I added a four-pound largemouth to the stringer and eased it back over the boat's side. Laying down my rod, I relaxed for the first time in two hours of strenuous fishing. Being careful not to upset the tipsy pirogue, I stretched my cramped arm and shoulder muscles.
Then, as the young Cajun guide, Papite Broussard, slowly paddled the long, cigar-shaped boat down the familiar bayou, I glanced around me.
Everything was as I remembered it—the murky, shallow water, the imposing cypress trees dripping with streamers of Spanish moss, the stately herons and Indian hens going about the business of living with dignity, even the noisy kingfishers, skimming over the water and startling the swamp with rackety cries.
I could see that Papite was regarding me with interest. "The bayou, you like him, hein?"
When I admitted that I did, he sat thinking for a moment, then observed, "All of the bayou is good, M'sieu. But me, I like best the �crevisse, the crawfish, for with him I make the gumbo. And the gumbo—well, only le bon Dieu can know how good the gumbo is."
I was on the bayou mainly to fish, of course, but when I planned the trip from Texas to Houma, Louisiana—my mother's birthplace—I also had determined to enjoy all the Acadian dishes I remembered so well from my childhood. And here was an opportunity to sample practically every Cajun treat in one evening. "Papite," I ventured, "you know how much I enjoyed the hospitality last night at your Tante Th�r�se's house. But I have never attended a real all-night fais-do-do [Cajun corruption of f�te-Dieu, or Corpus Christi Day]. Can you get me invited to the one coming up tonight?"
For a moment Papite looked at me in surprise. Then he said reproachfully, "Why you want to go by fais-do-do? My Tante Th�r�se, she not fix plenty of gumbo, bisque, stouffe [meat stew] and boiled crawfish, no?"
Patiently I expounded on his tante's cooking, and the demitasses of thick, black coffee and chicory she had served us during the previous night of music and talk. Then I played my trump card. The fais-do-do is almost always an exclusive affair that few outsiders are allowed to attend. Party crashers are sometimes even chased away with guns and knives. That was why Papite was so upset. However, relatives or friends of relatives are welcome in any Cajun home and at any Cajun festival.
"You mean you don't want to invite your own cousin, three times removed?" I asked in a hurt tone of voice. "The husband of a sister of my very own mother was a cousin of Renard Broussard. Does that not make us relatives?"
Instantly Papite's swarthy face lighted up, and he smiled. "Ah oui! Why you not say? Now it can be arranged."