"Da gator bit da pirogue!"*
I have a new favorite show: "Duck Dynasty," a reality show that chronicles the eccentric back-swamp antics of a clan of odd but now wealthy duck-call manufacturers, aka Duck Commander, in West Monroe, Louisiana.
I'm not even sure how to describe it to you, except perhaps in the vignettes that build to make the show: the men of the clan declaring war on beavers, whose lodge they attack with homemade Napalm manufactured by quirky Uncle Si and then flame throwers; the matriarch of the clan, Kay, wiggling a skinned cooked squirrel from her much-praised squirrels and dumplings and then eating the brains, declaring "squirrel brains make you smart;" the company employees led by owner Willie's brother Jase building a "redneck water park" in a local pond when they were supposed to be making duck calls; a turkey cook-off between men and women that started with a turkey hunt filled with advice about courting women; Willie pimping out a riding-lawn mower to race a local rival and then being too scared to go fast--but still winning when the other guy's mower breaks!
And of course there's that moment when Willie goes to fetch a boat at his parents' house only to find a gator in the shed, which sends him off squealing until he leads it away with a raw chicken on a string, all while his mom Kay is stirring a vat of jambalaya outside with a paddle.
Perhaps something gets lost in the translation.
(You can read a more thorough description at the NYTimes here.)
I can't put my finger on why I enjoy it. It's not just because their world is both so foreign and familiar--foreign to both my suburban Houston childhood and current Connecticut life but also familiar because of the stories friends and relatives have told over the years--Dad's stories about experiences in East Texas, uncles and cousins on our porch at the bay spinning yarns not unlike Willie's. And of course I did grow up with a dad and relatives who hunted, fished, and wore camo. In fact, my dad's camouflaged boat has a much more sophisticated pattern than the Duck Commander's! Let's say the Roberston clan of the show is only a few degrees of separation from people I know. (Which I think is what bothered my folks on first watching; "too close to home," they said.)
But more than that, the show isn't mean or degrading. The people are honest and loving, hard-working and good natured. They don't demean each other or degrade themselves; and sometimes you just know they are so much more clever than they appear--I mean, they have a multi-million dollar business and a hit tv show. It's like a modern day Waltons, with each episode ending around a long table, laden with food, as the patriarch Phil, the Duck Commander, says grace and Willie does a voiceover about neighbors or family or faults. It's that kind of feel good show.
And if you want that recipe for squirrel stew, it's on their website.
*Translation: "The alligator bit the boat."