Westlake to Charenton, Louisiana

Friday, February 17, 2012

We got up earlier than normal this morning, did our morning chores and got underway.  The park in Westlake was very nice and they were kind enough to allow me to use their meeting room and a table for my final day of work on Thursday.  That was very helpful as I had a big set of plans to search through on this phase of the job.  But we were ready to move on, so on we moved.  We needed to do a bit of shopping to resupply, so we found the nearest Walmart and showed our appreciation for their gracious hosting.

As soon as we left Westlake we realized why it is called Westlake.  We headed east and immediately crossed another one of those tall bridges and found ourselves in Lake Charles which is east of the lake. Anyway we were hungry so we found a little restaurant called Southern Spice.  It was very nice and we had a very southern, very comforting breakfast.  After that we decided to meander down to the coast to see what we could see.  We headed for a place called Cameron and here is what we found.

In 1879 aug 23rd A hurricane with winds of 105mph hit just west while moving north. A 12 ft storm surge destroyed many buildings.
In 1882 Sept 14th, another 105mph hurricane hit, but no info is available.
In 1886 June 14th a 95mph hurricane hit from the SW, no more info.
In 1886 oct 12th, a 120mph hurricane hit from the south ,a 9 ft storm surge and winds blew for 36 hrs, most houses were removed from foundations due to storm surge. 196 killed & hundreds of cattle killed
In 1897 Sept 13th an 85mph hurricane hit from the ESE
1918 August 6th, a 120mph hurricane hit from the SSE . It struck without warning. Gusts to 125mph. Overall heavy damage 34 killed.
In 1938 Aug 14th, a 75mph hurricane hit from the south. No info.
In 1940 aug 7th an 80mph hurricane hit from the ESE ,6 killed 5ft storm surge slow moving dumped 21 inches of rain.
In 1957 hurricane Audrey , 145mph from the south thousands of buildings destroyed june 27th. Between 90 and 95 percent of the buildings in Cameron and Lower Vermilion Parishes were damaged beyond repair. 13 ft storm surge. 556 killed and over 40,000 homeless in Louisiana.
1971 Sept 16th, 90mph Edith from the S.W. Heavy damage to sugarcane crops.
1985 Aug 15th,Hurricane danny passes just east from the south with 90mph winds
1985 Oct 28th, Hurricane Juan hits just S.E with 85mph winds from the south before turning east.
1986 June 26th hurricane Bonnie, 85mph from the SSE passes to the west.
2005 Sept 24th Hurricane Rita hits with 120mph winds from the SSE. High storm surge in many areas of Vermillion parish with very heavy damage.
2008 Sept 13th Hurricane Ike passes to the S.W with 110mph winds while moving into Galveston from the ESE

What we saw were hundreds of driveways leading to concrete slabs with no houses on them.  What houses we did see were mostly mobile homes, the occasional FEMA trailer and all were on stilts from 8′ to 12′ high.  Now I have a question.  Why do people live here?  Is it the shrimp and crab harvest?  

It is a very interesting landscape.  There seems to be at least as much water as land.  There are canals and marshes everywhere.  When a bridge crosses a canal it is either a draw bridge or a very high bridge. 

They are all inter-coastal waterways. They supply transportation from the Gulf to inland cities, carrying crude to the refineries.  From San Antonio, Texas all the way to Lake Charles, Louisiana there must be a hundred giant oil refineries.

At some point we reached a medium sized town called Abbeville.  We found a restaurant there called The Riverfront Louisiana Grill.  Lucy had shrimp prepared 3 different ways.  I had crab prepared three different ways.  It was quite good, but it was also Margarita Friday.  I still had a ways to drive, so Lucy had more fun than me.

You may have read in earlier blog posts that Lucy kind of has a thing for taking pictures of birds.  We kept seeing these beautiful white birds in the marshes.  Long legs and neck, sharp black beak.  I’m guessing some kind of stork or crane.  Anyway she wanted to get a photo of one of these birds but they were too far away to take a good picture and if they were close to the road, they would fly away when we slowed down.  There was one, though, that seemed to be staying put.  I slowed down and Lucy got ready.  It still had not flown and as we passed by. Now I’m not saying anything for sure, but I have to wonder if it was her eyesight or those two Margaritas, but Lucy snapped a photo of the most beautiful white plastic bag hung up on a bush, that you are ever likely to see.  I could not find the photo.  I suspect it was mysteriously deleted.

Another short drive and we found ourselves at another casino to spend the night.  Lucy is out there somewhere with her machines as I sit here with an adult beverage and write. This casino is called Shorty’s at Cypress Bayou.  It is owned and operated by a Louisiana tribe called  The Chitimacha. The following is not my writing but an excerpt from a web site.  It is a story that is becoming very familiar to me as we cross this country.

Around 500 A.D., the final vestiges of the vast Roman Empire were disappearing from Europe, ushering in the beginning of modern history. Around the same time some 7,000 miles away on another continent, the Chitimacha were beginning settlement on land around the bayous of what is now Southern Louisiana

The Chitimacha lived in peace and tranquility for hundreds of years. Until in the early 1700’s, marauding bands of heavily armed Frenchmen, often allied with Acolapissa Indians and other tribes, began slaving raids that touched off conflicts which escalated into a devastating twelve-year war for the Chitimacha.

In 1727, the Chitimacha settlement was discovered west of the Mississippi River, although many had thought that the entire tribe was either destroyed or enslaved as a result of the long war. Several years later, more Chitimacha were found living near what is now known as Charenton, Louisiana, the site of today’s Chitimacha Reservation.

Over the following hundred years, further encroachment from French, Spanish and United States settlers hampered renewed growth of the remaining Chitimacha. In the mid-1800’s,  the Chitimacha were forced to sue the United States for confirmation of title to the Tribal land. This resulted in a governmental decree establishing an area of 1,062 acres as Chitimacha land. In subsequent years, taxation forced sales and continued litigation reduced that amount down to 260 acres.

In the face of hardships, and the rigors of prejudice and discrimination, during the first half of the 20th century, the Chitimacha held fast to what remained of their original homeland, and became the only tribe in Louisiana to have endured. Today about 350 Tribal members live on the Chitimacha Reservation. Total Tribal membership is approximately 950.

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