Full Blown Mardi Gras
    53       It was during a late dinner at Mama’s In Eunice, that my agenda for the next day took a sharp turn towards Lake Charles for the Creole Mardi Gras, with an invitation ride on a friend’s trailer. So I opted for an early night in exchange for an early morning rendezvous in Rayne. Once my friends were able to dodge the Church Point Mardi Gras, we met up and headed west down 10. “The Ride” technically started at 10:00, though I have no clue what time we really took off.

I’ve learned many things in the past 24 hours.

One should always keep a case of shiny Mardi Gras beads around the house if you by chance end up in a bead tossing scenario. Lake Charles likes its beads. Flashing body parts is not a part of it at all. (Tip: The old clear plastic multicolor beads are “out” these days). I also discovered Crown Royal on ice tastes great before noon. I’d also recommend wearing cowgirl boots to a trail ride. And perhaps the most important tip, dress in layers so when you’re dancing Zydeco after the courir, you don’t die of heat exhaustion.

So it all starts at the Habibi Shriners just on the outskirts of town. I knew it was going to be a good day when I saw Mr. Bois Sec, who was watching from inside the hall. The trailers were just starting to line up. The capitaines, on horseback toting their flags, were just gathering. I greeted,“Le Capitaine” who smiled and invited me to sit on his horse. So I did. I soon discovered he had one spunky filly. I think. So “whoa” comes to mind when I look at the photo. As much as I love horses, to me “Take the ride” means take the fiddle lead. I was able to catch my favorite capitaine in full gait later on down the road.

As near as I can tell, there really is no “Start” to this trail ride. All along the way horses and trailers join the group. Latecomers are supposed to join at the end, and the capitaines gallop alongside to assist in any accidents or intruders. But for the most part, it doesn’t really matter where you end up. The riders on horseback came up the rear on this ride, the trailers and bead throwers and canned music announcing their arrival.

Jim and Christy have made this run many times with Gary, and as usual I got sucked into the vortex pretty easily. Besides the Thibedeaux family and Jim and Christy, we had Joe and Elif from Houston, Leslie and Peter from Ontario, and Atsuko from San Antone. This year, as always, the ride took us right through “The Hood”. But this year, the route was marked with many blue roofs, and new roofs. Lest we forget, Lake Charles took the full blunt of the hit by Rita, where the eye of the storm carved its way through town. The residents lined the sidewalks in front of their houses calling out, “I know you got somethin’ for me” or “Throw me somethin’”. Gary supplied us with beads and we supplied some wrapped candy for the kids. The preacher ran out of his church joyfully calling out to us, “Where y’all goin’ zydecoin’?” Jim’s like, “At The Habibi”. “Allright then, I’m goin” and away we’d go.

The ride took a break to chase a chicken, brought along for the occasion. Costumes mostly consisted of beads, and a cool hat. Maybe two country Mardi Gras riders, one from Oberlin and hundreds of horses, some from Texas. We took a few hours break near downtown in some big field. Boom box Zydeco or Rap Funk. Children taking turns on horses. Young boys standing on their horses trying to knock each other down. I was feeling no pain at that point, though I feel some this morning. I even managed a tumble or two and am myself amazed that any photos came out. Towards the last lap on the return to Habibi, Joe was handing out beers to some guys in lawnchairs, having run out of beads. It was still Sunday, and in the morning many were out in their Sunday best to catch a bead. Even old Maman was out there in her house coat and slippers picking up a bead or two.

After the second rest stop downtown, we made our way back to the Zydeco. The band played all the hits like “Big Butt Women” and “The Chicken Run” plus some old Boo Zoo and John Delafose. The men on the dancefloor outnumbered the women three to one so I had no complaints there. Got my E-tickets. Plus just to watch the crowd doing the Beaumont, Houston, Lake Charles thing. We ate our gumbo and danced until we had nothin’ left which put us at sundown when we said our good-byes. Then we hit the road searching for crawfish. There you have it. I need to cut this off so I can rest up, fix my mask for tomorrow’s chicken run and move on into Lundi Gras by this afternoon.