La Danse de Mardi Gras

Say “Mardi Gras,” and it’s almost guaranteed: most people will think first of New Orleans. Other cities have their celebrations, but only in New Orleans has the combination of beads, bare breasts, fancy-dress balls, beer and Bourbon Street been elevated to high art.

In Cajun country, there’s no lack of beer and beads, but the traditional Courir de Mardi Gras at the center of the celebration has a slightly different emphasis: community, Capitaines, charity and chickens. (Yes, chickens. More about that later.)

In places like Iota, Church Point, Eunice and Mamou, the Mardi gras (when used as a plural for participants, it’s pronounced “grahz”) prepare for the courir, or run, under the direction of their Capitaine.  On horseback or in wagons, they visit surrounding farms, collecting ingredients for the communal gumbo that will be served later that night.

In exchange for rice, potatoes, or even a chicken, the Mardi gras frolic for the entertainment of the farmer and his family, singing a variation of a song known variously as  La Danse de Mardi Gras or La [Vieille] Chanson de Mardi Gras. A mainstay in Cajun Mardi Gras celebrations, and often heard in dance halls or concerts, the song may be the oldest in the Cajun repertoire.

The most popular version of the Mardi Gras song, the one most commonly sung during Mardi Gras season, is one  recorded by the Balfa Brothers during a field session between 1964 and 1966.  

The Balfa brothers are themselves iconic. As the New York Times noted in its obituary for Dewey Balfa:

During the 1960’s and 70’s, Dewey Balfa and his brothers Will and Rodney performed Cajun music at folk festivals across North America. The Balfa Brothers Band introduced the music to a wider audience and rekindled interest in it at home in Louisiana. Dewey Balfa told audiences: “Don’t be ashamed of your daddy and granddad. Don’t be ashamed to eat your crawfish or gumbo. It’s your way of life, your identity.”
Dewey Balfa was born in Bayou Grand Louis, La., near Mamou. He chopped cotton by day and played music by night with his family, carrying on a tradition; his father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all fiddlers. With his brothers, he formed a group that played local dances in the 1940’s.
But music remained a sideline until 1964, when he was a last-minute replacement, on guitar, with a group of Cajun musicians at the Newport Folk Festival. The music received a huge ovation from 17,000 people. “That’s enough to change a man’s mind,” he said afterward.
Dewey and Will Balfa

Their version of the song is infectious and memorable. The use of coconut shells to evoke the sound of horses clopping down the road was an inspired addition.

Les Mardi Gras ça vient de tout partout
Tout l’autour au tour du moyeu
Ça passe un fois par ans
Demander la charité
Quand même si c’est une patate
Une patate et des gratins
Les Mardi Gras sont su’ un grand voyage
Tout l’tour autour du moyeu
Ça passe un fois par ans
Demander la charité
Quand même si c’est une poule maigre
Et trois, quatre coton d’maïs
Capitain, capitain voyage ton flag
Allons su’ l’autr’ voisin
Demander la charité
Pour eux autr’ venir nous r’joindre
Eux autr’ venir nous r’joindre
Ouais au bal pour ce soir
The Mardi Gras come from all around,
all around the center of town.

They come by once per year, asking for charity.
Sometimes it’s a sweet potato, a sweet potato or pork rinds.
The Mardi Gras are on a great journey,
all around the center of town.

They come by once per year, asking for charity.
Sometimes it’s a skinny chicken, or three or four corn cobs.
Captain, captain, wave your flag,
let’s go to another neighbor’s.

Asking for charity for everyone who’ll come join us later,
Everyone who’ll come join us later at the gumbo tonight!

I first danced to the song at Angell’s Whiskey River in Henderson, Louisiana, where the Pine Leaf Boys were playing a version popularized by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.

While the lyrics are nearly identical to the Balfa Brothers’, and the melody is commonly heard on Mardi Gras runs, the ending has been substantially changed. As Megan Romer notes, “the dramatized ending…lends itself well to recording and performance, [but] not so much to trying to get a bunch of half-drunk runners to sing in tune while chasing chickens.”

Still, all of today’s versions are grounded in one version or another of the the traditional Mardi Gras song.  In the early 1950s, when Paul Tate and Revon Reed led a group dedicated to the revival of the traditional Courir, or Mardi Gras run, they turned to older members of the community who remembered not only the run, but also the words to the song.

