Sunday, February 18, 2007

Pirogues, Crawfish, and Dixie Beer

For a few years, in the early 1980s, the Old Blue Bus was parked on a plot of land off highway 90 in Boutte, Louisiana.

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.

Segura Brothers - A Mosquito Ate Up My Sweetheart.mp3

Oscar Doucet & Alius Soileau - Oh Bebe.mp3

Amédé Ardoin - Two Step De Eunice.mp3

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.


Blogger Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Pirogue? There is a new word on me.

February 18, 2007 11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed it would be good to be back down there again especially this week with Fat Tuesday coming up.
I sure you remember that there is one thing you can do with a pirogue that you cant do with a canoe is place a Webber grill on the front of it while floating
Down the river.. GOOD Times


February 19, 2007 7:38 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

That is a pirogue (pronounced "pee-row") in the photo. It's a flat-bottomed watercraft with very little freeboard. It can be paddled or poled through very shallow waters and maneuvers easily through reeds and grasses. The pirogue is a traditional watercraft of south Louisiana as well as other swampy areas along the Gulf coast from Florida to Texas.

February 19, 2007 8:07 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Hot Damn, Joey!
That old Weber strapped to the bow of Jim Bob’s pirogue sure smelled good cookin’ up dinner as we paddled along.
Those sure were some good times.

February 19, 2007 8:30 AM  
Blogger kjk said...

pee-row! been listening to Hank Williams' Jambalaya for 40 years, and suddenly that second line means something ...

though i have to admit when i first saw "pirogue" above, i read "pierogi," which made no sense either.

life makes sense again. thanks ed.

February 20, 2007 9:21 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Glad I could help decode ol' Hank for you, Ken.

February 21, 2007 8:52 AM  

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