With my own sudden jaunt to the coast this week, I’ve neglected updating you on the ‘Cajun Country Convoy’. The last time we checked in with these crusty volunteers, they were erecting a makeshift grocery store in Thidaboux, Louisiana for the mountain of merchandise donated by the good people of Pitt County, North Carolina. Since then they’ve hit the road, ferrying truckloads of supplies to the many Bayou towns nearly wiped off the map by Hurricane Katrina. Yesterday they rolled into Pointe Aux Chenes, a backwaters island isolated from most relief supplies. From his shotgun seat in the caravan, The Daily Reflector’s Paul Dunn files another splendid dispatch:
Crawling at a parade's pace, the convoy's six vehicles wound its way past Cajun camp homes raised 9-10 feet above bayou level. Some volunteers rode, others walked alongside. At each home, enthusiastic, tireless men and women rushed to front doors asking people what they still needed. Most asked for water, baby things, medical supplies and paper products. Nerf balls and plastic jewelry thrilled the kids, who raced out with their mothers to see what was going on.
"Thank you very, very, very much," residents repeated as they received goods.
Our Father's House of Fellowship and Restoration assistant pastor Leon Brunet III marveled at the relief effort.
Riddle retrieved a Nerf football from his truck, reared back and fired a wobbly spiral toward a boy standing by the open window of a parked car. The ball missed the boy, but nearly landed in the car's window. No matter. With quick reactions, the kid grabbed the bouncing toy and raced away toward his home.
At another stop, Gonzalez jumped out of the truck, ran up to an idling school bus and popped a couple of Nerf footballs into the open windows. The kids grinned. Gonzalez grinned back. The Greenville building contractor had been waiting for this day, he said. "Today, I felt great, and it was the reason we were down here: to help the people," Gonzalez said. "I'm tired, but I'm tickled to death that we were able to help them, here. This makes you realize how lucky we are, doesn't it?"
After visiting just about every home in the area that still needed supplies, the group decided to call it a day. The trailer they'd been pulling was considerably lighter than it had been two hours before.
A final stop at the church, a quick prayer, heartfelt thanks in both directions, and the relief workers headed back to Thibodaux, sweaty and exhausted, but happy.
"I wasn't sure we'd ever get back today," said Carney, who'd rode the entire distribution route on the back of the open-bed trailer. "This was a lot of work, but we did what we set out to do, and the appreciation from the people here was just wonderful. I'm grateful we were able to help them."
This morning, three of the four men will begin the long drive back home. Dick Carney, organizer of the relief effort and my once estranged father, will stay in the area for at least another week. I love Dunn’s description of the Old Goat riding on the open bed trailer, offering help and humor to those who really need it. Wish he’d answer his cell phone...