Albertine Kimble has lived in Carlisle, Louisiana (population 1) for her entire life. From her stilted home a lofty 23 feet above the ground (for good reason), she remembers growing up nearby, what duck hunting was like back in her grandfather’s day, hunting “French ducks” with her dad and brothers, earning the Duck Queen moniker. She describes how and why things have since changed in this vanishing paradise, suggesting possible remedies. With a limit of fresh, whole-picked blue-winged teal soaking in her kitchen sink, she shares a special family recipe and other thoughts.
Introducing the Duck Queen
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere, today I am in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, little community of Carlisle. How little population 1? She’s today’s guest, Albertine Kimble, the duck queen. Albertine, how are you?
Albertine Kimble: I’m really good.
Ramsey Russell: Pull your mic just a little bit closer.
Albertine Kimble: All right, how’s that?
Ramsey Russell: There you go. Perfect.
Albertine Kimble: I’m good because I shot my limit today, right? Thanks Jonathan.
Ramsey Russell: I learned a lot about you in a short amount of time because it really wasn’t a long hunt this morning. The teal showed up today, they showed up today. Yesterday, there were a few, I was hunting down around Venice, there was a few, talking to Jonathan, talking to other folks, they were chipping away. How did you do this weekend?
Albertine Kimble: I was satisfied for the first day to the second. I mean zero is bad when you’re duckless, you want to try to avoid the duckless situation.
Ramsey Russell: But today they showed up, flock, big flock coming down the river flocks, coming working over us, I enjoyed that.
Albertine Kimble: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Did you grow up blue wing teal hunting? Was that something you all always did down here?
Albertine Kimble: Yeah, I think. Yeah, pretty much. Sometimes we didn’t have a season.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, you did not?
Albertine Kimble: No.
Ramsey Russell: Why not?
Albertine Kimble: Storms pretty much.
Ramsey Russell: Talk about growing up down here in this part of Louisiana because this is new to me, I’ve hunted on the other side of the channel down around Venice, but I’ve never hunted on this side of Plaquemines Parish.
Albertine Kimble: Welcome to the East Bank of God’s country, that’s all I’m going to tell you, it’s God’s country. God and mother nature working together over on the East Bank.
Ramsey Russell: Did you grow up duck hunting?
Albertine Kimble: Well, 11 if you call that growing up. My brother was younger and he got to go because girls didn’t get to go.
Ramsey Russell: Why didn’t girls get to go?
Albertine Kimble: I don’t know, I really don’t know. I didn’t think it was fair, I still say that.
Ramsey Russell: But you went when you were 11. And you were telling me –
Albertine Kimble: That’s because my grandpa passed and things changed.
Ramsey Russell: Because your granddad was of that generation. He didn’t bring children to camp to hunt.
Albertine Kimble: No kids, no women, the women stayed home pretty much, they dropped the ducks off –
Ramsey Russell: You all picked them and cooked them.
Albertine Kimble: Not you all. I mean, if you shoot it, you going to clean it, I ain’t cleaning it. Well, unless you give it to me then of course, tagged.
Ramsey Russell: And your camp was right back here behind your house.
Albertine Kimble: Yes, sir.
Ramsey Russell: Talk about that camp. Can you talk about the history of it and the formation?
Albertine Kimble: That camp was built when it actually got taken by Katrina, it was like 43 years old. My grandpa Clarence Kimble built the camp on a ridge.
Ramsey Russell: When would he have built it?
Albertine Kimble: Late 60s, early 70s.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. And is it marsh?
Albertine Kimble: So, it was sitting on a ridge, an oak cover ridge marsh covered trees, beautiful. You couldn’t even see it from the sky because the trees would cover it. The ridges were higher then and it was really just a beautiful marsh where it had slews and ridges and trees and wood ducks and just everything really abundant, yeah, really abundant wildlife. And when you lose the habitat and the land, you lose the wildlife.
Ramsey Russell: And that’s the world you grew up in. Your people were duck hunters –
Albertine Kimble: Deer and duck.
Ramsey Russell: There were deer here too?
Albertine Kimble: I lease property outfit for deer here.
Ramsey Russell: What your dad do for a living?
Albertine Kimble: My dad was the controller for Plaquemines Parish government, he handled all the finances that’s what he did. But he would like go duck hunting in the morning, then he go to work, he went duck hunting in the morning and then he went to work or he went fishing in the morning, depending on what season it was, teal season he was hunting, drought season, he’d catch drought, then he’d go to work, he always was fishing and hunting, my dad.
Fondest Louisiana Hunting Memories
Well, when I first started hunting, yeah, we paddled in, we had a little putt putt boat we call it.
Ramsey Russell: Albertine, tell me about growing up hunting with your dad at age 11 and old, what are some of your fondest memories back then? Because you’re bound to have some.
Albertine Kimble: My fondest memories of my daddy is the way he could shoot and call ducks, my daddy was a trumpet player so nobody could call ducks better than my dad, nobody, nobody that I know.
Ramsey Russell: What kind of call did he blow?
Albertine Kimble: I don’t really know what kind of call he blew but anything he entered duck contest that he’d win, he was really good at calling ducks.
Ramsey Russell: How good of a shot was he?
Albertine Kimble: I think he was an excellent shot, I call him exterminator. And like he like high shots. Of all the guys that I hunt with, they all like to shoot high shots, I like, if it comes in front of me, it’s going to go, I’m going to take it.
Ramsey Russell: What kind of species were you all killing growing up? And how did you all get –
Albertine Kimble: Mallard, plenty mallards, pintail, gadwall, wigeon that was trash ducks teal and ring neck ducks and blue bills as they call them up north. Yeah, that was trash duck, they never shot that, they all fly by. Even gadwalls, I mean, they shot wigeon and mallards.
Ramsey Russell: But you shot a lot of mallards down here.
Albertine Kimble: We did, we had a lot of habitat down here.