Here’s one of the first versions to be recorded, performed by Bee Deshotels.

 

Finally, there is this arrangement of La Chanson des Mardi Gras by Zachary Richard. While clearly based in the more traditional lyrics and melody, it is haunting, evocative of a far earlier time and customs based in European traditions.

Les Mardi Gras se rassemblent une fois par an
Pour demander la charité.
Ils se rassemblent une fois par an
Tout à l’entour du grand moyeau.
(CHORUS) Capitaine, capitaine, voyage ton flag,
Allons aller chez nos voisins.
Capitaine, capitaine, voyage ton flag,
Allons se mettre sur le chemin.
Les Mardi Gras demandent rentrée
A chaque maître et chaque maîtresse.
Ils demandent la rentrée
Avec toutes les politesses. (CHORUS)
Donnez nous autres une petite poule grasse,
Oui ou bien un peu de riz,
On vous invite de venir ce soir
Manger du bon gombo.(CHORUS)
Voulez vous recevoir ces Mardi Gras,
Cette grande bande de grands soulards.
Les Mardi Gras vous remercient bien
De votre bonne volonté.(CHORUS)
Les Mardi Gras viennent de tout par tout
Pour demander la charité.
Ils se rassemblent de tout par tout
Mais principalement de Grand Mamou. (CHORUS)
….Tout l’tour autour du moyeu (repeated)
The Mardi Gras gather once a year
To ask for charity.
They gather once a year
All around the hub (the village).
Capitaine, capitaine, wave your flag,
Let’s go visit our neighbors.
Capitaine, capitaine, wave your flag,
Let’s get on the road.
The Mardi Gras ask permission to enter
Of every master and every mistress.
They ask permission
Politely.
Give us a little fat chicken
Or a little rice.
We invite you to come tonight
And share our good gumbo.
Will you receive these Mardi Gras riders,
This band of drunks.
The Mardi Gras thank you
For your good will.
The Mardi Gras come from everywhere
To ask for charity.
They come from everywhere,
But mostly from Big Mamou
…all around the center of the town…

And the chickens? Those tales will have to wait. I’m leaving now to make my own run to Cajun country, where I’ll find my way to a farm outside of Church Point, enjoy the Courir, sing along with the crowd, and eat gumbo. The chicken-chasing, I’ll leave to others.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

To hear a slightly different, Creole version of the song by Cedric Watson, please click here. Comments are welcome, always.

91 thoughts on “La Danse de Mardi Gras

    1. We’ve had wonderful fun already — met the people whose place we’ll be visiting tomorrow for the Courir, found the Savoy Music Center in Eunice, where they have a weekly Cajun music jam, and had the first crawfish of the season. And the weather will be warm and fine for tomorrow. After that? Not so much. Cold’s coming — but we’ll be warm in heart!

  1. How fascinating! I loved the third version of the song, as you say really haunting…..I was wondering about the fate of the chickens….now I know!!! Have fun, I imagine it’s hard not too!xxx

    1. Snowbird, I wish you were here. You’d enjoy so much that we’ve seen — including a spring turtle making his way across a road. There are tulip trees blooming, and an assortment of wild flowers. There are whole fields of what they call bitterweed. I’ve not checked it out yet, but it’s beautiful.

      As for those chickens — i heard today about one that escaped, and still is roaming the countryside. I suspect tomorrow is going to be very interesting.

    1. Otto, those costumed figures up above are only a hint of what we’ll see tomorrow. I’m looking forward to sharing some of the antics, and some of the roots of the tradition, in the next post.

      It’s so true, what you’ve said in your posts: that travel and new experiences are possible for us all. It’s just a matter of looking around to find them. And as for my knowledge about all this — I’m still very much in the process of learning. It’s clear that our hosts for the day tomorrow are both gracious and eager to share their traditions — it should be a wonderful day.

  2. So now I know where you’re heading. To see Big Easy in person and enjoy the Mardi Gras.

    In Panama we are celebrating something very similar; with high spirits, bare breasts, frenetic music, condoms, and water for the “culecos”. We call it the Carnaval, after the Latin word Carnevale.

    The Carnaval started last night and will end on Ash Wednesday. During those wild days, the human animal goes totally wild. Everything is fair game and I’m not kidding. Everything is everything.

