and there you have it. A deep Louisiana accent. Oh, and don’t pronounce the g’s either, but that is redundant since I already said “southern”.
“Zach, get me a beeh bo, I need a beeh.”
After a few good batches of fish, Lesa fried up a few bags of onion rings and french fries. I have to say that this vegan, who rarely eats fried food and watches her alcohol consumption for fear of a migraine imbibed on this Louisiana breakfast; every single bit of it. And it was good.
As we were feasting on fried foods, the neighbor pulled up to the dock in his motor boat. I believe that is life on the Blind River; fishing, eating, beer and visiting. The neighbor had been deer hunting and came face to face with a very large alligator. He brought out his phone to show us the pictures of the alligator coming at him. “Unusual to see one that big this time of year.”
After getting our fill of fish, onion rings and fries, we got back into the boat to go visit other neighbors. Everyone was very gracious and proud to show their camp to outsiders, especially the ones who came from the mythical state of Montana.
We came back to Jed and Lesa’s visited and fished, passed around more beer and then packed up our stuff to boat back to the St. James Boat Club. Everyone hugged and thanked each other. “Come back again”. “Come to Montana”. Everyone genuine, happy, comfortable.
I realized while I was writing this post that you may wonder how me and my children came to spend Christmas in a small town in Louisiana; a place where Hannah used a large reusable grocery bag full of just picked kumquats as her personal bag on the plane ride home. Well, that is a story in itself and a future blog post idea. Stay tuned.
Spending time in Louisiana made me remember a book that I have already recommended in a past blog and a worth mentioning again. A non-fiction book, “Strangers in Their Own Land” by Arlie Russel Hochschild. And for this post I am recommending a historical fiction “Island Beneath the Sea” by Isabel Allende which takes place in the eighteen century and early nineteenth century. The first half of this book is in Haiti and in Cuba. After a slave revolt, boat loads of refuges make it to Louisiana where we follow plantation life and the creole culture.
More great book suggestions and adventures can be found at Wild About Books.