After Texas we ventured into the deep South of the States. From Dallas we drove South East into Louisiana, crossed the State Line…

Louisiana State Line

Before stopping in the town of Shreveport for lunch. As we have now learnt to, we opened up TripAdvisor for, well, advice and were well served – being sent to CrawDaddy’s – ranked #1. And with good reason! We tucked into crawfish and fried green tomatoes!

crawfish and fried green tomotoes
crawfish and fried green tomotoes

From there we drove on south to New Orleans where we stayed with my blogging colleague, Jackie, and her husband. We went to see one of the Mardi Gras Day parades which was a lot of fun but left me wondering. The floats are all run by local social clubs for which this is the highlight of their year – the thing towards which they build. They chuck out literally thousands of plastic cups and bead necklaces and toys, loot for everyone. But here’s the thing – it’s not for charity. Ultimately what you begin to realise is that Mardi Gras is one long exercise in self-indulgence. The people get lots of free tat and the clubs are an excuse for more drinking and feasting. I was left enjoying it, but also wondering how much more could be achieved by it.

one of the many floats
one of the many floats
a very jolly Jesus, partying with the publicans and tax collectors
a very jolly Jesus, partying with the publicans and tax collectors
some of our massive Mardi Gras haul. Big White Bunny!
some of our massive Mardi Gras haul. Big White Bunny!

The next day we ventured into New Orleans, trekking around the French Quarter, eating beignets and seeing the sights.

Bourbon Street, New Orleans
Bourbon Street, New Orleans

Louisiana was so much fun. Our hosts (suckers that they were – like so many before and after) doted on the children. But sadly we had to take our leave and drive north into…

DSC00643

We stopped in Jackson overnight and then drove north with Greg Griffith, founder of Stand Firm, which almost 10 years ago he asked me to write for and has been probably regretting ever since. We spent the weekend at the property of a good friend of his in the Delta. And what a weekend! There was

shooting (of course)

examining the hardware and getting some safety tips
examining the hardware and getting some safety tips

Now, at this point (once again) I have to confess that although my shooting was ok, it was nothing compared to Jacqui…

careful aim from Jacqui
careful aim from Jacqui

who managed to produce another incredible display that left Greg astounded….

Jacqui's target shooting
Jacqui’s target shooting

I had more joy with the clay pigeons…

microseconds before another poor clay pigeon disappears in a cloud of orange dust
microseconds before another poor clay pigeon disappears in a cloud of orange dust

As much fun as all that was, the highlight of the weekend was the immense privilege of leading a small service for the dedication of a chapel built on the property by the co-owner, Gordi. It’s a testimony to the man that when he heard that a friend’s daughter couldn’t afford a proper wedding he built this chapel from scratch, the central feature of which is a brilliantly suspended cross cut from sheet metal. Has to be seen to be believed.

Preaching, praying in dedication and leading communion. A real treat for me!
Preaching, praying in dedication and leading communion. A real treat for me!
the chapel, Gordi the builder  in the centre, the Griffiths' with us too
the chapel, Gordi the builder in the centre, the Griffiths’ with us too

One other thing worth mentioning. The first morning we woke up and ventured outside we heard a pitiful sound coming from the open garage that sheltered the ATV’s. Peering in the back we discovered 4 abandoned puppies, children of the stray/wild dogs that roamed around the property. They were shivering and crawling over each other and quite obviously close to death – I have no idea how they survived the sub-freezing temperatures the night before. Led by Greg’s wife Stacey, we took them in, cleaned them, warmed them and took them to a local vet who put some fluids in them. Late in the afternoon we were surprised to hear yet more whining from the same spot and discovered one more pup – the mother had quite obviously brought him in too. We got a brief view of mum and dad in the distance the next day in a ravine by the house. They stood and watched us from afar not moving away, but not coming closer. Mum obviously knew we were caring for the pups, else why bring the fifth too?

 

feeding the pups
feeding the pups

 

Charis and Greg's daughter, Claire
Charis and Greg’s daughter, Claire
5 saved pups, on their way to a much better life
5 saved pups, on their way to a much better life

And so we said a sad goodbye to all our friends, human and canine, and headed out south-east towards the land where the Mouse with the Big Ears reigns…

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