End of the Line: Losing Louisiana?
Finding hope and a new cat while kayaking
Sometime around the mid-sixties, people who’d
thrived for generations by catching, selling, and eating wildlife along the Louisiana coast started noticing that water formerly wrist deep was up to their elbows. And getting closer to the house. A sea change, so to speak, was under way. The only thing I can say for it is, it led us to our cat, Jimmy.
Our friends Marie and Bob took us on a kayak trip on a bayou west of New Orleans. As we pushed off, a scrawny gray kitten jumped into one of the kayaks. We were out to save the coast, not cats, so we put him out. On our return three hours later, he jumped in again. An alligator could get him. He jumped in the car, cuddled in Joan’s lap, and was good to go.
He’s wilder than he let on by the bayou. He looks a little like an owl, or an alligator even, in his eyes. And the vet said he’d be thinking about only one thing—you know, girls. So we had him neutered. And every now and then he would take a slash at somebody’s face. So we had his front claws removed. Back where we live, he couldn’t go outdoors anyway, because he’d be prey to foxes, and he’d bring Lyme disease ticks into the house. Still, having an exclusively indoor pet seems unnatural. So does what’s happening to Louisiana’s coast.
Marie—Sarra Marie Gould of New Orleans—is organizing Louisiana Lost Lands Environmental Tours, which will send people out on the water, led by fishing guides, to see “both the beauty and the destruction,” as her prospectus puts it, of Louisiana’s wetlands. Her husband, Bob Marshall, has won two Pulitzers reporting on the interaction of fish, fowl, and people for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He took us out on his outboard catamaran recently to the yawning expanse where the Mississippi carries dredged-up loads of Louisiana out into the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way he pointed out a field of irises and tiger lilies, a covey of roseate spoonbills, a hulking corroded pair of left-behind diesel oil pumps.