This blog originates on the banks of the Atchafalaya River, in Louisiana. It proposes to share the things that happen on and by the river as the seasons progress. As the river changes from quiet, warm, slow flow to rises of eighteen feet or more, there are changes in the lives of the birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles that use the river. And the mood of the river changes with the seasons. I propose to note and comment on these things.

My Photo
Location: Butte La Rose, Louisiana, United States

I transitioned a few years ago from a career as a water-pollution control biologist. I want to do this blog to stay in touch with a world outside my everyday surroundings, whatever they may be. I like open-minded company and the discussion of ideas. Photo by Brad Moon.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


It was a very good day, today! Last year my friend Ray at ULL informed me that the state was offering grants to qualified applicants for the purpose of conducting apprenticeship programs. I applied for, and was awarded, one of the grants for a boatbuilding apprenticeship. Through this grant, money from the state Office of Cultural Development will pay for materials to build a 16-foot cypress bateau. The “Master” builder in this case is Edward Couvillier from Myette Point (near Franklin) and the apprentice is his son Kevin. Edward is one of the last people I know who can build a good-looking cypress bateau, all the rest of the boat builders from the Myette Point community having passed on. As I say, Edward will teach his son Kevin how to do it. We are at the materials acquisition stage right now, beginning with a trip today to get a piece of marine plywood for the boat bottom. It was very hard locating a piece of marine plywood sixteen feet long by four feet wide. The lumber yard in Raceland tells us that so few wooden boats are made now that they don’t sell enough to stock it regularly. They didn’t have a 16-foot piece so we had to cut an old, scarred, piece of plywood that was 20 feet long. The rest of the boat will be made of old heart cypress from a place in Morgan City. We will pick that up as soon as the wood Edward orders is planed.

In addition to finding the plywood, driving to Raceland with Edward in the passenger seat provided another wonderful opportunity to hear stories from someone who was born, raised, and had his family, almost all on houseboats in the Basin. That’s another LONG story. But today I placed a tape recorder on the armrest between the seats in my pickup and asked him to talk about some of his life in the Basin. I just let the recorder run. He talked about how even the swampers got lost in the fog sometimes, and how they dealt with that by watching the wake of their boat to make sure they didn’t turn without knowing it. Looking towards the rear, sometimes you could run into things. He talked about hunting and flipping a boat over in the main channel before daylight with himself and three other men it, all with ankle-fit hipboots on, and how they all survived with the loss of only one shotgun. He talked about more successful hunts where the numbers of French ducks were unbelievable. He talked about how you “boom” a raft of logs, sometimes with 100 logs in it, and how you keep the “sinkers” from sinking by suspending them from “floaters” using chain dogs. And how sometimes, maybe, some of the logs didn’t really belong to you. And how a Mr. Law was hired to paddle a pirogue through the swamps and arrest anyone illegally felling trees, but that you could avoid him. And sometimes when you picked moss your parents would let you swim in the bayou, but never otherwise. He talked about how sometimes the spirits of people about to die would visit you in the swamp.

Oh yes, it was a very good day, today, with my friend Edward. And, thankfully, it’s all on tape.

The immature rufous hummer is still here. The picture was taken yesterday. And sometimes you just have to imagine what goes on at the river, things walk across your dock and leave muddy prints. Was this really a great blue heron, or something else…?

The river is at 4.6 on the Butte La Rose gauge today, going to 4.1 by Tuesday. There is still nothing showing on the Ohio and Mississippi but it is raining up there, so maybe….

Rise and Shine, Jim


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