Monday, April 30, 2012

To Louisiana: Happy Birthday, with love

(From Sunday's Times and News-Star)

And now we celebrate the bicentennial of Louisiana, 200 years of duck calling, fish catching, squirrel shooting, jazz playing, Mardi Gras parading and creole eating, along with a bit of malfeasance, misappropriation of funds and, at rare times, even professional football.

Louisiana’s not a perfect state, but it’s OUR not-perfect state, and I love it, warts and all. Where else can a cypress tree, a clarinet, a gar and a garter belt all live in harmony, more or less, for two centuries?

With the aid of several historical sources, we’ve compiled highlights here to help us celebrate our “prehistory” as well as the most recent 200 years, with hopes of a better 200 to come:

1519: Alvarez de Pindea discovers mouth of the Mississippi.

1534: Suffering from strep, Bubba de Boudreaux discovers uvula of the Mississippi.

1541: Hernando de Soto discovers the Mississippi River; de Pindea is hereafter known as Alvarez “I Should Have Rowed On Up A Little Farther” de Pindea.

1600: Nobody claims to have discovered Louisiana yet, even though it is sort of just RIGHT THERE. Sigh…

1682: Between beheadings, France takes time out not only to discover Louisiana but to claim it for France and name it for King Louis XIV.

1683: King Louis XIV sends chocolates.

1700: Future Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis born.

1712: Bubba “Three Fingers” de Boudreaux, as he comes to be known, discovers the alligator.

1714: Fort St. Jean Baptiste founded on Red River at site of present-day Natchitoches, the first permanent settlement in Louisiana.

1715: Natchitoches meat pie discovered, growing wild.

1718: New Orleans founded. (It’s about time!)

1723: New Orleans becomes capital of Louisiana, superseding Biloxi, which still wonders what it did wrong.

1751: Sugar cane introduced to Louisiana.

1753: WeightWatchers introduced to Louisiana.

1764: Year of “The Great Migration.” Citing a lack of religious freedom, unfair labor practices and tyranny in general, every crawfish in Arkansas jumps on a raft and heads south to opportunity in crawfish-free Bayou Country. (Oops!)

1782: New Orleans Saints fumble four times, even though they won’t be founded for another 185 years. In keeping with the theme, a grand jury indicts four future Secretary of States, two governors and Bubba “Three Fingers.” And Biloxi.

1812: Louisiana admitted to Union. (Uh, winning!)

1814: General Andrew Jackson kicks some butt and takes some names; Johnny Horton sings about it.

1833: Captain Henry Miller Shreve begins clearing Red River for navigation.

1834: Shreve sends back to the shop for more stuff to move stuff with because this is like, well, really a mess.

1837: Shreveport founded.

1840: Antoine’s established in New Orleans; Saints picked off three times in loss to not-yet-established Chicago Bears.

1849: Baton Rouge becomes capital of Louisiana; Greater Bernice becomes unofficial “little letter” of Louisiana.

1867: Shrimp first canned commercially at Grand Terre Island; shrimp rebounds the next weekend with solid reviews after its revamped comedy stand-up show at Harrah’s in Lake Charles.

1872: Rex, King of Carnival, debuts.

1888: Quite by accident, Ethel Boudreaux rubs a wooden spoon over her washboard while multi-tasking – marinating a duck and putting suds in a load of diapers. By autumn, her new “Cajun sound” rendition of “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ If You Want Extra Starch” is selling like meat pies.

1900-2000: Three words: Trials. Oil. Hunting. The taxidermy and legal professions draw the best and the brightest.

2012: Bubba Boudreaux, whose exploring ancestors came and never left, discovers the gizzard of the Mississippi – and deep-fries it.