Ramsey Russell: How would you all – talk about getting up, I guess you grew up right here, thereabouts. You’d get up in the morning and walk down the road and what did you all launch pirogues? Talk about that a little bit, go into detail.
Albertine Kimble: Well, when I first started hunting, yeah, we paddled in, we had a little putt putt boat we call it. But most of the time we paddle in, like later in life when I got older, I had an airboat and I would go to my area and paddle into my blind, but I wouldn’t go riding all around. My dad had a stroke and so that’s how we got hooked up with airboats and duck hunting because he said he was going duck hunting no matter what, even if he’s dragging his leg or whatever, he was still going duck hunting.
Ramsey Russell: And that’s how you all got started with airboat.
Albertine Kimble: My daddy was duck hunting the January before he died, he was still duck hunting. Oh, yeah, he had his own little boat, he drive into a blind, he made a pal metal blind and he would drive into it, kind of like these people do now with duck boats, but it’s different. The blind was already a drive into it. Oh, yeah. Yeah, it’s exciting and it’s not just the hunt, it’s the rod out to the place you’re going to hunt, the sun rise, the fallen stars that you see looking up at the sky and full moon, it’s just everything about nature, you could just feel it, you’re not worried about your phone trust me, you don’t want your phone.
Ramsey Russell: There’s a lot of nature down here in Louisiana.
Albertine Kimble: Plenty of nature, plenty. You’ll see a lot of red eyes, which means there’s a lot of alligators during the teal season, you’ll see deer too going out sometimes.
Ramsey Russell: A lot of water birds.
Albertine Kimble: Oh, yeah. Hogs too, yeah, can’t forget them.
Skip the Duck Drama
Ramsey Russell: You were saying earlier today, we were sitting here me and you and Jonathan were sitting here talking and about the people and about the camaraderie and people sleeping on your couch and coming in after the hunt and he said that’s what I’m missing. You began to describe when you all duck hunted, you and your dad and brothers and you all just hunting one big blind, you all spread around the ponds and you said, I could sit there and hunt and see people hunting.
Albertine Kimble: So we each had our own spot and everybody knew everybody was hunting and we could watch each other hunt. Like I could see Greg in the cove shooting wigeons way high out the sky, I could see my daddy behind me shooting ducks and they could see me when I shot my ducks, it was all just a fun time that it’s not just about the kills, it’s about seeing each other hunting, getting together, having a cup of coffee, talking about the hunt, how you shot the bird, very casual, no stress, no drama I call it, no duck drama.
Ramsey Russell: Because you were saying now I understand why you like to hunt a lot of times by yourself in real small groups, because that’s how you grew up hunting.
Albertine Kimble: Right. It’s like hunting with a bunch of guys, let them shoot their 12 like this morning, let you all and then you can watch me shoot my six and that way I know I shot my six, that’s why I like to define my area, like if we shoot in three, this is mine, you in the middle, this is you, don’t shoot over me, but sometimes it happens, right?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, not with me. We have somebody in there that didn’t see them doing this morning.
Albertine Kimble: He crossed the line, he got the itchy finger.
Ramsey Russell: itchy trigger finger. What was your favorite duck growing up?
Albertine Kimble: Teal is my favorite duck because I like the way they fly, there’s nothing normal about the way a teal, it goes like a kamikaze coming in. it’s just, they might turn around and come back at you, come right in. You think it’s going, it might come right back at you.
Ramsey Russell: What it’s like this morning, we saw a high flock off the river, how far away that was? We’re hollering at them, they dip down into, below the grass, we can’t see them, we see another flock right where they were, we start calling to them and all of a sudden you start punching me and I turned around and that flock, I guess that flock we’ve been calling to the first flock was disappeared, spun around and swung and was coming right into the decoy.
Albertine Kimble: That’s why you got to have your eyes on the front and the back and the side too.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, got to have them everywhere.
Albertine Kimble: Because I’ve seen it where we’re hunting three like today, you all looking to the back and I’m looking, man, look at that flock of teal coming, I don’t even see it. Now, I could be deceitful and go, hey, and that’s if you got a lot of testosterone and sometimes that might happen, I might even tell you that ain’t coming, you just do on your own. And that makes it fun too. Don’t tell them it’s coming.
Earning the Moniker of Duck Queen
So, I’ve self-appointed Duck Queen, I always say that I’m self-appointed.
Ramsey Russell: How did you get the name Duck Queen? Bill Cooke is the one that told me about you, he said, you got to meet the Duck Queen. How did you get the moniker of Duck Queen?
Albertine Kimble: I know down when I would go with Lambert in the bureaus across the river over there, they call me Queen started out that way and then they started just throwing in Duck Queen. So, I’ve self-appointed Duck Queen, I always say that I’m self-appointed.
Ramsey Russell: How long ago would that have been? Decade, two decades?
Albertine Kimble: I’m 60 now.
Ramsey Russell: It’s been a while ago.
Albertine Kimble: It’s been a long time. Probably 35 years, really. I even have a Tierra. How do you imagine that? Now, it’s not green though, if it would be mobbed, it’d be green emeralds.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me a story about hunting with your dad, I want to hear a story about a particular hunt of hunting with your daddy. He was a great shot and a greater caller.
Albertine Kimble: Oh yeah, he was, but for me, it was really bad. So we take off in this old dugout he had and he says, all right, you sit in the front, they’re going to have a bunch of mallards coming over the top of your head now, get ready. So he’s push pulling, he’s going to let me take them all. So man, my heart was pounding all mallards, man we over this like little slew of oak trees, acorns the whole perfect scenario, get ready. Boy, I aim my gun, get up and shot, I missed every shot. He said, what are you doing? I said, I’m looking at them, I missed every shot, he said that’s it no more.
Ramsey Russell: And what did he tell you? How did he tell you to fix that? I mean, he was a great shot, so how did he teach his daughter?
