Just a girl from the Upper Left trying to live a crazy life as simply as possible! I eat, workout, write, rodeo, hunt, hike, explore, repeat. The views expressed by the authors of this blog is the author's alone and do not represent the views of anyone else.
I think it’s such an interesting position that I am in. I never felt like I was a part of the rodeo queen world but I spent one year in the mix and then I was out. To this day, I have never felt like I belong. In light of the start of 2017, I felt like 2016 was a complete blur. Just a distant memory, something that may or may not have actually happened.
Then I went to the coronation of 2017 Miss NPRA Sam Henricks. Sam was the Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo Queen last year, the first rodeo in my home state of Oregon. It wasn’t anything like what I had expected it to be. Here are two of my MANY memorable stories from that rodeo!
The Zika Scare of 2016
For starters I’m still convinced, to this day, that I got Zika. Sidenote: Don’t have children for two years. Probably won’t be a problem! 😉
When I got there, Sam was quick to start making jokes about the “dead ponds” or the swampy ponds that surrounded the entire fair grounds. The first night that we were there, there were mosquitos EVERYWHERE. Per usual, I was the one who got attacked by them.
I got bit on the back of my left hand and the forearm of my right arm. By the next day, it had swollen SO huge that I was pretending not to be freaked out while simultaneously trying to figure out how to tell everyone that I was dying. On the second night of the rodeo I ended up going to the EMT’s with the ambulance that is mandatory to be on site during a rodeo to see if something could be done for it.
“How did it go?” My mom asked, she was beginning to be concerned because the swelling wasn’t going down.
“The EMT was totally trying to hit on me,” I said with a mock, exasperated eye roll.
“Yeah?” She said with a skeptical look. “What did he say?”
“He demanded that I come back tomorrow,” I said with a laugh.
My mom just rolled her eyes at me, “Katie, is it that serious?”
“In all honesty, he told me that I needed to go to the emergency room.”
What didn’t help is that I work within the Oregon government and got an alert that said there was a potential case of Zika in southern Oregon. In hindsight, I have always wondered if that “potential case” was actually me.
I never got any pictures of the swelling, I was so absolutely mortified by the fact that my hand looked like you had blown up a plastic glove that I was trying to keep it as hidden as possible. I actually had a legit fear that my hand was going to bust open, it was so filled with swelling, and I didn’t like what my imagination was doing thinking that it was going to just pop wide open.
My hand was so swollen that I actually couldn’t hold my reins. As a rodeo queen, you are announced in the grand entry and you do a “run-in” or a “hot lap” while the announcer advertises your rodeo/title and you wave. You run in counter clockwise because in the cowboy world you hold your reins in your left hand (so that your right hand is free to hold your rope) and you wave with your right hand. My left hand was SO swollen that I actually had to hold my reins with my right hand and wave across my body with my balloon hand because it wouldn’t hold the reins (and my mare has A LOT of power).
The swelling lasted the entire weekend and into most of the next week. I will never know what exactly caused it to overreact so bad but I quickly learned that I had an allergy to whatever was happening when I was bit by southern Oregon mosquitos and always kept a bug spray in my horse trailer to save me from turning into a balloon.
The Attack of the Eyelash
Wild Rogue ProRodeo was the first Oregon rodeo but during that weekend I already felt myself mentally preparing myself for the next weekend; Union, the Rose Parade in Portland and the Sisters Rodeo. It’s a crazy weekend but I was nervous for the Rose Parade because I had told myself I was going to wear these HUGE fake lashes for the Rose Parade so that they would have the dramatic effect that I was going for with my outfit. The only problem was that I had NEVER worn fake eyelashes before! I thought that the Wild Rogue ProRodeo would be as good of a time as ever to get a start on it.
The last night of the rodeo, I put on my fake eyelashes and we had a great time. Sam had to get her leased horse back to the stable that night as it was leaving for a horse show and I felt so bad because her pickup wouldn’t start up. We somehow got the owners of the riding Longhorn specialty act to let their assistant for the summer help us out by taking Sam, her friend, myself, her horse and her trailer to the barn and back in the middle of the night (that’s what time it was by the time we decided to give up on the pickup working).
There was no AC in their truck and it’s already VERY hot in southern Oregon at the beginning of June so, sitting in the front seat, I rolled the window all the way down as we cruised through the southern Oregon back roads.
That’s when I began to feel it.
My right eyelash started to flutter, I could feel it starting to come loose. So huge were they that they were beginning to get lift off… right off my eyes! Before I could do anything about it I had a flash to what was about to happen which was
that it was going to fly into the back of the truck and hit one of the unsuspecting individuals in the back. I started laughing hysterically.
“What’s wrong?” Same asked as I manically laughed.
I just turned and looked at her, my right eye lash waving at her with it’s best rodeo queen run-in impersonation.
She immediately got what was about to happen and she too started laughing really hard.
I looked ahead and BOOM! Off went my eyelash!
“AHHHH,” yelled her friend from the back. “I just got attacked by a moth! Oh my gosh it’s in here somewhere!”
To this day, we have not told him it was my eyelash.
I also wonder if the Longhorn group ever found that eyelash and wondered the story behind it.
