Blog Update Feb. 19
Hello from somewhere between Houston & Austin, TX. After a wonderful dinner party last night at the home of cruise friends, Duane & Dorothy McCarthy, also attended by Charlie & Marla, we are now driving towards Austin. Duane & Dorothy always offer such impeccable hospitality and we certainly ate and drank well!! Here is a picture of them with Charlie and Mar on the left and Duane & Dorothy on the right.
Usually social occasions last between 3 and 4 hours; because of all the travel talk and catching up on each other’s news and upcoming trip plans, we stayed for 7 hours!!! This morning they all came over to see our rig, which was parked in the Sam’s parking lot just 1 mile from their place. We will be in Barcelona with them for one day after they take a Spring transatlantic crossing on the Voyager, and we take ours on the Independence, so we will be having dinner with them on May 2. What fun it is to meet up with special friends all over the world!
Our week at Betty’s RV Park is Abbeville, LA was filled with social activities and outings. Abbeville is in the heart of Cajun country. Cajuns are an ethnic group mainly living in Louisiana, consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles (French-speaking settlers from Acadia or Nova Scotia, in the maritime provinces Canada). Today, the Cajuns make up a significant portion of south Louisiana's population, and have exerted an enormous impact on the state's culture. Betty arranged for us to visit a Cajun museum in Erath, where we learned about their expulsion by the British around 1755, and also saw a letter of apology from the Queen of England written in 2003. Most people learned about Cajun people from Longfellow’s poem “Evangeline”. It describes the betrothal of an Acadian peasant girl named Evangeline to her lover, Gabriel, and their separation as the British deport the Acadians from Canada in the Great Expulsion.
When we registered at Betty’s, she provided us with a very complete listing of events that were going to be held over the course of Mardi Gras, and people could decide which ones they wanted to attend. Laura and Gordon went to more of them than we did. Most of them involved Cajun music. Betty also arranged for a very good musical group from Kentucky, led by Judy Bailey, with her brother and 2 other guys, to perform in the clubhouse at her park. They sang mostly country music, but also some popular numbers from the past. Here is a picture of part of the group:
The main event which was promised to be very different from anything else was the “chicken run” and parade at Church Point. Betty had arranged for our group to park on the farm of Mr. Stanford, and watch the festivities there, because he would be one of the people providing chickens. So bright and early we carpooled out there and then waited for things to happen. The history of all this is that in the past people would go to the farms and ask for chickens for their Mardi Gras gumbo, and in order to “earn” the chickens, they had to chase and catch them. They usually visit 20-30 farms every year in this area, and they had a big wire cage full of chickens by the time they arrived at Mr. Stanford’s farm where we waited for them.
Eventually three horsemen approached, wearing very colorful and shiny capes, and they asked permission to enter the property. Following them came a couple of tractors pulling huge trailers filled with people all dressed up in rather strange costumes, and also with a couple of porta-potties because pretty much everyone was drinking beer. They all gathered on the big grassy field and the farmer threw a guinea hen up in the air and several hundred drunk, costumed men chased it until they caught it. Unfortunately, after the pile broke up, one of the teens was laying there in pain from a dislocated shoulder. Then another chicken was released and caught, and finally a third met the same fate. The field was somewhat muddy from the recent rain but there didn’t seem to be too much concern about that. Here are a few pictures of some of the costumed people and also one of the chicken catchers:
Here is the guy who caught the chicken:
Once the chicken seekers had left, there was a very long parade which went right by us with costumed horse riders on more horses than I have ever seen in a parade. I suppose it is because this was a rural town and the people in this parade were mostly farm people. Here are a few pictures:
There was even a young lady riding a PINK horse:
Following the horses, there were lots of arrangements of “floats” and/or trailers carrying lots of people throwing beads, candy, Mardi Gras cups, etc. So once again we got a major infusion into our bead supply.
Laura & Gordon also got some more beads:
At another location, there was a festival with music, and a pig killing (and roasting, I assume). We skipped that one.
Tuesday was the actual Main Event, because it was Fat Tuesday. We all drove to Lafayette where there were three parades and lots of people who had set up BBQ’s and were partying all day along the parade route. Fortunately, it was sunny with no chance of rain, but it was still chilly. Once again there were bands, Kings and Queens on floats, other floats with lots of beads and other paraphernalia being thrown, and some very fancy costumes. You have to watch out because sometimes they throw big batches of beads, even bagfuls and one of our RV people got nailed on the hand, which immediately swelled up and had to be iced. Here are some pictures from those parades:
One of the floats:
Here are some of the costumes of people in the parade:
Some of the people who came to watch the parade in costume:
That evening Betty wanted us all to go out to dinner at Shucks, an Abbeville restaurant where we had to wait 2 hours to be seated because we had such a big group. This was a farewell dinner because about 6 couples were leaving the next day. While waiting, we met a very nice local couple who personified what we have been finding in the South – graciousness and hospitality.
One of the things you see everywhere are places selling crawfish. Turns out that we had been driving past lots of fields where they catch them. The fields are flooded, and they grow rice in them, but they also have small cages spaced fairly evenly through the field and they put bait in them. The crawfish crawl in to get the bait, but the mesh of the cages is a certain size that the crayfish can’t get through to escape once they get big enough. Here is a picture of a field with the crayfish cages in it.
We also noticed that there were little muddy mounds in Betty’s lawn, and also in other fields which weren’t flooded. These were also created by crayfish, living in the muddy soil.
We have arrived in Austin and been spending some enjoyable time with David & Diane Wilson, friends from several of our cruises. We also visited them last summer in Wisconsin, at their lakefront cabin. I will tell you all about our Austin adventures in my next update.