Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You

I wrote a post back in February called Jambalayaย  which was really about alligators and the bayou with a great video of Hank Williams and real pirogues but no actual jambalaya.

Today I’m writing a post called Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You, which really is about Jambalaya and Crawfish and the kind of creepy feeling I get when my food watches me while I eat.

This past week, here in the no longer-a-town of Concrete, Texas, we’ve been transported back to the bayou. We have several guys on the rig that are from Louisiana. Our Directional Driller called us down for heaping portions of his homemade jambalaya. It was better than a biscuit buttered on both sides (they have a lot of biscuit sayings here, but no biscuits so far, just a lot of beans). ๐Ÿ˜€

~

~

The meat in this batch of jambalaya was sausage and chicken or pork, I’m not sure which. It was either the white meat or the other white meat. In any case, the jambalaya didn’t have any eyes. It was like eating regular, non-accusatory food.

Last week I experienced my first crawfish cookout. The caterer drove 14 hours from New Orleans with fresh crawfish and let me tell you, they made quite a splash! For those of you who, like me, have roots about as southern as central Indiana, you’ll get that this was a unique experience for me.

~

~

Seafood has never seen me eat it until I moved to the south. It began in February in Galveston with the Granddaddy Lobster Crab pot when we did Eat at Joe’s, but that didn’t prepare me for the crawfish fest.

~

Pardon the way that I stare.
There’s nothing else to compare.
The sight of you leaves me weak.
There are no words left to speak.
Butย  if you feel like I feel when I peel you I feel.
Please let me know that it’s real. This all is entirely surreal.
You’re just too creepy to be true.
Can’t take my eyes off of you.

~

~

The fact that I’d never eaten crawfish was a source of both amazement and amusement here among these southerners. Heidi, who begged off due to allergies (not entirely untrue – she hates most all seafood and probably would get sick) left me to fend for myself.

~

~

Some of the guys are a little shy about having their picture posted for a variety of reasons. Clay, our mud engineer, doesn’t mind and you can see everyone was feted with a turkey pan full of crawfish and plenty of extra Cajun seasoning.

~

The Company Man called me in for a crawfish cracking lesson. As it turns out, this was entirely necessary since, instinctively, I would have aimed for the wrong end.

~

~

There’s really quite a lot of technique involved: breaking off the tail, removing the first band, grabbing the meat and shaking it (really, no kidding, shaking it loose).ย  After Jimbo showed me about 10 times, I made one successful attempt and returned to the RV with my own turkey pan (despite my protests that I didn’t need nearly that many).

~

~

Heidi ate the corn and potatoes while I began the task of shelling my dinner. Shelling crawfish isn’t anything like shelling peas, which I’ve done quite a lot of.

I took a nice before photo.

~

~

Thirty plus minutes and a torn up thumb later, I had my dinner ready.

When there aren’t any fish in the sea, a crawfish can pass off for a fish. ~ Lech Walesa

~

~

There you have it.ย  A turkey platter of crawfish reduced to about 10 oz of meat. Amazing! It was an adventure to be sure!

You’re just too creepy to be true.
Can’t take my eyes off of you.
You’d be like heaven to touch so icky to touch.
I wanna Don’t want to hold you so much.
At long last love has arrived. Sorry you didn’t survive.
And But I thank God I’m alive.
You’re just too creepy to be true.
Can’t take my eyes off of you.

With apologies to Frankie Vali…

That’s What I’m Talkin About!

If you’re a gate guard in Louisiana, you know what I’m talkin about!

If you’ve spent much time on the Louisiana bayou or if you watch the History Channel, you know what I’m talkin about. The problem was, I was a gate guard in Texas and I didn’t know what anyone was talking about and now I know why.

The majority of the guys on Lantern 16, our initiation rig, were from Louisiana. They sounded just like Troy in this video except you need to add some chew to listen around.

~

~

And they thought I had a Canadian accent? Really? I’m not even from northern Iowa. ๐Ÿ˜€

No wonder all that time I spent listening to CD’s on How to Speak Cowboy and reading hints on deciphering a southern drawl didn’t help a bit. I’m such a Yankee, I didn’t even know that you could travel just one state to the east and be in both an entirely different world and hear an entirely different dialect. Add to that, the guys who weren’t from LA were from Texas and Mississippi. Carrying on a conversation was like channel surfing each time a different truck came in.

If I’d watched Swamp People, even once, before we took our first job I might have known what the guys were saying! Until I happened to catch an episode last fall, I had no idea that it wasn’t the southern drawl that had me stumped, it was Cajun.

It also explains why our time with 16 was so different from any other group we’ve been with since they went back to Louisiana in June. The guys were always proudly proclaiming how they could live off the land, and clearly they could … and do.

They caught wild hogs night after night right outside my window. They hung the snare on this branch.

~

It was weeks before I found out why the pigs were squealing all night long. I thought that was just what they did in Texas.:D

~

~

The guys would skin the hogs and cook them and cheerfully share their bounty with us. They hunted squirrel and rabbit and quail. They also shared tarantulas and snakes and scorpions and frogs and anything else they could catch ๐Ÿ™‚ (Just for show and tell, not to eat)

~

~

~

We expect to be in this business for quite a few more years, and I’m sure we’ll work with a lot of fine folks. I’m also sure we’ll never meet any guys quite like these bayou guys. When they said we were family, they meant it.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about! ๐Ÿ˜€

Never Smile at a Crocodile

Never smile at a crocodile
No, you can’t get friendly with a crocodile
Don’t be taken in by his welcome grin
He’s imagining how well you’d fit within his skin ~ Rolf Harris

In November, we took a short trip to Louisiana and spent some time on the bayou. Although I don’t consider myself much of a Swamp Person, unlike Heidi who has a peculiar affinity for swamps, I found the Louisiana bayou to be surprisingly beautiful.

