When I first saw the show, Swamp People, I was a little sceptical ..I'd never had much to do with swamps in Louisiana before, so what would I find remotely interesting about a bunch of people boating about swampland shooting alligators? I had no idea where this show would end up leading me...but I'll get to that part later. As soon as I saw my first episode of Swamp People, I was hooked. Choot im', became the catch phrase in our household (even my six year old was saying it) and big one was used far too many times in situations it had never been designed to use before..Troy Laundry changed our life! Okay, maybe that's going a little overboard, but he certainly added a certain Cajun spice to it.
But my favourite swamper, after Troy of course, would have to be Jacob, he's the quintessential strong, silent type. I reckon he'd make a great character in a book...I may have to write one once I do a little bit of research!
After Swamp People more shows began turning up on a Thursday night; Rat Bastards, which I have to admit I watch more from a morbid curiosity (much like that of watching a train wreck about to take place) and learning far more about large creepy looking rats than I ever wanted to know...not to mention the disturbing discovery that bib and brace overalls were still an in item and hot new fashion trend; meet Skeeter. Then there's Squirrel...I'll let you ponder that one for a moment,but I have to say, I kinda have a thing for Shane, the former Marine with a killer Louisiana accent....but by now you're all used to my Military thing so that probably comes as no great surprise!
Then there's Gator Boys, but that's a bit further around the corner I think more around Florida way? (Don't quote me on this.)
Don't even get me started on Operation Repo...but we won't go there, this is about Louisiana.It would take a whole blog, just to talk about Sonia.
Which brings me to how watching Swamp People has lead me down a path I would never have imagined. In September, Will and I are going to the States! It was a trip we'd been talking about doing, but not one we really thought we'd do just yet, but when our chief babysitter's suggested we should do it this year while they were home, (before they took off again for whatever part's unknown trip they were planning on taking,) we were down booking the trip before they'd even finished talking!
While we were planning where to go while we were over there, the one place we unanimously agreed on HAD to be Louisiana to go and see where Swamp People was filmed. Who would have thought? had it not been for the show, we'd probably have never thought about heading down that way. The added bonus to all of this was that by going down to Louisiana, I would also be able to finally meet my lovely Facebook friend, who is also one of my favourite authors, Rhonda Raymond Dennis.
Now, I know how popular these shows are down here, if my Facebook and twitter is anything to go by, there are heaps of Swamp People tragics glued to our tv's and talking about the show, so I thought why not take the opportunity to ask someone who really knows about this stuff, a few questions and get the inside info on Louisiana and the real Swamp People.
This is Rhonda, a lovely friend of mine who will be showing Will and I around her neck of the woods (or, rather, swamp) in September and here's her answers to a few questions I asked her.
Me; So, the big question here Rhonda...are rats really eaten in Louisiana? And what was the name you called them by?
Rhonda: I’m seriously laughing out loud right now. Okay, let’s clarify the difference between rats and nutria. Rats are the larger version of mice—you know, squeak, squeak. Nutria are in the rodent family, but they are much larger and actually, quite cute! They have large orange teeth and almost resemble a beaver in appearance. However, they are terrible for our wetlands and destroy our marshes. Some people do eat them, and swear that they are delicious. I haven’t been brave enough to try them. I’m sending you a picture of my son holding a baby nutria.
How can you call that precious little thing a rat?
Me: Okay, Rhonda, I love ya and all, but you and I have SERIOUS differences about what we call cute! Hello! Orange teeth? I've SEEN them drag those suckers out of the swamp...they are NOT cute! But we can look past that, as long as I don't have to eat one at your place, I'm happy. (I seriously doubt Troy would eat Nutria either...just sayin').
Me: Do every day, grown men, really dress in bib and brace overalls with no shirt underneath in Louisiana?
Rhonda: Laughing even harder now! Actually, it depends on where you’re at. For the most part, no. They are more well known for wearing white rubber boots (shrimpers, fishermen, etc.). The joke is that white rubber boots are called Cajun Reeboks. Most of the guys I’ve seen in the bib and brace overalls have mainly been older men and have thankfully worn t-shirts underneath.
Me: I'll have unpack the overalls now I had packed for Will...lucky I asked...that could have been embarrassing. I'll go look for some white rubber boots instead.
Me: In Macksville, we have a river that gets well used with various kinds of boating activities like water skiing, wave boarding etc. and fishing…do you guys do many water activities..(guessing skiing and swimming are out due to alligators?)
Rhonda: You’d think that skiing and swimming would be out, but actually that’s far from the case. In the summer, the waterways are filled with boaters, swimmers, and such. Alligators are fairly passive for the most part, so if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone. That being said, it’s incredibly eerie not being able to see what’s around you. The water has a high sediment content, so let’s say you stick your arm in the water; you’re not going to be able to see your hand. Things bump your legs or your body and you can’t help but freak a little.
Me: Freak a little? I'd be walking on water at that stage.Note to self...no water skiing while in Louisiana.
Me: Has the popularity of the shows like Swamp People and Rat Bastards boosted your tourism? Or is it just weird Aussies like me who want to come down your way to see if we can catch a glimpse of Troy!
Rhonda: Amazingly enough, shows like Swamp People, Rat Bastards, and Swamp Pawn have boosted tourism greatly! I had a brief conversation with Troy Landry of Swamp People and he told me that he was surprised by the number of Australian tourists that have been coming to visit. I hope that those who have visited enjoyed their stay and were able to see first hand how amazing the Cajun culture truly is! Future vistors—bienvenue!!! (Welcome!)
Me: In Australia, the backyard BBQ (also referred to as the Barbie...not to be confused with the doll) is a pretty fundamental part of our lifestyle. Can you explain a little more about your seafood broil and what it involves?
