"A Bayou Runs Through It"

The Camp's history on Bayou Dularge started shortly after the bayou was dredged in the late 1960's.  Mr. Cliff Harrington (a/k/a "Paw Paw") and Mrs. Norma (a/k/a "Na-Na") bought the camp, then known as "Bali Hai" in the early 1970's. At the time the camp consisted of only 3 rooms: kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.  I made my first trip to the camp as a toddler, and I still remember the wind whistling through the cracks in the wall slats (sealed with freezer tape - the progenitor of duct tape).  Shortly after buying the camp, Paw Paw aquired a Wellcraft V-20 I/O called the "Norma B."  For the next 20 or so years, the Harringtons made regular trips down to the camp, where they fished, shrimped, cooked, and entertained their friends and especially their grandchildren.  Over the years, a few additions were made.  First, a living room was added on the west wing.  Then two bedrooms were added onto the east.  Paw Paw finished his grand plan by extending the porch and putting in a "hipped" roof.  The camp was known as "This is the Way!"

Coogan made his first trip to the camp when he was less than a month old, and he and I have been fishing together ever since.  We made extended visits to Dularge in the summer, and over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  In the 1970's there were still many weirs in the marshes and the winter fishing was very easy.  The more popular spots were Dufrene Dam, Outlaw Dam (in Deer Bayou), and L'Eau Dulce.  I have vivid memories of those Zebco days when "limits" were only logistical issues involving ice and freezer space.  Once at Dufrene Dam, Paw Paw counted 23 straight casts with double yellowmouth trout (remember those old yellow/white shad rigs?).

Back at the camp, Coogan and I spent a lot of time outside: in the marsh, behind the bulkhead, under the camp, and especially on the fan-tail of the Norma B.  At age 8, I received a Daisy BB gun from Paw Paw.   Coogan and I then eradicated the fiddler crabs around the camp with wasteful abandon only known by 19th century buffalo hunters.   You may not know it, but the bayou holds hardhead catfish year round, providing endless hours of enjoyment for young anglers.  As we got older, we started exploring the nearby bayous and lakes - mostly in a little 14x48 flat boat.  Over the years, mostly through osmosis, we have become passable fishermen while sharing countless adventures. 

The camp managed to weather several hurricanes in the 1980's with little damage: Juan and Bob came close to putting water inside, but mostly they just left a huge mess of marsh grass and flotsam in the yard.  Nevertheless, our luck ran out in 1992, when Hurricane Andrew passed directly over the Dularge area with winds over 130mph.  The devastation from Andrew was terrible:  A barge broke loose and rammed into the camp; the bulkhead was shattered, and the camp was flooded with 4 feet of water.  The camp sat empty for many months, and Paw Paw considered a move to a new lot.  In the end, Na-Na and Paw decided to raise and renovate, though they were in their 70's.

Ten years later,  Paw Paw passed the camp on to us.  Coogan and I have had to clean up after two more hurricanes: Lily and Rita.  Neither of these were direct hits, but each put another 4 feet of water inside.  It is obvious that the storm surge defense afforded by the coast is diminished, and if a storm like Andrew hits again, it is likely that there will not be anything left to rebuild.  Nevertheless, the camp is as much a state of mind as it is a place, and its lure is irresistable to those who heve experienced its charms.  

Paw Paw passed away in 2005, but his legacy lives on in Dularge.  If there is a true legacy, it is that the bond we share as family has been strengthened by our common love for Bayou Dularge.  I have tried to continue our family traditions - Claire and Luke both made their first visit to the camp at less than 2 weeks of age.  Claire is learning how to work a Zebco 888 and can now catch her own trout.  It might be a tiny spot of marsh that is washing away, but Bayou Dularge will  always be a part of our lives.