Warning! Tornados! Floods! Lightening Strikes!

Well, this is interesting.

We’re currently under:

1. A Tornado Warning

2. A Tornado Watch

3. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning

4. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch

5. A Flood  Warning

6. A Flood Watch

7. A Hail Warning (but not Hail Watch).

Seriously? I don’t know if the weather service just can’t make up its mind or if it’s because we’re in the thick of it right now with a lot more on the way? I’m afraid it’s the latter

Y’all take care out there.

You other gate guards – sure would like to hear that you’re OK.

Bob and Gabby, I know there was a tornado near you.  And John and Terry, sounds like things were rough in Tilden. We hear they’ve shut down some of the rigs around Karnes City.

Not ours, so far…

The little hummer seems to be undeterred, though! He must be a Jim Rohn fan. 😀

How long should you try? Until. ~ Jim Rohn

Mayday! on May Day!

Yesterday was May 1st. That means yesterday was May Day, except in Texas, where not one single person that came through our gate (maybe 150 or so all told) had ever heard of May Day.

Heidi baked a big batch of warm cookies for the 5:30 meeting. We cheerfully passed out candy to everyone who came through in, greeting them with a hearty Happy May Day!

It quickly become apparent that no one had ever heard of May Day. Is this just a Midwestern thing? May baskets made with pipe-cleaner handles, filled with candy and sometimes flowers that you hang on the front door knob or leave on the Welcome mat in the case of no knob. Then you ring the doorbell and hide in the bushes until your friend opens the door and sees their gift! 😀

I did it. My kids did it. My Facebook friends assure me that it’s still happening in Iowa, but in Texas, not so much. Clearly there’s no point in Tap to create event here. We did have one Californian who’d heard of it but he was probably a Midwest transplant.

Anyway, everyone was happy to eat the candy and cookies and it didn’t really matter to them what the occasion was. They did make it known that they know what Cinco de Mayo is. They’ll be pretty disappointed when they come to the gate on Saturday if they’re expecting Margaritas!

Last night, Henry and I were having a Mayday of our own.

 Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal. It derives from the French venez m’aider, meaning “come help me”.  ~Wikipedia

If you’re a regular reader, you know, we’ve had some mighty mouse duels. Heidi – 14, Mice-0 at last count. Henry and I have enjoyed weeks of peace until last night. We both heard it at the same time. As usual, the sound started in his food dish.

Henry, who had been long asleep in his bed, switched to his high alert mode, ears straight up. He took a few tentative steps toward his dish. I took a few steps toward his dish. The sound changed from the rattle of dog food to the familiar stuck in the sticky trap thumping.

At this point, Henry changed course. He’s a perfect, certified, pet therapy dog. He’s not a watch dog or a mouser.

I’ve never seen him hide between the footstool and the chair before. This caused me to become a little alarmed at just what was thumping the trap up and down under the cabinets. But not alarmed enough to look. Just alarmed enough to build a protective barrier to prevent it from thumping out onto the kitchen floor.

I knew a mouse could easily squeeze between the water jugs, but I didn’t think he’d be able to drag the trap through. For, oh I suppose an hour and a half, the thumping persisted. Henry continued to look alarmed behind the footstool. I turned on yesterday morning’s GMA to drown out the sound.

I made periodic trips to the coffee pot to make sure the mouse was still safely ensconced. You can’t really do catch and release with mice and the only traps that have worked for us down here (and believe me, we’ve tried them all) are the sticky ones.

When we caught the first mouse under the sink, I was going to take it out, but I saw it’s heart beating and I couldn’t finish the job. Heidi has no problem with this whatsoever and considers every mouse caught a personal victory.

I was relieved when the thumping stopped. This was a change in the pattern. It usually goes on night. This mouse had also been blessedly mute (not a bit of squeaking).

I decided that either the mouse was very, very tired or sleeping or inexplicably dead. I slowly pulled away the water bottles.

A cricket almost the size of a Dorito had been thumping the trap all over the floor.

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Seriously, don’t let anyone tell you everything isn’t bigger in Texas. We need a mouse trap for our bugs!