Rhonda: In Louisiana, there are three main types of seafood that we boil: blue crabs, shrimp, and crawfish. The technique is pretty much the same for all of them, but the amount of time that you let them cook is what changes. So, let’s say we’re having crawfish. We find a fisherman selling them and we’ll buy a sack (which weighs between 30 to 40 pounds and feeds around 8 people). After giving the live crawfish a good rinsing off, we start season our boiling water. This all has to happen outdoors because the pots used to boil the seafood are massive and large propane burners are used to heat the water. (It almost sounds like a jet engine when they boil.) We fill the pot with water then add a spicy seasoning blend, salt, onions, garlic, lemons, and potatoes. More goodies will come later. Once the water comes to a boil, in go the crawfish. Once they are nearly finished boiling, we add corn on the cob, hot dogs, sausage, mushrooms, and depending on that family’s particular tastes, whatever else they want to toss in to the pot. The burner is turned off and the crawfish and goodies are left to soak in the flavourful liquid. After a few minutes, they are drained and poured atop of a newspaper-lined table. Everyone gathers around and pigs out!!
Me: Aussies are always interested in how other people from other countries view us, can you give us your interpretation of what you think a typical Aussie may be? (I’m going to ask you this question in the follow up interview AFTER you’ve met me, by the way to see if that’s changed! Feel free to be completely honest!)
Rhonda: Well, Crocodile Dundee and Outback Steakhouse come to mind. Ha! Ha! Seriously though, I’ve always had a great respect for Australian culture. I know some of it must be cliché (kangaroos bouncing down every street), but I think you guys have a whole lot to be proud of! Your accents are amazing!! I’d love to visit one day. And, let me point out, y’all have more than your fair share of smoking hot men—just saying!!
Me: Well, this is very true...I think I'll have to watch you Rhonda...Will, being one of those smokin hot men you were talking about and all!
Me: Are there any other traditions or cultural differences you can think of that you guys do that maybe we don’t do here? Special festivals…holidays…local things?
Rhonda: I’m sure that there a quite a few. The biggest one is probably Mardi Gras. New Orleans is most well known for their festivities, but pretty much every town in Louisiana has their own celebration. In my town, there are four parades: one Friday night, one Saturday afternoon, one Sunday afternoon, and one Tuesday afternoon. People riding on floats dress in costumes and throw beads, stuffed animals,
toys, and candy to the people lining the parade route. It’s one big celebration before the somber Lent.
Me: Well Sydney has the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras...but I'm thinking that's probably a little bit different to the one in New Orleans :)
Me: Any advice for Will and I when we come down to see you? Anything we should be prepared for?
Rhonda: I hope you guys are huggers! Southern hospitality is something that is alive and well. There are no strangers; everyone is treated as family. You will be talked to until your ears bleed, stuffed so full of food that you won’t be able to walk, and catered to like royalty. It’s our way! Oh, and this is not exclusive to the South, but riding on the right side of the road is going to take so getting used to I’m sure!
Me: Yes...I'm a little concerned about the whole wrong side of the road thing...but I have great faith in my husbands ability to know what the hell he's doing! (Maybe you guys should stay off the road while we're down that way...just to be safe!)
Me: And for any Aussies thinking of heading down your way, what would some of the attractions or big draw cards be for them to check out (they wont be as lucky as us and have a guided tour!!!, but maybe you can give some local knowledge).
Rhonda: I think everyone should tour at least one plantation home while here. They truly are majestic and dripping with history. Swamp tours are usually pretty thrilling. These guides often know the best spots to get up close and personal with wildlife and also the most scenic areas for bayou pics! They also fill you in on local traditions, culture, and history. Just so happens that my area, Morgan City, Louisiana, is right in the middle of all kinds of great tourist attractions!
In early September, we have the Shrimp and Petroleum Festival that is loads of fun (shameless plug alert) and written about in my book: “Deceived: A Green Bayou Novel Book Five”. It’s a festival meant to honor the shrimping and oil industries since a majority of the people in the area make their livings doing one or the other.
Over the course of several days, there are live bands, a parade, food, carnival games, rides, and lots of other forms of entertainment. One thing about Louisiana, we look for any excuse to have a good time!!
Me: I hope we're there in time for some of it!
Me: Lastly, is there anything you might be curious about, from Australia, habits, customs, words… anything that you would like us to clear up or explain?
Rhonda: That is a question I’d love for you to answer. What are some of the most common misconceptions about Aussies? I know for us Southerners it’s getting over the stereotype of being uneducated, ignorant buffoons. We may speak funny and we like to have a good time, but I tell you what—you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn't volunteer to give you the shirt off of their back if you needed it. We are a community who rallies and supports each other. The downside to that is everyone and their momma knows your business, but you take the good with the bad.
Me: Thank You so much Rhonda for answering these questions, I can't wait to do a follow up blog on here after we've been over to visit and bring back some more interesting facts I may have discovered!
Me: Okay so there's your challenge guys...come up with some answers to this comment. I really wanted to showcase this fascinating link between Aussie's and Southerners, so in the spirit of Louisiana hospitality and bigheartedness, I want to share some of Rhonda's fantastic books with you. I'll randomly pick someone who answers Rhonda's last comment "What are some of the most common misconceptions about Aussies?" and give away a set of Rhonda's ebooks. Comp ends on Sunday the 24th March (Australia time).
Here's a link to Rhonda's books to have a little look at, and if you don't happen to win them, do go and check them out, they have a mouth watering dash of Louisiana flavour and the characters are fantastic.
Meet the Swamp People here
Check out Rat Bastards, here