A Walk in the Woods

Last week, my mother and I took a drive to Clinton, Louisiana, a small town near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My family owns land there. Most of our acreage is wooded. The family uses it mainly for hunting and occasional family celebrations.

Under the strictest interpretation of our stay-at-home orders in Louisiana, I should not be entering her house. Yet, I have, and I will continue as needed when she needs food and essentials. Likewise, I should not be traveling at all according to our governor, John Bel Edwards. We decided to be rule-breakers.

older home in Clinton
Older cottage in Clinton

On Thursday afternoon, I travelled southwest to my mom’s house to pick her up for the journey. She lives alone. During this pandemic she’s become rather isolated. I stayed the afternoon and evening in bayou country with her, getting a few things for her at the local Walgreens.

We arrived in Clinton, Louisiana, around 11:30 on Friday morning. We picked up fried chicken from a local gas station. This gas station in Clinton is especially noted for its fried chicken. Although I was sorely tempted by the fried gizzards and livers on the menu, we chose

cottage in Clinton
Newer home in the town of Clinton

breasts, wings, and legs that were fried to a golden-orange crispy perfection. The order came with French fries, white rolls, and a choice of fountain drinks. We also received a small paper sack full of ketchup.

We drove along the highway past downtown Clinton, then turned down a dirt road. At the lodge in the woods, we ate our fried food, both of us sipping Dr. Pepper. The pieces of chicken were enormous. I don’t know who supplies the chickens for the gas station, but these were not young fryers such as one usually gets at Popeye’s. By the time we ended lunch, our paper cartons were filled with bones, suggesting we had consumed a bucket of chicken rather than a couple of combo orders.

dirt road to lodge
Dirt road leading to lodge

After a few minutes of looking around the lodge and outbuildings, we walked toward the pond. The rutted, clay path leads gently downward toward a small body of water that that was dug over a decade ago. As we walked, we were hemmed in by pine, oak and magnolia. Here and there, along the short route, we came upon a clearing or two, where hunters’ stands sit silent and patient, waiting for the fall’s deer season. With that season will come men and boys ready for the game.

The woods were quiet, save for the sound of song birds, heralding the relative mildness of spring in Louisiana. The day’s temperature topped in the low 70s with a stiff breeze. We saw no other animals as we walked, not even a rabbit that often are seen darting across the path amongst the trees. In the past, I’ve seen started deer and fawns, foxes and the occasional rattler. Not today. All was at rest.

lodge
The lodge in Clinton

When we reached the pond, I heard rather than saw, the existence of life. Amphibians or reptiles betrayed their presence by plopping into the waters as we approached. We saw bubbles and moving currents as the life on the edge of the pond made their way through the water. There are fish in these waters, but we didn’t take the time to cast a line. Instead, we contented ourselves with a fine view of a small pond surrounded by small pines and blossoming blackberry bushes.

wildflowers
Wildflowers along the way towards the pond

I reflected on a few things that brought peace to my heart. I enjoyed the beauty of nature as it turns from winter into spring, new life sprouting forth. The turmoil of a world turned upside down with a viral, invisible enemy cannot stop nature from its yearly rites of passage.

I also reflected on the good news that my sister is completely recovered from a bout of the coronavirus, covid-19. She had, fortunately a mild case. No hospital, no special regimen save for Tylenol for a fever. Her husband, most likely, had an even milder case, but their doctor refused to make an order for his test since he had no fever and suffered just a slight change in health. My sister was given an order for a test for flu and the virus at a drive-up facility in Baton Rouge where they live.

Within a day, the results showed negative for flu. After a week, in which she made great recovery, her case of covid-19 was confirmed. Most peculiarly, though often a sign of the new corona virus, they both lost their sense of smell and taste for a time. She remarked how strange it was, when preparing a roux, during her mild illness, the couple had not the slightest sense of smell. Even when they tasted the completed dish, shrimp etouffée, it yielded no taste for either of them. If you haven’t enjoyed etouffée, then you wouldn’t know how especially fragrant is the dish of seafood and tomatoes, roux and rice

At the lodge in the woods, we had lots of things to be grateful for: the fried chicken, the beauty of nature and the recuperation of my sister and husband. My mom and I decided to leave rather than stay the night. We broke our journey at my house in Abita Springs, then on to her house in bayou country on Saturday.

