Before the industry was commercialized and regulated much of it was done at night with carbide lamps and flashlights. Hooks and rifles were rarely used. Some gators got testy and didn't like what was happening. That is when the action got interesting.
I first learned of gator fishing from a cousin, Louie Barbey. He was the lighthouse keeper near Manshack where lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain meet. To his dying day Louie insisted he had seen a mermaid around the lighthouse several times.
During the gator off season we fished for crawfish in the swamp. Crawfishing today is highly developed. After rice is harvested the crawfish come up out of the mud and are harvested commercially. The rice paddies are laid out precisely by satellite and lasers. They are about 300 yards wide and a half-mile long with a slight slope to facilitate draining.
We fished the bayous and swamps. The last time we went we set about 25 traps and caught around 150 pounds of crawfish while killing 21 moccasins.
A big crawfish boil with friends made any effort worthwhile. They figured about 10 pounds per person and allowed two hours to eat. Flavored with Zatarain's spices made them all the more succulent. Pat Zatarain was a classmate. Today Zatarain's Cajun spices and food products are global. The family business was started in 1889. They have done well.
Preaching in a swamp church was always a treasured experience. Not all swamp people are of Cajun descent. Yet, most of them have adopted the Cajun lifestyle and accent. Keeping a congregation alert wasn't difficult. Mosquitoes kept them busy swatting. Air conditioning was unavailable and screens were not on windows. Often the music was accompanied by a hand accordion referred to as a "chink-a-chang." Hymns bordered on being sung Zydeco style. The population was sparse so there were no large churches. A congregation of 100 was considered very big.
The faith of the people wasn't a formal Sunday only thing. It permeated all of life. Jesus wasn't just a historical figure, a nostalgic memory, or abstract theory - He was a real companion.
Here is an insight I hope never gets back to Raceland, La.. As a college student I preached a revival there one week. The hostess in the home in which I stayed told me it hadn't rained in a long time and the water was low in the cistern. She asked that I not take a bath, to just sponge off. I didn't know what a cistern was.
I was staying upstairs in a room with dormer windows that opened on the roof. It came a big rain one night so about two in the morning I climbed out on the roof and took a rain shower.
The next morning the hostess explained the cistern filled up and we could drink and use all the water we wanted to. I asked from where the water was gathered. After that I preferred dehydration rather than drink my shower water.
Reflecting on these madeleine moments makes me nostalgic!
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.