“Be careful out there son. You watch yourself in that little boat of yours on this here water,” says one fellow to Marc Gauthier as he puts in his kayak at the Martin Lake Bird Sanctuary near Morgan City, Louisiana.
One guy’s fishing on the dock at the edge of this incredible Tim Burton-esque cypress marsh. He keeps repeating that refrain, until Marc finally asks for some clarity.
“You mean the alligators? Watch out for them?” Marc says looking around for the telltale green eyes and bumpy forehead.
The fellow responds no, that the gators are weary of people because so many good old boys many come in at night with their .30-30’s and 12-gauge shotguns and shoot them.
“You just have to be really careful out there,” the Louisianan says. “There are a lot of dangers out there, son.” This goes on, back and forth, for a few minutes until Marc asks the guy for some details . “…give me specifics, man … what’s out there.”
“Just lots of things to watch out for,” the fellow continues.
“Really, please, if I’m not looking out for the alligators, then what?”
Finally, the fisherman lets down some of that Southern reserve, or surrealism, and goes on to explain to our Spokane “Dispatches from a Disaster” narrator that the kayak Marc is in may seem snug as a bug in a rug and highly maneuverable, but bumping into the entanglement of beautiful cypress trees could bring him more trouble than any eight-foot gator: hornets. Swarms of them. By the hundreds.
“And those low-hanging branches, yessirree, watch out for them, boy. Don’t know how quick you be in that little boat of yars with a water moccasin dropping on your head.”
Ahh, Southern Comfort.
Marc did get to finally paddle out into the labyrinth of branches and saw plenty of wildlife, felt the ebb and flow of the swamp’s mystical plumbing, and imagined it all disappearing in one fell swoop. Marc filmed the tannin-coated waters and the penetrating shadows and flashes of birds galore rousing the hot air with speed and grace.
He ran into another guy, in a boat, who had his own bayou take on Marc’s appearance in his neck of the swamp: “Aren’t you afraid of paddling in that thing out here? There are gators bigger than that canoe thing you’re in, mister.”
Marc didn’t see a 14-foot gator, or anything near that length, but he did choke up a few inches higher and “white knuckled” the paddle shaft when he floated by a six footer.
For those few precious hours, before confronting the British Petroleum mess, the PR spin of the White House, and the odd nature of some of the people in the oil business who should have been speaking out, Marc knew then in the cypress Eden that too much was at stake from an oil spill that some say has bled 40 million or up to 160 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico as of Sunday, May 29, 2010.
He ran into a sugar cane farm operator whose family’s been in the business seven generations. Those 400 acres he’s farming have been hit by storms, hurricanes, floods and winds, and he’s had his share of salt water surging up on his plot of land. Now that hurricane season is upon the Gulf Coast, this sugar cane man told Marc that one storm now, in the next two months, could wipe out his farm forever because this time oil and other chemicals from BP’s dispersant madness will come with it.