February 25, 2017-March 1, 2017
Part of the fun of traveling has been spending time with the different people we meet along the way. Here are a few of them:
One day we were playing in the sand as a family at the Gulfport beach. Up comes a young couple on Valentine’s Day. They started making small talk about the shape I was making in the sand. The next thing I knew, they ended up making sand sculptures next to us for over an hour as we chatted about life, how to raise children, and having the guts and discipline to pursue your dreams. We were impressed with how friendly and open the couple was. I also won’t forget how she looked at the calm ocean waves and confessed how she’ll always see it as a dangerous killer after her experience with Hurricane Katrina.
Another was a family from Tennessee. This was the first time my boys found kids similar in age and quickly became friends as they rode bikes, played tag, and fished together in the park. One of my favorite stories the mom told was of gutters being lined with razor wire to keep the gypsies from robbing them while she lived off a military base in Italy. The dad was in the military doing stuff that, let’s just say, taking on alligators would have been nothing.
Another man was at the “Cracklin’ Fest”. He was a Viet Nam veteran that told of how his team was responsible for recovering helicopters that were shot down. They would jump down from their helicopter, fasten the crashed machine, and then wait for a different ride back while the damaged helicopter was lifted away. He said it got sketchy sometimes.
The first night at a small campground, a teenage girl started walking across the field as I was cooking dinner outside. When she approached, she introduced herself in such a sweet southern girl voice telling us she was the owner’s daughter. She lives out in the country here and has a young cow, horse, and a few other critters. What struck us was how she answered us constantly with, “Yes, Sir,” or “Yes, Mam”. It was so formal and proper. I had heard that was a common way for kids to address adults down south and now I finally saw it in action. The bar has been raised for the boys.
At the Acadian Cultural Center we ran across a 75 year old Cajun. He started talking french to us. I told him I didn’t have a clue what he was saying. Then he told of his grandmother’s ancestors’ journey from Acadie (Nova Scotia). They were kicked out by the British, and sent back to France before they came to settle in the Acadiana region of Louisiana. In his viewpoint, his ancestors had a hard time because they no longer had a homeland. He told of how he felt closer to the creole people because the commonality of the french language. However in the segregated south, the black creole family that truly raised him could not be in the school he was sent to. He felt he was black more than white because the english-speaking white culture was so foreign to him. This was a conflict he faced growing up among several other stories he told.
This Cajun man was accompanied by his brother-in-law who was of a mixed Irish “Heinz 57” ancestry. He told of how he grew up literally living on the river bayou. During the depression time, they lived off of the land. They hunted, fished, and trapped. If they caught nothing, then they did not eat that night. I couldn’t help but think of my Grandpa George in how he looked, talked, and even the plaid shirt he wore.
Next to our campsite was a family that lived in a trailer home. When we found out there was no water in the area, we inquired if the lady of the house had any. After being informed that a bridge was under construction and therefore had shut the water off for the day, she told of their lifestyle a bit. She told of how she filled buckets and jugs of water earlier with what she keeps around the place for hurricane preparation. She sounded like this was a common occurrence to go through for her. She instructed us to boil the water for three days after the water comes on again and to flush the pipes for a while as well. Her story then continued telling of how she lives as a virtual single mother because her husband works out on the oil rig. He currently works two weeks on and two weeks off. To get out there, he must travel three hours by car and then ride a boat for 15 hours! The husband works with explosives out on the rig and so she has an ongoing concern for him.
It is one thing to read about people in a textbook or watch them as they pass by you walking down the street. But, nothing like these priceless conversations could give a living history and cultural lesson like we’ve experienced here. I have enjoyed this time just as much as seeing the bayous and seeing the sites. While we have experienced this through our travels, I encourage you to talk with those around you. Everyone has a story.
Until we meet again,