Mr. Felix Trahan was a neighbor and a friend of my father’s when my family lived in Mulvey, the small farming community where I was born. He became my “paran” (godfather). He was a big, sturdy bear of a man with smiling eyes. His wife (my nanny) had only one leg. I don’t think I ever knew how she lost that limb, but I do remember she was a sweet, pleasant lady and a great cook who could get around her kitchen with her crutch better than most women who had both legs. They had one daughter, much older than I, who was married, and she and her husband lived with Paran and Nanny.
I was an infant when my family moved to Kaplan, about three miles away, and I have no memory of living in Mulvey. I do recall, however, the summer “vacations” I spent visiting at Paran’s house. There was one girl living on a neighboring farm, who was a good friend. I think her name was Pearl, but after seventy years, I can’t be sure. When I went to visit her, I had to cross over an irrigation canal on a narrow plank bridge. I still recall the queasy feeling I got in the pit of my stomach, although I was not at all nervous about swimming in that same canal. Most of the time, she came over to Paran’s house so we could play together.
One summer, Nanny had set up housekeeping in the large barn, because they were building a nice, new house. The adults had beds on the ground floor, but beds were set up in the loft for children who came to visit. Fun, fun, fun!
If you know anything about rice farming, you know that the fields are laid out in sections, separated by levees. The crop must be flooded and then drained at certain stages of its growth. I have a wonderful memory of going with a large party of people when it was time to “cut the levee” to drain the field. The women had packed a picnic lunch of fresh fruit, cheese and pimento sandwiches, and lemonade. The men went prepared to “catch some gar.”
The men used shovels to cut a great, gaping hole in the levee, and the water came rushing out, bringing with it great big garfish, and big turtles, and hordes of crawfish and crabs - all sorts of amazing things, which the men cleaned on the spot. The garfish had to be hung by the tail from a tree and skinned, using a hatchet, the big catfish had to skinned with pliers, and fish with scales had to be scraped. The men boiled the crabs and crawfish and the women fried catfish and garfish meatballs and nuggets to be eaten in the early afternoon. Leftovers were divided among everyone to be taken home and gar roasts and steaks were iced down. Some of these were refrigerated at home and cooked within a couple of days, and some them were put into large crock jars and salted for later use.
Boiled crabs will always be my favorite of ALL foods, but garfish is still favorite my fish. I like the meat-like texture of it. I have even made sausage from garfish to put on the barbeque pit, but found it kind of dry. If I ever have the opportunity to do that again, I think I will add a piece of fatty pork to the mix, to make it more moist.
P.S. Some of you Spelling Bee Champions may have noticed a minor spelling error in this story that MizMo didn't catch and neither did I. Thanks to MizMo's grand-daughter, Kissi, the words 'scraping' and 'scraped' are now correctly spelled. MizMo's computer inserted one too many p's which the 'Editor-in-Chief' didn't even catch! Thanks Kissi, we would like to award you a huge gold star for your wonderful spelling skill. This star is very special because it was taken from the Acadian flag. Kissi's real name is Crystal Aline.
Copyright © 2001 Aline T. Meaux, Abbeville, LA
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