Rig Move Day 2 Photos

The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close-up. ~ Chuck Palahniuk

OK – that’s probably true so I’ll try to share a mix of both the big picture and some close up shots. Hopefully, you’ll be able to click on any of these images and take a closer look around.

Because the gate is busy and the computer and I are still at odds over posting photos – tonight will be a few more shots from Day 2. I’ll try to get a final Day 3 slide show in the hopper. I made a dozen attempts last night but the pictures kept floating off into… well, I don’t know where. One minute they were here and the next they weren’t there. 😀

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As you can see, the derrick comes in backwards.

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It gets put together like an everything is bigger in Texas Lego.

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This gives you a bit of perspective on just how huge everything is.

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Either you run the day or the day runs you.  ~ Jim Rohn

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Everyone has his day and some days last longer than others. ~ Winston Churchill

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Every morning at 5:30 and each evening at 5:30, there’s a meeting of the minds. The day shift and night shift rig crew, the rig manager, the safety guy and the day and night Company Men talk.

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Heidi made creamed filled cupcakes for their meeting. It didn’t take any time for them to go through 2 dozen cupcakes!

The guy in the white shirt is our head Company Man, Jimbo. He’s the second CM we’ve worked for from Louisiana and both were named Jimbo! Funny! Must be a common name there. Next week he says we’re having a craw-fish cookout. 😀

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Well, that brings us to the close of the second day. One more slide show to go to show you the last day of rigging up.
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Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day… ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The rest of that sentence –  Tomorrow is a new day and you shall begin it well and serenely –  just seemed a little discordant with life on an oil rig.
Although, when no one is snaring wild hogs 10 feet from my window; the cows aren’t eating the satellite cables; the donkey isn’t guarding the gate; there aren’t any tarantulas in the crock pot or rattlesnake loose in the truck bed, it’s pretty serene. Surreal sometimes, but serene. 😀

The Night the Lights Went Out in Texas

It was the night the lights went out in Georgia Texas. And Oh What a Night it was!
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I’m writing as lightning gives the illusion of dawn.
We lost the outside lights and bell hours ago.
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It took me a long time to remember I have scare lights and a porch light.
There’s a remedy for the lights but it’s hailing and I’m already soaked so wading over to the generator will have to wait until morning. My mega flashlight is adequate for tonight.
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The rig is set to move tomorrow so the traffic has been non-stop all night. I unplugged the laptop (old storm habit) and it’s running low on battery life.
This is just a quick post to say I hope you all are OK?
The hospital Heidi and I used to teach for in Creston, IA was hit by a tornado yesterday. Thankfully, no one was killed, but six in Creston were injured, one critically.
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We were able to get in touch with our friend, Jean, for whom we did dozens of seminars over the years. The roof was ripped off of the building at the college which houses her office is but everyone is OK.
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The guys on the rig are wet and weary but no injuries.
There’s much to be thankful for!
Our Tuesday move is to a swamp.
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It was a swamp before the rain.
Hmm…
We’ve been here for almost 5 weeks.
Yesterday, for the first time, they watered the road. 😀
Ya’ll take care. Stay safe. I’ll try to write a real post soon.

I’m Exhaust-ed

Sleep is a symptom of caffeine deprivation. ~Author Unknown

I’m not tired, I’m exhausted. On the other hand, the gate guard my friend met at the laundry mat yesterday is tired. She’s tired because she and her husband work 15 minute shifts, around the clock. No kidding!
He has some sleep issues (similar to mine) which are treatable with meds, which he forgot to fill when they decided on the spur of the moment to drive 1800 miles to Corpus to be gate guards. She says he can only sleep 15 minutes at a time so they literally work 15 minute shifts.

People! Truly, gate guarding is not a spur of the moment type of job. Once you strip away all the glitz and glamor (our free utilities and our pre-tax salary of $5.21 an hour), you’re left with the reality of the Texas heat (it was 91 here yesterday and 101 in Laredo), giant bugs in your hair, tiny gnats in your ears, beetles in your t-shirt, moths in your coffee, bees, mice, rattlesnakes, tarantulas, un-reclusive brown recluses, scorpions, caliche etc… Some days it’s a lot to contend with, but that’s not why I’m exhausted.

