I was born here 65 years ago. My family has been in the Parish since the turn of the century, so my roots run pretty deep. The old home place between Robeline and Marthaville will be in its seventh generation soon. I have an 85-year-old mother that lives down one of the multitude of loops that run through rural Natchitoches Parish and that’s why I am here, to help her take care of the place and to take care of her. I left here in 1969 because if you didn’t cut pulpwood, catch or raise chickens, or work offshore there was nothing for a gangly ol’ teenager to do to raise a family. One thing I have been painfully aware of was how much different the roads became after one crossed a state line. It didn’t matter really in which direction. Roads have always seemed to be secondary to the “powers that be” in Louisiana for some unknown reason. Over the course of years of monthly visits back to the old place and to visit Mom the gradual decline of those roads was noticed.
In those old days, one could go and pay a personal visit with their police juryman, visit a while and ask the proverbial “How’s your Mom and them?” Sometimes your road got graded, sometimes not, but you never really knew why. As a kid growing up, I would travel ALL of the countless miles (now I know that there are almost 900 of them) to visit friends and relatives. One couldn’t help but notice that in some places the roads were really great and in others it would look like there hadn’t been a maintainer down them in years. It wasn’t until I grew up and started learning the art of “negotiating” that I discovered why.
When I came back here to help with Mom I started asking questions about why the roads were so bad. I couldn’t even go down some of the old roads I used to. I asked around and was told we didn’t have a police juryman any more. We had a new form of parish government called a Home Rule Charter. Well, this old country boy knew nothing of a Home Rule so I decided to do some investigation into this thing. I’m retired now so I’ve got a little more time and the more that I uncovered, the more I wanted to learn. It’s amazing how much one can learn in today’s computer age. I discovered that the Minutes to all the meetings are now online, so all I had to do is pull them up and read to see what was going on in my Parish. I wanted to find out what was being done about fixing some of these (sometimes impassable) roads. It was during this time that my attention was brought to a website on Facebook called “Fix the Natchitoches Parish Roads” where members were posting pictures of their road conditions and how horrible they were. The pictures were staggering. There was no gravel, no ditches, and trees growing where there was a ditch at one time. Folks were saying that their mail carriers were refusing to come to their house so they had to go to the post office to get their mail. These roads were in horrible condition. I thought to myself, “self, this is unacceptable. You need to look even further.” Why hasn’t this new Home Rule Charter done something about this? Well, investigate I did. I mentioned reading the Minutes earlier, so read I did. I learned that indeed there were things that were put before the Council that could have brought some much-needed revenue into the Parish coffers. Reallocating the LGAP funds that would have otherwise been returned to the State was one way. The DOTD Right Sizing program was another approach that would have immediately put money into the road fund but the Council voted not to participate. The obvious question in my mind is why?? In a Parish where road funds are extremely hard to come by why would three of five council members choose to say no? It boggles this old country boy’s mind.
I’m not one to throw around “Atta Boys,” but the HRC did propose a budget and for the first time in many years stayed within that budget. That alone is worth a hearty pat on the back and “job well done.” But, in my mind, the job isn’t done yet. The Parish roads are still sickening. With the help of this aforementioned website and its membership, though, these conditions have been put before the Parish President/Council and they have been put on notice that the pressure will only get greater until some steps are taken. At the last Council meeting the President, Mr. Nowlin, announced the formation of an ad hoc committee solely dedicated to finding new, unimpeachable sources of revenue for the road fund. I believe that they deserve all the help and respect they can get from all of us country folks out here. It’s time to put personal things aside and focus on what we can do individually, as well as collectively, to get behind these folks and find some money so that we can have decent roads out here in the Parish.
Thanks for listening,