I spent the majority of this month of May consumed by my "real" job, set decorating in the motion picture industry.
I used to use the term film business, but these days we don't use film that often and in regards to the difference between industry and business....another conversation.
Point being, I finally had a nice 3 day weekend and got to spend it exploring our environs and sharing the experience with the family.
As well as taking any and every opportunity to learn and teach. For instance, I thought Tabasco Sauce was made in Mexico, in the province of Tabasco. Not true in the least, as we would learn on the Tabasco Factory Tour.
The tour was less of a tour and more of a video presentation in an barely air-conditioned room. The highlight of the tour was probably the handful of free Tabasco bottle samples that were handed out. The "country store" was fascinating in just how many items can be branded.
After tasting a couple of Tabasco-infused ice creams and a handful of other Tabasco spin-offs we headed over to the Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre garden with semitropical foliage, abundant wildlife and a centuries-old Buddha statue. The garden’s rolling landscape stretches along Bayou Petite Anse on the northwest side of the Island.
Jungle Gardens and Bird City were the creations of Edward Avery "Ned" McIlhenny (1872 – 1949), son of Tabasco brand pepper sauce inventor Edmund McIlhenny.
He was one interesting fellow. We learned much more on the backside of the Jungle Gardens map than on the tour or the Tabasco "museum".
McIlhenny founded the Bird City wildfowl refuge on Avery Island around 1895, which helped to save the snowy egret from extinction.
He joins my list of favorite, successful drop-outs, leaving school to join Frederick Cook's 1894 Arctic expedition as an ornithologist.
In 1897 he financed his own Arctic expedition to Point Barrow, Alaska, where he helped to save over a hundred stranded whaling fleet sailors (including Japanese adventurer and entrepreneur Jujiro Wada).
McIlhenny also holds the Louisiana state alligator record, catching a gator just over 19 feet in length.
McIlhenny used his 170-acre (0.69 km2) personal estate, known as Jungle Gardens, to propagate both Louisiana-native and imported plant varieties, including azaleas, irises, camellias, papyrus, and bamboo. He wrote numerous academic articles, mainly about birds and reptiles, oversaw the publication in English of two European botanical treatises, and edited Charles L. Jordan's unfinished manuscript The Wild Turkey and Its Hunting (a book often mistakenly attributed to McIlhenny). He also wrote books about alligators, egrets, and African-American gospel music.
We were in for several surprises on our Avery Island visit.
This centuries old Buddha was not what I was expecting.
We weren't surprised to see an egret catch a frog, but the struggle that went on for the next five minutes was enthralling however tragic it ultimately went for Mr. Hoppers.
We watched as the bird caught the frog, tilt his head back to swallow when the little guy half-way down his throat scrambled back up and hopped back into the water.
Only to be caught again. The second time his fight for life didn't go as well.
We weren't shocked to see gators, but when I almost stumbled upon one hanging out on the bank.....