Editor's Note: In 2010, Katie Oxford filed a series of riveting columns from the heart of the Gulf oil spill disaster. She recently returned to Louisiana. This is her second column in a series.
While in Baton Rouge to meet Xuan "The Ant Man" Chen, I camped at The Cook Hotel, which is conveniently located on the LSU campus. Also camped there were Daughters of the American Revolution, who were attending the Louisiana State Convention — 200 plus.
I met a few of the daughters on the elevator. They were a jolly group, mostly blue-haired ladies who on this day were wearing pink hats with the pumps and pantyhose and chattin’ up a storm. An elderly gentleman stood silently in the back, wearing a baseball cap and a slight grin.
Something happens to me when traveling the back roads of Louisiana. My heart accelerates and senses ignite like a hound dog hot on a trail.
A few of the ladies pointed to their daughters and said where they were from. After we spilled out of the elevator, I felt a light tap on my shoulder.
“I just wanted to introduce myself,” the gentleman said. “In this group,” he explained, his fingers spread like he’d just tossed a seine, “I’m the H-O-D-A-R. That stands for ‘husband of a DAR’ but I say, it means ‘hundreds of dollars are required’.”
His wife, smiling dismissively, continued walking.
The DARS were adorable but I was glad to be leaving this hub of a beehive and going south. To Cut-Off, that is, according to the wife of the HODAR, “Is cut off.”
Dripping with color
Something happens to me when traveling the back roads of Louisiana. My heart accelerates and senses ignite like a hound dog hot on a trail. This trail, Highland Road to LA 1248, was dripping with color.
If spring green is gorgeous in Houston, it’s on steroids in Louisiana. Azaleas adorned almost every yard. Some sat in rows like buttons on a jacket popping pink. Others dressed the slopes down to the road, where on either side ditches were filled to the brim with cattails.
If spring green is gorgeous in Houston, it’s on steroids in Louisiana.
The houses seem suited to the land both in scale and in beauty. Refreshing. Roofs slant long and low and tree branches are the size of huge barrels. Porch columns are almost as plentiful as the golden rods, also in bloom.
From one farm road to another, I zigzagged through towns like St. Gabriel, Vacherie, ChackBay, feeling more intoxicated after every curve with some concoction of Norman Rockwell and Cajun country. The sight of water, that is, a bayou, ever constant.
From LA 20, as I hit 308 and turned south, I knew I was getting close to a place that feels like home. Lafourche Parish and Terrebonne Parish. I can’t decide which. The two sit side by side like sisters.
The people here are Cajuns. They live honoring the simple things in life like sharing a meal or a friendly conversation. As one Houstonian said, “We have watches, they have time.” Cajuns are my kind of folk.
By late afternoon, I came to that familiar sharp curve in the road and saw the Southern Sting Tattoo Parlor. Unlike three years ago, the parlor appeared to have customers. Indeed, it did.
Inside, Bobby Pitre and Eric Guidry were busy at work with more customers waiting.
I still wonder why the Woodward/Bernsteins of the world aren’t on this part of the tragedy like a tick.
Bobby looked up from the table and smiled big. I was glad that he remembered me and I was anxious to hear how things were going from Bobby’s point of view.
“Going great!” he answered, “because we’re working! It’s been a good year so far.”
Bobby reported that last year wasn’t so good. “People weren’t spending any money,” he said.
I asked whether he’d seen any media folk. “Some,” he said, “maybe four in the last year.”
Then I asked him if he had any concerns, now three years after the BP oil spill. His answer came with no hesitation.
“Yeah I do,” Bobby said. “I’m concerned about the dispersant…what’s in the soil.” He had a daughter who he used to take to the beach on a regular basis. Not anymore.
Bobby had hit on something that hits on me. Big time. Who will ever know the amount of poison that BP sprayed in Louisiana and God knows where else. Why they were allowed to is the bigger question, and I still wonder why the Woodward/Bernsteins of the world aren’t on this part of the tragedy like a tick. Something that at the end of the day may prove more damning than the damn oil spill itself.