“So do we just pick any-a-these and hop in, Emmett?”
“I dunno, that’s what I was gunna do…”
We hadn’t even boarded the boat yet and our tour guide had begun the dad jokes.
“Hold on tight!” Emmett shouted as we jetted off into the murky moss-colored waters of the Mississippi River.
I realized he wasn’t just saying that to be chivalrous as I nearly tipped off into the land of gators, clutching the edge of my steel bench for life. I stared off at shore, watching the drooping Cypress trees melt into a mirage of pesto linguini until my eyes began to water from the wind. Whipping around the bend, the motor slid into a low purr and I swear we were about to go under as a tsunami-entitled wave taunted me from the rear end of the boat. Reaching the stern and splitting, the water swirled back into its place below us.
Two Great Blue Herons waded in the weeds, taking one good look at us and then flying off to find a more peaceful area where they wouldn’t be bothered by the floating paparazzi who were pointing and snapping pictures of them trying to enjoy their brunch.
Moving along, we crept through the swamp, eyes peeled for more wildlife.
“Do you guys wanna see a snake?”
I thought this was another one of those dad jokes until Emmett nearly backed up the boat into the sleeping monster resting on a tree stump. I added this to the list of things I was not prepared for.
“We’ve gotta ton-a-snakes out here. Gotta be careful ’cause they like to go up in the trees. If I run into the wrong tree, it’ll actually knock the guy right outta there and he’ll land on our roof–might even make his way into the boat–happened before. Anyway, yeah, there’s some poisonous ones out here–“
“Like Water Moccasins?” asked a little boy who knew way too much about this subject.
“Yeah, like Water Moccasins,” replied Emmett, a bit too casually.
A raccoon was slinking through the Tepelo tree roots, keeping her eyes locked on us while following alongside on the shore. I grew up always thinking that raccoons awake during the daytime had rabies, so I was no less surprised than any of the other tourists.
“Here, kitty!” Emmett tossed something into the shallows and the raccoon sprinted after it like a dog getting table food.
“We give ’em protein snacks. Figure if marshmallows and hotdogs aren’t good for us, they probably aren’t good for them. This is the same food they give the animals in zoos.”
Chugging along, not more than a football field later, we met our next guests: Water Rats. Okay, they’re actually called Nutria, but I prefer their street name. Picture a rat the size of a dog that swims in swamps. I know, terrifying. To make it even better, Nutria have two buckteeth that are almost permanently stained red from all of the foliage they eat. Have fun sleeping tonight.
I was really hoping to meet their horrendous brother from another mother [Feral Hogs], but we didn’t have any luck in that category. However, Emmett helped paint quite a clear vision with his words.
“Feral hogs are like the most invasive species we got here. They do so much land damage and reproduce almost as fast as rabbits. There’s open huntin’ on ’em year round and there’s literally no rules. You can hit one with a fire blaster and no one would bat an eye. I actually saw this YouTube video from this guy in Texas and he baited ’em into this field ’til there was like 20 of ’em out there, then dynamite’d the whole place. Parts everywhere. It was crazy. I’m sorry. I probably shouldn’t have said that. Anyway, you guys got any questions?”
“How many crayfish can you eat in a minute?” a Karen in the front row asked.
I’m sorry, but why? Why was that ever a question that crossed her mind and furthermore why did she think it was a good idea to say it out loud.
“Ehhhhh, maybe like 15-20,” said Emmett, unphased.
New Orleans really hits different.
Now, making our final loop back to where we began, we took the scenic route to see some of the grand estates along the river. These houses can only be accessed by boat and all rest on stilts due to the soft soil. Unfortunately, the ground doesn’t always sink evenly, so the homes were tilted this way and that, still somehow afloat. However, not all were that lucky.
Ever since Hurricane Katrina hit back in 2005, Louisiana hasn’t been the same. The place has been through a lot and not everything could be recovered. Houses and boats jutted out of the cloudy currents, symbolizing that they were there to stay, but their time has passed. I’m sure they’ve found a second life, and maybe the alligators enjoy the couches and the turtles the barstools. At least that’s what I’d like to think.
Docking the boat, we symbolized our own ending of the times and said a gracious goodbye to our impulsive tour guide, Emmett. I can only imagine what he was planning on doing with his free time the rest of the day. Have fun breaking that crawfish record, until next time.