You Are This Place

You Are This Place


   Just a few weeks after witnessing lethal tornados churn the landscape of my home state, I watch with great sorrow as my neighbors along the Mississippi River Basin lose their homes, crops and lives to the rising flood waters.

  There are lots of news reports and pictures of the flooding. But one of the most sanguine reports I have read is an excellent piece written in today’s New York Times about a Louisiana gentleman named Russell Melancon. I share excerpts of this excellent piece of reporting by Ms. Kim Severson.

    People often ask why certain persons live in what we deem as ‘tough places’, like swamps or deserts, places where the certainty of hardship will confront them. Mr. Melancon of the Atchafalay Basin in Cajun Country of Lousiana tells it to us straight as he answers this age old question: “You are this place”.


In what is surely the nation’s slowest-moving natural disaster, the flooded Mississippi has been working its way south through cities and farmland, leaving people homeless and crops in ruins as it hits record levels.

Russell Melancon, 55, grew up pulling catfish, bass and crawfish from the Atchafalaya River and the swamp that surrounds it. He married here and is raising a son here.

And now, the place he loves is likely to drown. It could take a month or more for the water to seep back into the swamp behind the house he built with cypress boards and sweat.

Copperhead snakes might slither into the rafters. Alligators will take up residence on sheds. Gardens fat with tomatoes will be gone, and mosquitoes will swarm in such thick clouds that even he, a Cajun with skin as thick as one of those alligators, might not be able to stand it. So why live in a swamp that everyone knew was likely to flood one day?

As Mr. Melancon crated the belongings of three generations of family on Friday and got ready to pack his relatives into campers and cars, the answer was plain as the sticky Louisiana day.

“It’s where we was raised. Where my daddy was raised. Where we make our living,” he said. “Why you are here is something you never even think about. You are this place.”