Dam Atchafalaya

So. The engineers have calculated, the scientists have pondered, the advisors have advised and the decision-makers have decided. The Bird’s Point levee has been blown apart, the river is being allowed to run free through the Bonnet Carre Spillway and the Morganza Spillway gates are being raised, one by one.

I have no real quarrel with any of this. I’ve followed the decision-making process as best I can, and I understand the rationale. But like so many who claim even the slightest connection to the Atchafalaya, to Cajun country and to the area’s warm, friendly and often downright quirky people, I was immensely saddened to see the waters begin to pour into the Atchafalaya Basin, scattering wildlife and sending its people fleeing to higher ground.

If I’m cheered at all, it’s by the knowledge that a goodly portion of the folks in Louisiana are what my grandfather used to call “britches hitchers”. Faced with a challenge, with adversity or grief, they “hitch up their britches” and get on with it. Jim Delahoussaye, a resident of Butte La Rose, recently mentioned a friend, a catfisherman who’d pulled a rib trying to run lines that were too tight. You can’t always fight, said Jim, reflecting on his friend’s experience. There comes a time when it’s “best to let it go, and start over when this statement by the river has been made.”

“Letting it go” doesn’t mean not caring, and it certainly doesn’t mean not attending to life’s demands. But sometimes it can mean listening to a different voice, tuning out incessant reminders of a difficult situation and clinging to promises that the good times still can roll, just as surely as a roiling river rolls over everything in its path.

One of the quirkiest alternative voices around belongs to Carlos Guitarlos, former lead guitarist for Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs. One of my favorite songs comes from his 2003 album, Straight From the Heart. When I first heard the song, it was at a time when I barely knew how to pronounce Atchafalaya. Still, I liked it. The song isn’t history and it’s not science. Although it sounds vaguely political, it certainly isn’t a cogent argument for (or against) anything. But it’s got a beat, you can dance to it, and it’s perfect for those fast trips out of the swamp toward higher ground, one of those trips you make with the windows rolled down and the volume cranked up.

These are the days of the Mississippi, but they’re also the days of the Atchafalaya and of her people. Thanks to Carlos, the Atchafalaya has a song, and it’s only right that her people should have our prayers. They’ve got a lot of britches hitchin’ to do.

The mighty Mississippi run past Atchafalaya
Don’t know where to go
Hundred years ago they took another vote
Stop Atchafalaya flow.
It was a way down yonder in New Orleans
It was the city folk don’t you know
Because a hundred years ago another pack of liars
Stop Atchafalaya flow.
Dam Atchafalaya, Dam Atchafalaya
Tell me where my water go
Hundred years ago they took another vote
Stop the ‘chafalaya flow.

Well, hundred years may be coming an’ go
Still don’t know what I’m doin’
Ain’t nobody gonna get my love
The whole world like she doin’.
Dam Atchafalaya, Dam Atchafalaya
Tell me where my water go
A hundred years ago they took another vote
And stop the ‘chafalaya flow.

Help me, help me, I’m not drowning
Only in my sorry soul
A hundred year ago they took another vote,
Stop Atchafalaya flow.
Dam Atchafalaya, Dam Atchafalaya
Tell me where my water go
A hundred year ago another pack o’ liars
Stop Atchafalaya flow.
Dam Atchafalaya, Dam Atchafalaya
Tell me where my water go
A hundred years ago they took another vote
And stop Atchafalaya flow.

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Published in: on May 15, 2011 at 3:01 pm  Comments (48)  
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  1. What a kick-a$$ song! Loved it! I’m impressed by the hardiness of the people facing this disaster. I hope the relief comes soon and the weather looks favorably upon the people affected.

    • Snoring Dog Studio,

      There’s no question it’s been one thing after another for Louisiana, and now this. I suspect one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the whole thing is the number of unknowns. How fast will the water flow, how deep will it be, how long will it linger?

      All that’s needed is a few minutes with the photos posted by the Corps of Engineers on Flickr to gasp at the audacity of what’s being done. Everything needs to work, and I hope that it does.

      And isn’t that one great song!?

