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Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast [Paperback]

Mike Tidwell
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 9 2004 Vintage Departures

The Cajun coast of Louisiana is home to a way of life as unique, complex, and beautiful as the terrain itself.  As award-winning travel writer Mike Tidwell journeys through the bayou, he introduces us to the food and the language, the shrimp fisherman, the Houma Indians, and the rich cultural history that makes it unlike any other place in the world. But seeing the skeletons of oak trees killed by the salinity of the groundwater, and whole cemeteries sinking into swampland and out of sight, Tidwell also explains why each introduction may be a farewell—as the storied Louisiana coast steadily erodes into the Gulf of Mexico.

Part travelogue, part environmental exposé, Bayou Farewell is the richly evocative chronicle of the author's travels through a world that is vanishing before our eyes.


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From Publishers Weekly

This lyrically intense travelogue will provide historians of the not too distant future with a guide to a vanishing landscape and a lost culture. Tidwell (Mountains of Heaven) graphically recounts catching rides on shrimp boats and crab boats through the dark water swamps of southern Louisiana into the heart of Cajun country. Here, among the great blue heron, spoonbill, gar and gator, the reader meets bayou folk-from the honest and generous fishermen, who provide the author with room, board and transport for his work as a deck hand, to the disheveled backwoods healer who intrigues and tantalizes the writer with his shamanistic spells and incantations. It is these portraits of people on the edge of survival, living in a world where the land is sinking into the sea at a rate of 25 acres a day, that truly engage the reader. A variety of ecological factors have contributed to the subsidence of the Mississippi Delta. With good intentions to stop deadly floods, the Army Corps of Engineers constructed a vast network of levees and dams along the river, preventing the annual devastating floods of the past. Unfortunately, this also ended the yearly buildup of silt, necessary for the reinforcement and continued existence of the fragile marshlands in the low country. The nutrient-rich, but light, sandy soil cannot withstand the ceaseless eroding forces of ocean tide and winds. The author's descriptive powers, especially of people, provide the reader with enduring snapshots of a water-bound way of life that is sinking into history.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

An award-winning writer on travel and the environment regrets the devastation of Louisiana's Cajun coast.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Review from Louisiana Sportsman magazine Nov. 7 2003
Format:Hardcover
A Washington, D.C., area resident, Tidwell came to Louisiana to write a story for the Washington Post about hitch-hiking on Cajun Country shrimp boats.
But what he found was the greatest untold story in America, one about which he and his associates had never heard a single word ´¿ the death of the Louisiana coast. ...Tidwell came in with no preconceived ideas about the environmental disaster along the Louisiana coast.
The marsh, however, grabbed him with her cord-grass fingers, and pulled him into herself. She showed him her blanched oak skeletons that stand defiant and scream like sentinels, her deeply dredged canals that fester like scars on the skin of an old mother, and her beaches that are being stripped of their load with the efficiency of a thousand miners.
The marsh cried for Tidwell ´¿ an outsider ´¿ to be her voice, and he´¿s answered the call.
Bayou Farewell is an amazing book. Actually, amazing isn´¿t adequately superlative. It´¿s an astounding book that ought to be required reading in every high school in Louisiana, if not the nation.
It was a book only a non-Louisianian could have written, and Tidwell, with his mastery of the English language and breathtakingly descriptive prose, was perfect for the task. The marsh ´¿ the mother of our Louisiana culture ´¿ knew what she was doing, even in this hour as she lay on her death bed.
And she is, indeed, on her death bed.
The author brings the coastal erosion disaster to a national audience by giving it life through the words and actions of the people who live in the marshes and watch helplessly as the Gulf day by day nibbles its way toward their homes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bayou Farewell - read it before it's too late Aug. 5 2003
Format:Hardcover
Bayou Farewell by Mike Tidwell is a first-rate book and highly recommended. This book is about the loss of land along coastal Louisiana. At a rate of about 25 sqaure miles (or more) per year, Louisiana is losing the shallow water estuary that both supports a very productive fishing industry and offers storm surge protection during hurricanes. The reasons for the loss of land are presented in the book. With the sense of a road-trip adventurer, Mike Tidwell researched this issue by hitch-hiking his way up and down the bayous so that he could talk to and gather information from residents, fishermen, and scientists. The result is a report that combines scientific facts with cultural insight into what makes this region of the US a national treasure. Every American should read this book because this is a national issue that rarely gets reported in the media. If you like seafood, enjoy Cajun culture or like to visit New Orleans, then you should read this book. I particularly appreciated Mike Tidwell's ability to weave scientific discussions (e.g., river geomorphology) with cultural information such as the annual blessing of the fleet. This is an engaging and enlightening book. Read it soon before the story comes to a tragic ending.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Next National Ecological "Rescue Effort" July 10 2003
Format:Hardcover
I was born and raised in New Orleans. In the 60's we built a fishing camp southeast of N.O. out of the town of Empire, La. A 15 minute boat ride, we were deep in the Gulf Salt Marsh and about 3 miles from the actual Gulf. We set power poles in the thick muck to build our 30' by 30' camp. The mosquitoes and racoons were everywhere--and the redfish, speckled trout, oysters and shrimp were bountiful. Over the next 25 years we watched the marsh slowly "drown" and disappear--eventually having our camp sitting in open water. Our knowledge of where the "edges" of the bayou used to be is the only way we can get back to the camp--now, without the marsh grass to use as a guide. Mike Tidwell has done a marvelous job of describing a real ecological/sociological disaster in the making--while much of Louisiana and the nation snoozes on. I have been to most of the places he describes. Spent many an hour fishing in the oil pipeline canals never realizing the damage they were quietly creating. I have trawlled for shrimp in some of those places he mentions, and Tidwell does an excellent job of creating a real picture for the reader through his word choices. I can't imagine how someone would not enjoy reading this. I fear that it might be too late--but Tidwell does an admirable job of bringing the problem to focus from a variety of viewpoints.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Call to Arms July 21 2003
Format:Hardcover
I would never proclaim a book "great", as I am not experienced enough in this area with regard to form/prose/etc...However, I do believe in labeling a book as "entertaining", as this is much more subjective (what are reviews for, right?) Tidwell's book is one of the most enjoyable and entertaining I can remember reading. I have lived in Louisiana for over ten years, and was able to recall many of Tidwell's descriptions as he recounted visits with most of the "players" in the Lower Louisiana coastal area, as well as with the bureaucratic brick-walls standing in the way (locally and nationally). An intricate pattern is woven by Tidwell, demonstrating how one industry/community/culture can have a domino effect on many others. READ THIS BOOK and TAKE ANY ACTION POSSIBLE!
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