The Rose Parade – Sisters Road Trip
The next weekend was when I began my friendship with the 2016 Miss NPRA Beth Snider. Beth and I had such an intense weekend, it’s nearly impossible to explain the amount of people it takes to get you ready and get everything taken care of.
I had been at Union for two nights for their AMAZING rodeo where I got to meet some of the most amazing people! That night I made the long haul drive with my mom riding shotgun all the way to a house on the outskirts of Portland where my sister and dad were already with my horse for the Rose Parade.
Beth was having a similar weekend. It was her finals weekend at Central Washington University where two of her finals counted for the majority of her grade in the class. She also couldn’t get the day off of work because she works in the admissions office and it was the day before commencement. She also made the midnight haul with her gelding Pink to get to Portland where we met up and got ready for the big event.
After the parade, I couldn’t help but laugh as Beth kept nodding off during the awards banquet. I was originally supposed to ride with the NPRA Director to Sister’s because my whole family left as soon as the parade was over to get my horses to Sister’s so that they weren’t stuck in traffic since it’s a very close drive to get there in time. Beth was so exhausted however that Jean had me drive her so she could sleep.
WE WERE BOTH SO EXHAUSTED.
Honestly, it was probably the second most dangerous drive I’ve ever made due to the fact that we were so exhausted. I had to stop once and get a Pepsi and some snack foods because I didn’t know how I was going to stay awake. I had about 3 hours of sleep and Beth had one. It wasn’t a good combo.
Once Beth woke up from her nap, it’s about a three-hour drive from Portland to Sisters with a horse trailer, I asked if we could switch and just sitting in the passenger seat talking I felt much better. We rolled in about 15 minutes before the start of the rodeo but I was very thankful for my big sister Nicole for getting both my parade horse and my rodeo horse so that Beth and I could just jump on and SPRINT to the arena to make our run in.
Beth was a trooper all year, always being willing to help, always being her intelligent and sweet self! I loved having such amazing sash sisters in the state of Oregon this year!
I am so excited to watch each of these young ladies in the future! Sam will be an AMAZING Miss NPRA with her charisma, jokes, and great humor. Beth, we will see in the next few years, I am sure, as a Miss Rodeo Washington contestant. I cannot wait!
It seemed so simple to me. My good friend Katie and I were training like CRAZY getting ready for our respective state pageants. I was caught off guard when I won my pageant, I thought for sure that I wasn’t going too. Then I was caught even more off guard when Katie didn’t win her pageant, not because she did anything wrong, but because on that weekend, that year, and for those judges, she was not the person to be chosen.
This is a real thing. I couldn’t even begin to explain how awful and horrible I felt. Katie had wanted to be a state titleholder for as long as she could remember. She had literally gone to school for it being the first person in her family to graduate from college with her degree in history and a specialty in cowgirls/rodeo queens. She knows more information about rodeo than even my own sister (who is a bona fide genius). Seeing her after the pageant was devastating, she felt as if she had let me down.
Going on without her, without all of our plans, was really hard.
Everything happens for a reason though and I think that both of our lives have improved dramatically based on the course of events that God had laid out for us. Katie has regrouped, been reinvigorated and she is content being herself and the brand that she has created for herself.
I, well, I have learned to walk on my own two feet in the queen world, having the opportunity to form my own opinions but, the most important part, I got this amazing opportunity to reign with Miss Macy LaValley of Cheney, Washington.
Fear of Friendship Aversion
I guess my biggest fear with Macy winning and everyone already knowing about “Katie Squared” via my blog, was that Macy would form some sort of friendship-aversion to me. I come from the sports world, a world that teaches you better than anyone else that scores are the way they are for a purpose, a reason, and so I took faith in the scoring system without any thought of doubting it.
Unfortunately, although I saw her at a few events, I never really got the chance to see Macy. Every time we talked it was charming and wise. I listened to a radio interview she did for a radio station in Washington in the spring and couldn’t help but be impressed with her composure, speaking ability and intelligence. It’s not that I doubted that any of that existed, but many state titleholders spend their time quiet and in hiding; especially when it’s compared to me and all that I do on social media! (#SorryNotSorry)
Miss Rodeo Oregon Host Week
It wasn’t until Miss Rodeo Oregon Host Week that I finally felt that Macy and I had the opportunity to connect. No one, and I mean, NO ONE is more put together than Macy LaValley. No matter if it’s 5 o’clock in the morning or 11 o’clock at night she always looks fresh, energized and ready to go! I am absolutely envious of her for this trait and totally admire how she performs this voodoo magic!
The best part about the quality time that we get to spend together on big host trips is that we get to know each other a little bit better. It’s obvious, from the start, that we are all going to at least have rodeo/horses in common. It turns out Macy and I have a whole lot more in common!
Did you know that Macy wanted to go to school for culinary arts? But she had promised her parents that she would go to a four-year university and a four-year university with a culinary arts program doesn’t exist. This I know because I TOO wanted to go to school for cooking… but I also needed a Division I school with a basketball team. We couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that we both stated that if we happened to miraculously stumble across a lot of scholarship money at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant we would both be heading off to Culinary Arts school!