      Linda

      • So darn much water! It’s breathtaking but scary. Water has to go somewhere – that big evaporator in the sky can’t be relied on.

  2. This has been so heartbreaking to watch. The image of the “britches hitchers” puts it into context for those of us who do not know those people, that land, or that river.

    Watching the TV footage reminded me of Howard Alexander, a carmudgeon of an editor who was my colleague for many years. After a winter nor’easter that had caused major flooding along the Jersey coast, Howard was amused by an Associated Press story that began by saying that the Atlantic Ocean had returned to its “proper limits.” The “proper limits,” Howard said, were whatever the ocean made them.

    • charlespaolino,

      Mr. Alexander had it right, and had a right to be amused. The question hanging over this great flood is, “Will it be now? Will the Mississippi finally have her way and scour a new path to the sea?” It could happen. I hope it doesn’t.

      Mark Twain thought about the issue of limits quite a bit. You may know this, from “Life on the Mississippi”:

      “One who knows the Mississippi will promptly aver – not aloud, but to himself – that ten thousand River Commissions, with the mines of the world at their back cannot tame that lawless stream, cannot curb it or confine it, cannot say to it, Go here, or Go there, and make it obey, cannot save a shore which it has sentenced; cannot bar its path with an obstruction which it will not tear down, dance over, and laugh at.”

      I think Twain had it right, too.

      Linda

  3. Love that song!!! I think Twain was right, also. Those who attempted to divert Ol’ Man River from his rightful path–ten years ago, one hundred, yesterday–however well meant their intentions, only succeeded in delaying disaster, not preventing it. My heart goes out to those folks who may never see their homes again.

    If Carlos Guitarlos and his song are any indication of the spirit of the Atchafalaya Cajuns, then they may be out, but they are definitely not down. That’s a lesson we can all learn.

    • ds,

      As far as control and diversion of the river goes, just as folks made changes to the levee-only system after the 1927 flood, it may be that our experience this year will lead to more changes in the future.

      A caveat here: I’m no engineer. For me, reading discussions among people who are calculating river flow, stresses, etc. is pretty much like reading Urdu. But I can see hints of new approaches here and there – developing natural defenses such as wetlands, for example. Clearly, we can’t just tear down the levees. We can’t just say, “Oh, Baton Rouge. New Orleans. Pffffft.”, and let them go.

      But we have a historic event unfolding in front of us, and if we can learn from it – and don’t suffer a worse disaster before it’s over – we may be able to handle things better in the future.

      As for the folks in the floodplain – see my response to Maggie. What’s happening to them is desperately sad and painful, but I just can’t bring myself to say it’s not “fair”. They’re being given every consideration by the Corps – as is the wildlife – and a considerable amount of governmental help with their preparations.

      And you’re absolutely right about the spirit of the people. Wendy Billiot, my “Bayou Woman” friend, began using the phrase “tenacity over tears” as she and her community recovered from Ike. That says it all.

      Linda

      • Ah. No, I never expected anyone to say “Oh, Baton Rouge. New Orleans. Pfffft.” But your response to Maggie clearly reminds me just how one-sided our news coverage is. (Though I find the signing of contracts to be a most interesting detail. If you are given full disclosure in advance, you ought not complain.) I know this, it is just so darned easy to forget. To be sucked in. So here’s Mr. Twain’s contemporary, Ralph Waldo Emerson: “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
        Thanks.

        • ds,

          I could be tempted to say, “Oh, news coverage. Pffffft.” A friend and I have laughed about a story circulating through the press about a woman named Prejent from Gibson, Louisiana, who’s been proclaiming loudly how unfair all this is. She claims she never had a clue she was in a floodplain when she bought her house, etc.

          Even if the nice lady didn’t have a clue, her name suggests she probably had some kinfolk who did – or at least a neighbor. And there’s always that little paper that got signed… ;)

          Everybody’s got a right to gripe and be unhappy. And life isn’t always fair. But some stories getting passed around and held up in the media as examples of The Man sticking it to the “little people” just aren’t credible. It can be terrifically hard to sort out the facts in any given case.

