Monday, February 11

Beyond New Orleans: Down the Bayou

[Above, Nick Collins of the Collins Oyster Company]

In advance of tomorrow's Mardi Gras holiday (okay, let's be honest, NO ONE is doing any work in New Orleans today!), we venture southeast of New Orleans to Bayou Lafourche and Grand Isle
The people of Bayou Lafourche and Grand Isle, Louisiana, live and work smack dab at the center of nature—an aerial view of the area shows more water than land, and Grand Isle is definitively the end of civilization, tapering off into the Gulf of Mexico. They also live at the heart of our country’s most expansive oilfield. Steel structures crisscross the horizon, helicopters hum overhead, and drawbridges lift to allow crew and supply boats an easy path down the bayou to service and stock rigs in the Gulf. To the outsider, this intermix of oil and wilderness appears odd. Even ugly. But from the perspective of the bayou Cajuns (their more landlocked kin, the prairie Cajuns, live around Lafayette), the oilfield and nature coexist in harmony, the financial gains from the former funding good times in the latter.

We conducted these interviews six years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita wrecked the area, and roughly a year and a half after the deadly and devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill. These events are some of the worst natural and manmade disasters this country has endured to date. Timing being what it is, the interviews tend to dwell on the hurricanes and the oil spill.

But even in the future, once these most recent trials are mere memories, they will serve as metaphors for the hardships that people who live and work so close to the land and water—and the oil—perpetually face.

To check out more of our Down the Bayou oral histories, click here.