Bye Bye, Bayou

 The Breaux Bridge Cabin Site 

The Breaux Bridge Cabin Site 

 Andrew Chater, jamming with the Cajuns

Andrew Chater, jamming with the Cajuns

Just as quickly as we had arrived in the quirky college town of Baton Rouge, we were leaving— piling into the van and parting ways with the first hotel that actually had fluffy comforters that enveloped you in its sweet softness as you drifted into peaceful bliss. I closed my eyes in anticipation of what was to come next. Sure I was sad to leave, but if we were meant to stay in one place we’d have roots instead of feet. I had googled The Breaux Bridge Cabins we were staying in before leaving Los Angles, and although I had previously been terrified to stay in such a shall we say “humble” setting, my newfound interest in small southern towns left me optimistic. As we pulled into the pebble speckled driveway, Christmas lights illuminated the cabins and welcomed us to the campsite. A rickety old swing set called my name and as I took a seat, my classmate Eric, questioned whether or not the old set “could retain the weight” of me. Two people were already swinging comfortably and I think Eric thought a third could potentially be problematic... he wasn't wrong. That particular swing set managed the three of us, however, when a couple of of us piled onto it later, it inevitably came tumbling down. Ironically, Eric wasn’t there to witness our unfortunate but predicted downfall. We later discovered a brochure advertising the cabins that quoted previous visitors saying things like 'the cabins were of the finest places on Earth' and that 'they rivaled five star resorts.' These statements were so exaggerated that all we could do was laugh and do our best to endure the questionable breakfast options and poor wifi connection.

We instead focused on the real reason that we came to the Breaux Bridge Bayou: to immerse ourselves in the Cajun lifestyle and community— Cajun’s being the French Acadians who migrated from Canada and settled here in the 1700s. We shuffled off to visit a Cajun jam session in town that welcomed us to their performance with quite literal open arms. We were taught about the history of Cajun music, how it differs from Zydeco music, and were even invited to join the band. I played the spoons, Sadie and Lauryn played a one of a kind instrument known as the wash base, and Andrew jumped on the fiddle. Out of appreciation for this kind gesture, Andrew, being British, used his self proclaimed authority to grant nobility to proclaim Jimmy, the two time Grammy-winning accordion player, ‘Lord’ Jimmy. His friends howled with laughter and said that Jimmy was probably more used to hearing “Oh lord, Jimmy.” The Cajuns were quick witted and we laughed at his clever reprise as we sipped espresso and snapped photos of the joyous band.

The Cajuns are filled with pride and values that demonstrate deeply rooted kinship and community. We see this through the lens of Tim Gautreaux’s short story, "Floyd’s Girl," where loving father Floyd, whose daughter has been stolen by her mother's Texan boyfriend, gets her back after a bizarre chase in a story that celebrates blood, the love of family, and the tight-knit community feelings that characterize Cajun culture.

“You don’t come to Grand Crapaud and take no Bergeron child to drag off to no place,” she scolded, threatening him with the walker...”This child belongs with her papa. She’s got LeBlanc in her, and Cancienne way back, and before that, Thibodeaux.”
— Tim Gautreaux, Floyd's Girl

Being in the less than luxurious Bayou cabins illuminates the fact that it is not about where you are, but instead who you're with. The people and the culture of this community demonstrate the importance of community and caring for one another. Cajun culture and fellowship has allowed their way of life to survive the test of time since their expulsion from Acadia in the 1750s. Gautreaux’s story and my experience in the community have left me with the impression that Cajun’s are like the three musketeers: they stand together— all for one and one for all. With that being said, when the safety of Floyd's daughter was put into jeopardy the whole community came out to protect her, and to assert that the little girl was Cajun through and through, and that the blood that ran through her veins represented generations of Cajun families. Floyd considers the reprucussions of his daughter being forced to live a life in Texas with her mom, bearing in mind that

There was nothing wrong with West Texas, but there was something wrong with a child living there who doesn’t belong, who will be haunted for the rest of her days by memories of the ample laps of aunts, daily thunderheads rolling above flat parishes of rice and cane, the musical rattle of French, her prayers, the head-turning squawk of her uncles accordion, the scrape and complaint of her father’s fiddle as he serenades the backyard on weekends. Vibrations of the soul lost for what?
— Tim Gautreaux, Floyd's Girl

The Bayou is rich with Cajun culture and community that keeps their traditions alive and well; they embody vibrations of the soul that make a person feel alive and apart of something bigger than themselves. Although it was a small town and my experiences were brief, by talking to locals and observing their interactions with one another, when I said Bye to the Bayou, I felt reassured that in these small pockets of the United States, history, culture, and community prevails.