          Linda

  4. What little I understand about it seems like an impossible situation. I guess maybe a lose lose situation.

    • Maggie,

      There are going to be losses, no doubt. Great losses. But it’s worth remembering that in 1927, when the levees gave way, it was a terrible, uncontrolled release of water.

      The construction of the Bonnet Carre and Morganza spillways and the Old River Control Structure were meant to channel the Mississippi’s flow – that’s a fact. But they also are allowing for a more controlled release of water, giving people time to prepare and get out of the way.

      Of course it’s painful for those in the floodway, but it’s not being mean or nasty to remind ourselves that anyone who purchased land there knew from the beginning what they were getting into.

      A fellow asked Wendy Billiot of Dularge on her Bayou Woman blog if it’s true the Corps of Engineers sends out annual letters reminding people of the terms of their agreement. Here is her reply:

      “You are correct about the annual letter from the [Army Corps of Engineers]. All those who purchased land in the Morganza Floodway knew at the time of purchase what they were buying. The Army Corps reserved the right to open the flood gates and flood their land anytime it was necessary… for the “greater good”. That is why you see news clips of folks packing up and moving out as though they are never coming back and doing so with very little whining.”

      Folks who know the river have known this could happen, and now it is. The engineers are doing their best, and so are the people affected. It may be that somewhere down the road we’ll find some unexpected “wins”, too. I hope so.

      Linda

  5. That’s a great song! I’m so sad for those folks who will suffer from the floods and can’t help but feel anger at those whose arrogance led them to believe they could “manage” such a mighty river.

    • montucky,

      I had to think about your use of the word “arrogance” a bit before responding.

      I think I agree with its use, with reservations. Before 1927, there was a remarkable trust in the levee system, the only form of protection used at the time. One of the most remarkable statements I’ve found in my reading is an almost off-handed comment that the Corps “was confident the dikes would hold, right up to the moment they failed”. Obviously, there was a failure of imagination at least as large as the breaches in the levees, and it doesn’t bother me at all to call it arrogance.

      After 1927, the impulse to control the Mississippi in new ways was born as much from a desire to prevent such recurring disasters as from any personal or corporate arrogance – at least, that’s how I see it. The Flood Control Act of 1928 began the process. The flood of 1937 helped move things along. The use of reservoirs came into being and then the system in the Lower Mississippi (Bonnet Carre, Morganza and the Old River Control Structure) that helps to mitigate flooding and the social and economic dislocation it brings.

      I really do pray the system works for this flood. But its clear that many people are aware of the shortcomings of the system, the degradation that time has brought to it (the ORCS nearly failed in 1973) and the truth that, eventually, the river is going to have its way. I don’t sense much arrogrance as they deal with this flood, only a lot of finger-crossing and breath-holding.

      If we get through this, I suspect we’ll see a shift in thinking like that which took place after the 1927 flood. If we don’t, we might be wading around in a pool of arrogance again.

      I’m not opposed to managing the Mississippi. How it’s managed is the question. As I mentioned above, I’m no engineer, no hydrologist. But I suspect allowing the river a little more freedom could be a very good thing.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Linda

  6. ADD: Speaking of river management and allowing the river a little more freedom, of interest is this letter from Major General Michael J. Walsh, President Nominee of the Mississippi River Commission. Dated 5/14/2011, it includes this statement:

    For the first time in the storied history of the Mississippi River Commission and the Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) project, we have three floodways in simultaneous operation…

    The success of the comprehensive MR&T system to date is rooted in the lessons learned. Perhaps the most important lesson was the necessity to accommodate the Mississippi River by not attempting to exclude it entirely from its natural floodplain

  7. John McPhee devotes a section of his book, “The Control of Nature”, to the Corps of Engineers, the Mississippi, and the Atchafalaya (and isn’t that word always fun to shape in the mouth) in a read that was very engrossing to me years ago. This essay is available online from “The New Yorker”. Seaching in the magazine’s archives for “John McPhee” and “Atchafalaya” should bring the curious to a link to the article from February 23, 1987.

    • Bob,

      McPhee’s writing is wonderful, and when I first read the chapter on the Atchafalaya some years ago, I was entranced. At the time I wasn’t as knowledgeable about or interested in the region, but of course it’s a must-read now for folks trying to educate themselves about the river’s history and current course.

