Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Cajun Navy

I had never heard the term or group until yesterday.  In a fluke of good luck of late I have had the most amazing Lyft drivers who from driving a Tesla to a woman who owns the local peanut store, yesterday I met Caroline who has lived here for a few years and shares very similar views and perspective as mine living here in the South.

We agreed that education is a major factor and anyone who thinks that making it free for Adults and Minors to attend two years of Community College will have any significant dent in the overall achievement rate of higher education has clearly never lived here or are in full denial.  I don't believe one minute that the percent of educated residents of Tennessee will increase more than the national average and rise over the current 33% unless more outsiders move in from the North and have a clear established value about the subject.  Her daughter goes to College and her Parents were both in the Army and in turn possess degrees and at 54 she too went to College but never finished so her daughter earning a degree is important to her.   That is not a philosophy that it shared here by many of the locals I have met well those who are not truly well off and secure in their financial situations.

We discussed her going to Baton Rouge recently when floods raged there and in turn the role of the Cajun Navy as they rescue regardless of income or social standing.  As she had found and heard via her associates that she met through that effort that in Houston there is a chaos about rescue efforts.  And that a group stranded in a trailer park or manufactured homes that sit across a major thoroughfare on top of the homes and cannot nor will not leave pets are being forced to or were rejected as private groups said this is not where they are supposed to be and immediately left them to go to a wealthier area first.   Thankfully many have since been rescued by the Coast Guard as again Government that these same people hate cannot pick and choose who they rescue.

We laughed about the current efforts here by the push to Red Cross an organization that is more bureaucratic than the same Government that are eschewed by the same people needing help.  Try to donate something that has not been approved or go to volunteer and you will find a process that rivals any Government agency.   And we know that Joel Osteen turned people away from his mega church while Mosques were open and running for business without issue.  Yes the same people who we supposedly hate.

This is the South and well Texas which is its own beahmoth that defines designation as Southern but it is a cracker as a barrel.

And that is why I am impressed when people are willing to do this on their own and go and help.  There is right there altruism and generosity in both word and deed.  I am not engaging in this in any way and allowing the fine Government with the fine President of Trump they so adore there to figure this out and solve the problem.  I am out and I did not watch the news last night nor will engage in any of it.  I live here and I frankly have nothing to say about what defines Southern Hospitality. 

But she told me about this group called the Cajun Navy and that many of them now in fact live in Houston after being evacuated there post Katrina and have finally been compensated for their efforts there a dozen years ago, yesterday.  One woman received a check for $34 bucks... well you do it for the good of others.  And then there are those who don't want said help.

'We ain’t doing no damn good': volunteer rescuers struggle in Houston

The ‘Cajun navy’ force of helpers from Louisiana are hitting an unexpected problem in the Harvey-flooded city – residents declining to evacuate

Rory Carroll in Houston
Guardian UK
Wednesday 30 August 2017

The three men drove through the night from Louisiana hauling three boats, ready for whatever the storm would throw at them.

Brad Johns and his dad Wayne, and their friend John Utesch, helped save lives during Hurricane Katrina and planned to do the same in Houston as part of a volunteer rescue force, paying their own way.

The challenge was immense. Tropical storm Harvey was breaking records for rain and flooding, a once-in-a-thousand-year event by some measures. Countless people were trapped and tens of thousands were displaced.

“You gotta do something,” said Wayne, 71, a retired oil worker. His son Brad, 39, who works in home improvement, agreed. “It seems like the thing to do.” Utesch, 64, a furniture restorer, nodded. “If it was us, we’d appreciate the help.”

They had a ski boat, a skiff and a canoe plus fuel, food, water and an app,, which pinpointed people in need. It showed dozens of locations in Cypress, an inundated northern suburb. “Hopefully we can do some good,” said Brad.

Television footage has shown dramatic rescues: people plucked from rooftops, vehicles and foaming torrents, heroism and survival, played out again and again. But for the three Louisianians, part of the so-called Cajun navy, there was just the messy, confusing, unpredictable dynamics of catastrophe in a sprawling city.

The app, for starters, did not work well. Locations which seemed close turned out to be far. Or the people needing rescuing turned out to have already been rescued.

The three criss-crossed waterlogged highways and byways seeking a place to launch a mission.

Dozens of other vehicles towing dinghies, kayaks, airboats, jet skis and motorised fishing boats were doing the same thing. Their drivers stopped at gas stations and parking lots to confer in the rain, exchanging tips and rumours, before resuming the quest.

During one stop the Johns and Utesch acquired a local guide, Karl Juergen, a semi-retired electrical worker, who offered to navigate.

They found an emergency response command post – a fire station bristling with military vehicles – only to receive apologetic shrugs. The uniforms didn’t know where to send them.

An hour later the would-be rescuers joined a convoy which splashed to a halt on North Eldridge Parkway. The road ahead was waist-high in water, beyond it marooned housing estates.

Finally, action.

Except for one problem. Boats had already gone up there and returned empty. Residents didn’t want to leave despite warnings the water would rise another 1.2 metres (4ft).

The Louisianians hesitated. Launch, or try elsewhere? “I’ve got a real winning personality,” grinned Brad. “I’ll persuade them to leave.”

Wayne and Juergen stayed behind to move the trucks to higher ground while Brad piloted the skiff and Utesch the canoe, skimming through brown, fast-flowing murk. Traffic hydrants could be glimpsed below.

Brad rehearsed his spiel: “We’ve come all the way from Louisiana to help you, man.”

Utesch planned a blunter pitch: get out before it was too late.

They turned into an estate called Twin Lakes: big, fancy houses in mock Tudor and plantation styles. A privileged place to live but for the floodwaters lapping through doorways.

The boatmen glided in silence up Tropicana Drive. Some homes still had electricity – the lights were on – but nothing stirred. Some residents had fled before the storm and those that remained were hunkered down. They had no interest in greeting waterborne visitors, let alone hitching a ride.

Utesch moored at a porch on a cul-de-sac called Sweet Surrender Court and called out. An elderly woman opened the door a crack and politely shooed him away. When he said the water would rise another 4ft she considered this a moment, then shut the door.

“They don’t believe us. They just don’t want to come out,” said Utesch, shaking his head.

On Summer Snow Drive Brad encountered a middle-aged couple standing in their garage, monitoring the water level. They too declined help, saying they had moved all essentials to their second floor.

The would-be rescuers were crestfallen.

“We ain’t doing no damn good right here,” said Utesch. Brad wondered if the homeowners suspected they were looters.

They passed other boaters with similar experiences. The few homeowners who were evacuating from this corner of Houston preferred to do so in the back of huge trucks.

Back on the highway the two men found Wayne and Juergen and loaded their boats back on to the pickup. “Well, we tried,” said Brad, dejected. “The effort and desire were there, the results weren’t,” said Utesch.

The three visitors, 380 miles (611km) from home, had planned on eating cold sandwiches and sleeping in their trucks. Juergen, born and bred Texan, insisted they dine and stay at his home. “It would be my privilege to host you.”

The radio spoke of the need for blood donations. Brad perked up. “I’ll do that tonight. I’ll feel like I did something.”

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