National Geographic : 1964 Oct
Texans do talk big-they brag-but do not exaggerate. They live in a big country. Mission in the desert. Could it serve any purpose, I wondered. When I went inside San Xavier del Bac, near Tucson, Arizona, I learned from the priests that their school is educating the Papago Indians, giving them a new hope and a new vision by mold ing them into the contemporary way of life. and easy with your money. For five days I stayed in one of the famous hotels in this gambling town that seems like an incredible mirage in the midst of a burned-out desert. I stood around for a while watching the patrons play the slot machines, but I did not join in any of the games. The manager grew inquisitive and started a conversation. I told him I was writing a book about the United States and was making a study of "one armed bandits." "Why don't you play a few times?" he asked. "You will get to know them better." "No, I just want to watch," I said. "Maybe it is against your tradition," he said. But he went to the cashier and came back with a cupful of nickels and said to me: "Here, play. This is on the hbuse." "Why do you give me this?" I asked. "It's a secret, but I'll tell you. For the sim ple reason that you will leave behind what I give you and all you yourself can afford to gamble from your own pocket." That's the way it turned out. I lost the nickels he gave me and $40 of my own money (preceding pages). Weeks passed-and many, many miles before I came to the place where the Huey P. Long Bridge arches across the Mississippi like a huge gangplank to another world. This 582 other world is New Orleans, still to some de gree the frontier riverboat town.* I found New Orleans pleasantly haunted by its past, a rather bizarre past echoing the contrasting customs of French, Spanish, Anglo-American, and Negro cultures. The cemeteries reflect the strange heritage. Names of the dead often show a mixture of nation al origins. Ornate tombs, built above the ground because of the high water table, stand jammed together in rows like the houses of miniature cities. On All Saints' Day, November 1, people throng to the cemeteries to honor the dead, an event that has aspects of a family reunion. Departed relatives are discussed with casual affection. Picnics are spread beside the tombs. Food is dear to the heart of New Orleans. The city is known for its famous restaurants, and there are many raw-oyster bars. I had never eaten oysters before in my life. I visit ed an oyster "factory" more than 100 years old, where scores of Negroes sat sorting and shucking the shellfish. Many of the sorters were descendants of slaves who worked right here more than a century ago. The manager took me to Antoine's, per haps the city's most famous restaurant. My *See "New Orleans: Jambalaya on the Levee," by Har nett T. Kane, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, February, 1953.