The second thing is that we also have a love of adventure, travel and history. I don’t think you could have ever found two rowdier individuals in the Pendleton Underground Tours than the two of us! Macy totally understood how we just HAD to know where every set of stairs, every trap door, and every fake wall led. The history of the underground and the people that lived there avoiding the law and so much more just absolutely blew my mind! As well as Macy’s! People on our tour got a kick out of us, especially Macy’s, absolute love of the adventure that the history of Pendleton brought to us!
We’re also pretty big sports fans and, I’ve got to say, that I am totally jealous of her Seahawks themed chaps!
Macy and I are guaranteed to be together in one more place in the future… well two but not counting the Miss Rodeo America Pageant, we will be at the Columbia River Circuit Finals in Yakima, Washington November 4th – 5th. There… well just be prepared for a lot of fun. Macy and I are both passionate about the Rascal Rodeo program; Macy’s chaps are even a tribute to her brother who has Cerebral Palsy. We love getting the opportunity to work with Ann-Erica and her phenomenal gang as well as the many cowboys and rodeo personnel who partake!
If Macy wins the title of Miss Rodeo America 2017 she will make Washington the first state to ever win the title back-to-back and if anyone could make history like that I have absolute faith that Macy LaValley, Miss Rodeo Washington 2016, could do it! Be sure to cheer her on in Vegas!
I’ve never met Katie…. but we are pretty tight friends.
How does that work?
Simple: A common goal.
I met Katie through my older sister Nicole back when I first founded Becoming Royal for studying. She told me about a girl, very similar to me, who was overcoming her own fears to try out for a state title, someday, maybe. Katie and I have a lot in common; from working out to healthy eating, meeting new people and a love of history and old country music. Katie just graduated from Washington State University with a degree in history, her specialty is the history of rodeo queens, ranchwomen and cowgirls.
We have never met in person but we text, Facebook, email, and compliment each other like any regular friends would but there is one thing that our friendship does that not many other friendships do and that they need to in order to be healthy: We push each other.
Every day, all day.
Whether it’s questions, videotaping our speeches or modeling and sending them to each other for feedback, we are not afraid to push each other because we both want to win our respective state titles. If Katie doesn’t push me, then it lessens my chance of winning; if I don’t push Katie, then her chances of winning lessens. We push each other in our fashion choices, our applications, our biographies, our pictures; we critique the slightest things while also complimenting, encouraging and motivating. It is my dearest wish that we can both win our state titles and then, working together, represent the northwest and rodeo in ways that it has never been represented before; reaching a broader audience and inspiring more people.
And without further ado……
#PleaseAllowMeToIntroduce Katie Surritt, who is our guest blogger today with a very special announcement….
I make coffee.
Well, technically I make smoothies and teas too. But mostly I make coffee.
Usually while I’m steaming milk or pulling espresso shots, I also take part in changing lives. You know, just on the side of the whole making coffee thing. That’s the cool thing about making coffee for Dutch Bros customers – making coffee is only a vessel for the real purpose of our roles as broistas.
In our small stand that becomes a home, we get to know people. Sure, we know their names and their drinks, but we learn about their lives, their families. We learn when their next exam is, and when their car needs new tires. We learn their desires and their dreams.
Which really gets you thinking about your desires and dreams, too.
This last weekend, I went to “camp” for Broistas in Grants Pass, Oregon where the company was founded. It’s called Coachapalooza because the company believes in coaching employees to build them up as individuals. My world was rocked. Every coach who took the stage, including co-founder Travis Boersma, and late co-founder Dane Boersma’s son, Brant, spoke right to my soul. It was like they knew what guidance my heart needed.
The only reason I’m writing this is because Travis taught me about courage and drove home the idea that courage isn’t an in-the-moment burst, but “Courage is more like a muscle developed over time, so when you finally need it, it can lift heavy things.” It is literally this quote from him that gave me the courage to announce in big letters:
I am running for the title of 2016 Miss Rodeo Washington.
Some people may be looking at the screen thinking, “Seriously? She needed bigger letters for that? Why didn’t she just write it in regular letters?” But I’m telling you, it feels great to write that in big letters.
I’ve been hiding my plan to run since November out of fear that criticism towards me and about my decision would destroy my dream of traveling the nation in a cowboy hat. So those big letters are sort of a big deal for me.
I left Coachapalooza ready to announce it to everyone because the company breathed into me so many values that a successful rodeo queen must have: self-accountability, goal setting and planning, surrounding yourself with people who know, love, and want your goals to succeed just as much as you do, don’t just show up – but work hard every single day, and love what you do. So while I was busy hiding my dream, goals, and plans the last seven months, I wasn’t building my courage muscles – I was only destroying them.
If there has ever been a time for me to work towards some serious (as Dutch Bros. Coffee Master Coach Josh Kimzey would say) “gainz” in my courage muscles, now is the time, because in October, when I’m competing against some very talented young women for the opportunity of a lifetime, I don’t want my courage muscles to fail.
There it is.
That’s my plan.
It’s my dream, I’m going for it, and no one can stop me…or the four thousand dutchies that will spot me along the way.