    I prefer to stay home and watch the show from the safety of my house.

    I think only Brasil surpasses our Carnaval in intensity and wildness.

    Regards,

    Omar.-

    1. Oh ,I’m nowhere near New Orleans, Omar. This Mardi Gras isn’t the wild debauchery of the city, but a long-standing, rural celebration that has its own structure and rules. At our hosts home, they already are cooking, and preparing for their guests. The Courir will appear at an appointed time, costumed and on horses. The chickens will do their thing, and I expect great frivolity.

      I’ve wanted for years to experience a real Courir, but it just hasn’t happened. This year, it has, and I’m looking forward to it immensely.

        1. I’m not at all surprised you thought about New Orleans, Omar. For one thing, we’ve talked about it before. And, as I mentioned, most people do think about those wild celebrations. It’s a very natural association that plenty of people try to cultivate — from the tourist boards to the liquor sellers.

          But what I experienced today would have passed the family-friendly test. Yes, there was some drinking, and yes, there was loud music. But there wasn’t a single thing I wouldn’t want a child to experience — and there were kids all over the place. You’ll see!

    1. Oh, believe me, I will. It’s already been wonderful fun (and some good music, and some great food). And the sunset over the crawfish farms was gorgeous. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write!

  3. I liked the music. That style has always appealed to me.

    I was born on Ash Wednesday. Should I go to Mardi Gras sometime in order to complete some sort of special cycle?

    When my mother caught her chickens, she would literally wring their necks. That’s how she killed them to feed us. Will you be doing that?

    Let the good times roll!

    1. The music is wonderful, Jim. I’m really looking forward to the Cajun music jam next Saturday at the Savoy Music Center in Eunice. For three hours every Saturday, everyone’s welcome to sit in with the masters.It’s something else I’ve wanted to do for some time. So, I’m going to. Once I figured out it’s only a three hour drive from home, it seemed much more do-able.

      The fellow I talked to yesterday told me to bring my fiddle along and join in. When I told him my real skill was listening, he laughed and said that was good — they never have enough good listeners.

      No neck-wringing for me. I could be pressed into service to pluck a few feathers, but I’m leaving the rest of it to people who either know what they’re doing or are too “happy” to care.

  4. I liked the third version of the music. It’s infectious. There used to be a Cajun bar in Seattle which played great music, Not sure if it’s there now. I also like the hat on the dog! Have a great time and be careful of the wild revelers.

    1. I don’t know, Kayti. When the place you’re going for Mardi Gras has a sign by the driveway that says “Free Kittens,” it doesn’t feel much like the danger zone. We met the grandkids, too. I expect plenty of fun, but not much debauchery.

      That dog was carved from one of the Galveston oak trees that was killed by hurricane ike. He had one paw broken off by vandals a couple of years ago, but he’s all fixed up and ready to party!

    1. Happy Mardi Gras to you both! It’s turning lovely here, and it won’t be long until it’s perfect weather for a visit. The Atchafalaya isn’t the Everglades, but it’s just as interesting. And of course, there is the music and food.

      One thing I’m learning is that the Louisiana prairie is quite different from the bayous. As soon as I say that, it sounds a little silly. Of course they would be different. But it’s something else to see that difference. You really would like it.

    1. Here’s an interesting tidbit for you. The Cajun two-step is different from the Texas two-step. The first time I tried two-stepping in a Louisiana dancehall, I was pretty awkward. Once they explained that the steps are different, it helped considerably.

      It was such fun to hear these Mardi Gras songs at the celebration today. They sound even better in person, of course!

    1. Even Galveston is too much for me, Sheryl. I’m not fond of huge crowds, and I’m especially not fond of crushing crowds jammed into narrow streets. When you add serious drinking to that mix, there’s not much to enjoy. Today? Oh, it was wonderful. And yes, I have beads!

    1. I’ve been doing some serious eating on this trip, and now I’m hungry again after your reminders of those great spots to the east.. Last night, a friend and I split five pounds of crawfish in Eunice, and at the Courir today it was chicken and sausage gumbo. Oh, my. I do have some photos of the kitchen for the next post. You’ll enjoy them..

      As for music — all of my favorites are out and about, but I decided to pass on some of the concerts after all the activities today. It can wear a girl out, gathering up all those beads. It did please me to discover I still can snag them in midair!