Albertine Kimble: Well, he told me, he saw what I did because I was ready and as soon as you take your face, you’re done, if you don’t have your face on it, you’re done. You can’t, I do it all, that’s what I miss when I look at them.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I look at them over the top of the barrel with my cheek down on the –
Albertine Kimble: Yeah, I see you got that camera on there, yeah, that’s nice.
Ramsey Russell: I mean, I look at them at the top of that barrel, that’s all I’m looking at.
Albertine Kimble: I had a lot of people tell me, oh, you got to lead a duck and all that, no, this is my daddy put the BB in your scope, pull a trigger and that’s what he used to tell me. Don’t worry about nothing else just bam. And we used to shoot skeet together too to practice before teal season. He said he never had to worry, he said he never had to worry because we all – my brother fantastic shot, my sister we all – whole family was like that, my mama too.
Ramsey Russell: Did your sister and mother duck hunt also?
Albertine Kimble: My brother used to duck hunt when he had a lot of ducks, like sacks of ducks, he’d come in with, stick his tongue out at me and do all of this, you can’t go.
Ramsey Russell: How long ago would that have been? I mean, 20, 30 years ago?
Albertine Kimble: 40 years ago, 50 years ago.
Ramsey Russell: But your mom and sister didn’t hunt?
Albertine Kimble: They never got to go, my sister hunts. My sister lives in North Carolina, she makes out of bank cuts, she goes with the guys out there and lets them have it.
Ramsey Russell: We got a lot of listeners out in North Carolina, it’s unbelievable what a duck hunting culture they got.
Albertine Kimble: I want to go out to the banks.
Ramsey Russell: Need to go shoot your swan while you’re out there, the duck queen need to go shoot the royal bird, shoot the tundra swan.
Albertine Kimble: I’m thinking where I’m going to put the swan at in the house, not on Mary’s wall, that’s the sacred wall for Katrina there don’t be – can’t put nothing but sacred stuff on that, no ducks on the Mary wall.
Ramsey Russell: What is it like to be a growing up in a – your dad, your granddad who didn’t allow kids, you were telling me a story about your granddad didn’t allow a kid down to camp but one time at an emergency and your momma sent your little brother back over there.
Albertine Kimble: My grandma, his wife.
Ramsey Russell: How old was your brother?
Albertine Kimble: 7 or 8, young.
Ramsey Russell: Had to walk a mile down the dark road.
Albertine Kimble: I mean, he went out there all the time, trapping. He started trapping when he was 7 and 8 years old, my brother, he was a hustler, he made that money. But he said, he could see the inside the camp, we had lanterns, we never had generators and stuff, we had Coleman lanterns, that’s what we use. In fact, before the storm I went and got them out to camp in my room over here and he said he could see it, my grandma said, you’re going to have to go back there, we don’t have any kind of communication and it’s an emergency, you’re going to have to walk back the road and go get them because something happened with the parish or something from my grandpa and my dad and all them were still working for the parish. And she sent my brother back there and he actually got to spend the night, my grandpa didn’t want going back by himself and he wasn’t going back, so he got to spend the night, Jonathan got to spend the night, he told me he was all excited, he got to spend the night that night.
Ramsey Russell: How did he describe that night? Being a 7-year old finally getting to go to the holy duck camp with all the grown man?
Albertine Kimble: That was it, he was in like flint after that, he was in like flint, he was going all the time.
Females in the Duck Hunting World
How did the duck queen evolve from a little girl not allowed to go to granddaddy’s camp to a real deal hunter?
Ramsey Russell: Really? And still you couldn’t go
Albertine Kimble: No, I still couldn’t go, wrong gender.
Ramsey Russell: It was a different age back then, wasn’t it?
Albertine Kimble: That’s why I don’t like pink, that’s got to be it.
Ramsey Russell: Okay, we’re talking about pink, we’re talking about wrong gender back in your granddaddy’s era. But that brings up the question about women hunters in general because I do know some very serious women hunters like yourself and I know a lot of women, I think that want to be serious hunters but they don’t yet have a full sense of agency like you do, talk about that a little bit. How did the duck queen evolve from a little girl not allowed to go to granddaddy’s camp to a real deal hunter? How do you do that as the “wrong gender”.
Albertine Kimble: Especially with my boyfriend Villary Mr. Wildlife Agent, I’m stubborn and I’m not going to take no for an answer.
Ramsey Russell: But you obviously like to duck hunt.
Albertine Kimble: I love to duck hunt. I think, it’s less physical now because before mud boats we were paddling, which I liked, I like paddle, it’s good exercise for your torso, you don’t get fat there. Well, women used to get fat and you’re not going to get fat if you’re paddling. So, but I always like to go –
Ramsey Russell: What is it that you liked about it?
Albertine Kimble: I like the excitement of getting up in the morning, drinking coffee and knowing that, hopefully, possibly that I’m going to shoot something rare like it might not be something that – yeah you never know what I shot, you just don’t know, you’re not going to know unless you go.
Ramsey Russell: Optimism breeds eternal in a duck hunter. It’s like yesterday there weren’t no teal.
Albertine Kimble: Can’t give up, got to have faith.
Ramsey Russell: I get picked up this morning, he’s talking about, man, every time I invite somebody down here we can’t get on the duck seems like, they ain’t here, ought to come later and we ain’t doing too good. I mean, I said, well, but the moon is full and the winds out of the north, it could be a totally different day and boy, it’s a totally different day, you don’t know if you don’t go.
Albertine Kimble: Because if you do, then you’re going to miss a good hunt. Like I’m looking at those two drake wood ducks I got up on my counter up here, I could still remember that hunt too. My brother said they got a lot of wood ducks in a slew just go stand by this oak tree, they got to cut right in front of you, I said, okay, but you can only shoot two of them. So those two drakes came together, I shot those two drakes at one shot, that’s why they’re up on the counter right there. Oh, yeah, I brag about that shot.
Ramsey Russell: Talk about that beautiful green head to the left of it.
Albertine Kimble: That was shot with my daddy in a mallard hole up front.
Ramsey Russell: Was that your first duck or his?