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We’re at the crossroads of a oil company mini-mart here On The Edge of Glory Absolutely Nowhere. The 6 padlocks on our gate are a mystery. No one knows why there are 6 and no one here has the key to any of them. They’ve become kind of symbolic though.

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We’re guarding a drilling rig. I didn’t say I would never write about gate guarding again, just not all the time. Larry’s still simmering on the back burner. 😀

We get paid for guarding 1 rig but we have the traffic of 6 operations.

If you come in our gate and turn left, you (1) go the site where they’re busy building a new production plant. If you pass through our gate and turn right, you could be going to (2) our rig; or (3) to the site they’re preparing for fracing; or (4) to the mud farm; or (5) to the pad that’s being built for another drilling rig scheduled for week after next; or (6) to the water pond where the pipes burst last night.

We only keep a record of the folks going to our rig, but we have to talk to all who enter here. But that’s not why I’m exhausted.

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This is the first time we’ve worked for this oil company. Everyone seems nice enough. The procedure is a little different. They require each person sign in. Then, on the way out, they have to stop again, find the line with their in-coming signature (which can be many, many lines or pages ago) and initial across from it, checking the box saying that they weren’t injured.

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It’ll get easier once we get it down. Possibly we wouldn’t have stuck a purple pen on the board if we’d known the guys were going to be signing themselves in and out. 😀

This signing out process requires some extra work.

First, I clamber up the side of the semi, hanging on with one hand and passing the board with the other.

Next, we begin shouting at each other over the roar of the diesel. I shout in Yankee English and the drivers shout back at me in Southern English or Spanish or Italian or Cajun or possibly a combination.

Then, there’s the inevitable ensuing pantomime that’s required to convey the idea I just want their initials and a check mark in the yellow I didn’t get hurt while I was here box.

But that isn’t why I’m exhausted.

I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.  ~ Thomas Carlyle

I’m exhausted because I have a Fan-Tastic Vent (fan). You may remember that it scared me to death last fall, the first time it opened up all by itself and turned on in the dark, in the middle of the night, while the coyotes were howling and Darth Vader was sighing.

This peculiar ceiling device is thermostatically controlled and can push air out or suck air in. Because I’m gadget reluctant and have zero control issues, I’ve been letting it choose what it wanted to do, at will.

Fan-Tastic Vent will exchange the air in your vehicle in minutes. Cooking smoke and unpleasant aromas are whisked away in seconds.

Fan-Tastic Vent can reduce the use of air conditioning allowing you to breath natural, fresh ambient outside air.

Heidi and I have both been sick ever since we got to this site. We have a busy gate with tons (purposeful pun) of big trucks. I finally figured out what’s wrong with us. We’re exhaust – ed. The Fan-Tastic Vent, while cheerfully opening up to suck in the fresh ambient air, has been fumigating us. The same thing happened to a friend at a gate down the road.

To know that which before us lies in daily life, is the prime Wisdom; what is more, is fume, or emptiness, or fond impertinence. ~ John Milton

If you’re at a gate (or a truck stop) and begin feeling a little queasy, take heed. Milton was a wise man, but he didn’t know a lot about diesels.


Big Yellow Taxi

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Do you remember Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi? I was in 7th grade when it hit the charts back in 1970. In 1970, I could find my earrings. That’s proving to be a challenge in 2012.

It’s relatively quiet here on the ranch.  We’re about half way through the drilling process. It’s mostly me and the mud trucks and the tankers and the coyotes and a skunk and a few delivery and service calls from 12 – 5 a.m.

It’s the calm before the storm. Next week, work swings into high gear on a production facility in one direction and another pad is being readied for a second drilling rig in another.

I’ve had Big Yellow Taxi in my head for days. I’m a long way from a taxi, but now I think I know what set my subconscious singing:

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone

I did know what I had, but it’s gone. For some reason (this is a relatively recent quirk), I’ve taken to putting one earring in as I get ready for my day/night and carrying the other one around (often between my lips) while I start doing something else.

