SONGUERRA

According to 
Cajun Jack, the water can range in depth from up to 22 feet deep with spring 
floods, to dry bank, drained off the land, present only in pools, canals, and 
bayous.

"Doc poled his pirogue through the shallow water at the edge of the swamp."

So Doc's section of Songuerra begins, the beginning of a journey he has been preparing for his entire life without knowing it. That future begins above the swamps and marshes of Southern Louisiana with the break- up of a spaceship, the bird-aliens inside of it victims of treachery and sabotage.
Songuerra is my current WIP (work in progress). I recently completed a trip to Southern Louisiana. The story required answers to questions that I didn't have, and that I couldn't find on the internet or in books. In seven days, I drove nearly 2,300 miles from NW Missouri to the marshes, swamps, and farmlands where this story occurs. But I not only put miles on the car, I went back in time as well.

Stumps, boles, logs. Benign objects in the daylight, threatening monsters 
in the wavering light of an oil lamp in the blackest night of the 
swamp.

"As he passed Lafitte's Island he looked at the strangely shaped stump that lay at the water's edge. It looked so much like a man that the first time Pap brought him this way, he almost said howdy to it. Moss grew thick on the knobby end of the thing and it sure had the appearance of hair in the twilight. He was only ten when Pap started to teach him the ways of the swamp. The most important lesson Pap taught him was to look at what there is to see, not at what you think there is to see. Many times things that appeared to be threatening in the dark were nothing in the light of day."



The Atchafalaya Swamp

Atchafalaya (uh CHAFA lie uh) is an Indian word that means "long river." The Atchafalaya river is approximately 135 miles long. With more than half million acres, the Atchafalaya basin covers about one third of Louisiana, and is the largest "overflow swamp" in the US and is protected behind a 22 foot high seawall. If the Army Corps of Engineers did not control the Mississippi River through a system of levees and floodways, it would probably have joined with the Atchafalaya river in the early 1950s.


(Special thanks to Jennifer Phillips, Assistant Director of the Cajun Coast Visitors & Convention Center for her assistance and suggestions.)

To enter the swamp from the river, you must go through 
locks. When we went through, the water level was nearly 
equal on both sides of the lock. Sometimes 
the water level inside is higher, sometimes the outside is 
higher. Cypress trees. Trophies from past hunts. This floating hunting 
camp 
has all the amenities... well... the important ones, anyway. A typical houseboat. Note the air conditioner in the 
wall? 'Almost everybody has generators now,' says Cajun Jack.

The 'moss' here is said to be an air fern, taking its 
nutrients and water from the air. It supposedly grows only on cypress and 
oak. A good candidate for a lightning strike? Cypress trees with typical fern adornments. Gator on a log. They like the sun. Once into the swamp, you have an almost infinite number 
of choices as to which way to go. In tangles like this you can find narrow canals, not 
much 
more that ditches at low water, that lead back into the depths of the 
swamp.

High rise housing, swamp style. Another style of hunting camp. A Cajun out catching Crawfish. Also known 
as 'redclaw' and 'mudbugs' these creatures are the lobsters of the 
swamp. Low maintainance fishing. The baited hook is suspended 
from the white floating ball, and checked occasionally. This hapless fellow 
will probably end up on a restaurant menu somewhere near by. Cajun Jack himself. Our tour guide and an experienced 
story-teller.


* * * * *



In the center of 
the picture a bird is hunting. Its head sways from side to side until it spots 
prey, then it grabs it, swallows it, and hunts on.

SARA


"Sara stepped back, absently wiped the fine brushes she'd been using, and critically eyed her night's work. Her shoulders ached and her stomach growled in protest of her neglect of it. A glance at the ancient Regulator clock on the wall of her studio, an instrument she ignored more than used, told her that midnight was long past. She put the brushes down and pressed curled fists into her eyes, rubbing gently.
The painting was only partially done but already the canvas glowed with the rich colors of a Louisiana marsh in the Spring. A riot of rust, green, brown and yellow grasses filled the portion of the picture that she'd been working on, each grass stem gently curved by the windless breeze that seemed to blow across the canvas."

The Sabine National Wildlife Refuge

Located in Cameron Parish, in extreme SouthWest Louisiana, the Sabine (suh BEAN) National Wildlife Refuge is part of the Creole Nature Trail Driving Tour. And if nature is what you want, nature is what you'll get here. 750,000 acres of Cameron Parish's total area is defined as coastal wetlands. And if you came to see alligators, that should not be a problem. I personally saw four right by the parking lot of the walking trail. Alligators outnumber people in Cameron Parish by a factor of ten to one.
As you drive down Hwy 27 you see people throwing nets to catch shrimp, catching fish, boating... and then you get to the Gulf where there is mile after mile of fine sandy beach. I collected a nice pile of shells, and a lot of information about marshes. Mosquitos? I saw one. Maybe the alligators ate the rest of them.

(Special thanks to Michelle McInnis at the Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitor's Bureau for her assistance. Oh... and I LOVE your dancing Gator!)

Like in the swamps, the water level is controlled by 
floodgates. Sign at the entrance to the 1.5 mile walking 
trail. Another sign. Just to the left of the trees is an ocean going ship. 
the 
intracoastal waterway runs through the marshes. The ship is centered in this picture also, but I 
liked the sign too. This handsome fellow was only about a dozen feet from 
the 
parking lot.

Fortunately, most of the dozen feet were 
vertical. There are two alligators in this picture. Don't strain 
your eyes trying to see them... but they're there. The grayish lump in the middle of this picture is 
another 
alligator. There are a lot of alligators in the marsh. It's their favorite 
kind 
of place. This vicious 
creature was making his move onto the walking trail as I left.


* * * * *



These are some of 
the larger shrimp boats that ply the Gulf.

The Admiral


"The water snake swam with deadly grace toward the mating call of the frog. Just before he located the source of the call it stopped. Being an experienced master in this dance of death, Snake ceased moving and waited. Almost imperceptibly at first the water began a vibrating dance of its own. Snake's finely tuned sensory system picked it up almost immediately and as the vibration grew exponentially more violent, Snake added his own frenzied vibrations as he fled toward the rank undergrowth that lined the water. Not a soul aboard the 80 foot shrimp boat noticed either the snake or the frog as the boat sliced through the still water of the intracoastal toward the waters of the Gulf of Mexico."

The Gulf


The shrimp boat Capt. Bull The shrimp boat Miss Mary Bull. Notice the Off-
shore oil platforms in the background? Joseph Minh Nouyen in front of his 
boat The shrimp boat I went aboard These boats go out for three or four weeks at a time in 
all weather. Powerful winches used to raise and lower the sweeps, and 
haul in the nets.

My 5th Ave parked in front of the boat to give you some 
idea of size. Hope the sweeps don't fall!!! A forest of sweeps.


Home Mike's 
Pages
Home Pages