  5. The roots of Cajun culture arise from conflict. There are political roots — the British and the French have fought each other for literally thousands of years. (People are always coming across the channel and trying to conquer Britain with varying degrees of success — The Romans, the Angles and Saxons, the Norse, the Normans — and British hatred of “those people across the channel who won’t leave us alone” is quite logical in those terms). It has religious roots — the Protestant British versus the Catholic French. It has linguistic roots — English versus French. It has racial roots — The French who began to settle Nova Scotia and Acadia in the 1600s more readily intermarried with and profited from the culture of the indigenous peoples they encountered there, mainly the Mi’kmaq tribes whose tribal lands included the Maritime provinces and Maine. To the British, the indigenous people were barely human barbarians, and “going native” was severely frowned on. The Voyageurs, French trappers and hunters, penetrated the whole Great Lakes region, spreading Catholicism and further absorbing indigenous culture.

    Political conflicts on the continent of Europe spilled over into the Americas in the form of the French and Indian wars, with the Indians and French allied against the British. As a result of British victories, over 17,000 Acadians from the Maritimes were forced to leave Canada, with many of the survivors traveling down the Mississippi river systems to find refuge among the Spanish Catholics in Louisiana, where they settled into the bayou country around the outlet of the Mississippi. (“Evangeline” by H. W. Longfellow). Because of this, the culture of the Acadians (the “Cajuns”) preserves facets of the language and cultural traditions of pre-Revolutionary France (1789) that are no longer present in their parent culture.

    Mardi Gras is actually a religious holiday, and the culmination of celebrations that begin on January 6, Epiphany, and continue until “Fat Tuesday” (AKA Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day), the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is always 41 days prior to Easter, and Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the 40-day period of fasting, abstinence and spiritual preparation that culminates in Easter. Mardi Gras is the last day to “party hearty” before Lent, the last opportunity to eat up all the rich, fatty foods which people are not allowed to eat during Lent (and which won’t keep until Lent is over). Since Easter is an astronomically-determined holiday and its date varies from year to year, so does the length of the period of feasting and partying that reaches its peak on “Mardi Gras” (February 17th, this year).

    These Mardi Gras riders seek ingredients for a feast to which all will be invited, thus ensuring everybody, rich and poor, will have one last good meal together as a community, one last time to party hearty together before Lent. One suspects that on Ash Wednesday, there will be many hung-over heads penitently receiving the cross drawn with ash on their aching foreheads come February 18th. But in the meantime, as they say, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”

    1. “Never gonna come back home…” That pretty much describes the way I feel every time I come over here, WOL. When the experience is as special as it was today, the feeling’s even stronger. As I told a new friend today, if there is reincarnation, I want to come back as a Cajun. Until then, I’ll do what I can to help other people understand and appreciate the culture — while I enjoy it!

      I’ll bet you didn’t know that Longfellow’s “Evangeline” was exactly what started me on my blogging career. It was that poem that sent me over here for the first time, to the old City Hotel in Breaux Bridge. Maybe it’s time now to move away from Texas for a bit (at least topic-wise) and devote a little more time to Acadiana.

      Wonderful song!

  6. Merci bien pour ceci! The music is such a treat. Alas, Mardi Gras in our locale is restricted to eating pancakes. A proper Mardi Gras would be a hoot. I can only envy you and hope to hear more about your adventures. Bonne chance!

    1. Do you call it Shrove Tuesday, Allen? We always had pancake suppers at the church, too. Some people called it Fat Tuesday, but mostly it was called Shrove Tuesday. I suppose we knew that Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras were the same, but we didn’t pay too much attention to the relationship, and we certainly didn’t have any true Mardi Gras celebrations.

      I’m so glad you like the music. It’s infectious, both the Cajun and the Zydeco. One of my favorite groups is the Pine Leaf Boys. I think t!hey were playing today in Eunice, but I missed that. Here they are from a past Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. Enjoy!

      1. Thanks for this! They seem to be having such fun… too bad you missed them, but perhaps another time. Yes, we called it Shrove Tuesday, and we always made our way to the church for pancakes, sausages, and canned fruit. it is a good memory, but certainly no Mardi Gras! This year i will be celebrating it in Saskatchewan. I leave tomorrow to spend some days with my oldest sister. Best to you as we embark on yet another Lent!

