It’s a different type of world in Pierre Part, Louisiana, where my parents have lived for the past 13 years. I asked them for an address to plug into my GPS, and they said I’d have to use the address of the Pierre Part Store because they don’t have a physical address. I’ve driven here many times, so I know it’s always hard to get directions. It’s almost like you have to just know how to get there. I know that I can’t have FedEx packages delivered there. I have to send them to the Pierre Part Store. The store employees call them and tell them to come get their package.
I love driving down here because the scenery gradually changes from surburban Louisiana to the unique swampy landscape of Southern Acadian Louisiana. The first thing I see as I drive away from the cities of Baton Rouge or New Orleans are the oil refineries and sugar cane processing plants. They are puking up smoke and are generally an eyesore on the horizon. But, they are also the livelihood and lifeblood of the area. The sugar cane fields are expansive, and in November the sugar cane harvest is well underway. Sugar cane trucks are flying up and down the roads, littering the highways with broken stalks of the sweet sticky cane that will be processed into sugar.
I stopped today to get a half bushel of Louisiana Sweet Potatoes. The farmer wanted $10 but all I had when I dug up the change was $9.25. He gave them to me anyway and asked me where I was from, smiling his mostly toothless grin and bidding me on my way.
Once I got past the cane fields, I started to see the bayous. Grand Bayou, Bayou Corne, Pierre Part Bayou and then Belle River are the ones I passed over. The egrets, herons and remnants of wildlife roadkill decorate the landscape. Spanish moss, cypress knees, and swampland replace the farmlands, and I start to see signs of the Cajun lifestyle. I see signs that proclaim “Live Crabs”, “Spillway Crabs”, and “Live Bait”. Names that end with -eaux, -aux, -opin and -det begin to dot billboards and business signage.
Pierre Part is the home of the Landry’s, otherwise known as the Swamp People. In recent news, a huge sinkhole has begun to form close to Bayou Corne. I didn’t see it coming in, but Momma said you can see it from the road, you just don’t realize it’s a sinkhole. It basically just looks like the swamp. The Pierre Part store is the biggest commercial establishment in town, and, if you want it, you can find it there. They sell lumber, building supplies, groceries, landscaping supplies, hardware, housewares and now, Swamp People merchandise. And, the locals say they have the best free coffee in town along with the all the gossip you can stand. I always make a stop by the Pierre Part store before I leave to buy fresh white beans, Savoie’s Roux, Community Coffee and other miscellaneous grocery goods that I can’t buy in Memphis.
My parents live in a small house that was previously their fishing camp on Graveyard Island. It is a “gated community” in the loosest sense of the word. There is a big steel gate that is locked with a padlock, and you have to get out of the car and open it to pass through to their gravel street. A big sign out front reminds you to lock the gate after you drive through. A large barge is stored in the pond that divides the main highway from the slender island where my parents live. In the summer, it is very common to see gators stalking me and my dog as we walk the road down to their house. And, I won’t even mention the snakes. That’s a given. But, the bird life is fabulous. Cormorants, herons, egrets and all sorts of water birds are prolific. This trip, I could hear gunshots all afternoon from the local rabbit and squirrel hunters and in the morning, the duck hunters.
We walk the island a couple of times a day and spend time sitting out on the piers just looking at the water. Life sort of slows down, and the rhythm of the day is more in tune with mealtimes rather than the clock. My dog loves it here. She’s a little ignorant of the fact that there are gators that might like to have her for lunch, and she just discovered egrets. She runs toward them to watch them fly off. It’s going to be in the 30s tonight, and my parents don’t have central heat. It really doesn’t get cold that often. They have some small room heaters, but we always joke about how cold it gets in the winter when I visit. A couple of years ago, it snowed at Christmas, and my yankee husband and I checked into a local hotel because we were….well….just not that hard core.
It’s a different place down there. I don’t know if I could live here full time. I’m not a Cajun, and the culture is very different from the places I’ve lived and even the hick town where I grew up. But, the food is great, the scenery is beautiful, the pace is soft, and the people are wonderfully, beautifully friendly. We’ll probably go down to Stazione’s at the Exxon Station to get some awesome biscuits and sausage for breakfast. I may even pick up some Boudin and Pecan Pie. If I drank, I could also get a frozen daiquiri with a piece of paper over the top of the straw to comply with the Open Container law. If I need gas, I’ll get that, too. See y’all later, Chere.