Albertine Kimble: That was my first mallard duck. My first mallard, I waited a long time for that mallard, but I finally got him, he’s pretty, isn’t he pretty?
Ramsey Russell: Your dad called him in?
Albertine Kimble: Dad called him in. Just me and dad was in my hunt, it was perfect.
Ramsey Russell: And you all still have mottled ducks down here, a lot of them and apparently this year is a bump of year.
Albertine Kimble: I don’t shoot mottled duck.
Ramsey Russell: Why not?
Albertine Kimble: Because they leave, they’re faithful to the area, they stay. The only thing that gets them is coyotes and gets the eggs. I love mottled ducks because they stay and you see them year round, that’s probably why I love them so much because you’ll see them year round, kind of like you see it now, a black belly whistling tree duck.
Ramsey Russell: You get excited when you see black bellies, I can tell.
Albertine Kimble: Oh yeah, because you got so many of them and I think we ought to be able to shoot six of them during the season, we need to change the laws, I’m all for that.
Ramsey Russell: There’s a good chance they might, I think people are looking at that right there.
Albertine Kimble: Make us happy feds, come on, baby, give us that. You took away everything else. Come on, give us that.
Ramsey Russell: As a woman hunter, you’re stubborn, you kept going at it, you got connections, I guess to the past, I guess to your dad, to your granddad, to your brother, to the growing up part and it’s right here in your backyard.
Albertine Kimble: And my brother put up with me, thank God.
Ramsey Russell: Do you call?
Albertine Kimble: No. Well, I got a whistle I like to use because on one hunt here that’s probably 5 years ago, it was all green wing and they circled me, I call it a 360 blind because you could shoot all the way around and it just whistled and then they finally landed and I mean, that was easy, that was so easy.
Ramsey Russell: Do you still hunt by yourself a lot?
Albertine Kimble: I like hunting by myself. I don’t hunt a lot because I don’t have any ducks here anymore because of invasive species, but I’d hunt by myself. That’s one thing I never did wait for a man to go duck hunting and I’m still not going to wait for one.
Ramsey Russell: Well, you said you’ve never been married because –
Albertine Kimble: No, I think it’s because of that, I really do. It’s all right.
Ramsey Russell: One thing this morning I noticed we’re driving back to town and we ran out of gas and I just get to looking at this vacant house and it’s a beautiful old house just sitting there vacant and all these houses, like, for example, your house is way up on –
Albertine Kimble: 23 feet. That’s right, I’m higher than the Mississippi River, there’s a reason for that.
Ramsey Russell: And that’s what he had told me, Jonathan was saying, well, you got to be higher than the levy or you’re not insured.
Albertine Kimble: Well, no, it’s not insured. It’s just FEMA has regulations on what their base flood elevation should be. So, right here, I want it to be higher than what they said I needed to be which was, I think, 18 to 21ft. I said, okay, how high is the levee? Let’s go higher than the levee.
Ramsey Russell: Well, if paddling keeps you in shape, climbing that flight of stairs getting up there to your back porch –
Albertine Kimble: That’s good for your glutes. Yeah. It makes you tight.
Ramsey Russell: Made me out of breath coming up here. But we were looking at –
Albertine Kimble: It’s a unique place to live, I love this place, I love Plaquemines parish, there’s no other place like it.
Ramsey Russell: We were looking at a house, I’m sitting here looking at a house, beautiful old farm house right there and apparently nobody lived in it for a long time and I’m like, man, I wonder why somebody don’t live in that house and he said because Katrina gutted it. And now for the rest of the drive up north, coming back down here, I see all these empty houses, Katrina was devastating. Were you here during Katrina?
The Lasting Impact of Katrina
Before Katrina, the land here where we hunt was, I call it intact marsh. You had ponds, bayous to distinguish and it wasn’t one big open body of water and that’s pretty much what Katrina did, it made it one big body of water.
Albertine Kimble: Oh, no. Look, one thing I got a sense of is wetlands loss and I was in a boat working every day now, I knew. In fact, I was the first one to leave my friend Gina was the superintendent of the ambulances for Plaquemines parish government and she said you’re leaving already? I said, I went back to the camp, I got everything I wanted out of that, 2 hours, I was out of here, I rolled out of here for Katrina. Because I was going fishing –
Ramsey Russell: Where did you go?
Albertine Kimble: I went to New Iberia to a friend of mine that I had just become friends with. Of course, I had the most serious migraine in my life at 6 AM because I knew where it came in on Bastion Bay, there was going to be nothing left because there was no land there to begin with, no barrier islands and no land from the barrier islands to the levee pretty much so it got creamed. And I was right, that was the hardest hit area.
Ramsey Russell: It’s hard to sit out here on this black top row, see a levee 20 some odd feet above you and be told that the water was up to the power lines for as far as you could see, the storm surge came in and it was just like ocean or Gulf of Mexico sitting right where we’re sitting right here, it’s just hard for me to get my mind wrapped around that.
Albertine Kimble: But the difference in where we are in this 4.5 mile radius is when you have levees back and front, back levees in front, the water is trapped, if the pumps go under. But here, never had no water after that, as fast as it come in, it went out because my brother worked at the refinery across the river over here and he flew in a helicopter and he came straight over, he said your house is still standing, you don’t have any water in the yard, so he went down to my dad’s place in Phoenix because my dad had just passed away June 11th of 2005 and everything was in the water. So the only way to get rid of that water, you can’t pump it out is you got to cut your levee, if you want to pull the plug on a bath tub and get the water out, that’s what you got to do, you got to cut your levee.
Ramsey Russell: But your home was not 23ft above the time –
Albertine Kimble: No it was 14, I had 3ft of water in here.
Ramsey Russell: And you showed me the water mark on your door.
Albertine Kimble: It was a mess.
Ramsey Russell: You saved it for posterity.
