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  2 Exploring the Bayou I WANTED TO SEE THE BAYOU from the inside before delving into its history, so I found a genial young man with a small motorboat. He was a local resident who had often fished Manchac with his father. It was a place he liked going, he confessed, but they had never caught many fish there. We entered from the mouth, on the bayou’s eastern end at the Amite River, and crossed a surprisingly distinctive shredded linethatmarkswherethebrisk,toffee-coloredflowof thelargerAmite accepts the clear, languid, tea-colored water of Bayou Manchac. The bayou channel seemed confined and intimate between treelined banks; the hum of the little outboard sang baritone to a chorus of buzzing insects. Swirls of emerald green duckweed and tiny fire-red trumpet flowers bobbed on the flat water like decorations in a punch bowl. Occasionally ripples broke the water as a fish surfaced. Once, we passed a flotilla of young mullet swimming together, their pointed heads above water and moving in synchronized motion like a comedic water ballet. The bayou in places was strikingly, surprisingly beautiful. One long reach was lined with towering cypress, handsome live oaks, sycamore, walnut, ash, and magnolia that formed a green archway . Ropey, heavy-leaved vines dangled to the water like exotically WINDING THROUGH TIME 2 beaded curtains. Along the low mud banks, a forest of palmettos waving spiky hands stood amid clusters of ruddy cypress knees that rose as elegant and artful from the mud as the modeled sculptures of Henry Moore. Elsewhere, the bank was shrouded with stands of cane, as thick and impenetrable as early explorers’ accounts described them. A gray and white belted kingfisher chittered and darted along the bayou ahead of us like a scout, landing briefly on the limb of a large tree fallen across the channel. The bird seemed oblivious to the raft of debris—white Styrofoam cups, blue plastic jugs, slashed black garbage bags—that bobbed against the upstream side of his perch. In the kingfisher’s wake, the whispery, white flutter of a snowy egret moved the still air and, from somewhere, a barred owl committed a series of melancholy hoots. No bridge crossed the channel in the first five miles west of the Amite save a span of silver filament that reached from bank to bank across the chasm of more than fifty feet. In its center hung an intricately woven spiderweb, its creator clinging to the laciest inner inch of the square netting. As a soft breeze rustled the web, this engineering marvel swayed on its axis, tilting gracefully, primed to snare the next hapless visitor. Such stretches of residual wilderness beauty make the bayou seem removed from civilization. Yet just around the next gentle bend might be a string of wooden shacks hard by trailers raised on cinder blocks and rustic camps with antennae sprouting from their roofs with dilapidated piers crumbling into the water. Or there may be a development of elegant houses and landscaped gardens with an incongruous black-and-white sign decorating their view of the bayou: PIPELINE: DO NOT DREDGE. The few residents visible were as diverse a group as the buildings . A red-haired boy of eight or nine skidded his dirt bike down 3 the steep mud bank and huffed back up again; an elderly, whitehaired woman, reduced to a great amorphous, white-sheeted form, endured an outdoor haircut; a clean-shaved executive type in a crisp,pink,enjoy-the-weekend polo shirt leaned from a well-tended wooden dock to scowl at his limp fishing line; a rough-looking,barechested man in green camouflage cutoffs leaned under the hood of a battered truck in a yard filled with machine parts. Along several miles of the north bank, the neighbors included small herds of Holsteins and Herefords clustered at tree-shaded fence lines, grazing laconically, observing our passage. The first bridge across the channel rose on stork legs, rumbling with car and truck traffic. Only this crossing—the old Jefferson Highway bridge—and a weathered railroad trestle nearby were elevated across the bayou. The other roadways run flat, at road grade bank to bank, clearly designed with no consideration for boat traffic. Ten miles west of the Amite River entrance, Bayou Manchac abruptly dead-ends. A great swath of overgrowth hides the ditch that Manchac becomes. Beyond this point, the Manchac channel is mostly dry, its bed a wild...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780807135778
Print ISBN
9780807132531
MARC Record
OCLC
609855709
Pages
192
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
N
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