by Geary Hobson
Now in case you don't know it, shikepokes is a wading bird that we got plenty of in Louisiana. They be several different varieties, but they all have in common that they like to wade in water, like to hang out in marshes and swamps and along bayous and rivers and lakes, which we also got a lot of in Louisiana. Another thing, too, about shikepokes is they sometimes take over other birds' nests. Jist come in and take over, like they too damn lazy to build they own. Well, sir, that's the main reason why we Indian people in Louisiana — and in Arkansas and Mississippi, too, I come to find out — call white folks shikepokes. On account of the way they come in and taken over in our country. But, you know, jist as ducks and geese and pelicans and cranes and plovers have to learn to live with the shikepokes, so did us Indian people, too, have to learn to get along with white folks. It ain't been exactly a bed of roses, but it ain't always been a all-out briar patch neither.
What I'm gitting around to saying is that up to the time I got going full-time on the bootlegging and whiskey-running, I never had much to do with white folks. Oh sho, they was always around, in Sherrillton and later when I worked oil fields and whatnot all around Alexandria and New Iberia, but I could genly stay out of they way. But seem to me like after I taken up with Sally, and them fellers around The Four-Leaf Clover begin making a big to-do about me and my business, I could not turn around without stepping on white folks. For one thing, they was my main customers. Granted that Prohibition was one big sorry-ass shikepoke law, but it look to me like white people the main ones who was out there breaking that law in all kind of ways. Course, I broke it, too. It was a stupid law. Even now, more than thirty years later, I still say it be a stupid law. I always feel that you can't expect laws to stop people from doing what they want to do. If people want to drank, let them drank. And when dranking is bad for a person, like when he become a drunk, why, they ain't no law around going to make him sober. He gotta do that for hisself. He gotta decide to do that on his own. Can't nobody make him do no otherwise. But that is how so many shikepoke laws work — they say "Do this" or "Do that," and if you spute them, then they come back at you with "Do this cause I tell you to." And if you was to say "why?" Then they still come back with "You do this cause I tell you to." Never no reasons give why you should do things, only that you goddamned well better do it or you git your ass stomped.
From Last of the Ofos, Univ. Arizona Press.
© 1999 Geary Hobson
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