Albertine Kimble: I never stay here because I know – my brother told me, he said if you stay here, we’re not coming to get you and I’m not going to do that to somebody put their life in jeopardy, it can’t come anyway, so why would you do that to yourself? Go drink a pomegranate martini and watch it on the weather channel, watch that dude flex, what’s his name? Jim Cantore, go watch him because he’s going to be right where it is.
Ramsey Russell: No, if Jim Cantore shows up, you need to get out of dodge. Because there’s a reason he’s there.
Albertine Kimble: Even if he ain’t showing up I’m out of here because you know why I’ve been doing this for too long. My first hurricane was Betsy in Point Courthouse, which is 12 miles below here and we rode it out and you know what I remember about Betsy, the people praying the rosary, all the mothers in there in the stairwell praying the rosary, that’s four years old, I could still hear that the rosary. And then when the storm was over, we were starving and the water was still inside the area where we were, a tugboat came and transported us up to Gretna and the guy was frying bacon, I could still smell that bacon and that bunny bread was so good. Oh my God. But that’s how we got out of here tugboat, the river. Again, once again, the river was a salvation to get people out and maneuver stuff because everything was under water here, but you could navigate the river. Oh, yeah, 4 years old, I’ve been fighting this since I’m 4 years old, I’m 60 now and I’m wondering, man, I wonder how much longer –
Ramsey Russell: Well, hang on a second because I told you this morning, I had read a book, I don’t know where I came across it, but it had been out a while, there was a guy, I don’t think he’s from Louisiana, he came down to Louisiana, he wanted to kind of do a little cultural book on the shrimp industry, the shrimpers and stuff like that and he started jumping on some boats around here and going out and they were showing him the radar and they were describing the sinking lands and they were describing the vanishing paradise and they were describing all this stuff and I read this book with fascination because I’ve been coming down here for years fishing and hunting and one of the last things he said was the next category 5 is really going to do in this part of the world. And I shut the book and two weeks later, Hurricane Katrina started blowing across the Gulf, category 5 hit Louisiana across the way here and holy cow and I went back another year with a buddy of mine, Jeff Anastasio, we’re out on piece of water, I didn’t know where we were because I get lost down there anyway. But I didn’t know where we were, I couldn’t see grass, I couldn’t see shore, where are we? He says, you know exactly where we are because I have no idea where we are and he stopped and pointed to his GPS and said right here is where we anchored and caught all them red fish and speckled trout catching shrimp coming out of the grass that time I go, where’s the grass now? He says about a mile and a half north, that’s a lot of habitat gone. And that’s why I bring it up, is I want to talk to you about vanishing paradise about how this land had changed preceding Katrina and how it’s changed since Katrina. What was it like before Katrina from the time you grew up, how have things changed in this lower delta?
Albertine Kimble: Before Katrina, the land here where we hunt was, I call it intact marsh. You had ponds, bayous to distinguish and it wasn’t one big open body of water and that’s pretty much what Katrina did, it made it one big body of water. I mean, like it went from ponds because –
Ramsey Russell: What happened that Katrina so impact because this country has been hit with hurricane since forever, since dinosaurs. I mean, it’s been hit –
Albertine Kimble: Well, there’s a lot of theories in play but a lot of people say and this is the older gang, people like my brother too, he’s not that much older, but they blame it on fresh water from the diversion, they really blame it on that because the marsh was in transition, which means it was going from a saltwater marsh to a fresh water marsh because of the way they operated this diversion and the diversion, what the diversion is, it’s a structure that’s built to try to mimic the Mississippi before it had levies in one particular area and it carries water to a certain area and winds and tides can move the water also, but those diversions were built to control salinity for oyster growers, that’s it. That wasn’t built to build land, this was just to control salinity in Black Bay, that’s it which was way far from here. Now, they’ve had previous structures built in time before that, the structure in 1955 that was built for the same reason to control salinity because once you put up a levee, you can’t get that river water, right? You can’t and it goes all the way down, the levee stops here on this side, the Federal levee at Bohemia and then there’s a spillway and then they used to have a levee that went all the way down to Baptist Galette, but those weren’t maintained. So things broke out, storms caused different things. But when it makes float on, when the storm surge came, all that marsh rolled with the hurricane, it went all up on the levee and all in people’s houses and it was something really to see. When I went back here in an airboat after Katrina, I didn’t know where I was, I was lost. I mean, it was just so depressing to see one storm do what that storm did to this region, it really is. And I feel for everybody who has hurricane damage because it’s just so depressing and do you want to do it again?
Ramsey Russell: So, as I understand though Albertine, what did the diversion do or not do that made it so vulnerable to a hurricane.
Albertine Kimble: From what I’m saying is, it took a saltwater marsh and transitioned it to a fresh water marsh which is more fragile. Your saltwater marsh has deep roots, it holds soils together, very true, if you look at a map where Katrina impacted and I have one here and I’m going to give you a picture of it before you leave because I want you to see it and you can see it on the map, the saltwater marsh looks good, fresh water marsh is history. But hey have arguments about that too because if it’s a sandy bottom, the freshwater marsh is going to come back but not fluton, fluton is not coming back.
On Sinking Ground
It’s sinking because the river can’t feed anymore, it can’t feed.
Ramsey Russell: How far from right here does the marsh go south? And how much further south did it go when you were a child? Because I just remember reading a statistic that ever so linear distance of that marsh grass you’re talking about lays down storm surge, it absorbs it like a shock absorber so it breaks those waves.
Albertine Kimble: So, it’s not only that, it’s your barrier islands that start from the beginning, let’s start from the Gulf barrier islands, let’s not forget your oyster Reefs, very critical part of storm surge protection. But you can’t rape and pillage them either and take them all and then you’d have nothing and you got to manage your fishery right too. You can’t just take everything from your fishery, you got to put something back. You can’t suck all your natural resources out of your oil and gas, your sulfur can’t take all your natural resources, you’re going to have nothing. And then as you come in, you have your marshes, then you have your ridges and trees and then your last resort of protection is your levee from flooding. So that’s how it works, that’s why it’s a critical plan, I’m all about the state’s master plan that the CPRA, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, I’m all for it. But they need to listen to the people, the people who live here, especially because they know the lay of the land better than anybody else, they do and they know why we subside and we can’t move the levee because we’re going to have to have navigation and commerce
Ramsey Russell: Explain subsiding, what is that?
