A fiddle-playing judge from Louisiana who hunts alligators, Rick Michot blew into New Brunswick like a hurricane last week while attending the World Acadian Congress.

The front man of an acclaimed Cajun band called Les Frères Michot, he was on his way south on Thursday, having suffered only the pain of a nip on the lip from a crab, the cold water of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and an eel dinner in Evangeline, N.B.

“I had never been to New Brunswick, had heard about it all my life, and had always wanted to go,” Michot said before his band played a gig at the public library in Lewiston before a flight back to the Bayou from Bangor. “We had just a wonderful time.”

A native of Lafayette who had never retraced his roots, Michot spent six days mingling with distant cousins on New Brunswick’s Acadian Peninsula, and entertained them with traditional music and his gift for gab. Before heading to Lewiston, which has one of the largest Franco-American communities in New England, Les Frères Michot played in Tracadie-Sheila, Caraquet and Pokemouche, the latter on Tuesday during the Congres Mondial Acadian’s Louisiana Day celebration.

Along with toe-tappin’ music, he had a crowd of several hundred people riveted with tales of gator hunting, which is great fun until you catch one.

Michot, a district court judge who lives at the edge of the swamp in Broussard, used beef pancreas as bait while bagging five gators last year in a limited hunt where participants are chosen by lottery.

“The challenge is to pull them to your boat without letting the rope get tangled in the motor, and then to get a clear shot at them with a .22 and do it without putting a bullet through the top of your foot and the bottom of the boat,” he said.

Michot, his accordion-playing brother Tommy, and Rick’s son, Patrick, gave a concert in Dieppe on Wednesday night before leaving for Maine early Thursday. They arrived in Lewiston just in time to take a picture of a “Michaud for Congress” sign, do a sound check, and have supper before playing for an hour and joining in a renovated ballroom on the third floor of the public library.

The group, which usually plays as a quintet, was joined by Jay Young, a bass-playing probate lawyer from Falmouth who has previously performed in Lafayette, and Cindy Larock, the library’s cultural coordinator and budding triangle player.

Larock said the group’s appearance in Lewiston was arranged at the last minute, but she was thrilled to host Les Frères Michot, nonetheless. The band has appeared at such prestigious venues as the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the jazz and heritage festival in New Orleans and the Festival Internationale des Francophones in Limousin, France, and has also entertained at parties for President George W. Bush and Princess Anne and Princess Margaret of England.

“This was too good to pass up,” Larock said.

The Louisianans agreed to play in Lewiston in exchange for dinner, a hotel room, a ride to the airport, an opportunity to sell their most recent CD, and receipts from whomever they brought though the door.

“They’re pretty much playing for a six-pack and lobster rolls,” Larock said.

The library cultural coordinator turned triangle player made New England fish chowder, potato salad and Maine blueberry cake for the occasion.

“We really wanted to show them some serious northern hospitality,” she said.

New Brunswickers likewise rolled out the red carpet for the first fiddle-playing, gator-wrestling judge they have ever seen.

Michot said that he told locals on the Acadian Peninsula that he enjoys open-water swimming, and suddenly found himself swimming in the Gulf of St. Lawrence accompanied by two kayakers and a fellow swimmer who wanted to make sure he was safe.

He was safe, and also freezing.

“They told me not to bring my wet suit,” he said. “Later I found out the water was 62 degrees.

“I was cold, but I didn’t give them the satisfaction of knowing it.”

By the end of his stay, he was swimming for two hours at a time in much warmer river waters in Tracadie-Sheila.

It was there that he picked up two oysters in one hand one day, and a crab in the other.

The crab grabbed his thumb, so he decided to bite its claws open with his teeth because he didn’t want to drop the oysters in his other hand.

In no time, the crab was fastened to his lip.

“It was like, ‘Welcome to Acadia, you Cajun,'” Michot said. “You’ve been gone.”

Marty Klinkenberg is the senior writer and columnist for the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. He may be reached at [email protected]

Rick Michot plays the fiddle while performing with the Cajun band Les Fréres Michot at the Lewiston Public Library on Thursday evening.

The Cajun band Les Fréres Michot performs at the Lewiston Public Library on Thursday evening. From left are Rick Michot on the fiddle, Michot’s brother Tommy on the accordion and Rick Michot’s son Patrick.

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