I have no idea why. It’s not like I’m running late for work or my hands are busy pulling up nylons. Tonight I found the renegade earring by the baby carrots.

And then there was the night, not long ago, that my knitting needles got hung up on a pearl stitch. Yep.

And, wouldn’t you think that if you live in a small space, it would be nearly impossible to lose things? This should be particularly true since Heidi and I are both borderline OC when it comes to neatness.

However, I have to confess, there’s rarely a day (well, night in my case) that I don’t temporarily misplace something. I blame it on the gate, but that’s weak. I might lose a thought when the bell starts ringing, but my camera (twice tonight already)?

And then there’s the issue of the pen. We have dozens, but they disappear like socks, so Heidi devised a Velcro strip to stick in on the board. When one pen wears out, we just stick on another one.

And I’m forever losing my phone – inside. I turn the volume off when I go to bed since I use it as a clock. I almost never remember to turn it on when I get up, so it’s no good having Heidi call it so I can find it.

After losing my Kindle for an entire month (it was in the magazine rack, opposite the phone in the chair cushion in the above photo), I’ve been relegated to bright colors.

I now have Heidi’s Kindle cover which is bright orange (mine was a nice book brown). I have a bright blue phone, a bright red mouse and a coffee cup with a red hand print, a yellow footprint (very impressive Dan and Elissa) and green letters that say We Love You Grandma. They must have seen this coming before I did! 😀

I fully expect to wake up some afternoon to find my bright orange gate guard vest covered in Velcro with all of my gadgets hanging on it.

In my defense, I never lose my keys. We have a hook for the keys. I would like to think if I would just come up with a designated hook for everything, I’d quit losing things.

But then there is a designated hook (hole) for my earrings, so maybe not…

I’m including Big Yellow Taxi, not as a political statement, but because it’s stuck in my head and I love to share. 😉

(I have no idea what the foreign language words say. Hopefully nothing about New York taxis.)

Be Prepared

It was coming. We knew it for days and I thought we were prepared.

No one but Night, with tears on her dark face,
Watches beside me in this windy place.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay

I’m a little more impacted by the weather these days, living in an RV and working 24/7 at a gate. I never paid a whole lot of attention to the weather forecast before. It doesn’t affect me like it does, say, a mail carrier, but I do spend a lot of time out in it, whatever it is.

We knew there was a fairly significant storm headed our way. We put away the lawn chairs and bungeed down the lights.

Around 10 p.m., I watched the morning GMA segment on severe weather preparations.

1. HAVE A PLAN

OK, this is a little problematic for gate guards. Where would we go since everyone on site lives in a trailer. And it’s moot anyway since we can’t leave the gate. I had more traffic during the storm than I’d had on any other night to date.

2. NOAA WEATHER RADIO

Don’t have one of those but Channel 4 was interrupting every program I wanted to watch with constant dire warnings of hail the size of golf balls and tennis balls and tornadic activity so I thought (hoped) that would do.

It didn’t. I lost satellite reception an hour before the tornado warning was issued.

But, I could still get on-line and follow the storm with the Weather Wunderground under my Weather Links. I lost the internet a just after the tornado warning was issued.

But, I could still get The Weather Channel on my phone, which is smarter than the rest of my electronics. And honestly, what difference did it make? We couldn’t leave the gate anyway unless there was a mass exodus from the rig. Highly unlikely.

I put everything away, which included the 3 clean dishes in the dish drainer and decided to read and wait and watch the lightning.

But I couldn’t relax. I had this niggling feeling that I was forgetting something. But what?

I hadn’t erased GMA from the day before, which I record every morning and watch at night. Since you don’t need a satellite connection to watch pre-recorded programs, I hit the back arrow to review the piece on severe weather preparedness.

1. HAVE A PLAN – well, not exactly but that couldn’t be helped. We did discuss taking shelter in the bathroom.

2. NOAA WEATHER RADIO – too late for that one.

Then I saw it and remembered. How could I forget the most basic of all severe weather preparedness items?