Albertine Kimble: When you losing land, like we losing a football field an hour –
Ramsey Russell: The land is sinking because of wave action and because of river, but historically, it’s been backed by alluvial –
Albertine Kimble: It’s sinking because the river can’t feed anymore, it can’t feed. Its source of feed is gone, kind of like the duck situation, the source is gone. I got a levee, it’d be up to me, I wouldn’t have the levee in front of me, let it flood, I don’t care, it’s all right.
Ramsey Russell: 23ft off the ground.
Albertine Kimble: I don’t care. I mean, before people live without levies, it just would flood, they’d have docks in front of their houses and then that would be it.
Ramsey Russell: Was the levee built back in your granddad’s day? Is that when it was have been built?
Albertine Kimble: It was in the 1920s, the levee system that I remember.
Ramsey Russell: But your grandad would have been around. I wonder how he would have described what living down here was like preceding that.
Albertine Kimble: He was down here, so I’d say, he’d say it was a paradise because he liked to duck hunt too. My great grandpa, same thing, J.D Gravis. I mean, I’m 4th generation, I don’t have any kids and my brother doesn’t, neither of my sister, so once we go on, that’s it, it’s over with. And I often wonder, but I give that to God, hopefully somebody will want to take this over and fight the battle that we fighting to try to sustain life here.
Ramsey Russell: Since Katrina, how have things continued to deteriorate or has there been a lot of corporate conservation and federal government response to try to restore this?
Albertine Kimble: There’s been a lot of help. Of course, they built the concrete wall, they left us out on this side on East Bank, but it picks up from area all the way and takes care of all the Saint Bernard parish and the city of New Orleans to protect it from storm surge. They built this wall, concrete walls 22ft high, it has gates on it, what a highway is and where railroad can pass through. But it’s a storm surge protection wall is what it is. And that’s one of the reasons why after Katrina, this thing was like puff and it got built quick, but some people got left out and so where you put a wall at, it causes other people to flood too. You protected some people and it might have a bad effect on the people that’s outside the wall, like the people down here, it has a bad effect because you’re out of it. So, you know you’re going to flood just how much.
Ramsey Russell: What’s being done to protect what’s left of the marsh itself?
Albertine Kimble: Well, we have a lot of dredging, hydraulic dredging, marsh creation, rich creation.
Ramsey Russell: So, they’re dredging out of the existing river channel and pumping it over into some of these marsh areas to rebuild that soil as being sink it down and being lost?
Albertine Kimble: Some bar from within a barrow like in Lake Leary or depending on how much it costs to lay the pipe because it costs a lot of money to mob and demob the pipe, usually about 3 million to mob and 3 million to demob. So you want to try to get as much sand through the pipe as you can on a project, so hopefully we have another project that’s funded coming online. But dredging is what everybody wants, but it costs a lot of money. So, that’s another issue for us down here. Everybody wants us to dredge and I say, yeah, we need to dredge, but we also need to water the plants, we need everything. They have different ways, now they’re growing oysters now in baskets, they trying new things to try to have reefs, living reefs, shoreline reefs, shoreline protection, which is innovative ways of thinking living shoreline they call it, which is really good. It’s just bad when it goes out and you don’t get any of the oysters and it goes somewhere else. We got to change those kind of things, because everybody’s trying to fight for the coast, right? Like the people to the West Cameron and Lake Charles and Iberia. everybody’s fighting for the coastal money and there’s only so much money we have.
Restoring, Protecting & Conserving What’s Left
I’m sitting here thinking this vibrant wetland, this coastal estuary down here has got to be critical to at least the Mississippi Flyway, I mean, it’s got to be because that’s where all the birds are flying.
Ramsey Russell: Well, as much money as this federal government administration blew on the myth of COVID, it ought to be easy to write a check, come on, Joe, write a check, let’s get it fixed. Here’s what we were talking about right off the bat this morning is I read this story one time, I was actually talking to a historian who was on here recently and we were talking about this place way up in Indiana called Kankakee Marsh, it was the Everglades, it was big as the Everglades or bigger, it was located in Indiana of all places, it was drained over a period in the late 1800s, drained in a period of 5 years and now it grows just some of the most productive soil profile on earth growing corn. But they say that the loss of that wetland cost the entire North American continent 25% of its migratory bird population. And I’m sitting here thinking of course, I just live 4 or 5 hours north of here, but I’m sitting here thinking this vibrant wetland, this coastal estuary down here has got to be critical to at least the Mississippi Flyway, I mean, it’s got to be because that’s where all the birds are flying. So, how important is it? It’s like my biggest fear is we’re not going to know what we’re losing until it’s gone and there ain’t no restoring it, it’s gone.
Albertine Kimble: Bottom line, ducks will migrate for food, that’s it, that’s the bottom line. Food, water and safety, that’s it. That’s how it works. If they got food, they’re not coming here. Like I tell everybody, if they got corn, you could forget it, they’re not coming for porridge, they want corn and they’re going to stay in the corn forever. They won’t be able to fly.
Ramsey Russell: Has anybody quantified that since you were a little girl 11 years old hunting back here with your daddy, how many acres of that marsh has been lost? Has anybody got any idea of how many thousands or millions of acres of it have been lost in the State of Louisiana?
Albertine Kimble: Over 2000 maybe, I don’t know, I’m just guessing, but that’s got to be more than that.
Ramsey Russell: 2000 square miles, maybe.
Albertine Kimble: Yeah, from Cameron.
Ramsey Russell: 2000 square miles.
Albertine Kimble: I would think so, yeah.
Ramsey Russell: At least.
Albertine Kimble: I could call somebody –
Ramsey Russell: I hear him say about a football field size every hour and what blew –
Albertine Kimble: And depending on tide.
