Pirogues, Crawfish, and Dixie Beer
Boutte is not really a town, just a loose scattering of homes in the middle of Saint Charles Parish. New Orleans is about 25 miles to the east on Highway 90; just close enough to drive in for a visit, and just far enough not to affect daily life.
Then, as now, I preferred to spend my leisure time on the water. I was fortunate that nearby Bayou Gauche and Bayou des Allemands were such wonderful places to explore by canoe or pirogue. Our paddling trips on the bayous were a peaceful way to unwind after a long week at work. There was that time that my good friend Jim Bob’s pirogue sank from beneath us on Bayou des Allemands. We managed to get the small craft back to the surface and emptied of water just in time to notice a pretty good size ‘gator slide into the water from his sunning spot on the bank.
The only way to top off a day spent paddling on the bayou is to have a few beers and dance to some good music by a local band down at one of the little bars along the waterfront. After entering and making our way to the bar, we are greeted with a hearty “How y’all are?” A couple of cold, long neck Dixies are just the ticket to cool the throat and limber the legs.
The music of rural, south Louisiana hasn’t changed much for generations. The Acadians of New France (now Nova Scotia) were driven from their lands by the British. They made their way to south Louisiana, where there was already a large French population and the Spanish government welcomed all Catholic immigrants. In Louisiana the French Acadians had contact with many other cultures, Celtic, Spanish, Native American and free African. The French called themselves "‘Cadiens", in their quick French it sounded to the locals like "Cajuns" and the name stuck. The music of the Cajuns had over two hundred years to develop before the first recording was made.
Accordionist Amédé Ardoin’s influence crossed racial barriers and has left his signature on Creole, Cajun and Zydeco music. Ardoin was one of the most popular artists in Louisiana during the 1920s. One of the first to record the music of south Louisiana’s black creoles, Ardoin crossed racial barriers by often performing and recording with Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee. The sound that these two created is still one of the hallmarks that Cajun bands are measured against. While performers of all races respected Ardoin and emulated his almost crying vocal style, the racial tensions of the Jim Crow period would silence the great musician in a senseless act of violence. One night during a show, Amédé Ardoin accepted a handkerchief from a white woman to wipe away the sweat. After the show he was severely beaten by a group of white men, run over by their car and left for dead in a ditch. Although he survived the violent attack, he died of the wounds, both physical and emotional, within a year.