Search the blog


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Morgan City, Louisiana: Swamp Bells

Brownell Memorial Park, Morgan City, Louisiana

The privately-owned Brownell Memorial Park is packaged in a small box, but inside are multiple micro-adventures.

Brownell Memorial Park, Morgan City, Louisiana

First, there were the devil's horses.
Then there were the spooky bleating swamp lambs.

And then  ....

Brownell Memorial Park, Morgan City, Louisiana

... and then as I walked on the path between the bodies of water, the cypress knees, the strong trees draped with moss, the sounds of the birds and the 'lambs,' I heard:

Claire Brownell founded this park as a testament of her love for the area and a desire to share its beauty with visitors. She had the carillon bells cast in Holland and brought here.

Brownell Memorial Park, Morgan City, Louisiana

Ms. Brownell's gift, which she shared with so many, reminds me of the couple in Rustavi who had fled their homeland in Abkhazia.  In the midst of stark cement towers in New Rustavi, they created a tiny paradise and built a tiny church, both open to any who entered.

Abkhazian-Georgian woman on far right created miniature garden with her husband, Rustavi, Georgia (Caucasus)

It reminds me of something a friend told me years ago - that the flowers that Ladybird Johnson had planted on the Texas highway meridians brought joy to thousands of drivers when they were in bloom, and how can you measure the pleasure we receive by looking upon natural beauty? -  does not an endeavor like hers, like Claire Brownell's, like the Abkhazian couple's - have just as much merit as other good works?   

Ladybird Johnson amid bluebonnets. From 100 Ingredients.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Morgan City, Louisiana: The Brownell Memorial Witch Project

Brownell Memorial Park, Morgan City, Louisiana

I knew when I turned into the Brownell Memorial Park that I'd see a tall white tower, but I experienced much more.

Brownell Memorial Park, Morgan City, Louisiana

First came the devil's horses. Having survived the assault of the devil's pains-in-the-ass only a couple of weeks before, all I could do was laugh at the quantity of all these creepy, yet oddly-attractive, over-large insects.

Brownell Memorial Park, Morgan City, Louisiana

While I laughed, I continued walking, picking my way carefully through the black grasshoppers.

Note: I never mentioned the crunch-crunch I experienced at Sabine, did I, as I walked over all the little dried crab claws, the orts of birds' daily feasts?

So I was laughing while avoiding the black grasshoppers, alone on the path, lined on both sides by cypress knees and water and tall trees with Spanish moss. I heard birds. It was almost idyllic.

Then came the bleating of the lambs. One bleated, then several answered. Another bleated, and several answered.

It was all very Blair Witch Project-y, with me playing the role of an unnerved and expendable Star Trek extra, about to be taken out by a creature from the depths. Because lambs - why and where are they? Sacrifices tied to a stake, awaiting dusk and the approaching monster?

In New Mexico, all I had to be paranoid about were bears and mountain lions. In Louisiana, who knows what lurks in the swamps. 

The next day, I learned what made the eerie sounds:

Louisiana, you're such a jokester.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

And Now for a Word From Dave

Yesterday, it was the devil's horses. Tomorrow it will be eerie bleatings from the swamp. In the meantime:

"South Louisiana is a giant sponge. That's why we keep in constant motion. If you stand still, you'll either sink or be eaten alive by giant insects." 

Dave Robicheaux, Pegasus Descending, by James Lee Burke

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Morgan City, Louisiana: The Devil's Horse

Source: What's that bug?

The devil's horse ... or lubbers .... or handsome black grasshoppers. Yeah, I know that sounds kind of weird for a grasshopper to be handsome, but once I got past the heebeejeebees, I was able to see it.

Devil's horses, Brownell Memorial Park, Morgan City, Louisiana

I met them .... LOTS OF THEM ... on a visit to Brownell Memorial Park outside Morgan City.

Whereas New Mexico regularly surprised me with hidden, jaw-dropping panoramas, Louisiana regularly surprises me with sudden assaults by bizarre, 1950's-esque-creature-flick creepy-crawlies.

