Rice Harvest: La Récolte Sunday, Jul 29 2018 

Amber waves of grain grace not only the Great Plains and the rural Midwest of America.  In Louisiana rice country, amber waves of  rice fields, ripe for harvest, stretch across the prairie, often as far as the eyes can see, this harvest time of year.  The old Cajuns called this season IMG_1610la récolte, thebusiest and most make-or-break season of the year.

We’re in that energetic season now.  On our trips to Lafayette each week since winter, we’ve watched the phases of the agricultural process unfold since early spring: barren expanses of  soil prepared for flooding and planting morphed into flooded lakes to nurture the seed; in March and April after the fields were drained, we saw the tender green shoots of the rice seedlings beginning to sprout; as the stands of rice flourished  and matured into late spring and early summer, the fields turned lush with the richest shade of  green this side of paradise; crop dusting planes like acrobatic bumble bees zoomed and darted across the fields applying herbicides and pesticides; then as we got into June, tinges of gold began to mingle with the green as we noticed from week to week that the fields were turning shades, from green to green-golden to golden-green and now, this time of late July, solid gold!  The acres spreading away to the far reaches of the prairie are as pretty as any wheat field at harvest that I’ve ever seen.

Now on these hottest-days-of-summer, la récolte is under way at full force: combines and heavy tractors towing trailers laden with the freshly-cut grain lumber across the fields, reaping the literal fruits of the planters’ labor.  What a blessing to witness this agricultural cycle in the splendid great outdoors of the Cajun prairie, to see and learn and appreciate where food comes from and how much is involved in the process!

We are blessed to live in such a region.

 

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Oyster Day 2018 Thursday, Jul 26 2018 

We continued the tradition of birthday oysters this morning in Lafayette.  The goal of the tradition beginning in 2011 was to have fried oysters for my birthday at a different restaurant each year.   Check off 2018!

Here’s the year-to-year run-down:

2012 Fezzo’s Restaurant in Scott, La.
2013 D.C.’s in Eunice, La.
2014 New Orleans Food and Spirits, Covington, La.
2015 Acme Oyster House, Baton Rouge, La.
2016 Frog City Travel Plaza, Rayne, La.
2017 Acme Oyster House (the original Acme) in New Orleans, La.
2018 Drago’s Seafood Restaurant and Oyster Bar in Lafayette, La.

IMG_1604Drago’s  is a revered culinary institution begun in  New Orleans, so we’re favored now to have a Drago’s  in Lafayette.   This po’boy was as good as any I’ve tasted anywhere!

Staying Fit in Unfit Weather: Wimps, Beware! Tuesday, Jul 24 2018 

About ten years ago, I attended a workshop/conference at a retreat center in eastern Nebraska around this time of year.  The weather was hot, sure enough–low 90s, moderate humidity.  But the conditions were tame compared to the dew point-laden Gulf Coast weather I had come from.  So the weather was no deterrent.  At the end of each day right before supper, I changed into jogging clothes and hit the trail for a 30-40 minute jog.  I came back to the lodge one afternoon right before supper, drenched in sweat from

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Crepe Myrtle Alley along the local walking/jogging trail where we worked out yesterday: The late-morning shade looks inviting, but there was no hiding from the humidity as the mid-day 90 degrees temp. teamed up with a dew point ranging in the upper 70s—-That’s not just oppressive: it’s disgusting!

the workout, where one of my colleagues from the West Coast met me with an incredulous expression on his face.  Nearly gasping unbelief, he asked, “You really worked out in this heat?  How can you stand the humidity?  Wow!  I could never imagine running in this heat.  I must be a wimp!”

Now this guy was a marathon runner, by the way.  He was working out each day during the conference,  but he did his workouts on treadmills in the air-conditioned  workout room at the lodge.

That conversation gave me an appreciation for what it takes to work out faithfully throughout the summer in the Deep South Gulf Coast.  All the years of my life, I took for granted our matter-of-fact attitude that when the weather heated/sweated up for summer, we just stripped to our shorts and tee-shirts and carried on.  I believed, in fact, that heavy-sweaty workouts were good for one’s constitution, sweating out the impurities and toxins of the soul.

Anyway, after yesterday, as humid and miserable of a Deep South day that I can recall in all of my 65+ years, I remembered that incident ten years ago in eastern Nebraska. Even though the heat index here ranged 110 and higher as I completed the outdoor workout, with clothes wringing-wet from copious perspiration, I remained faithful to my  routine.

I suppose that proves that I am not a wimp!

Heat Wave 2018: Disgusting! Saturday, Jul 21 2018 

IMG_1596We haven’t had a genuine heat wave for the past couple of years.

Until now.

The image showing 95 degrees at 5:30 p.m. represents the third consecutive day of official heat advisories from  the weather service.

Our daughter in the Colorado high plains frequently has mid-to-upper 90’s this time of year.  Out there, such a  temp is not so intoleraable.

What’s the difference?

Dewpoint!

Our Gulf Coast dewpoint this time of year will range in the mid to upper 70’s.  On the “comfort scale,” that intensely-humidified range is not just high or extreme: it’s disgusting.

