A chance night at the Chitimacha Casino

Lafayette to Chitimacha

Somewhere a distant train horn echoes through the warm morning air. That very American of noises audibly signalling that I’ve woken in another world, another time. A humid night slept under the bow of great trees. 

The camp warden, a rotund man bursting out of his very seams peered over his wire rims and warned against hitching across interstate 10.  There are only two trails to get to New Orleans from Lafayette. That was one, the other which he recommended goes via the Atchafalaya and traces the Teche bayou all the way south to Morgan city. It influenced the trail vote. 

We rode heavy traffic south to escape the city. Riding the old Spanish trail into an ominous and building sky. It was the very fringe of tropical storm Imelda and we just managed to make shelter as it arrived. Dense humidity turned torrent, we had little option but to wait it out.

Backroads soon turned to cane. The traditional plantation crop in these parts. Mile after mile of manicured green against a lush tree-line of bayou and swamp.

We crossed the old iron bridge into Jeanerette, old, rickety and raw. With its blend of well maintained french colonial homes, marbled with the all too familiar chaotic scrabble of trailor-parks and shacks. We ordered what we could from the 5th generation Le Jeane bakery and pushed on south, tracing the still and deep waters of the Teche, passing a woman bowing to the earth, hand tilling family fields of okra and maize.

Then it happened

Just a hundred metres ahead we watched as a truck, strayed, struck, tumbled and slid its way down the road towards us. Trailing a wake of broken axles, wheel bits, fenders and shattered glass. First on scene, we removed the sole occupant and did what we could to support the emergency services that were appearing on mass from every direction.

The driver as it turned out came from the local reservation. He was a Native American. A people Horse was keen to discover, but just not under these circumstances.  As a token of their appreciation John …. (a reservation elder) offered for us to stay at their own casino and hotel – the Cypress Bayou. And after a time giving statements and helping with the mess we gave thanks and rode on. Another typical Clueless day where discovery awaits around any bend. 

It was well into dusk, the air still and heavy with heat. The smells of cooks kitchen perfuming the air. We passed old weathered homes with African American ladies fanning to cool off from day. They sat swaying on their porches and gently nodded at our passing. Today felt south. 

We were on our way to a Casino in the middle of nowhere. On tribal land surrounded in the cane.

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