Honoring the real hero of Mardi Gras

By Mike Peters

Mardi Gras 2009 is upon us. As we prepare for this year’s festivities in St. Charles Parish, we can start guessing at what we’ll see for themes in the local parades.

No doubt we’ll see some Super Hero floats – probably a couple with Batman creations as a tribute to Heath Ledger in last year’s box office hit movie. I’m guessing we’ll also see at least one Barack Obama float – most probably titled “Yes We Can”.  We’ll probably see a “Hero of the Hudson” number as Flight 1549 is honored as a salute to the crew and passengers of US Airways Flight 1549 – now that’s one you can really call a “FLOAT”!

There’s nothing wrong with a float dedicated to a Super Hero, but I wonder how many of us really take the time to recognize the real Super Hero of any Mardi Gras parade – the Pooper Scooper. That’s right, the unsung hero known as the Pooper Scooper quietly goes about his/her business, usually with little or no recognition for a job well done.

Picture this – it’s the day of the parade. You go park the pickup on the parade route five hours early to get your spot. About two hours before the parade, your crew starts to show up. You’ve got beer and snacks and soft drinks and food and bead bags. The crowd swells. Soon, the parade approaches. The sirens of the police cars and ambulances and fire trucks wail. The marching bands belt out a pounding beat. The dance teams put on a show. The King and Queen sit in the back of the convertible, waving majestically and occasionally tossing a bead or two. After the floats pass, children and adults scurry into the street to gather up the leftover throws. Now the parade is in full swing, the crowd is at maximum, and everyone is having a ball.

Here comes one of the local riding clubs, with men and women riders in satin and sequined shirts and cowboy hats perched atop big, beautiful horses. The steady clop, clop, clop of each of the horse’s hooves on the pavement provides the cadence. The parade stops, and the riders are right in front of your crew. The riders turn their horses to face the crowd at an angle, so that everyone can admire the horse. Then it happens – one of the horses suddenly stiffens up, extends its tail, and makes a deposit. Bombs away! It happens as if it’s in ultra slow motion in wide screen high definition with surround sound.

Expecting collateral damage, the crowd quickly draws back. With a solid but dull PLOP, it hits the pavement. Mothers quickly grab their 5 year olds, knowing full well by the look in their eyes that the kid has every intention of claiming what appears to be the ultimate parade throw. The crowd lets out a collective gasp. The rider and horse never look back. In fact, the horse stares blankly at the crowd as if to say “Hey, man, –it happens”!

Enter the ultimate Super Hero – the Pooper Scooper. He/she suddenly appears from a truck following the riders. The properly equipped Pooper Scooper pulls a red wagon with a white bucket and a flat shovel. You can tell the experienced Pooper Scooper – most probably a third generation Pooper Scooper (having learned the craft from his/her grandfather) – they wear a nice colorful costume and wave to the crowd as they go about the business at hand. They take pride in the service that they provide. They approach the contaminated area at a brisk pace, wielding the flat shovel quickly as they deftly maneuver the bucket wagon into position.

With a swift flick of the wrists, the toxic pony pie leaves the pavement and flies through the air into the white bucket.

The most elite of this profession is known as the Super Duper Pooper Scooper. Their wagon is decorated to look like a float. Their white bucket is adorned with beads, inviting those in the crowd to try and hit the white bucket with beads of their own. Some in the crowd try to play a mean joke on the Super Duper Pooper Scooper by throwing loose change into the bucket. But the joke is on them, because the Super Duper Pooper Scooper is also equipped with latex gloves.

So as you enjoy this year’s parades, be sure to take a minute to recognize and support your friendly local Super Duper Pooper Scooper (SDPS) for their hard work. Get your crew to do the Wave to salute the SDPS. And, as always, applause goes a long way to express appreciation. However, it is not recommended that you high-five the SDPS, because you never know where those hands have been (see paragraph above). Besides, you don’t want to get too close to that white bucket – you might get hit with loose change or long beads.

Happy Mardi Gras, St. Charles!


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