I work for a company that changes lives. It has changed mine. It’s pretty cool, you know, making coffee.
Whenever I, the other “Katie S.”, am having a hard day, worried about try outs and what people may be thinking of me, Katie S. from Washington always brings me back to ground zero. She re-focuses me on my platforms and why I am doing this: she has done this for months and I think, without even knowing it, she has been working on her courage muscles for quite some time!!!! She has inspired and touched thousands of people already, 15,682 people to be exact, with her tailor made Throwback Thursday posts that she makes for Becoming Royal, and I can’t wait to see how many more she is capable of!
Best of luck to Katie and I can’t wait to see how you do at your try-outs!
#PleaseAllowMeToIntroduce to you The Loupe Family of Thibodeaux, Louisiana. Looking back on 2014 I want to take the time to do my first introduction of the quirky, hospitable and lovable family that my family had the great pleasure to meet when we went to New Orleans, Louisiana to finally see the South that we have heard so much about.
Going to the south?! What a dream come true!! My whole life I have lived with the imaginings of so many things; a lot of those having to do with the southern way of life that I have read so much about. The history books I have cherished, the fast-running horses I always wanted to own, the bands that I wanted to join, the debutante southern belles I wished with all my might that I could have born as!
I couldn’t wait to hear charming accents, sweet hospitality, and eat fried food and keep a whopping 18″ waist. Isn’t that how it works in the south?!
Going with my good friend from high school and college, Alyssa, was a definite high point. I hadn’t seen her much for the last year and the fact that she was more than down for this “College-is-almost-over” adventure was more than exciting. Having my parents with us as well was a bonus because, honestly, they have more experience when it comes to traveling (plus they were the only ones old enough to get a rental car!).
After we were all settled in we headed over to this little corner restaurant that the kids working the front desk told us about. The name was Bubba II’s. When we pulled up to the place I was absolutely sketched out. There was this lady sitting on the bench out front petting this skinny black cat which I would have absolutely mistaken for a stray and still questioned it’s personal living space, with a 110% serious conversation. I am not a big cat fan and if that is how the people were going to be at that restaurant I was starting to doubt if I wanted anything to do with it. Nobody else in the group seemed to bat an eye though so in we headed… where we were hit with this overpowering awful smell. I honestly don’t know how to describe it; it was like a weird combination of swamp, food, and musty antique store? Barf.
Again, nobody faltered so we kind of wandered up to where we thought we were supposed to order. All of us were looking around, highly unsure. Then 2 tall athletic boys walked in wearing Nicholl’s state baseball gear, grabbed a to-go order, said hello to everyone working there and a small table of four people in the corner who looked like the kind of locals that could set up residency due to squatter’s rights. Once I saw that I felt totally fine. I don’t know why but the atmosphere and the way that the ball players acted reminded me of Local Boys or even Greenberry; two of the most local points in my college town and home town.
The older gentleman who was managing the joint at the time, and probably owned it to be quite honest, was a lively little firecracker and told us exactly which plate to order and then gave us options for sides. Still looking quite taken aback by the onslaught of information, he freely offered the two most common sides to help narrow our choices; spinach casserole and carrot souffle.
Carrot souffle had my attention right off that bat – how in the world do you even make that?! I have made chocolate souffle before and let me tell you what, now THAT was an experience! (Sidenote: don’t make a souffle when your construction company owning father decides to roll the gravel driveway, your souffle won’t rise!) My mom immediately said that the plate she and my dad were going to share would have those sides. The gentleman looked at me and Alyssa (who had big eyes). “Two sides of macaroni and cheese?” she ventured to say looking at me. “It ain’t mac’n’cheese like yo mama makes it gurl,” the getnleman chimed in. I started laughing… “One mac’n’cheese and the carrot suffle?” I must have said it with a little more commandment than Alyssa, that or the more likely reason, that the guy approved of my two choices over Alyssa’s because he wrote it down and went back into the kitchen. We looked at each other with comically large eyes, shrugged our shoulders and found a seat.
“Y’all from THE OSU?” The same quirky guy came over and asked us.
As everyone else in the group started to say “Uhhh.. noooo…” knowing full well that he was referring to Oklahoma State I double backed with, “Heck yeah! Go Beavers!”
The guy actually knew who Oregon State was – probably because of baseball, especially if they had the local university baseball players coming in their quite often. He was a firecracker and kept us entertained. He was so nice and hospitable that he actually got us a map and drew out our exact game plan for the next day which included a swamp tour and plantation tours.
No sooner did our heads hit the pillow but then we were out; traveling will do that to you you know?
The next morning we are up and at it bright and early again; it was one of those convenient times when the time change helps you with your travel. I woke up long before Alyssa though and did a small workout before heading down to breakfast. Unfortunately, when I got all the locks undone and got out our door I am pretty sure that I woke Alyssa up. I was so antsy to get out and get going that I literally couldn’t sit in the room any longer just twiddling my thumbs (albeit I felt fairly rude just leaving Alyssa in their alone, I had this feeling like she was my guest the entire trip).
