Saturday, September 27, 2014

Louisiana: What They Do in North Louisiana For Fun

Heretofore, my primary cultural informant on northern Louisianans has been Dave Robicheaux, and he's a fictional character. Dave doesn't think much of northern Louisianans.

An actual North Louisianan recently offered me some information about his homeland.

While it may be true that not much drinkin,' dancin,' music-makin' or boudin-eatin' may be going on (and y'all know these are sure-fire fun), let it not be said that North Louisianans don't know how to have a good time.

Three Things North Louisianans Like to Do for Fun: 

1. Poke a wasp nest with a stick and then run like H- E - Double Hockey Sticks

This was a favorite, childhood past-time of my informant. As noted above, my informant is of the male persuasion, information that is probably redundant considering the nature of the activity.

2. Tie a string to a june bug's leg and fly him like a kite.

When the same North Louisianan told me that when he was a child, he and his friends would tie a string around a june bug's leg and walk behind it while it flew, it sounded fantastical, but, damn, it's true! Not just in North Louisiana, but elsewhere. 

Below is a story about this very thing from a North Carolinian. The story is called June Bugs, a page from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Story, administered by the library of the same name.  I wouldn't normally post an entire story from another source, but this well-told story seems to be on an archive page, and I'd hate for it to be lost in the ethernet. Wish I knew the author's name.
I REMEMBER THE FUN we had during June bug time. These big green bugs appeared from nowhere just about the season that our peaches got ripe.

We would get up early in the morning to hunt June bugs. The only equipment needed was a jar to put them in and string to tie on their legs. We had to be very particular about the kind of string we used because a piece that was too heavy would cut down on their ability to "june," and a piece that was too fine and sharp would cut off their hind legs.

An overripe peach was an excellent place to find June bugs since they like to eat soft fruit. Whenever we spied a cluster of them on a peach, we crept up on them as quietly as a cat stalks a mouse. The poor unsuspecting bugs would be poised with their heads down in the fruit and their fat green bodies sticking up, enjoying a luscious meal when our hands would close over them like a vise. They scrambled madly in our hands. Sometimes the tickling of their tiny feet was too much, and we’d have to let go. Usually, we held on until one or two were deposited in the jar.

After a good number were caught, we selected a big strong-looking bug and tied a string on his hind leg. Then we were ready for him to "june." When we threw him out in the air he would fly frantically in an arc making a buzzing sound. Sometimes one would be stubborn and wouldn’t begin to fly quickly enough to suit us, so we would give him a few hard swings around in the air to stir him up and start him buzzing.

We always evaluated each bug’s ability to "june" because some performed much better than others. As they were put through the selection process, the strings with the best "juners" were tied to a banister or a bush while the auditions continued. Quite frequently, all of the tethered ones would decide to start buzzing and flying around at the same time. This created quite a commotion and became a serious problem.

"Oh!" we screamed as we saw what was happening and then made a dive for them, but we were often too slow. The strings would get tangled in a hopeless mass as the bugs buzzed in and out around each others before we could separate them. In desperation, we would cut them loose and let them fly away, strings dangling behind them like kite tails. Sometimes, the poor things would get caught on a limb or a bush and hang there buzzing madly. If they were not too high up in a tree, we would try to liberate them, but their fate was often to provide a bird with a delectable dinner.

I mustn’t forget the awful stink that accompanied hunting for June bugs. They had a sickening odor that made vigorous hand washing necessary before the smell could be eradicated.

We usually emptied our jar of bugs in the evening, but each morning during June bug time, we would again be on the hunt to replenish the jars with big green bugs.

3. Immigrate to South Louisiana


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