Zydeco Trail Ride

Every once in a while, the stars align and I find myself in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. The universe was on my side last Friday, when I stopped by Lejeune’s Bakery in Jenearette, and the baker mentioned that he was hurrying to finish a last batch of French bread for the Zydeco trail ride.

Eighteen months year ago, I read a New York Times travel piece about Zydeco trail rides in Louisiana (click here), a rural tradition with “roots in country traditions like boucheries, or hog killings,” where black people from different towns and parishes gather to ride horses, camp out, listen to zydeco music and dance.  The moment I finished the article, I turned to Warrington and said, “I have to do this.”  But as the article suggested, trail rides aren’t typically advertised; news spreads by word of mouth, and I had no idea how I’d hear about one, which is why I said a prayer of thanks for the man at the bakery.

So, yesterday morning at 11:00, I drove over to the old Fruit of the Loom factory on Hubertville Road where the riders were starting to assemble.

South Louisiana continues to surprise me. Every time I think I’ve witnessed the most incredible sight, she serves up something even more spectacular. I know a little bit about the Buffalo Soldiers, about Bill Pickett and Jesse Stahl; and my grandmother used to talk about going to the black rodeo when she was a girl.  But this was different.  Something about seeing hundreds of black people on horseback, the line of riders stretching into the distance moved me and at one point, I felt myself tearing up. I think it’s because so often, when it comes to black folks, you only hear the negative–poverty, poor education, black-on-black crime–but the trail ride was wholly positive, a celebration of family and community and tradition.

In the quiet of the morning
when the sky is clear and white
and dawn’s soft hush has slipped
across the solitude of night,
When the last pale star has fallen
and the East’s a rosy glow,
streaked with lavenders and orchids
with a touch of indigo.

When the colors all are blending,
there is no defining each,
And the sun peeps up appearing
Like some plump and pinkish peach,
There is nothing quite so moving,
quite so silent, quite so strange
as the Lord’s most recent wonder—
birth of morning on the range.

I can’t quite seem to fathom—
I can’t help wondering why—
I was placed amongst such beauty,
all this solitude and sky.
Now, I see you ride before me,
as my feet trod earthly sod,
I watch you vanish in the sunrise.
Go with God!

–“Morning in the High Hills” by Dee Strickland Johnson


5 thoughts on “Zydeco Trail Ride

  1. Pingback: Zydeco trail ride photos on blog « Cajun, Louisiana Creole and zydeco music

    • I didn’t actually ride because I didn’t have a horse. But I did follow the riders in my car. My friend, who lives in the area was with me, and he knew which back roads to take so we could get in front of the riders. We stationed ourselves on a headland and watched the entire parade go by. It was AMAZING! I understand there are rides every weekend, so I’ll probably try to attend another ride this fall.

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