The breakfast was complimentary, for that I was thankful. At the hotel that I work at nothing is remotely complimentary and that was a fear that I had in booking a room. I am a-okay with simple complimentary breakfasts, I don’t have the money nor the time for a full fledged breakfast. They even had biscuits and gravy as a part of the morning breakfast, something I knew Alyssa would be ecstatic about. Alyssa joined me downstairs not long after I had got my food and sat down, confirming my suspicions that she was awakened by the heavy door when I had left.
We left at 10:30 am for the adventures of the day, which started with the swamp tour. We were told that we needed to eat lunch at the swamp tour restaurant and then have dinner at the restaurant at one of the plantation tours that we were supposed to go on. The old man the night before had told us that tourist traps just make their food spicy, true Cajun food isn’t spicy, it’s just well seasoned! We got there without much hiccup except for right before we got to the location where there was police blocking off the road for what looked like a funeral at a church.
Dad was quickly proving to be a disaster when it came to driving around. My parents had brought their GPS to help navigate us around the bayou but my dad had this awful tendency to want to do his own thing and not listen to the GPS. The number of times that I heard that darn voice say “recalculating” will probably continue to haunt my nightmares for the next few months.
When we got to the place that we were supposed to be we were a little apprehensive. The whole place looked like a weird hoarders location with a gift shop overflowing with items. There didn’t seem to be a soul in sight but we decided to poke around and see if someone showed up. In the yard across the street from Zam’s Swamp Tours was a dog kennel with ducks and a Tom turkey in it. The yard had other pens which contained a dog, bunnies, raccoons, and goats. It was quite the little menagerie that they had going on!
I felt like a creeper as we walked around, checking out the bayou. I looked over and was mortified to see my dad doing the most ridiculous thing. He was over taking pictures, in the middle of a private yard and driveway, of somebodies hunting sled. <Facepalm> What do you do in that situation? I was like “Dad! Get over here!”
He shook his head at me and held his hand up to silence me; an action that absolutely annoyed me. He was trespassing and being disrespectful. Did he not realize that we were in the south, the land of “Everyone has a gun and if you overstep onto our territory we won’t be afraid to use it!”? He had his glasses on and was typing away on his phone. I could only assume that he was sending it to my cousins father-in-law whom he goes hunting with almost every day of the winter. I literally just had to walk away and get out of sight before I lost my cool which I didn’t think would be very becoming in front of Alyssa – considering I have a reputation as the “nice one”.
Mom, Alyssa and I stood out on the dock watching an older gentleman fishing around this small toll bridge. The bridge itself was a fascination because it made SO much noise whenever a car went over it. The first time a car went over while we were there Alyssa and I just about jumped out of our skin because it had a sound that I can only liken to a round of an automatic gun going off.
Standing on the floating dock I really got to take in the full “Country Taste” of the bayou. Every breath I was reached with had not the unpleasant smoggy scent that I figured I would get this close to the town of New Orleans but a swampy, musty, decomposing vegetation and fishy aroma. It wasn’t unpleasant but I had a good hunch that if I were to ever live here my allergy to mold would result in me not making it very long. The gift shop and out lying buildings were exactly the same as well, just the scent of dust and mold.
We found my dad inside the restaurant talking to a middle aged lady who not only looked but sounded like a southern Mrs. Carter (my 6th grade witch of a teacher) and Gretchen Wilson (yes, the country star). She was so sweet, you could immediately tell by the way that she talked and the twinkle in her eye. We had seen a crazy looking long blonde hair, black skinny jean, chain hanging motorcycle gangster looking guy wandering around earlier. It turns out that this much younger guy was her husband. She was very impressed with Alyssa and I’s height and was quick to ask us if we knew any strong, big girls to set up with her son ZZ. Alyssa and I looked at each other and then said, “Ruth?” (in reference to our giant basketball playing friend.
The whole conversation of match making got absolutely 110% disrupted when the next thing I saw, out of my amazing peripheral vision from sports, was Diego (the husband) walking into the restaurant through the outside door with a 6′ python around his shoulders. I quickly took a few steps back and wished that I could be fast and discreet and get my phone out in time to videotape my mom’s reaction since she is absolutely terrified of snakes. My mom has this absolute fear of snakes, a result of a run in with a nest of baby rattlers when she was out hiking once upon a time. I probably would have been able to get it on video if it wasn’t for the fact that I got myself moved away first. My mom, who is like me and tries to remain attentive, saw me move and quickly surveyed the scenery. When she saw the snake she was quick to get to the other side of the building putting a pillar and my dad between her and the snake. My dad was still hell-bent on trying to tell whatever random story he was telling and I don’t think he even saw the snake at first. It wasn’t until his eyes got big and his nostrils flared in fear that I knew he had seen it… well that wasn’t the first sign, the first sign was that he finally quit talking.
“Do y’all want to hold him?” Diego asked us.
“uh-uh, nope! No way!” Alyssa said quietly as if just for me to hear.