3. HAVE A HELMET NEARBY

I looked all over the place. Nope. No helmet. What was I thinking?

And then I got to thinking, I’ve never owned a helmet in my entire life. Not one. How have I lived so long, in a world of flying debris, without a helmet?

Part of my problem is that I cannot dispel the myths that have somehow accumulated over the years. Somebody writes something, it`s completely off the wall, but it gets filed and repeated until everyone believes it. For instance, I’ve read that I wear a football helmet in the car. ~ Stanley Kubrick

Mr Kubrick, you might want to reconsider. I have.

Next time you’re traveling down the windy back roads in southern Texas and pass a lady wearing a helmet, driving a giant dually, you’ll know to just smile and wave and I’ll wave back!

Phobias

All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears — of falling, of the dark, of lobsters, of falling on lobsters in the dark, or speaking before a Rotary Club, and of the words “Some Assembly Required.” ~ Dave Barry

We’re at our new gate – more on that tomorrow.

We had a few misadventures while we were getting ready to leave yesterday. It started with the German Shepard, sort of. We had some folks park next to us in the waiting lot who seemed nice enough. They had a chihuahua, (which is really hard to spell, by the way) who barked quite a lot and a German Shepard who didn’t. She (the Shepard, not the lady) had the ability to suddenly and silently materialize, usually just as Heidi was peering in the bin of the RV.

In addition to Bovinaphobia, Heidi has:

Cynophobia – the abnormal fear of dogs. According to Dr. Timothy O. Rentz of the Laboratory for the Study of Anxiety Disorders at the University of Texas, animal phobias are among the most common of the specific phobias and 36% of patients who seek treatment report being afraid of dogs or cats.

(isn’t that amazing?)

Although snakes and spiders are more common animal phobias, cynophobia is especially debilitating because of the high prevalence of dogs (in the United States estimated at over 62 million in 2003).  ~ Wikipedia

Henry in the tub, looking scary pathetic after a romp on the beach in Galveston

The problem, in all honesty, preceded the neighborly dogs. It really began with my Automysophobia. I decided I’d better do all the wash before we started a new gate. Since I have a washer and dryer in the 5th wheel, I’m not sure why I thought this was an urgent need, but I did.

In the middle of a game of Cribbage, we heard an odd, non-dog sound, coming from the front of the RV.

Washer and dryer – and the TV –  still covered in its original plastic.

Heidi rushed out to find water streaming out around the hitch. A quick check of the closet confirmed our fears that something had gone terribly wrong with the wash. The clothes inside the washer were damp but the carpet around it and the carpet in the closet was soaked.

After a quick call to the RV dealership and another to the mobile RV repairman, the solution was clear. Open the outside valve. I thought Heidi had; she thought I would have. Nope.

As you know, we’ve battled HUAD (Hooking Up Anxiety Disorder/ Dystychiphobia – fear of accidents) ever since smashing the tailgate – twice. We’ve taken to hooking up the night before we move. This means doing all the negotiating that’s necessary inside to pull in the 4 slides and disconnecting everything but the electricity outside. Somewhere during this process yesterday evening, the German Shepard put her nose right up next to Heidi’s as she was doing some disconnecting, which to understate it wildly, was disconcerting for her.

While this was happening, I was getting things ready inside, including a shower for Henry and then, yes, one more load of clothes. I transitioned back to nights two weeks ago, in anticipation of getting a gate any day. I was in the living room reading when Heidi woke up sometime after midnight and announced that she might have forgotten to shut the black water valve.

I put my glow in the dark shoes halfway on without untying them, thoroughly crushing the heels. I reached in the weaponry closet and located the amazing halogen flashlight that works like a searchlight at a car dealership. I quietly slipped (more or less) outside in hopes of letting sleeping dogs lie, the Shepard in particular.

Even though it hadn’t rained for several days, the ground was as wet as the carpet in the closet! Fortunately, the black tank was closed off, but both of the grey ones were open and so was the septic cap. From the ground our phobias came back to haunt us.