    1. It would be right up your alley, eremophila. There were lots of friendly people, plenty of unusual sights, and horses galore. It was pure pleasure — and how often can we say that? I’m already looking forward to next year.

  7. Linda,
    It’s colder than heck here and windy as all get out, but I hope to get outside to change the pup’s Valentine’s Day costume to his/her Mardi Gras costume. Yes, he has Mardi Gras attire. Hope you are enjoying yourself.

    1. Bella, no one seems to have picked up on the caption I added to the Mardi Gras dog up at the top. Take a better look at that slogan — it would do as well for your pup. People may let the bons temps rouler, but the dogs? They have their own way of embracing Mardi Gras!

  8. I have a cousin who did musicology for a number of years with American Folk musicologist Alan Lomax. I have not read or listened to much of their compilation but am sure Cajun was included. As your versions display, songs and performance vary greatly both over time and distance.

    I hope you continue to enjoy Mardi Gras for us. I’ve never been and most likely never will, but it does look like great fun.

    1. As a matter of fact, Steve, the Lomaxes were in Louisiana, and there’s a compilation of their Cajun and Creole recordings for sale on Amazon.

      There’s also a very interesting article about their work here. Tucked into the linked article is some discussion of the problems Alan had vis-a-vis standard French and Cajun French. It was fascinating to hear some of the same issues being talked about at the celebrations today. I run into it all the time — I’ll pronounce a name as I think it should be in French, but I’m way off.

      It would be wonderful if you could experience a Cajun Mardi Gras. For a real photographer like you, it would be a treasure trove.

  9. Back in the late 50’s and early 60’s in Port Arthur we had Mardi Gras, but it was nothing like what goes on in the big cities. It was a time for locals to meet and greet, I don’t recall outsiders. I do remember being scared of “those” people who talked funny. Being in elementary school and believing my Cajun school mates, I was told they would grab me and carry me off to a swamp to eat me. What a wonderful read. Ken

    1. “A time for locals to meet and greet” is exactly the sense I got at the Church Point Mardi Gras, Ken. Of course, I have to add that even as an “outsider,” it didn’t take long for me to begin feeling a bit local myself. The friendliness was infectious — and who wouldn’t enjoy having a neighbor take a break from the parade to ride his horrse down to the outdoor kitchen, just to offer a greeting and check out the gumbo?

      The best way I know to distinguish the city celebrations from the Courir is to say one is spectacle, the other is community. It was a wonderful experience.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed this, and hope the second part tickles too, you. When I pass by Port Arthur on my way home, I’m give a wave in your honor.

      Linda

  10. Being only familiar with the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans traditions of Mardi Gras, I found this one compelling read, Linda — thank you for educating me once again!

    Mardi Gras just isn’t celebrated up here much (although we did find a decorated King Cake freshly baked in one of our stores — complete with beads and baby, ha!) It promptly got repackaged and mailed to Domer, who isn’t likely to find one in The Land of the North!

    Hope you enjoy your trek to Cajun country — and don’t forget your promise to fill us in on those chickens!

    1. It’s funny that you mentioned the King Cake, Debbie. I didn’t see a single one in the grocery stores this year. Maybe they’d sold out, or maybe the Great Grocery Computers in the Sky decided there hadn’t been enough sold in the past to warrant making them available. I am glad to know you found a “real” one, with the baby included. As for beads: well. It’s hard not to enjoy the beads. I must say the beads were pretty high quality yesterday — not so overdone with things hanging off them, and really sparkly.

      There’s no way I could forget the promise to tell you about the chickens. Not only did I see chickens, hear chicken music and eat chicken, I heard some marvelous tales about the chickens that got away in previous years. Once I get home, I’ll start scratching out a chicken story.

  11. You have carried me far beyond what I knew about the Mardi Gras Linda. Now I may have another view in my mind than guys throwing beads to ladies on balconies and asking that they put on a show. Notice, I said may. I’ve been to Mardi Gras. Of course you left me hanging on the chickens, an old writers’ trick, if ever there was one.

    Speaking of writing, I just participated in a project traveling around the blogosphere known as the “Behind the Scenes Blog Hop.” It’s an exercise where bloggers answer four questions about why and how they blog. Some of my favorite bloggers have participated. James and Terri Vance at Gallivance nominated me. I, in turn have nominated you and Cindy Noke. I think you would have fun with it, but there is no obligation, obviously. It’s mainly my way of encouraging people who follow me to check out your blog.