“Awh, he ain’t gonna hurt nobody,” Diego replied. He went on to explain that the snake was a python, not like the rattlers that we were used to seeing in the Pacific North West, and that it wouldn’t strike us to kill us. It was the squeezing that we had to be worried about. I wanted to interrupt and be like “I Know.” I mean I grew up watching the Crocodile Hunter! I kept my mouth shut so as to not seem rude, plus I figured somebody else in that room probably didn’t know all of that. The entire time that he was talking, I couldn’t help but think of the quote from Sweet Home Alabama, “Just because I talk slow don’t mean that I’m dumb.”
It was so true! I knew that Diego and Mrs. Loupe were intelligent people, maybe not necessarily book smart but in the sense of street-smart (or should I say swamp-smart). It’s just that we had very different backgrounds but they had the same comfort moving around the dangerous creatures of the swamp that I have moving around my horses. You know exactly where to go, what signs to watch for, and what information you should share.
Diego beckoned for us to go with him and I looked around almost in disgust at the rest of my party who was making it clear that no, they did not want to follow him to wherever he was going with the snake. I am used to being the kind of fake-scared one when I am with my friends. They are the brave ones who are like, “yeah, let’s go!” I realized that I was going to have to be the bold one and lead the way. I wasn’t going to be allowed the luxury to sit back and be the funny one with mock fear. I was curious to see what Diego wanted to show us though so I followed him out the door and around to this small shed that was set with an adjoining wall to the gift shop. I could immediately see a red glow and could feel heat coming out of the room so I knew that it was the living quarters of the… SNAKE!!!
I jumped back and exclaimed, “Holy smokes! Check that out!” It was more in surprise than of fear although I will admit there was some fear in my first moment of panic of seeing the massive python. I hadn’t seen that it was caged as of yet and that irrational analysis of it being loose and going to eat me was completely wrong but it still didn’t stop me from quickly tracking an escape route if the giant python came after me. In this cage, situated in the bottom left hand corner, just inside the door, was a large tank (thank heavens) with a GIANT boa constrictor. It had a girth of about 14″ in diameter. I had the sickening thought that could be a snake that could eat me; kind of like the snake that ate the drunkard who passed out next to the bar in South America. That could be my fate if I decided to take a snooze with that bad boy hanging around. I finally ventured into the shed (once I was convinced that the snake was properly contained) but felt so unnerved by the giant python which had picked its head up and had it resting on the glass staring directly at me that I never could quite relax in the snake room. I was pretty convinced that it was sizing me up for its next meal and didn’t like the feeling that I was being stalked. Alyssa, who I am assuming got sent out with me by my parents, was a good 10 feet behind me and was not wanting anything to do with the snakes but she was laughing in disbelief so at least I could convince myself that she was having a good time.
After the snake escapade we went back into the restaurant where we learned that the reason it was so slow was because a well-loved special needs gentleman of the area had passed away. This was the funeral procession that we got held up in on our way there. Apparently, the whole neighborhood was coming to the restaurant after the funeral to have a celebration of life – I felt a little bad for being there for such a commercialized business touristy thing at this point. Diego, who I think had taken a liking to us, didn’t seem to mind and said that he was still willing to give us a tour. He took us up to the house where we got a better look at all of his creatures. We were laughing when he was talking about his raccoons. In the south they don’t seem to be such a nemesis like they are in the north; they seem to think more of them as cute and cuddly. Trust me, I have had enough experiences with raccoons – like when one killed our first family dog.
He took us over by his garage/car port where he had buckets like the kind we use to water our horses. In the big bucket was four little 2-year old ‘gators… they were only like 16 inches long. He promptly handed one to me, obviously assuming that I was the brave one I guess. The little critter was moving around and I was a little apprehensive. After a little bit of movement it calmed down and it must have realized that my body temperature was a lot warmer than it and it literally closed its eyes and cuddled up, not unlike a puppy or kitten. I was touched! It was so cute, I kind of wanted to take it home! 🙂 Alyssa tentatively reached out to touch the baby gator and I gestured handing it over to her, thinking that she would want to hold it. She immediately jumped back a few feet and was like, “Nope, no way!” My mom was the only other person who ventured to hold one. It was pretty funny though, she must have been watching me and trying to gain the courage to do it because all of a sudden she just snatched the ‘gator from me. I looked at her in surprise. “What, I wanted to hold it..” she nervously replied. She must have just decided to treat it with the band-aid approach – go quick and it’ll be better in the long run. I don’t think my mom liked being the timid one of the group, it wasn’t that she was the most timid, that would have gone to Alyssa if there was an award for that. The thing was, I was the only one who really seemed to be getting a lot out of the whole adventure. It was a little frustrating, I just wanted to be like, “why the hell did you guys even come?!”
Diego led us past a collection of 4 Corvettes which was absolutely awesome! I knew we had found a kindred spirit when it came to cars with Diego – which shouldn’t have surprised me since he did have that biker-man look. Once we commented on the cars he beckoned us into his house, yes his home! Where inside what must have been a sitting parlor were 3 of the nicest motorcycles I have ever seen! One of them was directly off the show Orange County Choppers! We asked him if he ever rode them and he promptly replied, “Nope!” He said that there was a huge bike rally in the summer time so he just parks them out front and everyone drives by on their bikes for the cruise and then everyone gets to see and appreciate them at that point.