“What are fears but voices airy?
Whispering harm where harm is not.
And deluding the unwary
Till the fatal bolt is shot!”
—- Wordsworth


Monday Music

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when you find yourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
‘Til by turning, turning we come ’round right.

~Simple Gifts by Elder Joseph Brackett

Those of you who read both of my blogs, know that on Two Minutes of Grace, I generally post a song on Sunday. I’ve decided to do the same at Fork on Mondays – from time to time with different songs and different messages.

It’s been exactly two weeks since I rode through Houston in the rain, in a one ton dually pulling a 40 foot RV with 6-8 teeming lanes of traffic. I’m not sure when I quit breathing, but at some point I realized that I was pressing so hard on the floorboard that my right foot had gone to sleep, my jaw was locked, my eyes were glazed, my fingers were numb and my head was throbbing – and I wasn’t even driving! 😀

I took stock, took two Ibuprofen, took some deep breaths and thought about the trap of getting so tense over things completely out of my control.

It can be easy to wait for sometime, somewhere over the rainbow for things to become simpler. Many of you who read Fork are RVers. That doesn’t guarantee simplicity, but full-timers or part timers, you’ve learned how to pare down and live with much ‘less’.

I wrote a post a while back for TMG called Simple Gifts. In contains the Simple Gifts section of Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, with photos by Ansel Adams. Copeland’s music to the Adams’ black and whites is quite lovely. You can skip to the bottom of the page to play the video.

This video from The Piano Guys is my newest favorite. It intertwines ‘Tis a Gift to be Simple with Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I hope you enjoy it!

Jambalaya

Having had some close encounters with alligators on the Louisiana bayou in November, I was hoping to see some more in Texas.

I did, I think. It was rainy and cold and Stewart, one of the owners of On the Bayou RV Park said that the gators were mudding-in and we probably wouldn’t see any unless it got in the 70’s, which it didn’t the entire week. After 14 months of record heat, it never got over 58.

I took this picture from the window. I’m 83% sure it’s an alligator and not a log. It was kind of a Loch Ness moment so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

This wasn’t a Linda Ronstadt bayou. There was nothing blue about it!  It was more of Hank Williams bayou (although technically, he was writing about Louisiana, not Texas).

Good-bye Joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh
Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou
My Yvonne, the sweetest one, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou

I didn’t have a pirogue, although the neighbors did,  but I did have a pole. I asked what was biting. Stewart said, Well, mostly just catfish because the wind’s out of the north. When the wind is out of the south you can catch saltwater fish. How do you suppose that works? Does the wind just blow them in from the ocean? Fascinating!

Thibodeaux, Fontainenot, the place is buzzin’
Kinfolk come to see Yvonne by the dozen
Dress in style and go hog wild, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou

It was buzzin’ all right. The mosquitoes were so thick, they turned my black jeans brown. I bought night-crawlers to fish for the non-saltwater catfish. Dead shrimp work better I’m told, but they were all sold out of dead shrimp at the gas/bait/movies/glittering t-shirt store.

I briefly considered buying frozen shrimp and microwaving them (making them doubly dead) but I figured I might eat those and there was little temptation with living worms. Apparently they presented little temptation to the catfish, too. I think I had a couple of bites (on the pole that I wasn’t holding) and a couple of dozen on me before the mosquitoes drove me inside and the thunderstorms kept me there.

Settle down, far from town, get me a pirogue
And I’ll catch all the fish in the bayou
Swap my mon to buy Yvonne what she need-o
Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou

We had big enough fun, anyway!

The herons and egrets were beautiful. The ducks were odd as ducks tend to be.

Just before we left yesterday, the flapping of great pink wings announced the presence of a pink flamingo, which wasn’t really a pink flamingo.

It was, from what I’ve read, a roseate spoonbill having great fun on the bayou!

We’ve left the Texas bayou and headed for Houston without having any Jambalaya, but I’m leaving you with some. There’s a great shot of a true pirogue and a pole with alligators in the bottom on this video!