There is so much to learn about in the freshwater and saltwater ecosystems of southern Louisiana. The life forms from microscopic creatures to large mammals, the food webs, the water, and the effects of human actions over the last two hundred years. As CC and I travel through these varied habitats there is one constant, the people. As valuable as any natural resource, the people living and working in these diverse habitats with their rich heritage are as precious as a rare, healthy old growth cypress tree.
Throughout our travels, CC and I have had help at every turn. We have yet to dock our boat without someone’s help, we have never needed a ride in a car that was not offered, and we have never gone hungry! Why just last week as we parked on an oil location canal to “borrow” 12 hours of electricity to charge our boat batteries, we were fed, helped, and entertained as well as “charged.”
We met Myron Matherne the day before moving our houseboat and tying it to his floating houseboat camp on “Orange Barrel Canal” in the Atchafalaya Basin. Our house batteries were running low, as we had not been plugged into shore power for many weeks. Myron offered his camp to help us out. Orange Barrel Canal is an oil and gas sight with a camp where workers live for seven days “on” and seven days “off”. We were greeted by Johnny, Jeff, and a dog named Dixie who were in charge of monitoring the gauges this week. The canal has a small houseboat community at its end and not a boat went by without a friendly wave or a visit. We tied and plugged the Wanderer in with helping hands, and CC and I took the dinghy down to head out to Duck Lake for sunset pictures. Upon our return home we were met with piping hot choices for our dinner. White beans and rice, pork loin, stuffed crabs, and pecan pie…we ate it all!
Myron appeared early the next morning in his boat to make sure we did not need anything. He also wanted to take CC to Joe and Marion Daigle’s camp across Duck Lake to meet Charlie. Check out the top picture and you will have an idea how entertaining this visit was! Stories and generosity abounded on our stay at the canal. Glen Thibodeaux, an ingenious electrician with a neat houseboat on Orange Barrel, met us a week later in Morgan City to re-do our batteries and remedy the problems we had been having. Free of charge!
The people we are meeting on our floating adventure are strangers briefly. Sharing stories, their lifetime memories, and opinions make friendships easy and comfortable. Fishermen visit and leave fish for supper, acquaintances give up their time to drive us around, and no one is in too big a hurry to stop and lend a hand. Learning through other’s adventures and lifestyles is amazing.
The typical way of life in south Louisiana is changing rapidly. Imagine being born on a houseboat at Bayou Chene, a once thriving community in the middle of the Atchafalaya Basin. Attending school on a school boat, your dad selling the fish he caught to the weekly visiting fish buyer, and your mom buying groceries from the supply boat that stopped once a week!
We have been lucky to cross paths with many in the diverse habitats of south Louisiana. Be they shrimpers, fishermen, oystermen, oil workers, crawfishermen, port commissioners, levee managers, sheriffs, biologists, or tour guides there are no finer people in the world. Their past and their futures are rapidly changing and we must do whatever it takes to save the many different ways of life that have created the rich gumbo that is the south Louisiana way.
People of the wetlands brought forth the riches for all to enjoy. Human mistakes and actions taken have caused such a wide range of problems. Are we smart enough to save the bounty for future generations to enjoy?