Bayou Liberty was the Northshore stream of my growing up. While the Tchefuncte River was bigger and better known, little Bayou Liberty, which ran near Slidell and entered into Lake Pontchartrain, held a special place for one niche of the population: adolescent boys, particularly those who belonged to the Boy Scouts.
Camp Salmon, a regional gathering spot for area scouts was on Bayou Liberty. It was there that I first experienced riding in a canoe. Two of us boarded the craft, which was pushed into the water where it sank maybe five feet out. Sure the boats were leaky, but at least the water was shallow. The incident gave credence to a campfire song, “The Deacon Went Down,” in which one of the refrains was:
Well you can’t get to heave in a Camp Salmon Boat
Because the doggone things
Don’t even float.
(Another refrain poked fun at the scoutmaster who, let’s say his name was Jones:
Well you can’t get to heaven in Mr. Jones’ shoes
Because the doggone things
Are filled with booze.)
Those songs no longer echo off the Bayou Liberty waterfront because the camp eventually moved to a new location in Mississippi and its site was converted into pricey waterfront property.
When I last rode on Bayou Liberty it was on a party barge of one of the residents – and his boat did float. A ride now includes pointing to the waterfront backyards of the very-wealthy’s summer homes. Scant mention is made of where Camp Salmon once was, thought the real historic sport is nearby. It was on Bayou Liberty that a boat chase scene was filmed for the 1973 James Bond film, Live and Let Die. Fortunately for Roger Moore, his boat didn’t sink either, though we cannot rule out James Bond’s shoes being filled with booze.
As a senior scout, I experienced a rite of passage one night in the Camp Salmon thickets along Bayou Liberty. Several of us were being initiated into an honor camping organization called the Order of the Arrow. After dark we were escorted into the woods and each assigned a place where we had to camp out alone that night. I don’t recall if I smuggled a small radio, though it would have been like me to have done so. I do recall that the moon cooperated and it wasn’t especially dark that night, though the sensory experience that truly warded off the fright is that I must have been located near Highway 433. I could hear cars chugging by with their radios blaring throughout the evening. I survived untouched by beast or Hun.
For our efforts we received cool looking white sashes with the image of a red arrow down the center. Curiously, I never wore the sash again. As happens to teenage boys, their situations begin to change. Soon we would all be sailing in new directions.