These lubbers are big. Fortunately, they're pretty polite. They're slow and don't fly at you. While they don't necessarily move out of your way, they don't move in your way, either.

But holy gee, there were a lot of them at the park. It was so crazy, all I could do was laugh. I mean, really, Louisiana, seriously? I don't want to know what you're going to send my way next.

Devil's horses, Brownell Memorial Park, Morgan City, Louisiana

I'm guessing rutting season for devil's horses.

Wikipedia illustrates a difference between the artistic sensibilities of South Louisiana and Mississippi (of which northern Louisiana is considered a bedroom community). In South Louisiana, these insects go by the name devil's horse, the devil, or graveyard grasshoppers. In sober Mississippi, they are "giant locusts."

I saw a snake, too. The docent told me that some years back, after it rained and rained and rained, snake refugees covered the place. There were so many snakes at the park that it closed for awhile.

Snake, Brownell Memorial Park, Morgan City, Louisiana

Let me tell you, the trail at Brownell Memorial Park is very short. But I can't think of a time when I experienced so many visual and auditory surprises in such a small distance - until I drove down the very short Grand Bayou Street in Bayou Corne only an hour later. 

More to come.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Lafayette: On the Porch with Chubby Carrier

Chubby Carrier, jam on the porch, Vermilionville, Lafayette, Louisiana

One of the things I love about South Louisiana is the symbiotic relationship between local musicians and the communities within Cajun/Creole Land. The communities hire and showcase the local musicians and the local musicians donate their artistry at times. When I say communities, I mean both the organizations and the individuals within.

Video of Chubby Carrier and company playing - dancers on the porch toward the end.

Now, I'm sure there are complexities to the relationships, as there are with all relationships, but to this long-term visitor, they look solid.

Chubby Carrier, jam on the porch, Vermilionville, Lafayette, Louisiana

At the 2014 Creole Heritage Day in Vermilionville, Chubby Carrier and company did a jam on the porch of one of the historic houses.

Chubby Carrier, jam on the porch, Vermilionville, Lafayette, Louisiana

In the photo above, note the inter-generational aspect. Folks here are very aware of the need to bring up the young'ns' in the Cajun/Creole and Zydeco music. I wish girls were more involved, but I suspect their participation is growing. 

You don't see him here, but the man wearing a rastacap has a little boy, maybe six years old, and he already plays onstage with a rubboard. (And that little boy has a big stage presence.)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico: A Flash Back

Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico

Elephant Butte State Park isn't far from the New Mexico town, Truth or Consequences.

Elephant Butte has suffered from the recent drought. Hopefully, the big rains in 2013 and rains in this year's monsoon season will go a ways to restore its traditional depths. Mm, doesn't look as good as one might have hoped.

Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico

 On a pass-through in May 2013, I saw a fair number of quail. Can you find them in the photo above?

Outside Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico

In 2010, my mother and I passed by Elephant Butte on a road trip.

Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico. 2010.

This trip included a side jag over to the Spaceport. To get to the Spaceport, we dead-ended at the ghosty town of Engle, New Mexico, and we hung a right through cattle land.

Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico. 2010.
In fact, we didn't even know we were headed to the Spaceport. We turned right on a whim rather than backtrack. Over at City of Dust recently, the author wrote about Engle.

Between Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico, and Spaceport America. 2010.

Entrance to Spaceport America, New Mexico, 2010.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lafayette Neighborhoods: Twin Oaks ~ Oakview

As I mentioned here, Lafayette has dozens of small neighborhoods stashed behind the main arterials. They are gorgeous.

This past spring, I was lucky enough to be invited to a King Cake party in one such neighborhood, which includes Twin Oaks, Oakview, and Green Oaks.

I may have gasped when I saw this:

Lafayette, Louisiana

And how can you not be charmed by this:

Lafayette, Louisiana

There's a large website that attracts people who are planning a move to Lafayette. Visitors invariably ask which areas in Lafayette they should consider, and somebody always mentions River Ranch. Now, River Ranch has its place in the scheme of things, but I'm amazed at how many respondents are silent on the grace and beauty of the old, established neighborhoods.

I can only shake my head in wonder.