You might think that directions are easy to follow. I mean, you can’t really mess up North, South, East, and West, can you? Well, leave it to Cajuns to change things.
You see, for the longest time I had no idea what was north, south, east, or west. Not because I wasn’t taught, but because we don’t use those words when we’re giving directions. No, here, things are either “up the bayou” (north) or “down the bayou” (south). There are variations, of course, like “You’re gonna come to Roland’s, turn right on the bridge and go down the bayou aways until you see the Lion’s Club.”
You see, the towns around here were built around the bayous. Communities sprouted up next to the waterways which were the easiest means of getting around the area. Bayous are everywhere. There’s the bigger bayous, then the smaller canals. In the old days, roads were apparently for wimps. My mom talks about how at one time barges used to come down the main bayou in town. Now though, the bayous are mostly unused except for fishing or dredging. Which is a shame really, they’re lovely.
Now for the real lesson. It isn’t just a matter of saying down the bayou or up the bayou. You have to say it correctly. It isn’t “down the bayou” it’s “down da baya”. If you’re in Terrebonne Parish, it’s down Bayou Terrebonne and if you’re going down the bayou, you’re heading into towns like Chauvin, Montegut, and eventually, you’ll read Cocodrie. If you’re in Lafourche Parish, you’re driving along Bayou Lafourche and going down the bayou brings you to towns like Larose, Cut Off (birth place of the Cajun Cannon, Bobby Hebert), Golden Meadow and eventually Grand Isle.
If you’re from Terrebonne Parish talking with someone from Lafourche Parish and say you’re going down the bayou, they might think you’re going down Bayou Lafourche. Funny, huh?
So what kind of strange directions do you have in your area? Is there a landmark everyone uses as a compass, like our bayous?