He opened up a gate to his back yard where a couple pygmy goats were roaming around. This horned black billy goat was eye-balling me pretty good and I was leary about leading the group into the backyard. “Is this a tourist trap?” I asked Diego.
He looked at me really confused.
“Is your billy goat going to attack me?’ I explained further.
He laughed at me like I was crazy, “Nah, he won’t hurt you much.” Uhhh, much?!
I apprehensively walked through the backyard, keeping myself on the defensive for if the billy goat decided to attack. Up ahead were two sheds with concrete tub like basins. Figuring that there were ‘gators in there I wasn’t surprised when my mom pointed and said, “There are ‘gators in there!” I had figured that she had got that information from Diego – nope that was just her making assumptions (just like I did).
The loud splash on our right (the side we weren’t looking) and the blood-chilling hiss that we heard quickly told us that the ‘gators were over to our right. We all jumped about a foot and a half in the air. All of us except Diego who laughed at us and then jumped over the cage-link fence and got right down into the swampy edges of the alligator habitat that was about a quarter of an acre big in his back yard. The ‘gator was a male, which Diego pointed out by the fact that it was defensive about it’s territory. He explained that typically he wouldn’t be able to be that close to the gator or be able to handle it as much as he was because they are too fast and aggressive. The reason that he could with our visit was because it was winter and all the reptile like creatures were in a hibernation like state where they were trying to move as little as possible.
After we learned some more about the ‘gators and saw the female that was located on the far end of the pen (I wondered if these were the parents to the baby gators that we had held. It seemed so unreal that they could be related, they were just little baby things at two years old when compared to the full fledged gators in the backyard swamp!), Diego took us over to the concrete-tub sheds that we had originally thought that the ‘gators were in. It turned out that that was where their snapping turtles were. I had only seen these creatures on TV shows so it was totally awesome to actually get to see them in real life and learn about them!
On to the actual swam tour we went! I guess the point of the ‘gators in the back yard was so that, during the winter months like when we were there, they allowed us to see ‘gators and learn about them when the chance of us seeing them in the wild was slim to none. It was a little colder in Louisiana than I thought that it would be, especially once we got out and rolling on our party boat tour boat. I think the scariest part of the whole trip happened at that point which was when we went under the toll bridge. It wasn’t anything like any toll bridges that I had ever seen. I thought that it would lift on one end or break in the middle and lift that way; heck I even thought it would just pivot and rotate so we could go by on one side. Nope. The whole thing lifted straight up in the air. It gave me chills when we went under it; what if it just broke its holds and crashed down on us? If you weren’t under the outside perimeter of the bridge you wouldn’t be guaranteed to be crushed but crushed sounded a heck of a lot better than being trapped and drowning. I decided to do my best and to try not to think of all the horrible ways that I could die in the swamp and just enjoy myself.
The actual tour of the swamp was pretty melodramatic. The calmness and serenity of the scenery really made it a truly amazing trip. I think that the reason it was so great in my eyes was because of the way Diego explained everything to us. It wasn’t about the commercial aspect of it, it wasn’t about this or that; it was about the importance of the swamp to the people of New Orleans, especially those of the early periods. He talked about how the swamp allowed people to provide for their family and that hunting alligators as a sport really ruined it for everyone that lived there. The government didn’t realize that the people who lived and breathed the swamp for survival weren’t necessarily educated enough to understand all of the rules and regulations that they would have to complete in order to keep hunting the alligators for their resources. The result was that they ended up getting in trouble for their hunting without permits or tags and eventually kept from the lifestyle that they had always lived by. It truly broke my heart to hear that.
I was very impressed with their living style and the ability of the swamp to provide so much food for them. I tried to compare it to the woods of the Northwest but I couldn’t come close. They had shrimp, crab, alligator, oysters, crawdads (aka crawfish up here), bass, trout, sockeye, ducks, geese, frogs, turtle, catfish, and probably a lot of other things that I have never heard of. I guess up here, on our coast, we have all of those things. The thought of being able to go crabbing or fishing or anything like that truly makes me happy. I did determine that I am a huge catfish fan though, I couldn’t seem to get enough of it throughout our entire time in New Orleans!
When we drove past the restaurant, going back through the swamp tour, Diego decided that we needed to see the lake. When we asked him if it was a big lake he said, “Well I think it’s a big lake but I told a customer that once and he stated that I was wrong.” Before we got around the corner to the lake though we heard the sound of a motor boat rushing up on us. We turned around to see a sight so movie-picture perfect that I had to turn around and try my darndest to stifle my laughter. Standing in the back of a speedy swamp sled was this large, stocky, big guy with long blonde hair tied back in a ponytail wearing black pants and a black wife beater. He had dark eyebrows which were a stark contrast in comparison to his fair hair so I couldn’t help but feel that maybe it was dyed that way. He zoomed up to Diego and exchanged some quick words with him. I realized that this must be ZZ, the son of Zam’s Swamp Tours. The thing that made it so ridiculously funny was that this was the kid that the Mrs. Carter look alike wanted to set up with Ruth. The thought of Ruth and ZZ being a couple literally made me die of laughter. The Olympian and the Swamp Boy = a match made in heaven? Dying of laughter right now!
