Sunday, July 26, 2015

Catfishing's Secret Weapon _ Catch More Fish

I believe it is unquestionably good to preserve the Folk life / Culture of  Bayou Pigeon. 

Thus I post this story… enjoy !

In Chapter 16 of the Bayou  Pigeon book, page 358 we have a  chapter on Commercial fishing and we discuss Hook and Line (trot line) fishing.   Where as we describe  that in the 1930’s and  40’s  most of  commercial fishermen at Bayou Pigeon  started as a hook and line fisherman  and then most  moved up to Hoop Net fishing. 

To keep big Cat’s from twisting themselves off a trot line, requires  a metal swivel  from  the staging to the main line…

Everyone knows that, well did you know… 

Huey Perera, of Bayou Pigeon,  lived the first part of his life with one foot on a boat and one foot in the water.  His early life was on a camp boat  in the Little Bayou Pigeon/Keel Boat pass  area of Grand Lake with his father, Aldoras Perera  and brothers & sisters.  His mother died when he was 5 years old in 1943.

Aldoras Perera  made his early living  by hook and line fishing from their camp boat in the swamp, with Huey at his side. It was not until 1954  that  the Perera's moved their Camp boat  permanently to Bayou Pigeon, one  of the last families to abandon to the heart of the Swamp. Huey married  Annie Michel and he has raised his family there.

It was the  research for Chapter  16 where I first learned of the homemade  trot line swivel. Researching, the book  I had talked with as many old fishermen  from Pigeon as I could about Hook and Line fishing. Thus, this is where Huey Perera  fits in in this story.

Big catfish  are known  for twisting themselves off  a trot line staging.  Thus  to put more fish in the boat, required the use of a swivel.  Most fishermen of the 1930’s and 40’s did not have the money nor could they find a manufactured swivel.

Keeping with the Spirit of  the Atchafalaya  Swamper,  to overcome, adapt and  improvise as needed,  the fishermen made their own swivels  out  of a  wire and nail.  After some internet research, I managed to find a picture of one these homemade swivels  on Jim Delahoussaye's  “River Logue’ blog.   Jim is a accomplished  outdoor writer and Naturalist.  I consider him to be one of a few legitimate Subject Matter  Experts on Atchafalaya Basin folk life, Wildlife and Fisheries, Flora and Fauna. I had never seen one these homemade trot line swivels before this, anywhere, until I discovered his blog.

Example of Homemade Line Swivel, source Jim Delahoussaye, Atchafalaya Riverlogue, blog

I happen  to mentioned the homemade swivel to Huey  when I was interviewing him about  living on a  camp boat in the Swamp.  He, to my surprise stated that his dad taught him how to make those swivels and they used them on their  trot lines, all the time. Huey was the only one  from Pigeon to ever mention the homemade swivel. He tried to explain to me how you made one , but I could not picture twisting the wire in my mind.

Sometime after the Bayou Pigeon book was published,  I ran into Huey at the store in Pigeon and mentioned to him that Mr. Delahoussaye had actually given me one those homemade trot line swivels.  I thought  it was really innovative.  It was then that he casually mentioned he still had the pliers that his father modified to make those swivels.  I said , Oh yea ! Can you make one?

 In God We Trust All Others Show me Pictures!  

One thing led to another and I found myself at Huey’s house for him to show me. A visit to Huey's  house quickly reveals  that his shop looks  like a retirement home  for vintage outboard motors. He is well known shade tree mechanic, he taught himself outboard motor repair and other mechanical  tool skills  of the swamp out of necessity.  There  were no repair shops, supply stores on Grand Lake. If you were to survive you had to improvise.

Sure enough, he made a couple of those swivels, right in front of me…

I am impressed…here are the pictures ?

The "folk" are the bearers of the folk life traditions,  when the human thread is lost, the  art/ technique / tradition invariably fades away.  Huey please tell us you have passed on this art to someone !

Where are the pliers?

A Retirement Home For Old Outboard Motors

The red motor is a 1940’s 4 H.P.  Royal Outboard Motor. Huey says this is the motor  that he used to push their Camp Boat  from Keel Boat Pass  to Pigeon in 1955.  He also has a 1949 7.5 hp Mercury … and he says they are both in working order…  

The 4 hp Royal was obtained from Roger Combel !  

