Of Swamps and Sliders and Cypresses and Soda (or, "Crossing America, Part 3")

Texas and Louisiana sort of ooze into each other in the black swamps northwest of Shreveport. We're four of a handful of campers at a "lake" that is less lake and more dark, motionless soup. I tell a guy in overalls slouching in a plastic chair outside a shack near the entrance to the lake that we're hungry. He says there's only one place to eat if you don't want to drive an hour or catch and throttle an egret with your bare hands. It's a lodge a couple miles down a dead end road, and all the locals eat there, and plus, he adds, tonight is the season premier of Monday Night Football, which the lodge shows on all it's sixteen big screen TVs. Or maybe it was eight. When there are more than three big screen TVs the actual number doesn't matter anymore. You have too many.

Sundown on the bayou. 2014.
The kids wonder warily aloud whether the lodge will have hot dogs. I tell them the question is moot because I can't get within throttling distance of the big white egret haunting the cypress swamp near our tent. And then I have explain to the kids what moot means, which is surprisingly hard when you're really hungry.

The lodge is a massive, sturdy house in a stand of tall pines that fade into cypress trees as the firm land gives way to a wide swampy bayou. We've arrived just a few minutes after they've opened for dinner, and there's enough staff on hand to serve most of East Texas. Except me and my three kids are the only customers. So we take our seats, and we order, and we eat, and we order more, and an hour and a half later, there still aren't any customers. Maybe nobody likes the Lions or the Giants in East Texas.

The assorted big screens broadcast the game to the empty dining hall, and we sample coleslaw (rejected by the kids) and hamburger sliders (accepted by the kids) and we down glass after glass of free-refill soda. Halen and Grace snuggle up on my lap and even Savannah scoots her chair a little closer to mine while we watch the game alone in high def in the cavernous lodge. The sun sinks outside toward the wet, steamy horizon. Through the windows you can see the bugs hovering just above the still swamp water, Spanish moss drooping from cypress branches, perfectly still in the evening's heavy heat. Eli Manning throws an interception on TV. Grace asks what an interception is. Halen explains to her in a matter-of-fact tone what an interception is despite not knowing at all what an interception is. I take a drink of Coke and it tastes like the world is perfect.