Watching Scott struggle under the hood of the car, Kari sighs as the Louisiana sun heats up the vehicles interior. Of all places to break down, it would have to be in the middle of Cameron Parish. Nothing around for miles but marsh and mud. Opening the door and stepping out into the two lane highway, Kari didn't bother looking for traffic. There wasn't any. Who in the world would want to come down to this armpit of the world?
"Did you find out what's wrong?"
Scott looks from under the hood at his young wife and smiles.
"No, not yet. But I will eventually. Then we'll be at sitting at Dad's drinking lemonade and laughing. Don't worry honey."
Kari shakes her head as she looks up the long, deserted highway. This was to be the first time she was to meet Scott's father. An oilfield worker in the swamps of Louisiana. She'd left the comfort of Dallas to drive the long hours to meet her father-in-law and see where Scott had grown up. It had been a nice trip up to this point. Now, they were stranded.
Looking out over the marshland, Kari couldn't help but admire the primeval beauty. Being an artist, she'd always looked for the beauty in everything. Green swamp grass covered the area for miles. White egrets stood poised on the edge of waterways hunting for their dinner. Seagulls squawked overhead after their flight from the coast. Off in the distance, the derrick of an oil rig could be seen reaching into the sky.
"You know honey, this is really pretty country. I'm glad I brought my supplies. I think I'll paint a scene of your home while we're visiting your Dad."
Scott moves from under the car's hood. Grabbing a rag, he wipes the grease from his hands as he looks around.
"You think it's pretty? Only an artist would say that."
Kari moves over to Scott and gives him a big hug. Feeling his body against hers, she smiles.
"It's gorgeous honey. How's the car going?"
Scott shakes his head.
"I'm no mechanic Kari. We'll have to see about getting a tow and putting it in the shop when we get to Dad's. Any luck with the cell phone?"
Kari shakes her head.
"None whatsoever. I keep getting no signal."
Scott turns and looks out over the marsh.
"Well, someone will come by and we'll hitch a ride from them. Until then, we'll just have to sit here and wait honey. I'm sorry."
"That's okay Scott. I'll grab my pad and do some sketching. I really like the way it looks out here."
Scott laughs as Kari runs to the trunk of the car and sorts through their luggage.
Looking up and down the road, Scott sighs at the non-existent traffic. Gazing back to the marsh, he eyes the driftwood laying on the banks of the canals.
"Kari, over there! That's a gator. Why don't you sketch that?"
Kari jumps as she comes running with the pad and pencil.
"A gator? I've never seen one in the wild. I'd love to draw it!"
Closing the trunk, Kari hops onto the car and begins to sketch.
"Wow! That's a big one. He must be 6 ft long if he's an inch."
Scott moves over to watch Kari work. They'd been together for 4 years before getting married. Even now, Scott loved to watch Kari's hands create the art she was so well known for.
"That's looking great honey. But he's not that big. If you go out farther, you'll see alot bigger gators than that. He's just a scrounger."
Kari stops the charcoal and looks up at Scott.
"That's okay. I'm fine drawing this one. I don't care to see the big ones."
Scott laughs as he turns back to the driver's door. Glancing up the road, he notices a flash in the afternoon sunlight.
"Someone's coming our way Kari. I'll flag them down and we'll be off. FInish up."
Over his shoulder, Scott listens to Kari mumble. Once she got started, Kari always hated to rush her artwork. To her, perfection was a middle name.
Watching the vehicle grow closer, Scott walked up the highway waving his grease covered rag. Maybe this was someone he went to school with. It would be nice to see a high school buddy again.
Staring up the road, Scott watches the outline of a pickup truck begin to form. Scott just grins. He had forgotten that most people in this area drove pickups. He and Kari could ride in the back if the cab was full. That should give her a new thrill.
Watching the truck pull over to the side of the road, Scott breathes a sigh of relief. Thank God they're not just driving by. Turning to Kari, he yells over his shoulder.
"Let's go honey. It looks like we've got a ride."
Waving at the pickups driver, Scott walks over to the cab grinning.
"Thanks for stopping. The car broke down. My wife and I would appreciate a lift to the nearest phone if you don't mind."