The same Roger Combel who  hunted ducks on what would come to be known as 'Rogers Cove" (page 659 in the book) 

You never know what you will learn when you interview someone… There are always connections to the stories we learn about Bayou Pigeon… e.g.., Co author - Adam Landry, his father Wilbrod (Kaline) Landry [pronounced with more of a  C than  K to me, but I am a non French speaker, i.e.., ‘Carline’,]  was a mentor to Roger Combel about the  ways  of the  Atchafalaya and  who took him  to a secret Cove in the bed of old Grand lake and that would eventually be named  for him.  He probably used that 4 HP royal to get there!

Preserve the Heritage !

Saturday, July 4, 2015

1940 US Census LA., _ Iberville Parish , Police Jury Ward 8 Outside Plaquemine town

1940 US  Census:

U.S. Census  records  are  included in the Bayou Pigeon book, but stop at 1930. That is, because when the Bayou Pigeon book was published the  US Census data was only public up to 1930.  Census records are created every decade by the federal government in order to determine the number of delegates each state may send to the U S  Congress. Due to the sensitive nature of census information, the U.S. adopted a 72-year privacy rule (other countries use a 100-year restriction).

The 1940 U.S. Federal Census was conducted using an official  census date of April 1, 1940. Therefore all census data specific to an individual was restricted until April 1, 2012.  Once the 72-year privacy restriction is met, population schedules are released to the National Archives and Records Administration.

The 1940 US census has been available for  about 2 years now and I have spent some time researching it.

I believe the 1940 census is important  to Bayou Pigeon, because in 1940 Pigeon was a pure unadulterated Cajun  Fishing community, not influenced by outsiders and modern society. The cultural / folklife traditions  that the authors of the Bayou Pigeon Book are trying to document and preserve  were  at their peak.  After WWII  the French / Cajun Culture & folklife began  to be Americanized

1940 census is also personal to me  because my wife’s paternal  and maternal side of her family ( the Solar's 1933_ Gaudet's 1936) came  to Bayou Pigeon.  And this  is the first official recording  of their move to Pigeon and I wanted to document that..

A word about Cajun names in the Census records;

I had to search awhile  to find  the  Solar’s in the actual census records, because their names were misspelled.  I have determined  that was quite  common  at  / for the Bayou Pigeon census.  Not that the names  from Pigeon, should be that hard to spell, but because of our Cajun French language and the way pure Cajuns pronounce names, they were frequently misunderstood and therefore misspelled by  the census takers who did  not speak French and thus did not understand what  the people were saying.  For example  Solar,  you would think   that should be easy… but in the old  days when my Mother in  Law  would pronounce it;  it sounded like ‘So_laa” , which I suppose  would  sound like  ‘Saurage’  to an Anglo, which was the way it was spelled in the 1940 census record. 

Another example, Mr. Felician Berthelot,  the English version would be Felix. But that is not close to how  the old  folks at Pigeon say it  'fa les e ain.'

If you have an interest , I have tried to provide this data in high resolution, so you can enlarge  and read the actual index page. I know a lot of folks may not be interested  if they cannot read the names easy.

But to me  looking at the actual census index page gives the reader a real sense… yes that is my Grandparents  and Parents.  They are gone, but I feel like I can still touch them !

Keep in mind, 

The census workers worked there way  down Hwy 75  from Plaquemine house to house, so the order of the families  that were recorded does provide  some indication of who lived next to who and where eg., it is easy to determine someone who lived at  Indigo Bayou… because well known,   several  families were known to live there  and only there, ie., the Blanchard's,  almost the entire family lived within eyesight of each other at Indigo,  thus if you lived close to the Blanchard's you must have  lived at  Indigo at one time..

Example, Diane’s (my wife) maternal side of the family, The Gaudet’s are listed right next to the Blanchard's.  Corroborating that the Gaudet’s lived at Indigo  at one time. Whereas most people remember them only living above the current Grand River_/ Pigeon bridge, where the Gaudet store  was located.

If you have access to and want to look  up the information yourself.The actual census records are under...1940_ LA. -Iberville Parish _Police Jury Ward 8_ outside Plaquemine town_ Crescent  Enumeration District 24-21_ pages  #49  - 60  

For those interested … and do not have time or access to 

The 1940 US Census recorded approximately 100 Heads of Household and 390 souls at Bayou Pigeon.