We took a three hour tour. It was just like The Minnow except there were just the four of us, plus Chris, our captain, and we didn’t get lost, and we were in an airboat on the swamp going 50 mph. It was a grand adventure!

We shot across the marsh and the trees and the lily pads as seamlessly as we did the water. The herons and egrets were beautiful.The nurtia, not so much.

To bring attention to South Louisiana’s endangered wetlands, designer Cree McCree held a fashion show at House of Yes in Williamsburg starring Righteous Fur pelts made from nutria โ€” the huge rodent that has a serious appetite for swamp plants and is endangering the nation’s ecosystem….The crowd was split on the huge orange, crescent-shaped nutria teeth that dangled from some of the hems… ~New York Fashion

If you know southern swamps, you probably know about nurtrias. This was my first encounter and it was an up close and muddy one. I’m no fashionista, but really, would you want to wear this guy’s pelt and teeth? He was kind of a cross between the biggest, ugliest rat and a beaver with a sorry excuse for a tail. Chris was a real hands on type of guy.

Our furry friend shared a good deal of his mud with me. As did the our next guests. Chris just kept offering me his pant leg to use as a towel. Funny. Have you noticed that the one with the camera is always the only one who gets dirty. By the time the trip was over, I looked like I’d done some bog hopping. After the nutria encounter, we headed back into private waters.

Long, long ago, I used to have a pretty extensive collection of 33 vinyls. When I was little, they were mostly Disney fairytale/musicals, complete with illustrations. I still know all of the songs from Babes in Toyland and Cinderella and Peter Pan. Every since going to Louisiana, I’ve thought often about Peter Pan. Not Peter Pan himself so much as Captain Hook. Not really Captain Hook so much as the crocodile that had designs on him. Rolf Harris has taken Never Smile at a Crocodile from Peter Pan and had some fun with it.

~

According to Animal Planet all alligators are crocodiles but not all crocodiles are alligators.

This is an alligator. His inspired name is Big Al. He’s 13 feet long, which is something of a dinosaur. He’s entirely unperturbed by visitors.

His neighbor, Bella, was lying in wait for us. She was smaller, 11 feet, which, believe me, feels plenty big when she decides to climb into your little wooden boat. She was waiting for her coot. The fact that she knew the routine, didn’t mean she was tame.

At this point my foot was about a foot from her nose. Chris shot a coot the day before. I was pretty pleased. I’m a tough enough old bird that if there hadn’t been a coot, I’m not sure she wouldn’t have been content with something fresher.

I was already muddy from the nutria and I wasn’t keen on being dinner. These photos aren’t zoomed which is why you can see her tonsils but not her webbed feet.

I’m not sure how many crocodiles I may have smiled at in zoos. I now know that if an alligator is smiling back at me on the bayou, it may have dinner on its mind.

Never smile at a crocodile
Never dip your hat and stop to talk awhile
Never run, walk away, say good-night, not good-day
Clear the aisle but never smile at Mister Crocodile ~ Rolf Harris

If only I’d gone to the Louisiana bayou before I started gate guarding, it would have changed everything.

If we still don’t have a job tomorrow, I’ll tell you why.

The Day Company Came a Callin’

I don’t feel like myself tonight. Isn’t that an odd saying? It’s not like I feel like someone else. I’m not exactly sick or entirely well. I guess I’m just a little more off than usual, so I promise to keep this short.

We had company yesterday! I think you might have to be a gate guard in real rural Texas and have nearly all your friends and family 1200 – 2200 miles away to really appreciate how wonderful it is to get company!

On a few rare occasions, we’ve had an opportunity to meet other gate guards, which has been great fun! And we’ve had tons of company with multiple legs, which I’ll write more about, another time.

But yesterday, people who already know us, came to see us on purpose! ๐Ÿ™‚

~

~

We met Mike and Casey inย  Oregon where we were workampers together. Mike converted our gas- only water heater to give us an electric option in the Class A. They taught us how to tie down our awning and then taught us to never put out the awning on the Oregon coast unless we wanted to go para-sailing!

We were new to RVing, new to workamping, new to the coast; which is just a nice way of saying we didn’t know anything and they taught us everything! We were so poor, they even bought us a space heater. You’ve gotta love folks who keep you warm and keep you laughing! Thank you so much, dear friends, for spending 7 hours in the car to spend 4 hours with us today!

I’m not sure what Mike and Heidi talked about while Casey and I walked Buttons and Henry, but I could tell things were different after they left.

We played cards, as we do almost every night. But it wasn’t cards as usual. Maybe that’s why I don’t quite feel like myself? We generally always (yes, that’s how they say it down here) play 2 hands of Whist, 2 hands of Gin Rummy and 1 game of Cribbage.

I usually win. ๐Ÿ™‚

I don’t mean to, it just happens. That fact that Heidi’s only been playing cards for about 4 years and I’ve been playing cards since I was 4, may be a factor. Anyway, I think Mike must have given her a pep talk. She won tonight! In my defense, it’s hard to maintain any strategy with a gun in your face. Just sayin’. ๐Ÿ˜‰

~

~

To celebrate her massive card annihilation, we watched Heidi’s favorite TV show: Swamp People. Ever since our trip to Louisianaย  and our wild air boat ride through the Bayou, she loves to watch Swamp People and yell out Shoot him! which I’ve gotten used to but still startles Henry. The shooting is a reference to the alligator, not to a person, but that’s a story for a night when I feel more like myself. ๐Ÿ˜€

~

This 10 footer was about a foot from my foot. My toes haven’t felt quite the same since…