The elevated dewpoint holds our overnight lows in the steamy upper-seventies; out west on the Colorado plains where our daughter hangs out, the overnight lows will range in the low to mid 60s.  Big difference!

So what’s in a heat wave?  The misery index counts more than temperature!

Siblings Forever Tuesday, Jul 17 2018 

IMG_1578Since our two kids grew up and moved to distant parts, having them with their spouses together for this past weekend in Texas was a rare treat.  I particularly enjoyed witnessing this unique sibling moment as they chatted and walked together ahead of the rest of us in downtown Houston on our way  to a baseball game.   They had only been together for a few hours at this point in the visit.

For all the petty sibling picking and whining that these two perpetrated in their childhoods, they grew up well.  Their mom and I are proud!

Country Roads, Acadiana: “Sloppa-lousas” Tuesday, Jul 10 2018 

US 190 is not a major east-west thoroughfare by any stretch—-its infrastructural importance is more used-ta-be since I-10 came along in the 60s/70s; today, the road serves more local  traffic than it does  regional or interstate travel.

I’ve traveled this highway across south Louisiana and into eastern Texas several times in recent years.  As an old-school thoroughfare, 190 rarely features high-speed by-passes around the centers of most small towns and cities.  Travelers must be alert to slow down to the posted limits as they transition from the open highway to the outskirts and ultimately to down town with what often seems to be an interminable series of traffic signals.

From Huntsville across eastern Texas through Livingston, Woodville, and Jasper, the highway crosses into Louisiana where it cuts through DeRidder, Kinder, Elton, Basile, Eunice and on to Opelousas and Baton Rouge beyond.  Once aross the River at Baton Rouge, 190 loses its regional relevance as the parallel I-12 corridor makes the highway insignificant as a throughfare until it ends just outside of Slidell.

Many of the wide spots, villages, small towns and cities along the route are notable for  their provinciality, local cop speed traps, lack of scenery, pot-holed streets, and irritating slow-downs; however, in my experience,  one town surpasses all the others in its recognition as the worst through-route in the region: Opelousas, Louisiana.

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One of the irritating traffic signals where congested traffic struggles to creep its way through the center of town.

The passage through Opelousas is loooooooong, over four miles from west to east (or vice versa).  Speed limits gradually descend from 50 to 40 to 30 to a syrupy 25, grinding through a block-to-block series of downtown traffic lights in traffic that’s usually moderate-to-heavy.  Traffic never flows through downtown Opelousas—-more accurately, it lurches from block to block, light to light.

And, the street surfaces are ridden with pot-holes and uneven surfaces.  The violent pitching of a bucking-bronco ride comes to mind as I imagine a comparable experience to driving on the ill-maintained streets.

And you’d better not go over the limit in those 25 or 30 mph zones: OPD is ever-vigilant to entrap  the careless!

Finally, the passage through Opelousas from beginning to end is visually  unappealing (understatement?).  From one end of town to the other, rusting warehouses,  derelict buildings, decadent homes, and blighted lots crowd the constricted rights-of-way of the narrow thoroughfare.  Even the stateliness of the Parish courthouse and a handful of well-restored Victorian homeplaces along the route cannot atone for the overwhelming homeliness of declining parts of town.

So, I jokingly (and lovingly, because it’s close to home) refer to Opelousas’s downtown passage as “Sloppa-lousas.”  It’s city limits-to-city limits passage provides a throw-back experience from a bygone era of motor travel.  And, as most travelers would observe at the end of the experience, the only thing good about the good old days of motor travel is that they’re gone.  Unfortunately, Highway 190 through Opelousas did not go with them, but rather stayed behind to decay along with its tedious route through the old-timey center of town.

Marley the Dog Wednesday, Jul 4 2018 

Ten years ago today, Marley the Dog moved into our back yard. His story composed those years ago is worth sharing on this, his tenth “rebirth” day.  The copy below was originally posted on July 6, 2008.

Inventio!

I first saw Marley the dog one late afternoon  last week following Ann as Ann did her daily jog in the neighorhood.   Ann commented later on this “cute little dog” that had followed her the whole time she ran.  I didn’t encourage the conversation any farther, because the last time Ann got attached to such a stray, the mutt became Sadie the Dog, who’s lived in our back yard now for three years.

To shorten the story, Marley (who was unnamed at this time) had been hanging out in the neighborhood for several days.  Various dog-loving neighbors were putting out food and water for him (Sarah and Ann did, also), and one of the neighbors even knocked on a few doors, advocating Marley’s cause for adoption to a good home.  No takers.  I resisted my own family’s petitions and appeals on Marley’s behalf, reasoning “We don’t need another dog.”

But…

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Payton’s and Marley’s Sleepover: Rotten Times Two Sunday, Jul 1 2018 

36357148_10216369683616080_4561260722960465920_nSave for lightning and thundersome nights, Marley the Dog is not privileged to sleep in (or on) human beds.  He has a cozy mat on the floor that he happily uses for bed time.

But when Payton comes, doggy behavior rules are suspended.  That little girl is Marley’s most persuasive champion and advocate: as Payton wills in Marley’s regard, so goes Marley!

And so go the household rules.

Permissive behavior management is one of the first principles of grandparenting, I believe.