In crises such as Harvey, you want outdoorsmen on your side
At a time such as this, you want the guys who can still thread a line when their hands are wet and cold. They’re descending on Houston in their fleets of flat-bottomed aluminum boats, the sport fishermen and duck hunters outnumbering the government rescuers by the hundreds, their skiffs sitting low in the floodwaters with their human catch in the back, clutching plastic-wrapped possessions.
The country is suddenly grateful for this “Cajun Navy,” for their know-how, for the fact that they can read a submerged log in the water, and haul their boats over tree stumps and levees and launch them from freeway junctions. There are no regulators to check their fishing licenses or whether they have a fire extinguisher and life preservers on board, which they don’t. They’re used to maneuvering through the cypress of Caddo Lake or the hydrilla and coontail of the Atchafalaya, where the water might be four feet or it might rise to 18, and the stinking bog is called “coffee grinds” because of the way boots sink in it. Spending hours in monsoon rains doesn’t bother them, because they know ducks don’t just show up on a plate, and they’ve learned what most of us haven’t, that dry comfort is not the only thing worth seeking.
They speak an oddly poetic language, of spinnerbait and jigs, chatterbait and Texas rigs, of palomar knots and turls. They have suspended their pursuit of bass and black crappies, blue gills and redfish, crawfish and panfish, to motor through subdivisions, shirtless in the rain. You can’t help but be struck by just how much they know how to do — and how much your citified self doesn’t. Trim a rocking boat, tie a secure knot, navigate the corduroying displaced water, and interpret the faint dull colors in the mist-heavy clouds.