      I was pleased that The New Yorker brought it back out from behind their paywall. It can be found here in its entirety.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for highlighting this great, accessible piece.

      Linda

  8. This is such a heartbreaking post in a way, and in another a testament to the strength of the human spirit. Lovely song. Prayers for all the brave folks doing all the “britches hitchin’”….and thank you for writing this.

    • Damyanti,

      Truth is, everyone has their turn dealing with Mother Nature. Fire, flood, drought, earthquake, hurricanes, tornados – and blizzards! I almost forgot blizzards…

      Watching this unfold, it’s clear that the folks of the Atchafalaya basin and Cajun country have some special lessons to teach. There aren’t many illusions down there about what nature can do – although in the case of this flood, she’s exceeded quite a few expectations!

      Linda

  9. This flood-some-to-save-others idea is playing out in the Canadian prairies too, where a “controlled” break of a dike threatens homes and farms that were otherwise going to be safe. The idea of being sacrificed without choosing it, has to be a hard one to swallow.

    Canadian newscast usually follow up with stories about the Mississippi.

    In the meantime, a third of the town of Slave Lake, Alberta (pop: about 7000) has been consumed by wildfires.

    My imagination actually fails me.

    • Shirley,

      I have an internet friend who lives in Portage la Prairie, and I’ve been watching the Assiniboine drama unfold. There’s a really interesting post by Margaret Somerville of McGill on The Ethics of Intentional Flooding that you might be interested in.

      Granted, those folks in Manitoba didn’t sign up for intentional flooding in quite the same way as those in the Morganza floodplain, but she makes a good case for the Canadian decision being both legal and ethical.

      That same blogger had mentioned Slave Lake, too.
      Putting the fire together with the flooding in Manitoba is rather like looking at the severe weather map of our country and seeing Texas, a place of drought and fire, tucked up next to Louisiana, where the water just keeps rising.

      I’ve never had much use for the phrase “rueful laughter”, but it’s come to mind a time or two recently.

      Linda

      • One newscast I watched talked about the original lake that used to cover the area in Manitoba, eons ago, that is now ‘controlled’ by dikes. I guess every now and then the rivers get nostalgic for the old days.

        That newscast also talked about the side effect of flooding on the land, in the extra nutrients that would be occasionally swept across a landscape, revitalizing it. Building dikes for our own purposes has unintended consequences. But of course flood waters don’t do much to renew houses, so we do what we can to save them.

        Fire has a similar renewal effect, but again, not so much for the houses and people in its path.

        There’s lots of room for rueful laughter in life. And hitching of britches too.

        • Shirley,

          One of the fascinating tidbits I’ve learned is that about every thousand years, give or take, the Mississippi heads off and starts creating delta in a different place.You can see a diagram of her “recent” history with the various deltaic lobes here.

          My personal guess is that more than a few engineers and hydrologists lie awake at night envisioning the next great shift, hoping it doesn’t happen on their watch.

          Linda

  10. I didn’t have enough time to read in full and respond when I subscribed, but I’d seen enough to know I wanted to be here.

    This is beautiful, and I’ll be borrowing the term “britches hitchers” from here on out!

    • Deborah,

      Welcome, and thank you.

      The phrase “beautiful people” is used a lot to refer to the rich and famous, but there’s enough beauty hidden around this country in the nooks and crannies of ordinary life to keep me happy.

      To my mind, the britches-hitchers are among the most beautiful people around. The same dynamic was apparent among the firefighters when wildfires were so bad here in Texas. Of course it shows up in more ordinary life events, too.

      In the simplest terms, it’s the difference between saying, “Well, there’s reality. Let’s deal with it”, or saying, “Maybe if we close our eyes it’ll just go away”. ;-)

      Linda

  11. An interesting post that connects with what is happening over here in Chile, in the south. You may have seen in the news that the government has given approval to a very controversial plan to create a dam that will seemingly cause havoc with the environment. I don’t know the background to the situation refered to in your post, Linda, but can only hope it’s considered “safe” to undertake.

