grand bois

Among Cajun Americans le bois can mean any forested area, while le grand bois denotes a wooded area of exceptional size and isolation, a region often regarded as both sublime and tinged with danger. “La Valse de Grand Bois” (Waltz of the Big Woods) is a classic Cajun song about a spurned lover, heartbroken, lonely, and surrounded by a forest that provides little comfort: “The animals will eat me out there in le grand bois.” In Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, deep in the bayou country, there is a village called Grand Bois made up of about two hundred mostly Houma Indians living amid dark stands of live oaks draped with Spanish moss. Several U.S. towns and cities incorporate the word bois in their names, most notably Boise, Idaho. Purportedly, French trappers, coming on the site early in the nineteenth century after hard travels through the area’s bare foothills and bleak high desert, yelled “Les bois! Les bois!” Idaho’s capital, which grew up on the setting, has ever since been known as “The City of Trees” for its riverside stands of cottonwood, willow, and aspen, which grow in abundance there.

Mike Tidwell