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Everybody needs somebody — or something — to love
You remember your first pet? The animal you loved and cherished with all your heart? Maybe it was a little puppy, maybe it was a kitty cat, maybe it was a goldfish. Whatever it was, I bet you remember its name better than the names of most of your schoolteachers. There’s a deep, spiritual bond between humans and the animals they let into their homes, whether that animal is a domesticated friend of humanity … or a swamp rodent responsible for untold ecological damage.
That cheerful fellow in the pic above is a nutria, and if you think it looks like a cross between a beaver and a rat, congratulations, you’re ready to be a zoologist. Originally from South America, they were introduced to Louisiana in the 1930s by fur trappers. The desire for nutria-fur coats died out in the 1980s, and so did any curbs on the nutria population. Nutria breed often — moms are apparently ready to get back at it two days after giving birth, wow — and eat about 25 percent of their body weight every day. In other words: they’re a cute, toothy menace.
Which brings us to Neuty.
Neuty is a nutria rescued two years ago on West Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans by a gentleman named Denny Lacoste. He took the little feller, no bigger than the palm of his hand, home to his wife Myra, and together they raised Neuty in their home. Today, Neuty is a healthy 22 pounds, a friend to the Lacostes’ dog, and a loyal member of the family. He swims in the Lacostes’ pool, he rides to work with Denny, and he entertains the customers at the seafood restaurant Denny owns.
Alas, Neuty is also a nutria, and that drew the attention of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The gub’mint declared Neuty an illegally-harbored wild animal and wanted to confiscate him and place him in the Baton Rouge Zoo. Oh no!
Now, let’s not go in too hard on the Wildlife and Fisheries folks; they were just doing their jobs. Nutria can harbor all kinds of horrible diseases, for instance, which makes them less-than-ideal attractions at a restaurant. And while the DWF isn’t looking to make trouble, it took action after Neuty became a social media star thanks to some loving media attention in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Last week the DWF showed up to nab Neuty, but in a scene right out of the movie that this will surely become, Neuty wasn’t home. He was out riding around with the Lacostes’ son, and I surely hope Neuty was driving.
Thankfully, after public outrage — which in Louisiana may well have included weaponry and threats of graphic bodily violence — the DWF relented. Department secretary Jack Montoucet — man, Louisiana names are the best — said the Lacostes will be able to keep lil’ Neuty.
Neuty will have to live under a few conditions, like regular vet visits. At the Lacostes’ restaurant, he’ll have to stay in a cage, and customers won’t be allowed to pet him any more. (Far as I’m concerned, a whole lot of kids — and more than a few adults — ought to get the Neuty treatment at restaurants, but that’s a whole other story.)
So, good news for Neuty! Now, about that python you’re keeping in your tub…
Song of the Week: Hailey Whitters, ‘Middle of America’
Hailey Whitters is 33 and doing the singer-songwriter thing in Nashville, and just starting to catch fire. She released her first album in 2015 and her second on February 28, 2020; you can probably guess why it didn’t make much of an impact. Her third, “Raised,” out last March, finally broke through, and listening to this cut off the album, you can see why. The big fat cowboy chords, whoa-oh-oh chorus and football-on-Friday nights subject matter are familiar, but Whitters has a sharp eye for imagery and character that goes beyond the usual pop-country limitations. “Raisin’ hell and raisin’ babies” ought to be on a t-shirt if it’s not already.
Books, Beer & BBQ: March 2023
We’re building the most kickass Southern books/beer/BBQ recommendation database in the known universe, one month at a time. Each of these is worth a detour off your travels. And hey, look at this: a handy Google map to follow as you go.
Books: Alabama Booksmith, Birmingham, Ala.
Located in the shadow of Vulcan’s mighty glutes, Alabama Booksmith is a niche joy — a bookstore selling nothing but signed books. It’s clean, spare, and filled with a library’s worth of pristine hardbacks. Most are cover price, too, which is good news for those of us authors whose signature devalues the book. You’ll spend more money than you expected to, but at a bookstore, that’s a very good thing.
Beer: Wild Leap, LaGrange, Ga.
The best kind of success story: a brewery built in an old garage that’s become so successful it’s both revitalized an entire section of LaGrange and spread to a newly-opened Atlanta branch. Wild Leap also distills its own spirits and features the now-mandatory-for-breweries cornhole boards and array of food trucks. A hidden gem that’s not so hidden anymore.
BBQ: Lexington BBQ, Lexington, N.C.
You’ve got to love a barbecue joint located on Smokehouse Lane. Classic Carolina bbq — chopped vinegary pork, minced red cole slaw, hush puppies … damn, this is fine stuff. Careful or you’ll eat right through the Styrofoam plate. Wash it down with an icy Cheerwine or go straight to hell.
Got a suggestion of your own? I welcome — hell, I demand — your recommendations in any or all three categories. Let me know where to go right here, or tell the whole class in the comments below.
That’ll do it for this week. Enjoy the springtime weather before we all get roasted for four months. See you next week!
Land Cat, Ga.
This is issue #98 of Flashlight & A Biscuit. Check out all the past issues right here. Feel free to email me with your thoughts, tips and advice. If you’re new around here, jump right to our most-read stories, or check out some of our recent hits:
The joy and terror of the Savannah St. Patrick’s Day parade
Take a wild guess which state has a gun-shaped pool
When you just gotta have a Popeye’s biscuit right now
Birmingham’s Vulcan statue: heart of steel, glutes of iron
What does “Flashlight & A Biscuit” mean, anyway?
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