I hope to adhere to a stricter discipline for writing this week. I don’t plan on any travels this week, as I do my best, within reason, to adhere to orders to stay at home except for essential travel. The trip to the woods was not essential, but it was restorative.

 

9 thoughts on “A Walk in the Woods

  1. I can’t get over how beautiful is the area around where you live, particularly now that it’s still cool. My only visit to Louisiana was many years ago, on business, to Baton Rouge. What I most remember is that it was so drippy-hot, you could hardly stay outside very long, though I’m sure you get used to it.

    I don’t think anyone would object to your visiting your mom, who is living alone.

    It’s kind of curious, though, about your other relatives contracting the coronavirus. Do they have any idea how they could have picked it up? Not that it really matters, except as a point of curiosity.

    Glad you could clear up your mind and heart a bit after visiting your mom and walking around outside. Sounds like you had a happy Easter Sunday.

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    1. For much of the year, the weather is hot and humid in Louisiana. it’s nearly unbearable for much of the year. The winters are damp and cool. There are a few days in October and April that are tolerably cool with low humidity. Aside from these short seasons, I can’t recommend being here. Pictures lie – or better yet, simply do not show the depth of misery in our climate.

      As far as my sister and her husband, there seems to be no rhyme or reason why they contracted the virus. None of their known associates or friends had the virus nor did they attend mass gatherings or visit known hot spots. It’s a mystery.

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      1. I guess you won’t be working for the local tourism board, lol. I have a friend who is an anesthesiologist working in a New Orleans ER and he says it’s nuts up there trying to deal the virus cases. Here in San Miguel it’s a high desert climate, not as dry as Arizona, but we won’t be getting much rain until at least June. Enjoy the month of April.

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  2. Congrats to your sister and brother-in-law for kicking the Kung Flu.They demonstrate what is often overlooked in these troubled days, and that is that most cases are mild. Few people, proportionally speaking, die. Most do not even require hospitalization. Yet, we remain hysterical.

    Fried gizzards and livers? Egad! That reminds me of the old joke: Do you know why giblet gravy is called that? Because if you called it what it really is, no one would eat it.

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    1. Yes, i am grateful that my family members had a mild case. I don’t know if people are hysterical actually. I find most people in my circle are resolute and sober-minded but not hysterical. I don’t actually eat the innards of chickens, but it made the piece more interesting.

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  3. Thanks for being a law-breaker on our behalf — and, more importantly, on behalf of your mother. I enjoyed the trip, though I would have liked a piece of that chicken. Nowhere on Earth is fried chicken made as it is in the South.

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  4. The fried chicken was really good as is the case often in out of the way places in the South. Fried chicken is very popular in Honduras as well. I recall that the Honduran capital had many fried chicken vendors. Popeye’s and Church’s were popular there, too. I heard that fried chicken has its roots in Africa which may account for its popularity in the South. As far as Honduras, the population there is a mix of indigenous, African and European populations. I think the African and or Caribbean influence is quite strong in the culture and cuisine of Honduras, just as it is in New Orleans and the areas surrounding that city.

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    1. And let us not overlook fried catfish! There is no fried catfish as I know it in Mexico. The last time I had great fried catfish was in a rural restaurant in southern Alabama as I drove to Atlanta about 12 years ago. I do miss fried catfish.

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      1. Fried catfish is quintessentially Southern. However, I grew up in that peculiar region of the South, the Cajun bayou region, where catfish was not typically served in homes or restaurants. We grew up with fried shrimp, fried oysters and broiled flounder. Yet, today, it has made many inroads into these parts. Catfish and hush puppies are popular in most seafood eateries nowadays. I don’t particularly enjoy catfish. I do make exception when visiting Middendorf’s which is near New Orleans and serves most excellent fried catfish.

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