Primative Man

Today’s picture was taken on a swamp tour. Recently my sisters came to New Orleans and we spent a week there amusing ourselves. One of the things we did was go on a “swamp tour”. On the coldest day of the week, in the rain, we loaded ourselves into an aluminum boat and rode around in a swamp. Really. Strangely enough it wasn’t all bad. My sisters live in Oregon, so they didn’t really expect better weather and I see them rarely, so I found their enthusiasm infectious. And I got some good pictures.
That picture in particular strikes me. It sets a mood, strikes a tone, and makes me remember. It reminds me that we are all about 100 feet and fifteen minutes from primitive man. I learned that in New Orleans a few years ago during a hurricane. Suddenly there you are, cooking over a fire and boiling your water. Washing clothes in a bucket, and not as often as you would like. I was down there for work. My job involves elder care and my patient was an invalid who could not evacuate any farther than the north shore (of lake Pontchartrain).
I know what story the national media told. I also know what they left out. They told of horror, thievery, rape and inhumanity. Surely those things were there. What I remember most though, was bravery, unselfishness, humor and compassion. They were also there, and I think, won the day. There was the man who left his second floor apartment everyday. He took a small boat and a store of water and food. He went to the edge of the flood and poled his boat out into the waters and roamed the flooded neighborhoods giving water and food to those who wanted it and took those who wished to go, back to the edge of the water. He said he would set them down at the edge of the water and point up the street to where the national guard had an aide station. “Go up there,” he’d tell them. “They’ll help you.”, although he wasn’t sure it was true.
Or the two men in St. Bernard Parish who, when it began to flood, took their own boats and rescued everyone they could find. For days. They worked on minimal sleep and lots of hot coffee. They recruited help where they could find it. No one waited on the “government” to give them permission. Or the Dr. who chose to remain at the super dome and treat the people there. When his personal supply of medicines ran out he got a policeman to help him break into a pharmacy so he could get supplies. They kept an inventory of what they used, but I imagine they were probably filmed as “looters” by some national news network or other.
Or even the men of one rather upscale subdivision in Covington who, “Cut their way to daylight!”  When they realized that all the wonderful old growth trees that had been carefully preserved when the subdivision was built were now laying on the ground blocking all the roads, they rounded up the few chain saws they had at their disposal and cut their way out. It took 3 days, working in shifts to get everyone access to the highway. That’s the way it was, for those of us who were there. People banded together and helped one another. And you smiled while you did it and said, “It aint nothin but an ol hurry-cane. We’ve had ’em before and we’re still here.”

Then there were the signs. During the bad days there were signs. They noted the health, and number of occupants of buildings. Some were political. Some warned of armed defenders. Some were just a way to interact with the world at large. All were written with humor. Often wry humor, but humor none the less. After things got better and people began coming back to their homes there was another rash of signs. I liked the ones on refrigerators best. You see, if you come home to your refrigerator after it has been sitting around for a month during a southern summer with no electricity running through it, about the only thing you can do with it is throw it away. So they hauled them to the curb. And put signs on them, “Sir Stinks-a-lot”, “Free Gumbo”, “In case of Attack, Open Fridge”. When the going gets rough, the tough get laughing.

These are the people that I remember. These brave and funny, kind and compassionate humans. For that reason I guess, the idea that we are all just moments away from the primitive life holds no fear for me. We will still be here, after.

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2 Comments

  1. melanie said,

    April 23, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you for telling this story, especially in light of recent events. Humanity not only lives but thrives in times of trouble. Wonderful! Following.

    • witchyluck said,

      April 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm

      We are often better than we are portrayed. Adversity is the fire that burns away dross. And thank you. Followers are always an honor.


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