Thursday, February 07, 2008

Guys Gone Wild

Now I've seen it -- the Courir or chicken run -- and the trick is to describe it! Apparently, it was quite common in French areas of Louisiana in the 1800s. Most towns gave it up -- it is a rowdy custom -- but a few either retained it or revived it. Elton is a revival town. Each town has its own rules. In Elton, the celebration starts in the country and moves toward town. Only men are allowed to participate. The group is led by the Capitaine and participants are called Mardi Gras. Many of the Mardi Gras are on horseback; the others run or ride on a flatbed. Rows and rows of fringe cover the costumes and capuchons. Beer is a major lubricant for the festivities which start at sunup. The group follows a set route, visiting several homes, begging for ingredients for a communal pot of gumbo. Riders dismount and all wait for the host to release a chicken which sets off a free-for-all as the Mardi Gras race to catch the chicken. I have to say I was rooting for the chickens -- but, though caught, the feathered victims didn't seem to be worse for wear. And though in the past, they would have wound up in the pot -- the gumbo was already in the works for this celebration, so the chickens will live to lay another day. It's traditional for the Mardi Gras to dance for the residents in thanks for the contributions. As the day goes on and the beer continues to flow, the celebration gets wilder. Included in the procession, a cajun band kept the beat going. The whole thing looked like the Cajun counterpart of the Bacchanalia!

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