Zydeco and alligator attacks: July 4 in Cajun Texas

To paraphrase Bob Seger’s ode to youth and aging, “Night Moves,” “I woke this morning to the sound of thunder, my summer sheet I climbed back under, started humming a song from nineteen eighty-two, ain’t it funny how the time moves, when you don’t have a clock with Snooze, ain’t it funny how the time moves. With waking closing in.

Yet here it is the Fourth of July in Southeast Texas. Thunderstorms blowing in from late morning to early evening. All is hot and sticky in between.

I probably could have gone online to find which restaurants were open and which weren’t, same goes with grocery stories. But many’s the time you can count on Jason’s Deli. I am talking the original one built in the Gateway shopping center. The center’s parking lot, facing Eleventh Street was the scene of a Beaumont teen “hanging out” place in the 70s, of the kind that brings up Seger’s Night Move album. At least, that was the time period I remember hanging out there. Time really doesn’t matter because I was from up in the Pineywoods where they had to pipe light in.

Gateway went the way of many small city shopping centers when the local mall was opened in 1974. Now the mall is a beginning point for what is called a “shopping district.” Big boxes and Best Buys up the wazoo.-

The area around Gateway, kind of mid-city Beaumont, is once again picking up. A large minority population sprung up to the center’s south. A decent amount of medical developed has made a horseshoe of sorts around it. Baptist Hospital of Southeast Texas was across the street from Gateway, where years back a traffic circle sat confusing people coming to and from the big cross-highway College Street. It is technically still U.S. 90, but more so on the western edge of Beaumont where it provides a less traffic-infested route to northeast Houston than Interstate 10, which takes drivers into the original Central Business District in Big-H-Town. One does endure quite a few stoplights and speed limits on Highway 90. It isn’t a bad ride though.

Back in Beaumont, about a quarter-mile to the east of Gateway stands Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital, the second largest in the city and the predecessor of the old Baptist Hospital.

Amidst the area between downtown and the West End of Beaumont, a few places sprouted up. A new Chick-Fil-A. Probably most welcome and something that likely will enliven the mid-City more is the new H-E-B grocery. The new store, which opened a few weeks ago, replaced a small H-E-B a few blocks down on South Eleventh and another small store in northern Beaumont. It is by no means the biggest type of H-E-B, as is in the West End Shopping District, but is about half that largest size. Still, it has practically all the area’s other largest stores have. Today, which is Independence Day, it had even more.

Upon entering the parking lot I could hear the sounds of a Zydeco band blasting away. The band was under a canopy with benches. Whole dinners and frozen drinks were for sale out there as well. I caught a few minutes of music before leaving:

That is Southeast Texas for you, otherwise known as “Cajun Texas.” If one didn’t need more of a reminder of where they are, the news broke last night that the first man to be killed by an alligator in Texas for more than 200 years took place early Friday morning. It happened about 20 miles away¬† in Adams Bayou in Orange County, to the east of Beaumont and between Beaumont and Louisiana.

The man reportedly was reminded the “family-friendly” place where he had been drinking had a sign outside expressly telling people an alligator was in the bayou and to stay out of the water. A justice of the peace told the media the man said “F*** the alligator,” then jumped in the water. The man’s arm was bitten off and he had deep wounds in the torso that probably killed the man rather quickly. It would kind of remind me of the old Jerry Reed song “Amos Moses,” however it was truly tragic despite how ill-advised the man’s last acts were.

That’s the way things are in Cajun Texas. I can’t say much else except I wish everyone a Happy Independence Day.

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