[Original post: September 19, 2005]
We're back in central Louisiana (Cenla, as it's known around here) because, really, why spend time in leafy, breezy Iowa City when there are 100-degree days going begging here down in the Deep South? The heat is absolutely ferocious, and the ongoing lack of rain has made everything parched and dusty. Activity is confined to a pestilence of love bugs. Love bugs are not cute: they look like the obese cousins of mosquitoes, and swarm towards any light (especially light-colored houses, where they infiltrate through gaps in the boards and disperse over window panes, white-painted shelves, the fridge, T-shirts, etc). I have personally killed tens of thousands of these insects. Last night, I kept waking up because I imagined them landing on my head and crawling down my top. This morning, I discovered that this was only a slight exaggeration: my bed was crawling with ants. It's like Out of Africa down here, except without the safari suits and European accents.
The picture posted above was taken yesterday, Sunday, at the annual Frog Festival in Rayne, a small town on the Cajun Prairie. We attended not only the frog-jumping contest at that festival, but also the annual Festivals Acadiens in nearby Lafayette, where there were Cajun bands, great food and craft stalls selling everything from accordions to chainsaw-carved wooden fish. Although it was almost too hot to stand up, a number of people were dancing in the dust in front of the stage, including one half-naked man using a stick as a substitute partner. From the stage, it was announced that next year the Festivals Acadiens will be held in October, news that elicited a weary cheer from the baked audience. (The Shrimp and Petroleum Festival in Morgan City, which we attended last year, has been postponed until early next month.)
The main point of this post is to thank everyone in Iowa City and St. Louis, as well as other readers of this blog, for their extremely generous donations to the shelter in Marksville. We returned on Friday with a packed car - books from Aunt Pat, beautiful baby clothes from Holly and Bob (and Lily, who is perhaps unaware that her infant wardrobe has been ransacked), huge amounts of paper goods and baby formula and other necessities from Pat and Mike. These were all delivered to the shelter on Saturday morning - except for the beef jerky, which I gave to the Avoyelles Parish National Guard: they were having a snack drive for local Guardsmen sent to New Orleans.
Today we went to Wal-Mart with the money raised from Paige's art sale on Saturday night and bought toiletries, underwear and more paper goods for the shelter. The woman on the front desk asked us for towels, so tomorrow we'll head into Alexandria to use some of the Target cards people have sent.
On Wednesday, our zip code will be admitted back into the city for clean-up, unless the federal government decides to interfere. Our landlord, Paul, has already seen our place, and thinks that nothing can be salvaged from downstairs. Today we bought lots of heavy-duty cleaning stuff to take in with us. We'll need to take our own water in as well, of course. Our electricity isn't back on yet, unsurprisingly. We have no plans to move home until November at the earliest.
One additional item of interest from the drive north: listening to the radio as we passed through Memphis, I learned that there's been a mini-crime surge there since the hurricane, and, as a result, no plea bargains will be permitted for crimes against evacuees.