I remember when as a young twenty nine year old man from Michigan who came to Golden Meadow and Grand Isle to work as a deck hand on a boat for the winter of 1979, how big the oil field and all the massive amounts of boats, pipe, mud, generators, equipment, and huge rigs that were on the horizon as I approached. I loved the white Egrets along the narrow road to Grand Isle and the marshes full of ducks and green grasses. I was looking for gators, but saw none. I did not know that they were shy and only came out at night. Being all full of energy and stupid, I felt such a sense of beauty of the swamp, because I raised beagles and hunted in Michigan swamps. Here were simple large shrimp boats that were going in and out of Grand Isle at a slow and steady rate. I got the groceries on the boat and stowed my gear to the sweating thick sunny bayou smells of the edge of the gulf. My captain constantly yelling at me about how dumb I was.Yet, once I had established that we were going to leave in the morning, I was trained as to how to run the eighty five foot Mary C. (Not knowing that I was going to be sent out into Hurricane Fredrick on her to possibly die to collect insurance money for the owners because I was a "useless stupid long haired Yankee".
Try to get into Fuchon Pass in 35 foot seas with one and a half engines.) So, after I learned the basics of the boat as to how she steered, the water cannon, the generators, the radio call, and the fire safety, I went off to walk around a bit. Being very green to the area and the Gulf, I saw an older gentleman who cought my eye by one of the shrimp boats tied up doing some repairs. I told him who I was and where I was from. He seemed to like me. I asked him if he grew up in that area. He smiled and said, "Boy, when I was young this was a beautiful place. We did not have any of this here. We had so much seafood. We had ducks flying over until they almost blackened the sky. I remember as a young man with my father, we would shoot ducks from daylight until dark. We would fill our boat until it almost would capsize. Then we would sell them after we cleaned them to the restaurants in New Orleans. I really feel badly now looking back at that. I mean just look at the blessings of this State of Louisiana of what we were given here in rich resources.. the shrimp,.. the fish.. the beautiful marshes.. the Gulf.. the swamps.. and I have seen all of it in my time. But, my son, just look at what we have done to this land. You do not know. We have carved the marshes looking for oil until they bleed salt water into the brackish water and that kills the vegetation. We have over harvested the game and fish until there are few of what we had so much of.. and then we are doing it again. And now look at this oil mess that we are calling prosperity out there on the horizon. We are just rolling the dice again and again until we loose the game like a drunken gambler. So, when it all goes to hell and the oil washes the coast and kills everything there will be some who will say, "Why did we do it?" But, myself, I know it will happen, and I will do what I am doing right now... " and the old man sat down and started to cry. "You are new here. You don't have to live here your whole life and raise your family here. You don't know the marshes and the birds and the fish and the little creatures that are so beautiful. You can go home to Michigan. This is my home. So, when you look at the whole oil industry and what it is doing to us and to our land. It is like prostitution, my son. We are the whores who are selling out and our souls for the dollar. I know it will come. I hope you have a good time and enjoy the beauty of the Gulf and this great part of God's Green Earth. I know it will make you a better man to have come here to be part of our great State of Louisiana. You will learn a lot, Gary. But mark my word. I remember when we had more when we had less. We are too greedy and are destroying our beautiful Gulf and marshes for what?.. I cannot believe it. You have to go back to your boat now. This is all I can say without crying again. God Bless You, my boy, don't forget what I have told you now."
I lived with a boat captain who attempted to make some money selling Lucky Dogs because he had drank all his up. He gave his drivers license to the owner of the cart to go out into the street and sell the hot dogs. He worked all morning and was almost out of hot dogs when someone came and replenished his supply. He did not keep track of how many hot dogs he had sold or how many that were given to him when he got more. After more than twelve hours he arrived back with his cart where he began. He admitted to having eaten a few because he was broke and hungry. His total charges for the condiments, pepsi, and hot dogs was ten dollars less than he had made for the whole day. He was outraged and started an argument until he realized that he needed his drivers license back. He took the ten dollars and went to the nearest bar and drank up all of it except for what he needed for the street car in order to return to my apartment uptown. Being that he was still angry, he proceeded to drink all of my beer as well. I was forced to give him enough money to buy a bus ticket back towards Golden Meadow. Then I had to give him enough for a night at the Teriot Hotel so he would not have to sleep on the street. Ignatius was his brother I think.
Gary Kent Keyes
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