Tag Archives: rural

Christmas on the Bayou

It’s only May, but I’ve already jumped the gun and wrote about Christmas, so I’m in the mood to talk about Christmas at my house. There is, of course, plenty of food for everyone, turkey (fried and baked), ham, casseroles, rice dressing, cornbread dressing, etc. However, the only thing that I enjoy more than the food is the craziness of all my family being together.

About two years ago Edmund decided to show up for Christmas. I’m not entirely sure how Edmund is related to us, but he’s older and I think he may have been related to my grandfather. Everybody just rolls their eyes when Edmund shows up because they know he’s going to ask them for something, usually money. Edmund wears blue jeans, a denim shirt, and a cowboy hat. He drives an old Ford F-150 and is the kind of man who probably has a bunch of money stuffed in a mattress somewhere yet acts like he’s poor.

He’ll say, “Mais, you got any money to help the pauvre misérable?”

Do you have any money to help the poor miserable?

So he’s at my house for Christmas, and he’s standing in the kitchen. He starts talking to my Aunt, Bernadette, and he says “Mais Bernadette, you need to go a diet and lose some weight.”

She turned around, face hot with anger and said, “Edmund! I may be fat, but you’re ugly and you’re gonna die ugly!”

And that was the end of that. Christmas at my house isn’t usually that dramatic, but that particular time was a bit crazy because of Edmund and his mouth. It’s usually just a food filled festivity, and there are always leftovers for days afterwards. The story about Edmund coming over for Christmas will remain one of my favorite stories about the holiday.

My dad is really good at carving a turkey


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Cajun Night Before Christmas

Cajun Night Before Christmas is a retelling of the old story. Image from http://lsuforever.tumblr.com/

Sometimes folks from south Louisiana will take familiar stories and twist them to make them a little more Cajun. Cajun Night Before Christmas by “Trosclair” is a good example of this.

Santa in envisioned as riding in a skiff pulled by alligators named Gaston, Tiboy, Pierre, Alcee’, Ninette, Suzette, and Renee’. Also, Santa is dressed in muskrat fur. The whole book is written in the Cajun dialect and tells the story of St. Nick coming to the bayou. It starts out:

‘Twas the night before Christmas

An’ all t’ru de house

Dey don’t a t’ing pass

Not even a mouse.

Den Mamma in de fireplace

Done roas’ up de ham

Stir up de gumbo

An’ make bake de yam.

Copyright by Pelican Publishing Company 2001

After Santa finishes his stop he bids everybody farewell in true Cajun fashion.

Merry Christmas to all

‘Til I saw you some mo’!

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Grandma Roy and the Chicken

Sometimes roosters can be hostile. Photo by hpoulos http://www.flickr.com/photos/hpoulos/

My grandparents on my mom’s side had chickens and rabbits in a pen behind their house. My grandfather’s name was Roy, and my grandmother’s name was Lydia. They lived just a few minutes across the bayou in Arnaudville. Both of them spoke Cajun French. For some reason I called both of  them Roy, Grandma Roy and Pop Pop Roy. My favorite story about Grandma Roy involves the chicken coop.

They had one rooster in the pen that was just plain mean. One day my older brother, Chris, went into the pen and the rooster attacked him. Roosters, of course, have spurs that they use to spar.

“Grandma Roy, that rooster you got in your pen is mean,” Chris told her.

“No, No, cher, it’s fine.”

Grandma Roy ended up going into the pen a day or so later and the rooster attacked her and left a gash on her leg.

The next day Grandma Roy went into the pen and wrung that rooster’s neck. It went into the pot for a gumbo. And that was the end of that. She was not going to put up with that rooster anymore.

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Hay Baling

Although hay baling isn’t distinctive of Louisiana, it is a big part of my growing up. My family lives on a plot of land across the street from Bayou Teche that is nearly 70 acres. My dad grew up on the back end of the property, and my grandfather used to grow sweet potatoes and have cattle on the land. Now my father uses the land to bale hay. He bales hay in the summer for extra money , and he has a few loyal customers who buy the hay from him each year.