    • Andrew,

      I hadn’t read or heard a word about the Chilean dam until your post here. Now I have a little more background, and confess to being a little surprised I hadn’t heard about it.
      Apparently the “all politics is local” dynamic applies to other situations, as well.

      The detail that caught my attention was that 1180 miles-long transmission line. Apparently there’s still some question about approval for that.

      The relief flooding here is somewhat different. Although there certainly are effects that linger for a time – displacement of people and wildlife, effects on oystering and fishing, degradation of agricultural land and so on – there are some ways in which the flooding can be a benefit. It certainly would be good to have those benefits without so much turmoil and grief, but perhaps that will come in the future.

      Linda

  12. Love the song. Still have to learn to say Atchafalaya and “britches hitchers” fast three times.

    These are historic times. I have a lot of reading and listening to do. Thanks for all the information. I’m going to read the New Yorker article first.

    • dearrosie,

      That three-times-fast thing will go a little more smoothly if you prime yourself with some local brew – Abita’s good. Their SaveOurShores is possibly the most ecologically-conscious beer in America. Well, at least their home page is good!

      These are historic times – no question. I keep thinking about McPhee, John Barry, Quinta Scott and others who have devoted so much of their life to the River and its history. It must be an amazement to them to watch this and know their work has been instrumental in helping a nation understand what’s happening.

      If you’d like to add something to your list, Quinta’s blog is truly useful. She spent ten years on a gorgeous book called “The Mississippi: A Visual Biography”, and she’s another one who knows the River.

      Linda

  13. There was a time when we thought ourselves capable of anything, and that included the bending of nature to our will. We seem to be a little wiser now. But if it’s a lesson we need to keep learning, the Mississippi is certainly a dependable teacher.

    • bronxboy,

      I’m glad you added the qualifier – a “little wiser”. Clearly the folks in charge have learned some things about river management, including allowing the river to play a bit as she floods toward the Gulf.

      Yet even as NOLA and Baton Rouge remain dry, and the wildlife escapes and the crests are projected downward here and there, other questions are being asked: specifically, are we missing a chance to use the river herself to help replenish wetlands, to do good for the land through which she travels?

      I certainly don’t know the answers – I’m as much a student of all this as anyone. But I must say I’m filled with admiration for what the Corps of Engineers and others are accomplishing in the short term. There will be time enough to ask those other questions after the levees have held and the waters receded.

      Linda

  14. It has been with great interest that I’ve been following the flooding stories both in the news media and your two great posts.

    I have a personal connection with the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya (One of the three great words from Louisiana, sandwiched between Tchoupitolous and lagniappe). I lived on the banks of the Mississippi for three years, going to college in Missouri about 40 miles north of Hannibal, and then 10 years in NOLA. I always hated going down to the French Quarter this time of year. People sit blithly sipping their cafe aux lait and eating beignets at the Cafe du Monde while ocean-going ships pass some 20 feet and more over their heads. Always a creepy feeling to me.

    In ’75 I traveled on an Outhouse 51 (oops, Out Island) from where the Illinois enters the mighty Mississip at Cairo all the way down to NOLA and vividly remember passing the Morganza spillway and it’s warning signs to steer well clear of the structure even at low water. I can’t imagine what the sucking currents must be like today. Later I worked as mate on a tug boat running from Ostrica way below NOLA and beyond where the road ends up to Baton Rouge, so I can say I know a lot about the river at eye level.

    I also spent a little more than three years running a small crew boat all around the Atchafalaya to such exotic ports as White Castle and Pigeon. I loved it up in there. Hauntingly beautiful. If you didn’t see a drilling rig or an oil well it’s like it was a million years ago. So when I see, hear and read about what’s going on there from my view 3,000 feet up on the side of a mountain in Panama I know well what is being discussed and I feel for the people who are going through the devastation and destruction of a part of my life I cherish.

    BTW, where but New Orleans would you get a group like The Spillway Sisters, featuring Bonnie, Carrie and Morganza?

    • Richard,

      Speaking of that view from the Cafe du Monde, there’s a marvelous-scary photo of the Valverde passing by St.Louis cathedral that the Times-Picayune published.

