By the calendar, it was still winter when we drove north Friday for a weekend with friends and relatives, but the roadside vegetation, from the pretty yellow fields of dandelions to the early pale greens of willows and oaks, proclaimed that spring had sprung.
Fronts were still delivering blizzard weather to the northern East Coast, but temperatures across Louisiana were well beyond sweater weather. It rained intermittently throughout the weekend, but none of our plans were interrupted. We passed miles of crawfish farm ponds, with their rows of trap tops showing. No fishermen; they had harvested Thursday for Friday delivery.
Motive: We were combining a very late Christmas with St. Patrick's Day and the opportunity to restock our supply of frozen Zwolle tamales. We may do crawfish on a separate trip.
Schedule conflicts all around had stalled our usual gatherings close to Christmas to swap gifts on both sides of the family. But we were able to find niece Melissa Cobb and her family at home on Nantachie Lake near Montgomery, then feast with sister-in-law Kathy Ellzey on fried crappie she had caught from her dock on Toledo Bend Lake near Zwolle.
Saturday we celebrated St. Patrick's day with Nile Parchim and Rusty Stolz at their brewhouse on Sibley Lake just outside of Natchitoches.
It was their 20th annual St. Patrick's Day event, with many of their male friends dressed in kilts, which they wore to the golfer's segment of the schedule. There were rows of beer taps connected to kegs they had filled with homemade beers brewed on the premises and loads of foods typical of the Irish.
As always, the best part of the festivities was the crowd of attendees returning from past celebrations. Most of the adults sampled the free beer, but you were more likely to run into a family, a doctor, lawyer or accountant than a barroom drunk. I met former Louisiana Poet Laureate Julie Kane, a close friend of present laureate Jack Bedell, who was among the featured guests at the Jambalaya Writer's Conference at the Terrebonne library.
Ken Otto was there, with his copper beer mug, as always, but he did not get stuck in the grassy parking lot. I suspect he tried, for old time's sake, but there had not been enough rain to turn the subsoil into mud.
Tamales: They are a specialty food of long standing in Zwolle, where they are celebrated with an annual festival, but the rhyming label "Zwolle tamales" is historically unconnected. The tamales are made by descendants of the Spanish-Mexican soldiers who stayed behind when the area became American territory following the Louisiana Purchase.
They are available commercially, but most locals have friends or relatives who make them to order.
The town got its name when a gang of Dutch investors financed the construction of the railroad between Kansas City and Lake Charles. Zwolle in Holland rhymes with "bowla" or NOLA, but the railroad builders left town and locals worked out their own pronunciation.
Spring Showcase: The talent and culture of Terrebonne will be on display from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 14 at the Houma Visitors Center in Gray. It is among the initiatives of Sondra Corbitt, newly installed director of the Houma Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. The aim is to "provide the local community and potential visitors with a great day of discovering more about who and what is in Terrebonne Parish, sharing local talent and promoting unity" within the parish.
It will involve some 50 vendors including artisans, arts and crafts, food and beverages, authors, community partners and business owners in Terrebonne Parish. There will be free children's activities, a dessert cook-off and live music by local favorite Sheauxdown. Contact Joni Duet at 868-2732 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Dandelions: Despite its name and reputation, I nominate this pretty yellow flower for preservation as an official springtime roadside flower for Louisiana. In areas where excessive mowing does not kill it before it is able to drop mature seed, it covers fields and roadsides with a brilliant yellow blanket of tiny blossoms.
It might become as well known here as bluebonnets are in Texas, if our DOTD mowers gave it a chance to reseed, as is done in Texas. Brewed into a tea, the dandelion is a diuretic, but merely handling a bouquet picked for one's mother does not contribute to bed-wetting.
Responding? Contact Bill Ellzey at 381-6256, at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o The Courier, P.O. Box 2717, Houma, LA 70361.