Cameron, Louisiana: The stink of shrimp and petroleum

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Cameron, Louisiana: The stink of shrimp and petroleum

In 2005 smalltown Cameron in southwest Louisiana was washed away by Hurricane Rita and I suppose battered to hell again by Hurricane Katrina. It seemed tragic and . . . Well, let me tell you my memory of Cameron, a place we stayed in for one very long night while driving the Gulf Coast before heading up to Breaux Bridge then on to New Orleans.

Cameron is in shrimp and petroleum country -- and stinks of both. It is not a pretty smell. But then again, Cameron was not a pretty town.

After checking in at a local motel, during which time fat and irritating maybugs invaded the car and then the room when we opened the doors, I decided to check out a local bar in the hope of chatting with some friendly hometown folk.

The Indian lady in the motel seemed perplexed when I asked about a bar but helpfully pointed out a place down the road. I walked down to find it was a shop selling sandwiches and the obese teenagers inside seemed shocked by the appearance of a stranger at their door. The sent me to another more promising-sounding place.

The Sports Bar had three people in it: a nuggetty guy with a long braid and tatts, a fat and foul-mouthed middle-aged woman, and a guy I took to be her husband.

I ordered a beer from the barmaid who plonked it down and walked away. This was surprising because everywhere else I had been -- from LA across Texas -- my accent usually drew comment.

But not in Cameron.

So I supped my beer and listened while the tough guy -- who turned out to be a woman -- talked about who had just been killed on the highway, who lost an arm in a rigging accident, and the best way to cook shrimp.

The bar was dark and uninviting, much like the company, but I ordered another beer just to see what might eventuate.

When I did the fat guy spun around on his stool and said, Hey, where you from?

I told him, and he said, "Huh, I thought you wuz from Iceland."

Then he turned his back on me again.

Two young guys came in, cashed their pay cheques at the bar and ordered a few beers. I nodded hopefully in their direction and said Hello and they too ignored me.

I decided this was not an especially interesting bar or company so went across the road to another.

Same thing. The ancient bar woman slammed down my beer like I had been an imposition on her valuable time and went back to her conversation with three equally ancient cronies, one of whom had taken his teeth out and put them on the bar while he sipped his soup.

And their conversation? They were arguing about the best way to cook shrimp.

Now I dunno about you, but I would have thought that if you lived in a shrimp town you might have figured that out some time ago.

So I left the bars of Cameron, fought my way through the stink and the bugs back to the motel across from the scrapyard of metal and shrimp boats and said to Megan that we might make an early start in the morning.

I have pondered the terrible effects of the hurricanes on Cameron which all but wiped it out and have concluded: It’s an ill wind . . .

For other travel stories by Graham Reid, see here for his two award-winning travel books.

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Mike P. - May 29, 2009

Yep, you have gotten a taste of what Cameron, La. has to offer the world. I am from Lake Charles, La. and I too get treated like a stray dog every time I go down to Cameron. Every time they have a hurricane come through they are the first with a hand out. This is the only time cameronites are nice to you. Then when they get theirs it's to sh!t with you! Try bringing the family down to Cameron Parish to try some fishing from the road sides and such. If your not arrested or have your fish and equipment seized you are one lucky lucky fellow indeed. People always say around here that Cameron is in a world of it's own and I believe it. If your looking for hospitality of any degree the cameron people have nothing to offer but a cold shoulder. Oh I'm sure their are some really good cameron people down there but the majority just as soon spit on you right between the eye's. Next hurricane, send your relief donations to a town that really appreciates a hand up!


Mel - Jan 7, 2012

Wow some people are so ignorant.

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