      I read overnight they’ve opened the river to barge traffic again at Natchez, though traffic’s being limited. I understand the economic dislocation that would result from shutting down the river and port, but one runaway barge could mean a world of trouble. I got curious and found the normal flow rate of the river at NOLA is 600,000 cfs. Currently (!) for Baton Rouge it’s 1,414,000 and 1,220,000 cfs for NOLA. Would you like to go drive a barge?

      I love your trio of words. I’ve spent too much time trying to find the article published somewhere in the mainstream media that had a helpful pronunciation key for “Atchafalaya”. It wasn’t just wrong, it was so wrong I couldn’t believe it. Tchopitoulous is great, and lagniappe makes me look around for that French roast and palm-leaf ceiling fans.

      Those Spillway Sisters are great, but if I need some levee-protectin’ done, I’m calling up Marie.

      Linda

  15. Yours was one of the only reasonable, cautious, introspective and ultimately hopeful stories written about the ongoing flooding. Bravo, Linda!

    • Tom,

      All of those good things you mention are due, at least in part, to choosing my sources carefully. Let’s see… a fellow who lives on the river and the lead guitarist for Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs, or press releases from the Office of We’re-Totally-in-Control-Here?

      Dispatches from Kansas or Dispatches from The Swamp – it’s listening to the people and our own hearts that makes the difference in the end.

      Linda

  16. We always like to think we can control the waters but we can’t really! All over the world there are dams being built that are flooding villages and displacing residents, other places barriers being broken.

    You mention natural measures which are vital, but can we start to use them wisely soon enough? It’s very difficult for everyone affected. Where we are, the Water of Leith (a small river) is having flood defences built along part of its length, ironically this has been a very dry year so far!

    • Juliet,

      At least the dry conditions are good for the construction process. ;-)

      I grew up in an area of small rivers – very small, in some cases. I remember photos of the Water of Leith from your blog – it’s truly lovely, and it’s hard for me to imagine it being dammed or fortified. From what I read of the hydroelectric proposal, it does seem as though some care is being taken with that process. I hope such carefulness continues to spread, for all our sakes.

      Linda

  17. Dear Linda: This is a beautiful post about a beautiful, complicated place. I am so glad you found us over at RA and find writing that you like, for that has enabled me, before I take leave from the blog world for a while, to find you. I have added you to my RSS feeds so I don’t lose sight of you, as I can see yours is a blog I will very much want to visit on my return.

    Warm regards,

    Sue

    • Sue,

      Ironically enough, I found you while searching for some information about the houseboats along the Henderson levee. Both the photography and writing about your “swamp stay” is wonderful – my goodness, were it not for the flood it would have impelled me straight back to the swamp!

      It is a wonderful place, and terrifically complicated. I’ve been trying to get my mind around the interconnections among the swamps, bayous, wetlands, marshes and rivers for nearly a year. If nothing else, this flood has forced me to deal with their history, without which no understanding is possible.

      I do thank you for stopping by, and appreciate your kind words. Safe travels in the days to come!

      Linda

  18. When I was in high school English, we’d learn about the categories of conflict: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Himself, and Man vs. Nature. I always had a problem with the last one, and thinking about human impact, whether upon the Mississippi or any other natural resource, stirs up those issues for me.

    Building dams, building levees, destroying the same levees, drilling for oil…

    Yes, humans have the biggest impact of all the life forms upon the planet. But I think we operate from guilt when we try to make things better for the earth without realizing that there can be no Man vs. Nature, because we are part of nature.

    Trying to drive less, picking up plastic littering a beach, encouraging others to email files and to give the printer a rest…

    Yes, we have that impact, too.

    • Claudia,

      That’s an interesting point you’re raising – that we’re a part of nature ourselves. I happen to agree. I’d go even farther and say our rejection of nature and our place in it is going to cause some real trouble down the road.

      We’re funny people. We want to be in control, we want to deny death and decay and we want to construct artificial environments that suit us. That’s as true for the “environmentalist” sorts as it is for the good ol’ boy with the pickup, the shotgun and the drilling permit in his pocket.

      I can’t make a cogent case for it – yet – but I’m firmly convinced that our virtual worlds, our addiction to life on the web and our obsessions with texting, tweeting, facebooking and so on is slowly but surely eroding our connections to the real world.

