Rural Louisiana. A tiny gas station. Rusted roof. An outdated Coors sign hangs in a window. The place looks like it’s being held together with duct tape and prayer.

I’m here on business. I’m a journalist, covering the arrival of summer in Louisiana.

There is an old guy sitting on a bench by the station door. He has a long gray beard. He wears a T-shirt which reads “Geaux Tigers.”

He greets me with a two-fingered wave, then spits into an empty Coke bottle.

“How y’all?” the man says.

“Good,” I reply.

He smiles his tooth at me.

“You ain’t from here,” he says, eyeing my license plate.

“No, sir. From Alabama.”

He spits. “Bienvenue en Louisiane,” he says.

I have no idea what this means, so I answer like an idiot by saying, “Okay!”

I’m at Pump Two, filling the van with gas. I’ve been on the road for a few days now, riding backroads.

The highways of the Bayou State are top shelf, among the best country byways in the nation. The sunshine in Louisiana is so pure it will make you drunk.

A truck pulls up next to mine at Pump Three. The doors open. Out of the backseat come four kids in baseball uniforms. They are maybe 12-year-olds. Their accents are South Louisiana. Their baseball pants are painted with dirt. They reek of little-kid sweat and hormones.

And I’m remembering a time in my life when I lived in a cheap cotton outfielder’s uniform, surviving on a diet almost exclusively made up of Paydays and Coca-Cola products.

I remember a feckless youth spent with Little League teammates, devoid of seatbelts, riding in the beds of corroded Chevy pickups, piloted by grandfathers who smoked Prince Albert.

I’m done pumping gas now. I walk inside to pay because the pump doesn’t have a card reader. These are the kinds of pumps with spinning numbers.

Welcome to Louisiana.

The little bell over the door dings. The inside of the gas station smells like fried chicken and old coffee. Someone’s been smoking in here, too.

An old lady behind the counter greets me. She has a face like a Rand McNally map. Her brittle hair is blueish. She calls me “Sugar” and her voice sounds exactly like you’d expect an old woman from South Louisiana to sound. I could listen to this woman read Webster’s Dictionary.

“Are you frying chicken in here?” I ask.

“Sure am.”

She points to a glass food case. Behind a sneeze-guard are poultry thighs and breasts big enough to be rated R. There is also boudin for sale. They have crawfish pies. The price is cheap.

“Want something, Sugar?” she says.

“Yes, ma’am. I’d like some boudin.”

She goes to the boudin. She uses her bare hand to scoop up the boudin, then places it into a to-go box. The old woman does not employ the use of latex gloves. She merely wipes the excess grease on her butt, then grabs another handful of boudin.

Pinch me.

I’m back in the van now. Doing 45 mph over the lazy hillsides of green and gold. There are swelling pastures adorned in white daisies. Magnolias. Longleafs. Live oaks. This is the Louisiana you don’t see in the newspapers.

This is not a tourism ad. This is a land of weathered wooden barns, trailer homes, and shallow creek bridges.

I pass a stray dog looking for lunch. Old Fords sitting on blocks parked in front of shotgun houses. Couches on porches. Freezers in front yards. Rembrandt couldn’t have painted it any better.

I decide to try the boudin while steering with my knees. I open the paper sack. The brown paper is translucent with fat. I’m eating the food with my hands. I haven’t had gas-station boudin in a long time. Too long.

The fare is rich. Fatty. Spiced just right. Unlike anything I’ve ever put in my mouth. It tastes better than sin feels. There is grease on my shirt. Grease on my upholstery. Grease in my vascular system. And all is well.

I pass a highway sign informing me that I am leaving the Sugar State. “Bienvenue en Louisiane,” the sign reads.

I don’t speak French, so I have no idea what those words mean. But right now I know what they taste like.


  1. Jan Lord - April 25, 2023 10:50 am

    You make me want to travel those old 2 lane highways having no destination in mind other than a service station with rolling number gas pumps where the store smells like fried chicken & grease.
    I used to live in Gadsden, AL so I traveled many a country roads. I remember well folks sitting on their front porches waving at everyone who passed by while chewing their tobacco at the same time.
    I also ate my fair share of fried hand pies & ate boiled peanuts with a Coca Cola in a glass bottle on many of those front porches.
    Thanks for the memories.

  2. Cathy M - April 25, 2023 2:14 pm

    I love the people in Louisiana and even more, the way they speak. Their accents are melodious. Great food and friendly folks❤️

  3. H. J. Patterson - April 25, 2023 6:28 pm

    “She goes to the boudin. She uses her bare hand to scoop up the boudin, then places it into a to-go box. The old woman does not employ the use of latex gloves. She merely wipes the excess grease on her butt, then grabs another handful of boudin. Pinch me.” Classic, and I love it! Nelle H. Lee couldn’t of written it better if she tried.

  4. Doug - April 25, 2023 8:54 pm

    I lived there for 12 years, 35 years ago. I think in my heart I never left; and stories like these make me want to return. Time to pack up and make the eleven hour drive to The Best Stop in Scott, Louisiana.
    Doug M

  5. Kim C - April 28, 2023 5:59 pm

    I am from La and this is accurate if your reference to the roads being top shelf is in reference to the views, not the actual roads themselves 🙂 I love your writing!


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