Monday, August 25, 2008

"Going Down the Road," this time from coastal Louisiana

The latest installment of the NYT series "Going down the road" appears today with the dateline Golden Meadow, Louisiana. That's in Cajun country, and according to Susan Saulny' s story, there's less of it -- the place, the land that is -- than there used to be. The headline is "Holding Out, to Last Tiny Isle, as Cajun Land Sinks into the Gulf," and the story tells of both extraordinary attachment to place (as in Grand Isle, population1,541) and a community that wasn't even around when the W.P.A. writers came through in the 1930s (Port Fourchon, not incorporated and not a census designated place, which is described in Saulny's story as part gated yacht community, part base for the oil and gas industry). The story's interactive feature is here.

Here is an excerpt:

The route enjoys a history of beguiling newcomers with its curious swamp-life customs, pirate tales and exuberant seafood offerings, which were already well-documented in 1941 when writers for the government’s Work Projects Administration set out to create travel guides for all the states.

* * *

Here, about an hour south of New Orleans, the writers followed Bayou Lafourche (pronounced la-FOOSH) to the gulf along a “graveled and shell roadbed” that is now Louisiana Highway 1, fully paved. They gushed about “boom fishing centers,” newly discovered oil and the seemingly endless bounty of the Gulf of Mexico, the area’s economic lifeblood, in Golden Meadow (population, 2,500; altitude, two feet).

“This part of the state is a lush land of great fecundity,” an unnamed writer enthused.

Saulny's story goes on to detail how Port Fourchon, the "Bayou's boom town," is flourishing, in large part because some 20% of the nation's fuel passes through it. Elsewhere in the area, long-time residents are resilient and loyal to their home in spite of the tough times and the sinking terrain. As one resident of Grand Isle expressed it, “If they got a little puddle of sand left . . . I’m staying put.”

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