Ramsey Russell: Everybody stay with us because we’re going to keep going with this. But I don’t want to beat a dead horse. But what I’m saying is, we were sitting out there throwing decors this morning waiting to go teal hunting and you said to me, duck queen, you said, look at it because it’s vanishing right before your eyes.
Albertine Kimble: I’m telling you it is. Land in, land out, tide in, tide out, that’s how it works. I mean, when I see grass, when I’m on the other side of the river in the saltwater marsh and I see it going out, I’m going, yeah, there you go, there’s more going out. I’m losing more than I’m gaining for sure.
Ramsey Russell: How has that affected the duck marsh that historically your family hunted? How have things changed right out here in your backyard?
Albertine Kimble: I don’t have a duck on a property right now.
Ramsey Russell: Why? What’s changed about it physically? What about the habitat? What has changed?
Albertine Kimble: So, I lost all my marsh for Katrina pretty much –
Ramsey Russell: Because you showed me a picture on your refrigerator, that looks like –
Albertine Kimble: That was pretty. That’s my friend Greg and Kristen, that was beautiful, man. That was a great hunt too, actually. Yeah, that was when everything was really good and my camp was to us before Katrina for sure. But it’s affected it to where if you don’t have vegetation for ducks, they’re not coming, they’re just passing you on by, you got to have the habitat you got to, you got to have it.
Ramsey Russell: It increased the salinity, is that what happened or-?
Albertine Kimble: Well that there – so let me start from why it’s like it is here. So, in all actuality, when you build a structure, you should maintain it because when you don’t, you get adverse effects. So what happened is we built the structure down in bohemia for oyster fishermen to control salinity, to help them out because for predators, for oysters, you get drills and I’ll call them captain crunch, but they built it and they abandoned it when we built in 1991 we opened it up on April 12th in 1991 we stopped running, we stopped running white ditch siphon and we stopped the salinity control structure and that’s a long time not to run something. Now, when BP came in 2010, Mr. Nungesser was our parish president, we had everything open. We had Naomi Siphon, 8 cranked up pipes going from the river was trying to keep the oil out. We had West Point rolling, white ditch was rolling, probably the happiest day of my life, the structure got open but the only one we couldn’t open was a salinity control structure in Bohemia because it had been just abandoned and nothing worked on it. They tried to open it but they couldn’t. So, Plaquemines didn’t wait for the feds or the state to come in, Billy has got a plan, he’s going with it. He called all of us in the office, we started walking maps up and trying to cut tidal flow from the outer area where BP was 52 miles off from where Big Jimmy’s at. But anyway, we had a plan and that makes you really think when you build something like that and you let it go and you don’t run it and then here comes the 2011 flood the highest river since 1927, think about it. It starts coming around a structured bohemian man, I start videoing it, I got the trickles of it when it started coming around the road, it busted through, nobody fixed it. It stayed on control in 11 years right now on controlled diversion and so it affected some people in bad ways with Salvinia, water hyssop ducks are not coming on water hyssop, they’re not landing on top of Salvinia either. So that’s the negative part. Now, you got to think about it, I’m being selfish for myself, I want a duck hunt, I want fresh water, but I want to purge my system, this is what I’m getting right now is not good for me. So, there’s talk about them because they want to have an oyster growing area, get on the East Bank and have the salinity exchange to where we wouldn’t have all this invasive species, but then it would take us back in time and pretty much everything would start slowly dissipating again into the abyss without the river feeding it in my opinion. But if we want oysters, they’ll close the structure. So they’re going to have to make some major decisions here. I didn’t build levee, I didn’t want it, but I got to live with it, they built the structure, they need to be responsible for it. Don’t build me a structure and you’re not going to take care of it and that’s one of our biggest concerns about this diversion coming up that they want to do now, who’s going to guarantee me that they’re going to do the maintenance on this thing? I want to know. Who’s going to do the maintenance dredging on channels because that’s my first question and who’s going to do the maintenance? Where’s the money? Because you got to have O and M operation and maintenance, so if you don’t have those two things and I’ve heard it before and I’ve seen it already across the river, we never did any maintenance on the Siphons in West Point and Naomi ever on our channels, but now I’m pushing it and I want to get it done because if you can’t maintain a 2000 CFS Siphon, how are you going to do 75,000 diversion? I’m just curious. I don’t have a college degree, so I don’t know, but it makes sense to me. How are you going to do it? What’s the guarantee? Because I want to guarantee, tell me you’re going to guarantee me, you’re not going to flood me too.
Ramsey Russell: Getting a guarantee from a politician, I tell you what –
Albertine Kimble: It’s a diverse place we live in and the only thing that’s going to save our parish is the people got to come together, work together and stand together and if we don’t, we done, we need to take control of our destiny, that’s what I say. It’s not just a bunch of words, it’s truth, guarantee me, you’re going to take care of what you do, I want to know. Because I’ve seen you all, I’ve trusted you since the muck diversion, Davis pond, all of it. I’ve trusted you, now I’ve got a little question mark going on.
Ramsey Russell: How is the habitat change for reason, you’ve talked about, duck utilization is changing for reasons you’ve talked about because of that. But the duck hunting culture in Louisiana, it’s as much a staple as Cayenne pepper, how is that changing because of this habitat loss?
Albertine Kimble: You’re not seeing as many people going duck hunting, it costs a lot of money to take your boat out for gas, food. You really got to be a die hard to really like me, I could go out there and I don’t kill anything, I’ll be all right, I’m sad if I don’t kill anything but it’s okay because I’ve killed a lot of ducks in my time. But you want to try to teach your kids coming up, especially younger kids about the outdoors, get them off their phones, teach them how to hunt.
