OFF THE BEATEN PATH…
Alligators, swamp land, plantations, bayous, rougarous, things that go bump in the night. When most people think of southern Louisiana, either images likened to that of what we see on TV shows like Swamp People, or images of plantations with ladies and gentlemen dressed in full antebellum fashion walking through meticulously manicured gardens with huge live oaks dripping with Spanish moss most likely come to mind. There is some validity in either image your mind conjures up, but if you have the chance to visit one or more of these little towns dotted along the bayou superhighway that is Bayou Lafourche and Bayou Terrebonne, you may come to a whole different opinion. No matter what, it doesn’t take long to understand that much like our ancestors here in the upper Cumberland, the people that settled in the Bayou Teche area were stout, resilient, folks that adapted to the environment around them. If you look at the little towns dotted along the rivers flowing through these mountains, you might find many similarities to the little towns dotted along the bayous of Southern Louisiana. Bothplaces are overflowing with natural resources. Each little town
has its own history and plays its part in the shared collective of the area. There are towns that once dwarfed their neighbours but now are only remnants of what they once were. Sometimes a brick chimney or crumbling footers are the only things reminding of us of a time gone by. Some areas are more developed, but the large majority is untamed, full of wildlife, and ready to be explored. Similarities abound between those little towns and ours, but some things are very different. As you explore bayou country, you may not run into a black bear or elk, but alligators, those are plentiful, and that snake that looked like a water moccasin, probably really was one. Situated about 10 nhours to the southwest of our
sleepy little hollers is a place resting on the banks of the bayou filled with sleepy little mcoves. The flow of water consistently lapsing on the banks of the bayou as it runs through a town called Thibodaux. In the late 1700’s, Thibodaux
was just a trading post between New Orleans and Bayou Teche country, however, due to the Louisiana Purchase being completed, it became the seat to one of the oldest parishes in the state and kept its status as a vital gathering ground for all its peoples to trade, fellowship, and work. Thibodaux, also called the “Queen City of Lafourche”, was first documented to be a small village of Native American inhabitants. The Chawasha, a small tribe related to the Chitimacha were among the first to settle the area as early as the 1750’s followed by those of European descent in the 18th century. They consisted of French nationals and Louisiana- born French and German creoles, followed shortly by Spanish and French Acadian immigrants, and gradually the arrival of Africans in bondage who were brought over to work on and develop rice and sugar cane plantations. This merging of cultures lives on today in the people descended from this mix of peoples. They embrace it. They remember their past just as they look to their future. From the food to the architecture to the language, this intermingling of culture can be seen in every aspect of life. South Louisiana has sometimes been called a cultural gumbo. Each of the different ingredients is identifiable, yet all have blended, affecting one another. This can be seen everywhere in the region. One of my favorite examples of this melding is in the unique blend of their language. Just listening to the slow drawl infused with different dialects of native tribes and European settlers that came together generations ago can be a treat for the ears. Most folks you meet from the area will sprinkle in at least a little french giving your whole conversation a different feel. If you are truly lucky you may even find someone you’re speaking to speaks true
Cajun French. This beautiful sounding dialect is a melting pot all its own. While much of the language is rooted in french, many words from indigenous tribes and other European languages, as well as sounds from their environment made up this dialect. For example a bullfrog in Cajun French is called an ouaouaron because that is the sound associated with that animal. If you decide to go explore this part of the country a couple of things may be useful to know. In the summer
it’s hot. mI’m not talking a little hot, it is oven hot, and humid. Downtown Thibodaux has plenty of places to eat and explore. You can easily park and take your time walking leisurely through the downtown area with much the same architecture, food, and overall feel of it’s city cousin New Orleans without the high prices and crowds often associated with the New Orleans. There are museums, plan- tations, natural areas, walking trails, canoeing, guided and unguided tours available for just about anything you could want to do. Our favorite was Zam’s Swamp Tour. Zam’s is a small family run business that starts out with a tour of their resident swamp animals and culminates with a boat ride on the bayou. Everyone at Zam’s is knowledgeable not only about the animals, but also about the bayou, the history of the area, and the Cajuns that settled in this beautiful area. Thibodaux and the whole of Cajun Country is a trip off the beaten path that has a lot to offer visitors. If you ever find yourself there, take in the slow pace and enjoy one of the many adventures waiting for you. For more information please visit louisiana-destinations.com.