For a number of years my husband, Leon, has owned a part interest with some friends in "The Good Luck Fishing Club," located below Houma on lower Bayou Dularge. It's nothing fancy, as our friend Bill Crawford describes the camp -- "enough pilings to hold up three air conditioners." I had never seen the camp since it is remote and only accessible by boat. When Leon suggested we spend a weekend there so that I could explore the area, I jumped at the chance!
We had planned to get there in daylight, but by the time we had everything loaded for the trip at our residence in Baton Rouge, we were a couple of hours behind schedule. So, no surprise, the sun was setting when we were in Houma with the boat launch site almost twenty miles to the south on State Highway 315, known as "Bayou Dularge Road." About midway along that route we came to the small settlement of Theriot. He and I both could personally relate to that community - I fondly recalled visiting the elementary school there on many occasions when I was just out of college and worked for the Agricultural Extension Service, and ancestors of my husband were the first Caucasians to settle in the area.
He explained that his great-great grandfather and grandmother, Michel Eloi Theriot, (a sixth generation descendant of Jehan Theriot and his wife Perrine, who came to Acadie from the Poitou region of France with the first wave of French pioneers) and his wife, Seraphine Thibodeaux, settled the canebrake wilderness of Bayou Dularge in 1809, where they established St. Eloi plantation and farmed sugar cane. Michel was a soldier in the War of 1812's the Battle of New Orleans, and he was a veteran also of the Mexican-American War.
Michel and Seraphine had 14 children, and all of their sons, who were known by their middle names (Michel II, Justillien, Emilien, Theogene, Elphege, Telesphore, Augustave, Aurelie, and Taylor), were Civil War veterans. After Michel's death at 65, Seraphine raised her large family in a house, long ago burned down, directly across the bayou from present-day St. Eloi Catholic Church. In thanksgiving for the safe return of her sons from war and in memory of Michel Eloi, in 1875 Seraphine donated the three arpents of land where the church and its cemetery are located. In that graveyard Seraphine rests next to her husband. AIci repose Marie Seraphine Thibodeaux, Espouse de Feu Michel Eloi Theriod, decede le 25 Novemberte 1877 a l'age de 74 ans et 3 mois.
It was dark, course, when we reached the last boat launch on the bayou just before the road ends. I had been excited about this entire wetlands adventure, but I must admit I was more than a little apprehensive as we pulled away from the dock. My little bateau was loaded down with supplies (everything, including food, painting supplies, and, of course, fishing gear), as we headed out into the pitch, black dark. Leon did the driving, and I did the praying. It took at least thirty minutes to reach the camp, but it seemed like hours.
It was so dark that when we arrived in the area that my husband thought the camp was located, he had to pull out a search light to scan the sides of the bayou. The feeling of relief washed over me when the light hit the big sign with the words "The Good Luck Fishing Club" on it. No one was there, and since he had never arrived at night, it took a while to figure out how to get the electricity switched on. In short order we were unloaded and safely inside. The interior of the camp is an experience unto itself. It is furnished with things someone's wife wanted to get rid of -- including a tattered red plastic-covered sofa and an amazing variety of worn out carpet -- definitely a "guy place."
As dawn broke, I noticed the American flag out front whipping wildly in the wind. Undaunted, we set out anyway and headed south and a little west into Mud Lake. We stayed close to shore in order to try to avoid the wind and waves. Leon attempted fishing, while I took pictures, but neither of us had any good luck.
Everything here is flat -- almost all water with a few scattered clumps of marsh grasses. There was evidence everywhere of camps that used to be here, but the land above which they stood is now gone, and all that remains are pilings sticking out of the water.
We next decided to go further down Bayou Dularge. This is a fisherman paradise with groups of camps everywhere there is enough solid ground to support them. I realized how close to the Gulf we were when my little boat was suddenly surrounded by playful porpoise.
After several hours of exploring, we decided that we had enough of the gusty wind and a rocking boat and returned to the camp. After a late lunch, we packed up for home. By then the wind calmed down, and the robin-eggshell blue sky was filled with huge billowy clouds. We headed back up Bayou Dularge toward the boat ramp, and Leon decided to stop to change gas tanks. That gave me an opportunity to take some pictures of those wonderful clouds drifting lazily over the marsh. Visions of new paintings danced in my head, and I could hardly wait to get back to the studio to create them.