An Atchafalaya Story
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: Texas A&M University Press
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The Atchafalaya River Basin has fascinated me since the 1970s, when I lived as a marginally employed musician in New Orleans and, during my many off-hours, explored south Louisiana’s rich natural environment and diverse culture. When I left the state for better work, I merely crossed over into Texas, and though I’ve lived in other places since, I’ve...
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Besides Earl, I have plenty of people to thank, chief among them the individuals I interviewed for this book. Though I did not quote them all, every one contributed invaluably to the whole. They include Fr
Chapter 1: Calls
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Earl Robicheaux and I are driving east on I-10 in his little red pickup truck, slurping Community Coffee from to-go cups, chinning the irregular downbeats in The Rite of Spring. We don’t know which Louisiana Public Radio station is broadcasting Le Sacre midday—Lafayette...
Chapter 2: Roots
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For Earl, growing up in the Atchafalaya was more than the daily business of childhood. It encompassed resonances originating more than 250 years ago and still thrumming today. When, on the outing in Sherburne, I asked him for an example, he responded simply, “I carry it all with...
Chapter 3: Wildlife
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Before Earl and his parents moved to Robicheaux Street, they lived behind Adam’s barbershop on the Atchafalaya’s west bank in Berwick. The shop, on Front Street, was one block from the river, near the railroad bridge, so close you could hear the dusky foghorns and smell the fi shy water...
Chapter 4: Basin Education
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If frontier justice was alive in Earl’s lifetime, so was frontier education. Though the school boat days were long gone, Berwick High was sometimes short of teachers, and in 1969, when Earl enrolled there, hoping for instruction in biology, he signed up ...
Chapter 5: Outsider Artist
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Faced with a choice between becoming a mud engineer and anything else, Earl Robicheaux embarked on a twenty-year odyssey that took him away from home and back, twice. Like his biology teacher Randy Dooley’s two sojourns, one of Earl’s trips to “the outside” was short, the other long, and..
Chapter 6: Austin
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At midnight on New Year’s Eve, 1989, Earl and Vickie pulled into an apartment complex at Ben White and First Street, a busy corner in south Austin. Earl had rented a unit there, sight unseen, on the promise of trees, but the next morning he realized...
Chapter 7: Return to the Basin
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A few months after Earl moved to Houston, Eula, now eighty, fell and broke her shoulder. Earl quit his engineering assistant’s job at Stone & Webster, closed up his apartment, and went back to Berwick for two months to care for her. As soon as she...
Chapter 8: Field Notes
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When Earl created his soundscape for the Houma Arts Triptych, he joined a movement that had been around officially since 1993, when the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology originated. Describing itself as “an international association of affiliated organizations and individuals, who...
Chapter 9: Cancer and Katrina
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After he completed Atchafalaya Soundscapes in 2004, Earl made a few attempts to sell it in St. Mary Parish—in a Cuban restaurant, a framing shop, and the Yellow Bowl. But he had no instinct for marketing nor the wish to develop one. “I decided it was pointless to drive around, picking...
Chapter 10: State of the Basin
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One week in June, two years later, I left the same cabin at Lake Fausse Point and drove around the basin searching for unsentimental portrayals of the swamps. I needed to do it, I thought, or risk any credibility as an objective observer. I needed to remove...
Chapter 11: Turning Tides
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In February 2007, Voices of the Atchafalaya, the exhibit containing John Amrhein’s fifty-nine black-andwhite photographs and Earl’s sixty minute soundscape, opened in the Patterson museum. Friends, relatives, and St. Mary Parish residents thronged...
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Fewer than three months after the trip to the Atchafalaya Delta, I was back on Robicheaux Street with Earl and Eula, indulging in what Earl dubbed the Last Suppers. One evening we slurped enormous bowls of Gulf shrimp gumbo, prepared by a new health-care assistant, the first to...
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Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 37 b&w photos. CD. Index.
Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: Gulf Coast Books Series, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi