By Wade Bourne
Guide Zeke Wainwright is piloting his mud boat down a narrow canal in a marsh in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana
. It's an hour before dawn on a very black, steamy night. Zeke's boat sounds and moves like a souped-up '57 Chevy—loud and fast. As we rocket through the thin channel, roseau cane and sawgrass slap across our backs and caps.
"You might want to ride backwards so you don't get mosquitoes in your eyes!" yells "Mr. Ted" Beaullieu (pronounced Bowl-ya). "Or a pouldeau (coot) might fly up and smack you in the face."
That is not a pleasant thought. Following his example, I swivel my body so that I'm also facing backward. From this vantage, I study Zeke's dark form silhouetted against the lighter sky. He is unflinching, focused on what lies ahead in the bright beams of the mud boat's headlights.
"How fast will this boat run?" I shout toward Zeke.
"Forty-eight," he answers. It feels like we're pushing that envelope.
We're in a marsh leased by Big Pecan Lodge, heading toward a pond and a duck blind in the epicenter of this state's coastal marsh country. It's the third day of the September teal
season, and Ted is my gunning partner. An early cool spell has pushed an abundance of bluewings down the flyway. This morning we expect a rousing shoot.
A resident of nearby Lafayette, Ted is 84 years young—perhaps the fittest, sharpest, most enthusiastic octogenarian I've ever met. He lives to spend time with his family, to hunt and fish, and to celebrate the joie de vivre—joy of living—that epitomizes this region's Cajun residents. Good fellowship, good sport, and good food are highly valued in these parts, and Ted is a connoisseur of them all.
This hunt has been some time in the making. Two years ago I penned an article for this magazine titled "Waterfowling in Retirement," which described how Ted and three others continued their sporting adventures in their senior years. When the story appeared, Ted, ever the gentleman, called to invite me to join him at Big Pecan Lodge the following September for a teal hunt. A schedule conflict prevented me from accepting his invitation.
The next year I received another call, this time from Ted's son Pat. "This September I'm hosting a teal hunt at the Grosse Savanne lodge near Lake Charles," he said. "Could you join us for the first two days of the season? Then we'll rendezvous with Dad for a hunt at Big Pecan on the third day."
This time I couldn't say yes fast enough.