During our swamp tour Diego had let it slip (when he was discussing his disgust for the commercialization of their lifestyle) that they were asked to be on Swamp People (the reality TV show) but they were never going to do that again. “Again”? We asked him. He explained that his family, ten years prior, had been on Trading Spouses (aka Wife Swap). They had traded with a family from California that were Vegan and Animal Rights Activists. At the thought of someone like that coming into their lifestyle, I couldn’t help but laugh! I wondered who was made to look like the idiot in that episode.
ZZ quickly informed us upon arriving back at the restaurant/gift shop area that we would not be welcomed to get food. He was a little rude/insolent about it but I could understand that it probably was because they were hosting the big funeral/celebration of life and, technically, there restaurant wouldn’t normally be open on a weekday. We decided to head out towards Oak Alley, the plantation that the gentleman at Bubba II’s had told us about the night before. Diego and the look alike Mrs. Carter were quick to agree that that was the place to go. It was pretty funny though because, with their accents, whenever they said “Oak Alley” it sounded like they were saying, “O’Cally”. O’Cally became the affectionate term that we started calling the place after that.
As we went to leave Zam’s Swamp Tours our day was almost made when Diego informed my parents that they had lovely daughters and loved having us out there. My friend Alyssa is black. My family is all white. Obviously someone was adopted if Alyssa was actually my sister! It was quite a good chortle all the way out to the rental car.
By the time that we got back to the hotel after a day of exploring plantations I was exhausted, but a cheerful conversation with a taller African American woman at Domino’s changed my mood for me. She had a tough exterior and when she came up to us while we were both waiting for our respective pizza’s she asked us if we had issues finding jeans. Then we found that we had a common lifeline in that we both shopped at Alloy. Alyssa hadn’t really heard of it before, which was preposterous because I had been quick to tell all of my tall friends since I know that they were all struggling to find jeans in the right length like me. The fact that Alyssa didn’t know was just her own bad luck.
I had claimed that I wasn’t that hungry since I made my stomach fill to bursting with the delicious food from the plantation (it was so ridiculously good that I couldn’t let any of it go to waste!) but, true to form, as soon as I had a pizza in front of me I ended up eating almost a whole pizza by myself. For the second night in a row, we were all piled into Alyssa and I’s room where we watched the DVD of wife swap that Diego and Mrs. Loupe had given us of their episode. We got as much of a kick out of the commercials of the show as we did the actual show. We were having an old person, “Oh I remember back then!” moments as commercial after commercial was for movies and tv series that came out up to a decade ago. Man I feel old.
In the Trading Spouses episode we got fully into the series, probably more so than anyone at the time was. It kind of felt like we were in on this inside joke because we knew the Lupe family now. We had been welcomed into their home (literally) and had really gotten to know their character. I was nervous to watch it for a fear that they would be portrayed poorly but I was gleeful to find out that they were depicted just as we had seen their hospitable nature and quintessential lifestyle. The other mom in the swap was an absolute witch though who was an absolute terd bucket about everything to do with their lifestyle. Our joke for the rest of the trip was “Don’t be a Barbara” or, when we got crazy traditional Louisiana food, “Suck it up Barbara, eat the ‘gator sausage!” It really just added a whole new element to our trip that we never would have had if we hadn’t been blessed with the amazing opportunity to meet the Loupes. Curious to see what Barbara was really like (was she really that terrible of a person?) I looked up online where I found an irate editorial about the way that she was depicted on Trading Spouses. I completely believed until the red flag in her last paragraph where she stated that Mrs. Loupe was really the enemy, not her. I don’t see why either one of them had to be an enemy. Just like with any reality TV show they obviously had to say and do those things on camera, regardless of if they were taken out of context.
Any questions about my Louisiana trip, don’t hesitate to ask! It was a blast and I can’t wait for my next travel adventure and to meet more wonderful and interesting people!
This hashtag is not something that I can take credit for, it is the by product of bouncing ideas off of a co-worker.
One day at work, talking about the possibility of a blog (because keeping this anonymous is pertinent to me), my co-worker said that she and her friends in North Carolina had come up with an idea for the blog that never actually got going. The title was going to be called #PleaseAllowMeToIntroduce.
Being more into photography than I am, the whole point of the blog was a great head shot of a person followed by this hash tag in the title followed by their name. The blog would be open to whoever wanted to post and you would introduce to the “world” the wonderful people that you always seem to meet when you are traveling, broke down on the side of the road, or stuck in the grocery line.
You know the kind of people I am talking about. The guy who survived being stabbed 17 times by a schizophrenic outside his church on Christmas Eve mass. The founder of N7 (Nike’s tribute to the Native American tribes) that you met on the plane coming home from Grandma and Grandpa’s. The politician who helped you with your paper on the train, the former world champion cowboy at the barber shop, or the unique homeless man whose story left a lasting impression on you.
You get the drift right?
Since they never got their blog up and running, I want to introduce this concept to you. I want you to think of #PleaseAllowMeToIntroduce whenever you meet someone new and intriguing, someone worthy of being introduced. Use the hash tag and the appropriate tags and lets see who all we can meet!