Two Saturdaysago Ms. Diane and I were sitting in a little outboard-rigged rowboat in themiddle of the bayou that oozes off Lake Martin near Lafayette, LA. The day beforethere'd been that icy storm in New York; here it was like springtime, mildand clear. The sun was setting in a silent, spectacular blaze way over beyondthe moss-hung cypresses standing up to their hips in scummy green swamp water.It was completely still, except that you could just hear the hum of trafficon Interstate 10 a few miles away, running out of Baton Rouge west to Lake Charles.There was an odd and not at all unpleasant taste to the air, not the swampystink you'd expect, something more smoky, like frankincense.
Mr. CoerteVorhies was pointing out stray fauna?a female nutria, a kind of swamp rat,nesting on a log; a beautiful great blue heron, standing on one leg near a lightning-blastedcypress stump; a busy woodpecker. Vorhies said the water was literally fullof alligators?6, 9 feet long, the occasional monster making 17 feet?andin the summer along the levee they sun themselves in such numbers you walk thereat some peril, but they're rarely seen in winter, hibernating in the mudfive feet down in water thick and dark as Guinness.