My father has two old International 806 tractors that have been around for as long as I can remember. I used to ride on the fender while my dad drove the tractor.

I learned how to drive on this tractor

There is a gravel road from my house to the back end of the property that runs for about a mile and a half. I learned how to drive mostly by learning how to drive our old tractors, and I learned how to drive a car by driving my dad’s old Ford pickup from the 80s. After I learned how to drive, my dad would have me pull a trailer in the field so he could load up the big round bales to put them in the barn. To this day, there’s something sort of nostalgic for me in seeing the tractors and the equipment. Even now, the sound of that diesel engine is still one of my favorite sounds to this day.

Hay bales weigh several hundred pounds

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Crawfishing, pt 2

There are two types of crawfishing, deep water and shallow water. Deep water crawfishing takes place in rivers, while shallow water crawfishing typically takes place in specially dug ponds. My uncle uses a specially fitted aluminum boat to catch crawfish. The wheel is run by hydraulics and pulls the boat forward.

The crawfish boat is specially suited to work in shallow water

Crawfish nets are usually out of rubber coated chicken wire. The net has a plastic top with a small lip that allows the fisherman to pull the net out of the water. Connected to the top is a wire cylnder that lead to the larger base of the net. The bottom of the net is made with three flues that allow the crawfish to go into, but not out of, the net. A metal rod runs from the plastic top to about six inches past the bottom of the net. The rod is there so the the net can be stuck into the ground and not fall over.

The crawfish net is specially suited for shallow water crawfish ponds

The nets are baited with a piece of fish, crawfish bait (large pellets that look like rabbit or chicken feed), and hard corn. The fish and bait attract the crawfish into the net, and the hard corn helps ensure that the crawfish will stay and eat for awhile. The nets are arranged in rows in the pond. To pull the nets, the crawfisheman will start with a net that is already baited and drive the boat over to the first net. He’ll then pull the first ne out of the water, stick the new net in it place, and dump the crawfish into a five gallon bucket. As he’s moving to the next net, he’ll re-bait the first net and just repeat the process as he goes along.

The sorting tray is used to take out old bait and to stuff the crawfish into sacks

Once he’s filled up a few buckets, he’ll pause to dump the crawfish into the boat’s sorting tray to pull out the old bait and fishbones, and to stuff the crawfish in to sacks. He will, of course, be thick rubber gloves to protect himself from the crawfish pinchers. A full crawfish sack can weigh up to 40 pounds and can cost $50, depending on the price per pound. The catch of the day can be sold to restaurants, processing plants, and to families wanting to have a crawfish boil. I’ll talk later about the crawfish boil and other ways that crawfish can be eaten in a later post!

A sack of crawfish can weigh up to 50 pounds

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There are two stoplights in my hometown. Both are for the same intersection next to the local grocery store, Russell’s. Arnaudville is made up of an elementary school, a Catholic church, a cemetery, and, of course, Russell’s.

The cemetery is one of the most notable parts of the whole town. It’s right across the street from St. Francis Regis Catholic Church, and there are probably more people in the cemetery than in the town. Almost all of the graves are above ground except for the ones in the mausoleum. My grandparents and a few of my relatives are buried there.

Russell’s is the town’s small talk and gossip hub. You go in there thinking that you’ll just go in there to get milk and eggs and leave, but you actually end up running into at bunch of people that you know and leaving an hour later than you wanted. It usually goes something like this:

“Mais, cher, how you doin’? Ça va?”

“Ça va bien, et tu?”

“Good, good.”

“Well I haven’t seen you in so long I almost didn’t recognize you. How are the kids?”

The conversation goes on an on about family happenings and how busy they’ve been. Sometimes the conversation turns:

“You heard who died the other day?”

Everybody knows everybody in a small town.

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