The driver of the truck smiles at Scott as he leans out the window.
"Dat's no problem. We about to set the traps for the night and heading by ol'Beauregards filling station. He's got a phone. I'll drop you off dhere."
Scott smiles as he hears the heavy cajun accent. Remembering his friends from school and how they use to have problems in the huddle during the football games trying to get him, the newcomer, to understand what they were saying.
"Hurry up Kari. It's time to go."
Watching Kari throw her work into the backseat of the car and run towards him, Scott turns to the driver.
"We'll just hop in the back. You've already got someone up front."
The driver shakes his head and slaps the man beside him.
"Get in the back boy. Let these folks ride up front."
Scott watches as the young man exits the cab and run to the bed of the pickup.
"You two sit up here. That's my boy. He be fine sitting back there with the traps. He can open the back window and talk all he wants. Kids do that nowdays."
Scott smiles as he grabs Kari's hand and leads her to the passenger side of the truck. The door left open, Kari waits on Scott to enter first.
"Okay, I'll straddle the stick. You sit next to the door."
The driver laughs as Scott's long legs move on either side of the stick shift.
"Son, you got longer legs than a damn crane. Just give me room to shift and we'll make it where we're going."
Scott spreads his legs as the driver begins to shift the trucks gears. Behind him, the window to the bed of the truck slides open.
"Hiya, I'm Oscar. How you folks doing?"
Scott looks over his shoulder at the young man sitting in the bed of the truck.
"We're doing better now Oscar. Thanks for giving up your seat."
Smiling, Oscar proudly displays his few remaining teeth.
"Dat's no problem. I like sitting back here with the traps. The wind feels good."
Scott looks at the traps sitting in the back of the truck. Big ones. These guys are after gators. The lines, hooks and rope are the only thing used to catch gators. Remembering his big brother, Mike, trying to catch him a baby gator he laughs.
"You guys going for alligators?"
The driver nods.
"Yep, we got a license this year. So we're legal. You know about gators?"
Scott nods his head.
"Yea, sure do. My family moved to Cameron when I was 14. My big brother tried to catch me a baby gator before he left for the army. The funny part was, when he pulled the line up, he had a big one and it chased him clear through the swamp. He broke a baseball bat over it's head to slow it down until he found a fence pole to sit on."
Oscar and the driver burst out laughing.
The driver looks over at Scott and Kari.
"So you two from Cameron?"
Scott smiles and shakes his head.
"I am. My wife is from Dallas, that's where we live. We're coming down for her to meet my Dad. James WIlkerson. You know him?"
Oscar yells in the back window.
"Yea, I know dat James. He's not too bad a man. Remember him Dad? He fired cousin Reuben off the rig for taking those wrenches."
Oscar's Dad nods.
"Yea I know him also. Pretty decent fellow from the meetings I've had. Good man."
Looking over at Kari, Scott grins. It's nice to be home. Even with the car breaking down, the trip was worth it. Taking Kari's hand, Scott squeezes it in reassurance.
"So, what you guys using to catch the gators with?"
Oscar points to an ice chest leaning against the gate of the truck.
"Red meat mainly. Whatever we can get that is fresh. They like dat."
The driver smiles and looks over at Scott.
"The fresher and bloodier the better. It attracts the bigs one. That's where the money is."
Scott shakes his head in understanding. Mike had told him that also. He'd studied trapping before trying to get him a pet that he insisted on having.
"So how much you getting now for a big gator if you don't mine me asking?"
The driver spits his tobacco out the window before he answers.
"Dhey say about ten grand for one good size one. The french are in town this year buying all the hides for dheir purses and things. A man will do anything for dat kinda money. Especially when you can kill around 20 this year."
Scott's eyes widen.
"Twenty this year? It use to be 12."
The driver grins and nods at Scott.
"Yep, use to be. Now you can make alot more money. You just got to know where to find them and have good bait.
"Well it sounds like you've got it all worked out. You using fresh cows for bait?"
The driver looks at Scott and smiles.
"Sure am. Unless we can find something better."
Feeling Oscar breathing over his shoulder, Scott grips Kari's hand and stares at the passenger's door.
"What's better than fresh beef? Gators love it."
.... There is more of this story ...