    –Curt

    1. By the time I finish with part two, Curt, I can guarantee you’ll have another view in your mind. It may not supplant those New Orleans lovelies, with their own memorable way of getting beads, but at least you’ll have the option to think of feathers, instead of feather boas.

      The Courir de Mardi Gras may not be Burning Man, but they’re clearly related. Anytime tradition and raw creativity meld, it’s memorable.

      Thanks for the nomination, too. Once I get home, I’ll have a look at your blog, and at those of the others who’ve been participating. Many thanks!

        1. That’s exactly what I experienced my first time at Galveston’s Mardi Gras. We got caught up in a street crowd, and suddenly realized that trampling would be a possibility of anything went wrong. We slowly made our way out of the crush, and enjoyed the rest of the day in less crowded surroundings. But the aggressive partying (read: drinking and subsequent drunkenness) was no fun to experience, even as a spectator..

  12. Those fellows on the horses and that dog — your photos? How do they do that? (The guys, not the dog!). Most of my Mardi Gras knowledge pertains to NOLA and the traditions/parades you see there. So, I’m eager to have you bring on the chickens! You must be having a wonderful time right now!

    I’m familiar with the Steve Riley/Mamou Playboys version of the song but I knew nothing of the Balfa brothers. It’s fun to hear the two back-to-back. What a history and heritage there — the stories you WILL tell!

    1. Jeanie, remember when I wrote about the carvings made from the Galveston oak trees destroyed during Hurricane Ike? That dog is one of the carvings. Every year he parties hearty during Mardi Gras season. I think this photo’s from 2013.

      The shot of of the guys on the horses was passed on to me as a kind of appetizer for my trip. The woman who sent them along didn’t take them, either, but she had no idea who the photographer was. She wasn’t even sure which Courir they came from, but now that I’ve been to Church Point, I think they are from Church Point — just because I recognize a couple of the costumes — the purple, and the one with the beaked nose.

      I’m certainly happy to be sitting inside processing photos and such this morning. A friend called about a half-hour ago and said, “Is it snowing over there?” It was! Granted, it was a sleet/snow mix, and there wasn’t much of it, but it still was fun to see a little snow. Or, as they might say over in Cajun country: sneaux. Now, I see some blue sky, so I think our snow event for 2015 is over!

  13. Chickens, music, and friends to party with. Louisiana is a whole different world (with a few of the important cultures left out of the mix by WOL – but understandable as it is such a complex bubbly roux).

    Somehow I knew you were traveling again – with this weather what better than to be among the warmth of friends!
    (Other than a massive wreck northbound just off the causeway, and some 50 wild performing at breakneck speed daredevil bikers the sheriff had to coral, it was much calmer this year in Galveston – but the traffic jams sent so many to the boardwalk. Nuts on the roads.)

    Take care and party on there!
    You are one masterful storyteller.

    1. Speaking of weather, did you see any flakes this morning? A friend called from across the lake to alert me. There was just enough sleet to make a tapping on the windows, and a bit of snow mixed in. Now, of course, the storm of 2015 is done, and the sun is out. Yon weather gizmo tells me it’s 40 with a wind chill of 31, though, so I’ll not be going anywhere for a while.

      It was a wonderful trip. I met a Louisiana friend for the festivities,and we did a little countryside roaming on Saturday, ending up with the first boiled crawfish of the season in Eunice. A lot of ponds are full, and the traps are out. The Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge is only a couple of months away!

      I felt so sorry for people westbound on I-l0 Saturday. There had been a car fire, and maybe a wreck that caused it all, but there was a twenty mile backup — maybe more. The good news? There are fields full of wildflowers over the border, and lots of blooming tulip trees. They’re coming!

      1. And I’ve spotted a crawfish mud tower already.(at the Oak’s park – the park is very nice right now)
        Molly and I were out around 8 and didn’t see anything – but darn that wind was icy and the ducks all sheltering under the island’s shoulder were quacking up a storm. We did have rain when we got back, but nothing lumpy or flaky. Guess the lake water took all the chill before it got here?
        For the past 2 days morning traffic has been unbelievably bad from all the back wrecks on all the roads. So nice not to have to do that.
        Although wandering feet are really itching right now. Can’t wait to hear your tales. (Hi Miss Dixie!)