      We’re body as well as spirit, body as well as mind, and if we lose that sense of ourselves as physical beings, there’s no way we can understand or appreciate rivers and rocks, starlight and sturgeon.

      It’s no wonder no one’s come up with an easy answer yet. I don’t think there are any.

      Linda

      ADD: I think you would enjoy reading this post by Jim Delahoussaye about the river. He seems to me to be making your point, albeit in different words.

  19. You’re right about letting go, hitching up the britches. But I confess, it saddens me more than I can explain to see the sacrifice these folks are making for the greater good. I just finished reading your rapture post and I have to say that if indeed our predicting friend had been right, these folks should have been first to shoot up there, no matter what their transgressions.

    • jeanie,

      The wonder of it all now is that many of the folks who were anticipating great flooding will go home to dry houses. In Butte LaRose, for example, the pontoon bridge is opening again tomorrow (Friday, June 3)and the mandatory evacuation has been lifted. Other communities will be going home, too.

      In one of life’s little ironies, it seems one reason the flood waters didn’t get as high as anticipated in places was – the drought! There are claims you could hear the thirsty land drinking up the water. I’m inclined to believe it, but then I’ve heard corn grow in Iowa, so I may not be a trustworthy witness!

      There were and are wonderful people who’ve made this situation bearable. Some of the best were the St. Martin’s parish folks, who roamed the town of Butte LaRose with their cameras and posted pics of peoples’ homes online. I found it immensely touching – and wonderful to see neighbors celebrating the arrival of each new pic of a “whole house”!

      Linda

  20. “britches hitchers” I’ve never heard that expression. Love it and I’ll use it again and again.

    Thank goodness for the video. I had no idea how to pronounce Atchafalaya.

    I like what you write about “letting it go.” I’ve noticed that most of my 90-something friends have been britches hitchers. They’ve had to do a lot of letting go, hitching up their britches and moving on.

    • Bella Rum,

      How nice to see you “back among us”! I must admit it was pretty nice thinking of you in your little slice of heaven, too, but it’s always fun to have you stop by. We missed you!

      Britches hitchin’ is the thing, for sure. We’re doing a little of it around here just now. I had the pleasure of a world-class case of flu over Memorial Day weekend, and two days ago Mom headed to the hospital after I found her on the bathroom floor. No telling which direction all that’s going to go, but she’s still hooked up to her IVs and such. We’ll see.

      I know this – it’s a lot easier to hitch metaphorical britches than to hitch up a poor lady who’s unable to help herself one lick. I’m not the strapping young thing I used to be, either!

      At minimum, I’m going to have to find myself a C!

      Linda

  21. carlos guitarlos here ~
    “ain’t nobody gonna get my love
    the whole world like she doing”

    These are the correct lyrics to damn atchafalaya yup,carlos 323 666 3508 los angeles ca

    • Carlos!

      So cool to have you stop by. Can’t believe it. Thanks for the correction on the lyrics – I’ll get them changed here in a bit so they’re right.

      That’s one wonderful song – makes me happy every time I hear it.

      Linda

  22. [...] John McPhee’s essay on the Atchafalaya River in Control over Nature can be read by downloading the pdf attached to this link. You may also want to read the slightly briefer version in the New Yorker. To connect you to the context, I would recommend the following links, from the University of Omaha and a group of Dutch engineers working on the problem of the Mississippi River in New Orleans (a problem to which we will return later in the semester.)

    Finally, as I will insist throughout the semester, context matters–environmental, cultural, and historical. That Dam Atchafalaya is a great blog post suggestive about such contexts. [...]

    • Thanks to Mark Tebeau for the inclusion of “Dam Atchafalaya” in the readings for HIS400, the Local History Seminar at Cleveland State University, and welcome to any of you who stop by from the school.

      If I might add a note, Jim Delahoussaye’s Riverlogue, which is quoted in this piece, is a marvelous “on the spot” record of events in Butte LaRose as the Atchafalaya rose and fell.

      And as always, if you’d like to add a comment, you’re welcome to do so!

      Linda


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