Ramsey Russell: It’s so important to continuing duck hunting culture because we hunters like to tell ourselves we are conservationist, our money and our time ensures vibrant populations. I had a guy come on to one of my social media platforms recently, we were up at a Mississippi Wildlife Heritage Museum and this guy found from this MacAskill family up in the North Delta. There was almost as big as a sofa cushion of green like floris foam and for 30 years, this father and his 4 sons when they killed a mallard they put the curly cue in it. And I just did the math, this thick and this wide and this tall and I’m going to guess the mattress there’s 10 to 12 feathers per square inch, that’s got to be, I’ll show you a picture after we get done, that’s got to be 12,000 or 13,000 miles they killed over a 30 year period and some dumb ass excuse my friend from Louisiana, but not around here ways on my page and make the audacious accusation that what a bunch of sadistic people, it must have been to kill a duck just for his curly cue. And I go whoa, they fed their family for 30 years with those ducks and they fed their tradition and their culture with those ducks, now before I ban you, is there anything you’ve done with your time and money to conserve wildlife and its habitat? Because I think mostly just us hunters are doing that and I think that when you start talking about this trillion dollar problem down here fixing the marsh, it’s more than we hunters can put the bill for, we’ve got to get public support. Am I right?
Albertine Kimble: You’re right. Absolutely. No wetlands equals no people, that’s all I’m going to tell you and no ducks too actually, that’s my motto.
Ramsey Russell: Wetlands are good for ducks, but it’s good for humanity, it’s good for society beyond just a few oyster fishermen, it’s good for everything. It’s good for all of us. I want to change the subject, we beat that horse to death, but only because I believe it’s one of the greatest environmental catastrophes on the North American continent is we know about wetlands loss, but here we are coping with where all these birds are going to over winter in the Central and Mississippi Flyways and we’re losing it at catastrophic levels and I think it’s a really big problem, not only for ducks and duck hunters but for everybody, but I’m going to change this subject. We walked up 23ft up at flight of stairs, huffing and puffing, I walked in and you got these blue winged teal out here, whole picked and you told me this morning and you said, no, I whole picked mine, I got a special recipe, tell me about that recipe. Because I took a picture of it –
Albertine Kimble: Oh that’s my dad’s recipe. That’s my grandpa is the one you took the picture of, my dad’s recipe is a piece of apple, red apple, a piece of naval orange, piece of garlic, piece of onion, quartered, stick it in the cavity and he brown it and then steam it with water –
Ramsey Russell: So, you brown the whole duck –
Albertine Kimble: Brown the whole in a black pot, it’s got to be a black pot and then I cook it for three hours like that and then that last half an hour last 30 minutes I put a little orange wine on top of it makes that caramelize, orange wine actually, real good stuff.
Ramsey Russell: And that makes the caramelized gravy or whatever.
Albertine Kimble: Yeah. You see that on the counter too, don’t forget that, that got to go on top of that.
Ramsey Russell: So, that’s your dad’s recipe, that’s not your grandad’s recipe.
Albertine Kimble: Granddad’s recipe uses lard, that’s probably why he had heart trouble, that’s why he died of a heart attack, I would think.
Ramsey Russell: Take a fat duck and put lard on it.
Albertine Kimble: Yeah. And it’s fat. Trust me, they got enough grease in them. You don’t need the grease to pot when you’re cooking ducks with the skin on them.
Big Duck Season
But do you have a favorite duck down here beside blue wings or teal?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Do you have a favorite duck besides – I mean, mine is increasingly as blue wing teal, I shoot them from September clear down in March and I just like them when they’re around, they behave, they do what you’re supposed to do, they’re pretty in the spring, they’re delicious to eat, there’s everything what’s not to like about blue wing teal? But do you have a favorite duck down here beside blue wings or teal?
Albertine Kimble: Green wing.
Ramsey Russell: They started off you being a little girl –
Albertine Kimble: Like today we shot blue wings, but boy, it really been nice, if somebody would have shot a green wing, that used to be the thing, if everybody shot one green wing, it be awesome. Like you were a king that day if you shot the green wing plus five blues.
Ramsey Russell: Is that the big bread and butter duck down here during regular duck season or green wings or teal? Do the blue wings stay down here all year?
Albertine Kimble: Yeah. Green and blue. Yeah, later in the year you get green, more green, but yeah, more blue, I like that.
Ramsey Russell: What about pintail, canvasbacks?
Albertine Kimble: Yeah, they shoot that too down the river and down to point has too, now they shooting pintail and canvas back too because everything’s changing, you got duck potato now in point, so that’s helping out shooting, canvasbacks and pintail, the wetlands changing down there for the better.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve been retired for a period of time and you duck hunt a lot, what’s the rest of your season look like? Teal season for a few weeks and then a break and then big duck season.
Albertine Kimble: I’m just counting the days, that’s usually what I do.
Ramsey Russell: Duck hunt every day.
Albertine Kimble: I try to, yeah, I get invited or whatever, I try to go duck hunting out every day now because I’m retired now, I can. Used to have to take all my days off to go duck hunting, which is good and don’t schedule a coastal meeting during duck season, please.
Ramsey Russell: No more meat to you. Well, I sure have enjoyed it. I hope we go out in the morning and I think there’s a front coming, the moon still full, I think there’s going to be more teal in the marsh tomorrow morning, don’t you?
Albertine Kimble: Oh, yeah, I always think positive, you won’t know until you go.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I’m going, are you going?
Albertine Kimble: I hope so.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you, Albertine. I really appreciate meeting and hunting with you, I love your stories and the blind and I appreciate you sharing them here.
Albertine Kimble: And I love your dog.
Ramsey Russell: You can keep the Char dog.
Albertine Kimble: I gave her a pillow to sleep on and some dog biscuits, she looks like Dixie –
Ramsey Russell: She stretched out.
Albertine Kimble: I told him to bring the dog upstairs, don’t leave in the truck.
Ramsey Russell: She ain’t staying, she’s going home, that’s Char dog. Folks, thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere from Carlyle, Louisiana, population 1 and she is the Duck Queen, Albertine Kimble, see you next time.
Albertine Kimble: Love you all. Keep hunting.