Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Swamp Tour

In one of my occasional forays into the realm of being gainfully employed, I worked as a tourist guide on swamp tours. Now there's something overrated about swamps: for most people unfamiliar with the setting it's a place teeming with dangerous eccentrics, swamp monsters such as the one that stalked some underdressed heroine in The Swamp Thing, assorted saurians of the alligator or crocodile variety, and other outlandish residents as well. And of course the state pest: the mosquito. In fact, there's a number of people who fear going into such a setting. Now, I fear more going into certain neighborhoods of New Orleans during the daytime than into the swamp, although it can be mercilessly hot during mid-day. [Nowadays it does pay to wear a strong mosquito repellant to avoid the West Nile Virus and the continual harassments of mosquitos.]

Yep, my job was to take a group of tourists out in a little putt-putt boat, show them the various sights and make it sound as gothic and melodramatic as possible. I had to put on a "swamp girl" costume; the cutoffs and halter top making me look something like an undernourished Hooters' reject. And do a fake Cajun accent, which may actually was an improvement over my real New Orleans Yat speech. Imagine an admixture of pidgin English and a few semi-French expressions that no one seriously uses and which would get me labelled as 'retarded' if I were to use them in Lafayette.

What was it for them to see? Lots of fish schooling, muskrats and nutrias, water skimmers, birds galore, especially egrets and cranes and 'dooks" (ducks), an occasional decrepit shack to weave a story around, and so forth. I could do the real stuff about the biota, and ecology, and the fragility of the swamp; but let's face it, they liked the sizzle more than the steak.

We even had a small alligator to show the people. And a story to go with it. Namely, that he could talk.

We would tell the guests that one day he complained, "I'm a crocodile."

Our immediate reply was, "You're a crock of what?"

Usually someone asks if I had ever eaten alligator, and I can truthfully say that I have: as a matter of fact, you could get an alligator tail sandwich at Liuzza's on Bienville Street near Memorial Hospital! Several guys expressed an interest, but I don't know if their worried-looking spouses subsequently deterred them or allowed them the dubious thrill. Occasionally someone would ask if I had eaten nutria. I would lie.  What self-respecting swamp girl would not have eaten nutria!

We could give them a frisson of apprehension by pretending that the boat motor conked out and I could not get it started again. "Mais, Chers, never the mind, after a few days I will be missed and they will look for us." Children would eat that up! We got some return customers.



John Hill said...

What? No pic of you in your swamp girl attire?

Insane Penguin said...

I am let down too.

MarkD60 said...

Ditto what John Hill said.

I love the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia and North Carolina. I used to go back there all the time, made my own maps. Studied the history. You might find that swamp to really be amazing.

Bilbo said...

I don't need to tour a swamp to know I don't want to be there, no matter what the comely guide was wearing. And I have eaten alligator tail nuggets, which I thought were tasty.

TexWisGirl said...

sounds like a fun job - even if some of it was fakery. :)

Mike said...

What John said... and Penguin said..... and Mark said.... and I'm saying.

Big Sky Heidi said...

Hey, I'd go into a swamp. Cool things there.

Tourism jobs are part entertainment. Look at Gatlinburg.