Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 75: Hoover Hogs

Morgan City to Garden City. 20.4 miles/1343 total

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I'm just east of the railroad bridge outside Morgan City, headed down Route 182 to Highway 90 and on through the countryside to a spot a few miles east of Franklin.

I'm taking U.S. 90 for most of the walk because Louisiana 182 runs in a serpentine fashion along Bayou Teche for most of the way, whereas 90 cuts straight across, saving several miles. As a result, I'll be bypassing most of the little communities along the way.

It's another cloudless day, in the mid-50s, expected to get into the mid-60s. It doesn't get a hell of a lot better than this.

Morgan City will get short shrift today. I do pass the entrance to the City Convention Center, which says it's the home of the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival. That's an interesting-sounding combination. "Boy, this shrimp is good. What's on it?" "Well, we use a special blend of petroleum and Cajun spices."

On the ascent up the bridge exit ramp I can look down to the left at downtown Morgan City, which is a few blocks along the river. There's no one else walking across this bridge today, which isn't surprising. Pedestrian traffic outside of large cities is almost nonexistent in 21st century America. Occasionally you see young people and extremely poor people on foot, or grown men on bicycles (which, unless they're wearing lime green spandex outfits, means they've lost their licenses due to drunk driving). This is not a country of walkers, by any means. To be on foot, especially at my age, implies a certain failure of other options. That's why an undertaking such as mine is better understood and accepted when it has a charitable purpose. The generosity and self-sacrifice help to justify the eccentricity. And if one's resolve starts to flag in the middle of the day (as it invariably does), one can tell oneself to keep going for the sake of those poor little crippled children or the women with cancer.

This is a large truss bridge, with four lanes divided by Jersey barriers and shoulders the width of cars, so it's fairly safe to cross. It crosses the Atchafalaya River and is called the E. J. Lionel Grizzatti Bridge. Safe or not, I'm just as glad to be over it. Underneath, the Atchafalaya is wide and brown.

At a little over six miles I enter Bayou Vista. I can see the water tower. This is where I stayed last night. A little past Walmart is a billboard that says, "We're Loving Jesus."

Wag-a-Pak is the name of the convenience stores connected with Conoco gas stations. That may be the silliest such name I've seen, and I've seen quite a few of these little stores. On the sign is a little white dog with black spots holding a Wag-a-Pak bag in its mouth. Up in Arkansas they have a chain called Kum-N-Go, another unfortunate name.

About halfway into this walk and things have been uneventful. Here's the water tower for Patterson, another community I'll be bypassing. But to give you your money's worth I'll tell you that it's a city of about 6,500 originally settled by Pennsylvania Dutch back in the early 1800s. The settlement was called Dutch Town or Dutch Prairie. Then in 1832 a guy from Indiana named John Patterson came through and opened a store and the place became known as Pattersonville, and later Patterson. And here's something you don't see every day. A big sign indicating that bears cross here.

At this point the stores and churches and other buildings pretty much disappear and the rest of the walk will be along the marshes and woods. Some of the trees have red buds on them and are getting ready to bloom for spring. No live oaks out here in the middle of nowhere--those are found mostly in yards and the edges of open fields. I cross another bayou--this one without a name that I can see.

I just saw a freshly-killed armadillo, with its shell cracked open and some pink flesh showing. A long time ago I speculated that the reason I saw mostly bits of armadillo shell and not many whole animals was that their meat must be especially tasty to the scavenging animals. And indeed it does look like pork. Some people eat armadillos, and in east Texas during the Depression they were called "Hoover Hogs." Apparently they are good barbecued and in chili. However they do seem to have a tendency to carry leprosy (now known as Hansen's disease), so I guess you have to be careful about handling them too much. Also I assume it's best to eat them well done. Well, that's an adventure that awaits me.


Anonymous said...

Truss bridge, Jersey barriers, purple prose, this blog is improving my English. The sweet sugar cane you had a couple of days ago is something I ate as a kid on a different continent.

Dr. Bill, "Memory Medic" said...

For those whose interest in armadillos was piqued, you might want to check out my book on dillos. See

W. R. Klemm, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Peter Teeuwissen said...

Thanks for the tip, Doc. I'm going to look for your book. And thanks for reading.

I went to check out the website, but I typed in "dildos" instead of "dillos." Boy, talk about a wrong turn on the old information superhighway! But I realized my mistake immediately (well, after about 45 minutes), and went to the right one.

Billie Bob said...

We had a stuffed armadillo in our house for quite a few years, given to us by our good friends. They gave it to us because we really enjoyed the book, A Prayer for Owen Meany, which in our opinion was John Irving’s best book. There is in the story the armadillo motif. We gave copies of the book to a number of people over the years. In fact, we gave a books-on-CD version to a person just this last Christmas. It just occurred to me that in the book, the armadillo had its feet removed. Ours had half its tail missing.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting info on Armadillos. I once knew a zoologist who was born and raised in Colorado at the very beginning of the 20th century. He told me that as a kid woodchucks were referred to as"Whistle Pigs". The "whistle" came from the warning sound they made when danger was perceived. I don't recall any explanation for "pigs". Anguish.