    1. You would have loved the gumbo, Mary. The people whose home I visited made a hen and sausage version, and it was delicious. It was a true famly celebration, with babies sleeping in playpens and kids on trampolines — and when the Capitaine and the chickens appeared, everyone was just a bit a kid. I’m still sorting through photos, trying to decide how to communicate the day.

  14. How in the world can you convey so much fun and still fit in all the activity? Sounds like a lot of living, laughing and conversation, not to mention dancing, eating, and savoring every moment. What a wonderful report that no newspaper or magazine or TV report could capture. You pick up with the blog where the news leaves off. Have fun and I wish you safe travel.

    1. Don’t forget the beads, Georgette! There were beads aplenty, along with the Bud Light, the gumbo, and the absolutely delightful people. My favorite strand of beads wasn’t thrown. It was hand-delivered by a fellow who’d managed to make himself look a bit like Dolly Parton. In the photo, you can see him dancing to (of course!) “La Dance de Mardi Gras.”

      It was wonderful fun And when the activities were over, it was such a delight to see all the kids going to work, picking up the extra beads out of the ditches and road, leaving everything clean and tidy. It didn’t occur to me until just now that I don’t remember seeing a single aluminum can or bottle lying on the ground — anywhere. By the end of the day, I suspect you wouldn’t have been able to tell something had happened. But something did indeed happen — I’m already anxious for next year.

    1. Reserve judgment until you’ve seen the next part, Terry. If nothing else, I’ll bet you’ll like the outdoor kitchens and all the horses — beautiful horses. Donkeys, too! (Someone said to me, with a smile, “We send all the asses to the cities.”)

  15. When we lived in Baton Rouge, I wish we had gone to some of the small town Mardi Gras celebrations, instead of New Orleans. Our very first trip to see NO we got caught up in a Sunday day parade. I didn’t know what the heck was going on, this midwestern farm girl. :)

    David’s plant (Ashland Chemical in Plaquemine) always chartered a bus to go down on Fat Tuesday, and then hung out in a restaurant in the Garden District. The crowds were bad enough there. I couldn’t have handled the ones in the French Quarter. I’m not a fan of big crowds. I did get to see Harry Connick, Jr. when he was captain of a Krewe. I forget which one. It was 20 years ago. I have pictures somewhere.

    I was going to bake a King cake yesterday, but I had company. I have a pretty good recipe that I got from Southern Living magazine.

    It’s 6:00 a.m. here, so I’ll have to listen to the music later. Glad you’re passing a good time!

    1. Susan, I was in Plaquemine a few years ago. A friend and I went down to see the Christmas eve bonfires on the levees, and had a lovely trip.

      I didn’t realize you had lived in Baton Rouge. When you mentioned the trip over the bridge, I assumed you were passing through. I spent some good times there with a great-aunt when I was a kid. She lived off Harrell’s Ferry Road, in a house with a great sleeping porch and lots of pecan and lemon trees.

      As for NOLA — I’ll admit to a love/hate relationship with the place. When I was in high school, one of the best family vacations ever included a trip there, and lots of treats: Preservation Hall, and all that. The food’s wonderful, the music’s great, and the cemeteries are amazing. But like you, I’m not fond of crowds, and never would go there for Mardi Gras.

      I laughed at your mention of getting caught up in a parade. After all the excitement at Church Point’s Mardi Gras, finding a way out was a bit of a challenge. It hadn’t occurred to me that going back through town wouldn’t be possible. Every street and highway was blocked for the parade, dancing, and other festival events. I can’t say I minded taking the back roads, though. Those crawfish farms are darned interesting!

      1. Yes, we lived there from December, 1990, until June, 1995. We lived on Woodland Ridge Blvd., right off N. Harrell’s Ferry Rd, in Woodland Ridge subdivision!

        My first impression of the French Quarter wasn’t a good one. The smell of urine, vomit, and stale beer on Sunday morning doesn’t give a good feeling.

        LOL, we didn’t think we would ever make it out of that mess the first time. Never made it to the crawfish farms.

  16. I have no bone to pick with you about the caption of your first photo.

    As for la danse, we were in a hotel room the other night that had so little extra space we had to dance around each other to get anything done. The spaces weren’t even wide enough for wi-fi.

