You’ll need to read carefully as this gets complex.
But it all started when Steve Aucoin, the unpublished poet laureate of Bayou Terrebonne and my next-door neighbor, decided to help better secure my boat, a 19-foot-long hole in the water and you know the rest of that.
Steve found another neighbor who had a floating dock they didn’t need anymore, and last week there he was in the middle of Bayou Terrebonne, paddling with a board, like a Louisiana version of Huckleberry Finn, and he managed to get it close to shore where it awaits further processing including replacement of an ailing pontoon.
A crab trap was attached to the floating dock, some remnant of its past uses, and nothing much was said about this.
Until Sunday. That was when a pair of teens from a nearby subdivision – who apparently grew up playing in the waters of this portion of the bayou – showed up and began lollygagging, with their street clothes on, unmindful of the wetness.
I was pleased to see that this type of behavior is as alive in Bourg as it is in communities much farther south, like Chauvin and Montegut, an indication of living culture among the local youth. It didn’t take long for the teens to discover the crab trap, while jumping off of and climbing onto the crippled dock.
They knocked on the back door as I began to prepare a roast for Sunday dinner.
“There’s a trap under that dock,” one said. “It’s got crabs.”
I ventured outside, expecting to see a few skittering gumbo-sized critters fit for liberation. Instead, I saw some full-sized, fit-for-eating live and hearty blue crabs. The boys collected them into two boxes. They brought one home. They gave me the other and in a few minutes water was boiling as the boxed crabs gurgled in protest. In due time they were dumped into the pot along with hastily cut onions, potatoes and mushrooms.
But then a thought occurred.
It’s been awhile since I have lived outside city limits. Prior to that I had been in Florida for nearly two years. That kind of absence from the bayou can make for a serious knowledge gap, and a potential of bayou etiquette violations.
I called my good friend Brandon Robichaux who has schooled me in many things Cajun over the years. And presented my dilemma.
If the crabs were caught in the trap beneath the dock which was given to me by Steve and I had nothing to do with the traps other than that, and the neighbor boys removed the crabs, did I have an obligation to also share them with Steve, and if so, to wait until he returned from wherever? I had tried to call Steve to offer him crabs, but the call was not answered.
With the authority of a Supreme Court justice Brandon made his pronouncement.
“The crabs are yours,” he said. “Your friend gave you the dock and did not say anything about a claim to the trap. If he wanted the crabs he would or should have said the trap was his. You are free to do with them what you want. I would start boiling.”
My Cajun Sherpa was proud when I told him the water was indeed on and boiling and well seasoned, indicating that prior lessons had been well-retained.
The crabs were delicious, meaty and – if I say so myself – perfectly cooked.
So the gift of a dock, which was hiding a trap from a neighbor, led to the discovery of crabs by two other neighbors, and a luscious Sunday meal for me and mine.
All of this was affirmed as right and good by another neighbor – though he lives on another bayou.
And that is why living in what is left of Terrebonne’s more rural spots makes for an experienced unparalleled and irreplaceable.
Oh, I saw Steve the next morning and told him of the crabs.
The traps, he said, actually belonged to another neighbor who really wouldn’t care anyhow.
Lessez le bon temps rouler.