from the Prologue
I can’t believe I’m about to cry, but there it is: my eyes well up as I face, one last time, the two Cajun fishermen. They are grizzled men, standing in the thin light of a new moon, sanding on a wobbly dock at the end of Bayou Petit Caillou just spitting distance from the Gulf of Mexico. We shake hands goodbye, but the gesture is decidedly awkward and grossly inadequate–and though I dare not hug these men, I want to . . . and perhaps they want to hug me, too. But these are working men–shrimpers–with scars on their hands and tattoos on their arms and cigarettes behind their ears. They are poor men who, on a bad day, will put in twenty hours for just three or four dollars’ pay–and yet they’ve given me everything they have: food, drink, shelter from storm, a ride down the bayou, and a journey through a Cajun world that is as backwoods and off the trodden path as anything in America.
…This is it. These barefoot and shirtless men have brought me to the end of my journey, closing out a far-fetched yet rewardingly successful personal experiment in hitchhiking the fishing boats of Louisiana’s bayou country. For days I’ve slowly thumbed my way down to different major bayous and past a half dozen waterside Cajun towns lined with sun-bleached docks and hanging Spanish moss and old Catholic churches whose priests come out to bless fishing boats with consecrated water.