I would ride the bus home every day. The bus would kick up dust on the dirt and gravelly road. It would drop me off at the end of the road because I was the only one that lived down there. I would cut through the neighbor’s sugarcane field. There was something kind of magical about wading through the tall cane…not being able to see where I was going and not needing to because I knew the direction by heart. It reminded me of the wheat fields of Kansas. I had never been to Kansas, but I had seen the Wizard of Oz and there were all these images of wheat fields in that movie! I imagined that there was some sort of portal to another world somewhere in that cane field. I never found it, though.
I would sometimes snap off a piece and chew it on my way home. That super sticky sweetness of pure cane juice. By the time I would emerge on the other side of that field my socks and pant legs would have sticky grass all over, my arms would have small scratches and sometimes I would have stuff stuck in my hair. I would run all the way from the edge of the field to my yard. The animals would come to greet me…pigs and goats and dogs and chickens. I would run into the house, drop off my bags, change into my play clothes and head right back outside.
I lived on a farm until I was five. I played in the mud in only my panties where I would grab a hold of my pet pig’s curly tail and he would pull me through the puddles. The mud would get everywhere on my little body and it would take forever to wash off. It was thick and sticky and great!
Louisiana mud is like no other mud. It is part mud, part clay, part earth and part root. Once you have squished your toes in it, you carry it with you everywhere you go…for the rest of your life. It seeps into the skin and meshes with the blood. Its scent perfumes your sweat on hot days away from home and it provides a protective layer that keeps you warm in the winters. It reminds you of burning cane in the fields, boiled crawfish on the back porch, snowballs dripping syrup down your chin, bayous twisting through cities and farmlands, Mardi Gras beads dangling from trees, your granny’s house on Sunday, oil stained skin, fais do-dos, haunted plantation homes…home.