The Land Of Joie de Vivre, and Oil


Every few months, the stars in the trucking universe align correctly, and I get to travel to the place of my birth down in south Louisiana.  Driving across the Atchafalaya River Basin, I tuned in to a local Cajun music station and soaked in the scenery.  Ours is truly a beautiful country from the pristine beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the calm landscapes in Maine, the majesty of the Grand Canyon, to the untamed wonders of Yellowstone.   But for me, there is nothing quite so soothing as the bayou.  Standing at the feet of ancient oak trees and gazing up at the magnificent spanish moss-draped limbs, I feel as though I am in nature’s very own cathedral. 

In a giddy mood, I made my way to my favorite truck stop in Rayne, LA.  It’s called Frog City, and it sits at exit 87 on Interstate 10.  You will not find better food, nor friendlier people at any truck stop anywhere else.  For those of us who live on the road and who constantly deal with truck stops where the food is under-cooked and over-priced, served by a staff who acts as if we’ve inconvenienced them by purchasing the stuff, Frog City is a welcomed change of pace. 

The accents are almost musical, the humor contagious.  You can even buy a CD of local Cajun musicians.  My favorite is Jamie Bergeron and the Kickin’ Cajuns, and their hit single, “My Mama Is A Truck Drivin’ Man.” 

I was curious how these good and hardy people were handling the oil spill, so after consuming a large portion of red beans and rice, I made my way to the little bar that connects to the truck stop’s casino.  Talking with the locals, I found a curious mixture of frustration and resignation, mixed with big picture optimism. 

One very polite lady who looked like the quintessential steel magnolia, told me that her son was offshore helping to drill one of the relief wells.  Time is a factor in the success of that effort, and she worries about his safety.  I asked if he volunteered to assist in the drilling.  “Oh no,” she said.  “That’s his job, and he’s good at it.”  Asked about frustration with the clean-up and containment, the ladies had stories to share.  “Some guy from Wisconsin came all the way down here with a machine that will clean the oil from the sand, but they wouldn’t let him use it.”  “What did he do?” I asked.  “What do you think he did,” answered the other lady.  She shrugged and said, “He took his machine back home.” 

When I asked if the oil might make its way into the Atchafalaya, the ladies looked at each other, and said that they didn’t think it would, but it was more of a wish than a forecast.  “And now we got the hurricanes to worry about too,” said the bartender, who handed me a ticket for a drawing they were about to have in the casino. 

I asked how long they thought it will take to clean it all up, and the ladies agreed it will take many years.  “But don’t worry,” said the lady whose son is working offshore right now.  “We’ll take care of it alright.” 

It’s interesting that despite the bureaucratic sclerosis that puts a virtual choke hold on local efforts to solve problems, folks here believe in themselves and each other, knowing that they will not only survive, but that they will prevail, …whether the bureaucrats like it or not.  These aren’t the New Orleanians who begged for government assistance.  These people are a tough breed and hard working.  What they do expect from the government is that it will not impede their efforts. 

Meanwhile, this pair of delightful seniors took their leave of me, as there was a Cajun band playing across town and they wanted to get some two-stepping out of their systems.  Oh, and it turns out I had the winning ticket.  I left the truck stop 20 bucks richer, and much happier.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    Thanks Dave. I for one needed to hear that. And great photo!

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  2. Profile Photo Member

    Nice to know you won something for a change. Buy me lunch when you’re back in town? Haha.

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  3. Profile Photo Inactive


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  4. Profile Photo Member

    I usually stop at Mulates for some good food and music whenever I cross the Atchafalya. I always get a kick out of seeing some old couple start moving around on the dance floor with completely blank faces like it’s business… like dancing’s just something you’ve got to do. Cajuns are the sort of people who might “dance in the kitchen ’til the morning light“. Simple pleasures and a simple faith that God will see them through anything.

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  5. Profile Photo Podcaster

    Aaron, I’m writing from San Antonio, and you’ve already made me homesick with the music you linked to.  I respond here with a video and defy anyone to keep their feet still while watching. 

    I grew up down there, and while I’m only part Cajun, I evidently got enough to do significant mischief.  As Justin Wilson used to say, “A full dose of that stuff would have did me in for sure.”  My paternal grandmother was raised on the bayou and spoke Cajun French as her first language, and her gumbo was out of this world.  Methinks that if I ever settle down, it will be back home in south Louisiana. 

    Oh, and check out the dancers in the video.

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  6. Profile Photo Member

    I would say “mischief” is the right word for a people who love their music so much that even prison bars can’t hold it back. ;)

    Ironically enough (I was born in Louisiana), I never order gumbo at a restaurant. My mom always made hers so thick that everyone else’s seems like water. A good roux is only as good as the armful of crawfish, crab, shrimp, and chicken that gets piled in. Yes, I said chicken. Our gumbo often adapted to include leftovers… which is probably why it was always so thick!

    I lived in San Antonio for a couple years. It was the only time I’ve lived out of reach of good Cajun cooking. Thankfully, I’m back on the western edge of gator and boudin country.

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