Page 49

I start My Census review On Page 49( below),  I find two names, I can recognize, Orillion Berthelot and Alger Simoneaux.  I surmise  that Mr. Orillion Berthelot (house number 474) and Alger  Simoneaux,  house number  480, lived somewhere between the Bayou Sorrel Lock and  Bayou Choctaw.

Can any one help explain  and / or verify where they might have been located  by these numbers… they are 6 numbers apart.

Page 50

On Page 50, I pick up names of  Bayou Pigeon I can recognize,  Mr. Claiborne Landry, in house # 487.  Now assume  that Mr. Claiborne was living at his  farm  at Choctaw and Grand River.   That would put Mr. Orillion Berthelot and Alger Simoneaux  above  that residence, since they were at 374 and  480 .  

Earnest Hebert at #488.  I am told  That Earnest Hebert  and family lived  just above where the current Hwy 75 Bayou Pigeon fire station is located now.

Note  all the people from line 44 to 72, have occupations  other than fishing.  I wonder where this group  was  actually located.  Anyone got  any clues ? I think they were located between the  Bayou Sorrel Locks and Choctaw Bayou.

All interesting questions ?

Page 51

On Page 51, all recognizable Bayou Pigeon Families, most long time residents can recognize.  The order seems to match where people remembering everyone living.

However, there is one  family with surname of  Case.  Is this  family related to Case  family  we know of in Plaquemine?

Page 52

Note  Line 42, the first entry is actually Mr. Clement Landry, the Census  taker recorded it Claymore Landry.  The Pigeon pronunciation s would have sounded 'Clay_Mon' to an  Anglo.The census taker at the time was  a Mr Warren Hebert from Plaquemine.  It seems to me with a name like Hebert, he would have got ' Clement' right.  L.O.L. 

Page 53

On Page 53, all recognizable Bayou Pigeon Families. The order seems to match where people remembering everyone living.  On the very last entry the census recorder , Mr. Warren Hebert was confused he listed Clement Landry  a second time, what / who he really meant was Leo Landry.

Page 54

On Page 54, all recognizable Bayou Pigeon Families. The order seems to match where people remembering everyone living. The Census taker must have left the Pigeon area and went back to Plaquemine or White Castle, the last two names are Black people. 

Page 58

Pages 55 - 58 of the census is of another area, the Census  recorder returns to the Bayou Pigeon part of the 1940 census picks back up on page 58.  Bayou Pigeon Families start again on line 49. 

The last line# 80 we go toward Indigo Bayou…  How do i know that?  Because that’s the listing is Mr. Archie Settoon... everyone knows he lived half way from current bridge and Indigo Bayou. You see… you can connects the dots…it all makes sense   

Page 59

On Page 59, we are the Indigo Bayou area, eg., the Blanchard's , and the Gaudet's and others. My mother in law, Ms Beulah Gaudet Solar, 92 years young is on line 37. 

Page 60

On Page 60, we are still the Indigo Bayou area, eg., the first name on the list is a carry over from page 59 Ms. Shirley Gaudet, who recently passed this year. She was the pillar of the Gaudet store. This is where the Solar family name is misspelled, line 42. It is Solar, not Saurage, how could the census taker mess up that bad, maybe old Man Casamire and his wife Lucy did not talk any English. 
The census taker must have left Indigo Bayou and went to across Grand river at the confluence with little Bayou Pigeon. The last two names on the page are Devillier Daigle and Evelyn Vaughn, who were know to live near Ms. Clementine Michel. 

Page 61

On Page 61, the census taker is still on the west side Grand River going in order toward the current Bayou Pigeon bridge. By recognizing the sequence of recording you can connect the dots on where people lived. Line # 26 is Mr. Felix Berthelot 14 years old.

Page 62

On Page 62, The Bayou Pigeon Census ends. The census taker is still on the west side Grand River, and he butchers more names.  I am not quite sure of who some of the names are.  If anyone can figure our  who is talking about on lines 57 to 60, please let me know. 

The last name on that page must not be from Pigeon, because the occupation is listed as a farmer.

Preserve the Heritage !