From the Other Side
Sept. 1
2, 2008
We ____ Ike!

Letís get a bunch of round political buttons printed that say "WE HATE IKE!"

While the hurricane is headed toward Texas, itís likely weíll get some high winds and storm surge here in St. Mary Parish.

Here we are, less than two weeks after Hurrican Gustav dragged his Swedish behind down U.S. 90 and really messed up the scenery, and Ike is going to brush us, too.

Of course, many of us will be without electricity again as the power grid around here is probably mostly in repair-state. And thereís that pesky storm surge that has areas south of the railroad track panicking for good reason.

I ask again: Why do we live in this crummy state?

I used to say, "For the great fishing!" but KatRita ruined that for three years. It was just getting better, then Gustav came through and the fish are going belly-up all over the place. Ike will probably just make things worse.

They say that if global warming is happening, more severe hurricanes are in your future, including the possibility of even upgrading the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale to reflect Category 6 storms.

I say "your future" you realize, because I donít plan on being around here if there are Cat 6 hurricanes coming at me. No siree, Bob. Nope. No way, Jose.

Oh, youíre going to say it again, "But Stouff, every place you go is going to have some kind of natural disaster."

Well, the way I see it, an earthquake, volcanic eruption or tsunami is better. Youíre just going along minding your own business and BAM! Then itís over. You either survive, or who donít. You donít have CNN and Fox and the Weather Channel prophesizing doom and gloom and destruction for a week in advance and scaring the living daylights out of you so that, even if the hurricane goes elsewhere, you have to go into therapy to get over the television doomsayers.

Iím sick and tired of hearing Ďem. Ted Turner ruined television news when he tried to fill 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, with news. There ainít enough. You canít do it, and you end up repeating the same old boring stuff until something like a hurricane comes along and then they leap on that like hallelujah, brethren. You get less news from television than you would lying in bed drinking gin all day.

A horrifying story comes from Patterson about a family whose two pets were euthanized by the parish animal shelter after they went missing before the storm, and the family had to evacuate. Procedure mandates animals picked up by the animal warden be put down if unclaimed after seven days, but the owner says these dogs were wearing tags and they called the shelter twice looking for them. Promises that the rules would be changed will hopefully not be hollow. Certainly there should be a tremendous amount of leeway in the case of a natural disaster. Sometimes the heartlessness and incompetence staggers the mind.

I sure donít want to clean up a mess again in the yard. What a miserable way to spend a weekend. My father, when I complained about such things as a youngster, would always say, "Well, boy, man proposes and the Good Lord disposes" and to this day I have no idea what that means, but Iím sure it was one of those wise kernels of erudition the old man picked up during his many years on this earth.

So was my grandfather. We sat in a cane patch where there was no undergrowth beneath the canopy of leaves, surrounded solely by majestic, creamy yellow stalks, chewing sandwiches my grandma made for us. He had polio when he was a boy so was spared the fate his brothers endured, hauled off to Carlisle Indian School where their hair was cut and they were beaten for speaking Sheti imasha. Annihilation by sponge.

"This is where God lives, boy," he said. I was no more than eight, but I believed it with all my heart then. Still do.

Just as I believe that of the four sacred, powerful trees that marked the boundaries of the nation, the last grew near Bayou Portage and it was certainly a cypress. It was known as the Raintree. In times of drought, Chitimacha would carefully and with great ceremony take limbs from it, say the words and sing the songs of our forefathers, then baptize them into the lake to bring rain. It grew there for centuries until the waterway Ė altered, diverted, and rerouted by the meddling hands of bureaucracy Ė undermined its roots and it toppled into the flow. The rain began almost immediately, and didnít stop for many months.

My old grandpa was adamant about most things in our oral tradition. No matter how fantastic or scoffed upon by non-Indians, he was sure that the collapse of the Raintree caused the catastrophic flooding of 1927.

Right as rain, he would nod, there in the cane break as we lunched. Right as rain.

My father was certain about some things, too.

"This was Eden," heíd tell me of the waters we spent every spare minute upon. Our Eden was Sheti imasha, a convergence of rivers, Red and Mississippi, from which the Atchafalaya flowed. He was chief then, naíta, last of the bloodline before our tribe turned to elections to choose a chairman. The old man spoke it with such conviction it was hard not to believe him. Sometimes, I learned early, it doesnít matter if you believe in something or not, so long as something believes in you.

I laugh at people who say the old folks must have really had it rough when hurricanes came out of nowhere and hammered their villages. I tell them maybe their ancestors got surprised, but mine were visiting cousins in Caddo country a week before a hurricane got into the Atchafalaya Bay, or hunting buffalo with the distant kinfolks on the plains. Had it rough, my eye.

Anyway.

Batten down the hatches. Hopefully it wonít be too rough a ride. Even if it is, weíll pull ourselves back up again, like we always do.