    1. Thanks for throwing me that bone, re: the caption. Sometimes I amuse myself more than may be warranted, but of course you know the pleasures of word-play.

      As for your room — at least you were dancing!

    1. Anne, you can’t even imagine how much fun the events were in real life. I’m nearly ready to post about it, but figuring out which photos to post was a chore. I brought home about 300 photos. Half were terrible, and got tossed immediately, but that still left a lot of culling and choosing to be done.

      Let’s put it this way — any celebration that includes getting kissed by a chicken is one I’m willing to re-join in the future!

  17. The good folks there do know how to throw a party. Hoping you had a great time.

    As you probably know, the Mardi Gras celebration in Mobile is a major affair as well. Lots of Moon Pies being tossed around. And in Tampa there is Gasparilla. It was all of lot of fun for me back before I allowed myself to become too serious. :)

    The reference to coconut shells for the sound of horse hooves brings to mind, of course, The Search for the Holy Grail. I’m confident you’ll know why. )

          1. What’s really funny about this is that we used to call the Swinging Bridge at Camp Hantesa (Camp Fire Girls, Iowa) the Bridge of Death! I never saw the dude with the questions, though. Just as well. I probably wouldn’t have gotten them right.

    1. I had a wonderful time, in some unexpected ways. Joining a family for the day’s events certainly added to the experience. I just got my post up, with plenty of photos and etc. I think you’ll get a kick out of it.

      I didn’t know until this year that Mardi Gras began in Mobile. Moon Pies? Really? And I haven’t a clue what Gasparilla might be. Time for research.

      I didn’t know why the horse hooves and the Holy Grail belonged together. I still haven’t seen that film, so it’s good you added the clip. I might have figured it out sooner rather than later, but perhaps not. I’m off to see what this is all about!

    1. Thanks so much, Rika. There’s so much energy in Cajun music — in their whole culture, really — that I’m glad if a little of it spilled over. I just now posted the second part, and you might enjoy the photos, especially.

      Thank you, too, for the lovely comment. I do appreciate it, and you’re always welcome here!

      Linda

      1. Anytime my dear it’s always my pleasure I will check it.
        I’m very pleased to find your blog! it shows that you have a high level of emotional intelligence which is contagious!
        Keep inspiring us
        Much love
        From Algeria <3

  18. Toe tappingly good music. Lovely to listen to all the variations but, most of all, I enjoyed learning about this other side to Mardi Gras; community not commerce. Jack approves of letting the bone times roll; that would be every day, not just at Mardi Gras.

    1. The music is wonderful, Gallivanta, and the best part is, it’s totally portable, and available all year ’round. I like many kinds of music, but Cajun and Creole/Zydeco always make me happy.

      I’ve learned some wonderful, additional things about these traditions since coming home, including the fact that they’re related to other traditions in Scotland, England and even the middle west of the U.S. More about that, in time.

      Have you ever posted a photo of Jack? Surely you have, and I’ve just missed it. When I come by to read your latest, I’ll take a look.

      1. I actually heard some sounds that made me think of certain African music. How connected we are through our music. Yes, I have posted several times about Jack. Here’s one link, in case you haven’t found anything yet.

  19. I do enjoy reading about the cajun celebrations and listening to the music. From the comments I learned that a fine time was had by all. It must have been exciting to be among some bona fide Cajuns and to dance to music that has been handed by generations. I listened to some of it and then my computer was stuck. Anyhow I’m back again and must say that I very much enjoyed this post. I’m a fan of Zydeco music which is not pure cajun music but, I assume, to be some sort of off-shoot from original cajun music.

    1. You’re exactly right that Cajun music and Zydeco are different. I’m just learning to distinguish them, but it’s fair to say that Zydeco began life in the Black Creole communities. The repertoires often overlap, but African and Caribbean influences appear in Zydeco. The instruments can be different, too. Both use acordians, but the fiddle is more Cajun, the saxophone and brass more common in Zydeco. Like the Mississippi juke joints nurtured the blues, the dancehalls of the southwest Louisiana prairies were the real home of Zydeco.

      Savoy, Doucet, Bergeron and Huval are Cajun. Clifton Chenier is Zydeco. And that’s about the extent of my knowledge at this point, though I expect to learn a bit more on these cold winter days, and share it here!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s