Things Are A Little Squirrely Around Here…

This past month I have learned the Cajun Mantra: “You Do What-Chew Need To Do”. My car is in the shop. In three days, three different friends have loaned me their cars. And here’s a big tip for anyone contemplating a little trip down here during this Hurricane Season…there are no rental cars available anywhere right now. And the waiting list is in the hundreds. Now, there’s a business opportunity. I guess I was supposed to be stuck way out in the country for a couple of days. I have power. I have water. And that’s more than a lot of people around here have right now, a week shy of Rita.

I can’t say that I’ve been lonely. Loaner Car Number One, the VW EuroVan, decided she wanted no part of my commute or lifestyle, and wouldn’t start for me Friday morning, at 6:00 or any other time after that. I spent a full day Friday waiting for six hours for AAA to show up, which was a bust, I didn’t need a locksmith. Then Lulu’s friend from Lawtell showed up with a battery charger. Then they replaced the battery. She still wouldn’t start so she’s sitting in the driveway. By Friday evening, my shining night in armor, Don Quibedeaux, arrived with key and charger to set me up with loaner car number two, the trooper out back by the shop. “I’ll be back in the morning, Babe, what time you get up?” Well I know Don and I are both earlybirds. He’s usually got his toothpick going as he tells you a story or two, punctuated with some long distance spitballs. He talked about cooking in New Orleans for the T.V. boys. “I made good money, two hundred twenty dollar a day, and I had to hold a wet towel to my face to cook in that trailer without a fan or a blower or nothin’…” He did too. He went down there right after Katrina hit.

So Saturday morning, I got up at the crack of dawn. I was just getting it together with the coffee when I heard a knock at the door. It’s like quarter to 7. At least I was clothed. I’m living in an old cedar shotgun. The doors all line up with the front and back door, including the interior doors. So you’re totally visible walking from room to room. I could see through the glass door that it wasn't Don. It was a tall Creole man in full camouflage attire. It wasn't quite light out, but I don’t turn on any lights by the door at that time of day, why attract bugs to the door? Not fearful of strangers in this neck of the woods, I opened up. He looked to be close to seven feet tall standing on my porch. That may not be an exaggeration. Now I can’t say I’ve ever had the experience before of being greeted first thing in the morning by a tall Creole man in camouflage with a 12 gauge shotgun on my front porch before I’ve had my first sip of coffee. He explained in a whisper, why I don’t know…nobody else around…that he knew Jim, and that was Lulu’s van out there, and he worked over there for Jim and that he had talked to Jim and Jerry and Quentin and that they all said it was OK with them for him to go huntin’ out back… he didn’t see my little car but he saw my light and he just didn't want to scare me with all that shootin'. I ask his name and instantly recognize it. He shakes my hand, having now been formally introduced. So just to be conversational…though I suspect the answer, I ask… for what? “Squirrels.” I joke, “Oh, just don’t shoot my cat.” Butch is like, “Oh, no, I be real careful.” So it turns out that it’s the first day of squirrel season. The license plates do proclaim Louisiana to be the Sportsman’s Paradise. I say, “Good Luck”, and tell Bébé Broussard she is not going outside this morning. I haven’t made it out of the living room yet when I hear the first crack of the gun.

Don pulls up about half an hour later, car still running, he jumps out to check on Loaner Car #2, giving me the low-down on how unreliable it is and how he wouldn’t drive it as far as the driveway and how it’ll probably be dead by evening. Don’s a tad hard of hearing, so I do have to yell and wave my arms around a bit. Butch emerges from the woods and listens while Don chides him about, “I don’t see any squirrels.” Then he heads into the woods in the opposite direction of all our commotion. Don takes off and I retire to the comfort of my home. A friend finds me another car, we rendezvous at Mitch’s Saturday jam, and I make it to the Festival Internationale fundraiser in time for Balfa Toujours at the Blue Moon. Like they say threes a charm.

But I’m not there yet. Butch checked in on his way out after about two hours of huntin’. I apologize for yelling so much at Don while he was hunting. He laughs and says, “Yeah, I saw you doin’ the sign language with him.” We spent some time talking since I’m so curious about the brown tails hanging out from the pouch he was toting on his back. I stood on my porch, a bit more awake now, street clothes this time, with the porch railing providing a respectable distance. I had to laugh cuz he couldn't take his eyes off the treetops. "You're still watching for squirrels. How many’d you get?” About six. He reached in and pulled one out. I wanted to know if he was going to freeze them or cook them up today. Better to eat them fresh. And how? I wanted to know. They didn’t cover squirrel at Cordon Bleu in Paris. Barbecue? I ask. “Naw, oh you can brown gravy it, or just fry them, first fry with onions, and cook ‘em down.” Oh, they have to cook long? I ask. “Yeah, they cook long time”. I hint, “Oh, I’ve never had squirrel, I’ll guess I’ll taste it someday. What’s it taste like? I hear they good”. I guess you can’t really describe squirrel. And clearly Butch had plans for his first catch the opening day of squirrel season. Or, maybe he knew I wasn’t too sure if I’d really taste it. “So, you’ve got a long day ahead of you then,” I add, referring to the process and the cooking. He just said it wouldn’t take him too long to do this. He kept edging towards the trees in my yard, so I asked what else he hunts. He really likes rabbits. He likes deer. Oh, I like deer meat too, I say. And he promises to bring me some. It dawns on me that with the power out so long in certain areas, he may have lost a lot in his freezer. He was lucky there it turned out, his power was only out two days. I tell him I’ve had bear and alligator, and he seemed surprised about the alligator. Then he described the three gators his friend pulled out of the swamp north of us, measuring them in size from the pump house to my house, and gesturing the girth of the tail as about the size of his torso. He described the sight, the ropes still tied around their mouths, and his version of the hunt, how his friend roped them and pulled them up onto a truck after they were shot. His friend, who he described as an old guy, gave him a tail. I meant to ask if that was the better cut of meat, but I got caught in the visual imagery and plain forgot.