Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Stalking the Wild Rougarou

Crawford, Louisiana – December 14, 2006

The Rougarou is found in the swamps and bayous of southern Louisiana. The name may also be spelled Roux-Ga-Roux. The Rougarou is half-man, half-wolf and half-alligator. It is thought that a person may sometimes become a Rougarou by breaking Lent seven years running. We were able photograph one of these rare Cajun creatures at a Jeb’s crawfish farm in Crawford, Louisiana.

Jeb is the 4th generation of his family to farm crawfish and rice. He has a funny looking boat that has a pusher attachment. These boats can run in shallow water or on dry land. Jeb farms 400 acres of crawfish single-handedly. The crawfish may burrow into the earth about eight feet during the hot dry summer and are harvested from December to May when water returns to the fields. Jeb rotates his fields and splits the crop between rice one year and crawfish the next. His boat has an ingenious mechanism of rollers which sends the little ones back to grow and puts the big ones in a sack. Here are some photos.

Crawfish (or crayfish or crawdads) are similar to tiny lobsters. One of Jeb’s biggest problems is crawfish rustlers and employee embezzlement of crawfish. For this reason he works alone. As a side note, if you ask the Florida Department of Wildlife for a lobster stamp for your fishing license you just get a blank stare. You have to ask them for a crayfish stamp, which is strange because it is a license to catch spiny lobsters.

The previous generations of Jeb’s ancestors were avid collectors of antiques and old automobiles. There are several houses and warehouses stuffed full of unusual antiques and old cars on the farm. Jeb has hired a curator to sort things out and to give tours while he harvests the crawfish, and the sorting looks like a monumental job, only just begun.

The people in this area are very friendly to strangers and they, and the music and food are totally unique to this part of the U.S. Last night we went to a roadhouse for seafood gumbo, crawfish etouffee and a concert by the Lafayette Rhythm Devils.

There was a large dance area and the ladies sat on benches and waited for a gentleman to invite them to dance what I believe to have been the “Cajun Two-Step”. Cajun music is very heavy on the fiddle and accordion, but the Devils also had two electric guitars and a drummer. The vocals are French-American and instantly recognizable as a distinct and upbeat musical genre.

This area was spared by Katrina, but Rita blew through a few weeks later and destroyed and damaged many homes. The graves here are above ground and many coffins and bodies floated far away. It is a tradition here to paint the graves every year, so finding a recognizable relative in the swamp who had been buried twenty years earlier must have been traumatic.

I received some positive answers to my requests to volunteer with rebuilding efforts South of New Orleans. Unfortunately I discovered today that G-mail put them in my SPAM folder last week, so I need to sort that out.

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