Following the Bayou
Louisiana – Monday, January 7
Before leaving Lafayette, I had one more donation to do. There was a Center for Veterans that is a homeless shelter and it provides about 20 beds for veterans, in addition to the St. Joseph shelter for men which provides more beds. It’s all part of the Lafayette Catholic Service Centers. When I talked with the manager yesterday, he had indicated they didn’t need food, but clothes were always welcome. $56 won’t go real far with clothes, but I was able to get 30 pairs of socks, a dozen tshirts and a pair of sweat pants. The homeless shelter wasn’t in the greatest part of town, and some of the guys were just sort of hanging around out front – I believe they have to sign up for a bed in the morning. But they were all very polite, and offered to help me carry stuff inside, and the manager was right there, and even the guys inside said thanks. I couldn’t get a picture of the place – I’m careful to not take pictures of anyone actually using the facilities of a food bank or shelter – trying to respect their dignity!
Then I headed south through the little towns that dot the countryside along the big Bayou Teche – many of which have a French past, and street signs are often in French. The bayou water is brown and doesn’t look very appealing, but it’s a lifeline to the people who use the bayou to access shrimp and crawfish grounds. I stopped in St. Martinville and walked around the pretty little town. There’s lots of huge oaks with moss and ferns hanging from huge branches. They look like good climbing trees! There was a statue of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by the bayou – he wrote the Hiawatha poem which I’m familiar with, and also an Evangeline poem which is a big part of the lore in this area, which I wasn’t familiar with. Longfellow Evangeline State Historic Site looked like a really interesting place to visit, but they were closed on Mondays so I lost out on that opportunity. Next I headed for New Iberia, which is the only Spanish-influenced town in a predominantly French-influenced area. Tula and I walked all through town, and down by the bayou again and crossed the drawbridge. Tula doesn’t like the grates on the drawbridge (or anywhere else) so we won’t be walking across any more of those together! Luckily it wasn’t a big bridge! There’s just lots of them to allow the shrimp boats to get out. I’m guessing there must be some sort of schedule with the drawbridges that the fishermen know since they have to go under multiple bridges. I also walked quite a ways through one of the neighborhoods with some of the old historic homes. There was a stone shrine – The Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes modeled after the one in France, and people leave various offerings there.
Then I drove through Jeanerette and Franklin and stopped once again in Morgan City. I stopped in their visitor center and finally figured out what Louisiana’s parishes were. There are always signs about entering and leaving different parishes, and people seem to take pride in the parish they live in, but I didn’t know if parishes were a religious thing, or towns, or cities, or what. It turns out that Louisiana is the only state that doesn’t have counties, and their “counties” are called parishes. Mystery solved. We walked down by the waterfront and through the historic part of Morgan City and around the parks, and finished off the walking for the day by the time it got dark. Morgan City used to call itself the shrimp capital of the world, but then they also got caught up in the petroleum industry when oil was discovered, so to honor both industries, they have a big Shrimp and Petroleum Festival every Labor Day Weekend – seems like a funny combination.
I had a little bit of trouble finding a pet-friendly motel ($75 pet fees?!?) but after calling around a bit I found a good place right in Morgan City, which was good because I didn’t want to miss bayou scenery driving in the dark. It’s been quite cool – and frequently rainy at night, so I haven’t been able to camp lately. And tonight was another very rainy night, with rain in the forecast for tomorrow too.