Vermilion Parish is one of the larger parishes in Louisiana. Much of it's area consists of bayous, canals, lakes and marshland. It is now called a "sportsman's Paradise," but I can remember what it was like before it became so commercialized, when people earned their living in the marshlands, trapping animals for the fur trade in the winter, and harvesting seafood all year round. I was raised eating wild game, and today it is still a treat when my youngest son, Robbie, brings me venison sausage, or when Kristina's paran brings me a wild goose to make a gumbo.
Oyster season includes any month of the year that has an "r" in it. If they are harvested in May, June or July, they tend to be milky. I remember my Dad bringing my two older brothers along when he and some of his friends went out to the Gulf to harvest oysters, usually in the winter. They brought them home in large gunny sacks and stored them under the house where it was damp and cool, until they had time to shuck them.
I used to sit and watch while my Dad and Grandpa shucked oysters, and once in a while, when he found an especially nice one, Grandpa would give it to me to eat right off the half-shell. I still like raw oysters. They were, until just a few years ago, a very important part of every family's Christmas dinner.
There were so many hunters and trappers trafficking the marshes and waterways in those days, that the Sheriff had a boat that he would send out if anyone was reported late in returning from a hunting or fishing trip.
Several times, when my Dad had not returned home from such a trip when he'd said he would, my mother sent word to the Sheriff, and he sent his boat out to find them. Every time, he found that Dad had just decided to stay out an extra day or two because the fishing was so good, or the ducks were flying and he wanted to get a few more to bring home. Finally, after once such incident, my Dad teased my mother about being so worried about him and said, "You should know by now that your man can take care of himself."
Well, soon after that, Dad and took my brothers and a friend of his went out to harvest oysters. The boat's motor broke down on the way back, and they had to pole all the way home, along the shore of Vermilion Bay, until they finally got to Intracoastal City. They were three days getting home, they had run out of food, and the only water they had to drink was some they had dipped out of the bay and boiled on a little kerosene stove Dad kept on the boat. My brother Jay vowed that he would never eat another raw oyster!
When they got home, Dad asked Mom, "Why didn't you send the Sheriff's boat out to find us?" Mom's reply? "I wasn't worried. My man told me he could take care of himself."
Copyright © 2001 Aline T. Meaux, Abbeville, LA
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