Archive for March 7, 2022

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – It’s been a strange week. It started out with the Courir de Mardi Gras in Church Point, LA and ended in Facebook jail. Twice.

Let me explain.

We spend about five weeks a year – all throughout the year – in south Louisiana, specifically in Cajun country. New Orleans is quite another thing altogether but that’s not at all where we were. Cajun country is that mostly flat, prairie land around and including the Atchafalaya Basin. Stunningly beautiful, it is filled with the warmest, friendliest, happiest people I’ve met anywhere.

A few years ago on one of our trips, we met a couple in a bar on the Atchafalaya swamp who invited us to the Courir de Mardi Gras in Church Point, LA where they live. This is not the New Orleans kind of Mardi Gras that people think of. This festivity dates back literally hundreds of years to the very origins of the Cajun people themselves.

Well, Covid happened before we could take our new friends up on this invitation and a couple of years went by, but this year, we did it. And I’ve never seen anything like it. It was fabulous! What I love is how steeped in tradition it all is, and how utterly wild and fun it was to see.

We arrived as instructed, by 7:00 a.m. “because they going to close the roads!” As friends and family began to arrive, some still drunk from the night before, someone fired up a huge griddle on a table under the carport, and within minutes ham, eggs, and bacon were sizzling, biscuits appeared and someone opened the first beer of the day by 7:45.

The highlight of the day for me was the actual courir; only the men are allowed to participate in the chicken chase and they must be costumed and masked at all times. The costumes are traditional in nature with bright, multicolor scraps of fabric sewn all over them, conical hats, and masks of mesh and decorated with eyes, long noses, and grins. Everyone is unrecognizable.

We went to the first stop of the day; a lovely Acadian style home on a large piece of property. The spectators lined up in front of the house to watch. Soon, the costumed participants began to arrive en masse – on trailers, on horses, on foot, whooping, yelling, carrying cans of beer. After being granted permission to enter the gate by the homeowner, they lined up facing the house some distance away from the spectators. At the signal, they all let out shouts and yells and ran full steam ahead toward the spectators and began the chicken chase. It was hilarious as they fell, tripped, crawled on the ground, crawled between the legs of everyone standing by, untied our shoes, took our shoes, and scratched their palms in a silent request for money.

When you show empty pockets, the guys will flop down on the ground in mock tears. “I gotta make a gumbo!”

And that’s the point of the chicken chase, of course. By the end of the day the community shares a communal gumbo after several more stops of chicken chasing, a long parade through the country with floats, beads, and lots of horses. So many horses and costumed riders I’ve never seen before.

Our friends took us out onto the parade route in the middle of the country where we cooked boudin, pork steaks, hot dogs, and boudin stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon. One ice chest after another appeared, all filled with Jello shots of every imaginable color and flavor.

It was absolutely the wildest, most fabulous event I’ve ever seen in my life and I can’t believe I have lived in Louisiana this many years and never been to a courir de Mardi Gras before. It is absolutely the only way to celebrate Mardi Gras in my mind. It was amazing.

And so as much fun as all that was, it’s taken us a full week to recover. We are no spring chickens any more and all this debauchery leaves me wiped out.

And then my husband gets thrown in Facebook jail.

Ha! Well, it was only a matter of time. He’s a very vocal conservative and after being unable to speak his opinions freely for so many years due to his civil service career, once he retired, he felt perfect freedom to voice his disgust at this administration on Facebook. He was vocal during the last Democratic administration too – both terms of it. But, to be fair, he also uses social media to share corny jokes and to keep up with family. He has a love/hate relationship with Facebook.

So, like I said, it was only a matter of time until he got thrown in the Facebook Gulag. He got 24-hours for sharing a meme about a certain Arkansas presidential wife.  He was incensed! But, he promised to behave and decided that from now on he’d only share a joke of the day and get off of Facebook.

That was working out pretty well until the Facebook algorithms went back to a year ago and threw him right back into the Gulag for some meme he shared twelve months ago.

Now that he’s on their radar he’ll never get out and of course this is what they want. They want conservatives to give up and hush up.

So much for free speech, right? Toe the party line or be silenced.

Maybe we’ll just unplug and move to south Louisiana, get a houseboat, live on the swamp. Chase chickens at Mardi Gras, eat crawfish until we explode, boudin, and charbroiled oysters. Sounds a lot better than Facebook jail.

Pat Wheeler: Son, l asked you over here because the Sheriff’s a friend of mine. He’s got trouble. He can use a good man.

Colorado Ryan: To go against the Burdettes, Sheriff?

Sheriff Chance: That’s right.

Pat Wheeler: I told him you were one of the best.

Colorado Ryan: I’ll tell you what I’m a lot better at, Mr. Wheeler. That’s minding my own business. No offense, Sheriff.

Sheriff Chance: No offense.

Pat Wheeler: I never expected that.

Sheriff Chance: He showed good sense.

Rio Bravo 1959

There has been a lot of talk about a No Fly Zone in Ukraine enforced by NATO. The president of Ukraine lobbied congress for such a think and the Ukrainians have been doing their best to shame the west into this kind of direct confrontation with Russia.

Now the Ukrainians are in the process of being invaded and that being the case I have no problem with them doing all they can to get allies in the fight, in fact they would not be doing their job if they didn’t, but something occurred to me as the echoing gong of intervention has been going out.

Where are the calls for US Intervention in Chicago and Baltimore?

We have people being shot there on a regular basis and innocent bystanders being killed and wounded including children, yet we don’t have anyone talking about sending forces to control the violence there nor are there outcries for intervention in Chicago or people putting the Chicago or Baltimore city flags or seals on their twitter feed.

War is a messy thing. There is shooting, there is violence. And when civil authority breaks down you can see arson, you can see looting which begs the question.

Where are the calls for US intervention in San Francisco, or Portland or even New York City?

We’ve had wholesale arson, we’ve seen people take over streets and threaten others, we’ve seen looting and theft with impunity, yet the very suggestion that Americans should be sent to a part of America to protect Americans from these things in any of these cities is practically beyond the pale and it seems odd to me that so many Americans are all gung ho about getting involved in Ukraine but don’t seem to give a damn about what is going on here, not just ordinary crime which you might say is a local matter but crime and violence of a type that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.

Am I saying that what Putin has done isn’t wrong, not at all. Putin should turn his armies around, head back to Russia and stay there.

But we’re not Poland, or Finland or the Baltic states, all of who have a history with Russia and have a legitimate worry about an aggressive Russia in their neighborhood and might decide it’s in their interest to get deeply involved . I submit and suggest it would show a lot of good sense to think long and hard before we go and get ourselves deeply involved in a war in eastern Europe that doesn’t involve a NATO ally that’s we’re committed to defend.