By Joe Darby
The old cliché must be true: I must be having fun because the time it sure is a-flying.
I can’t believe that it’s been right at 11 1/2 years since Mary and I moved to Natchitoches from New Orleans. But it’s true. February of 2006 was when we swapped the Big Easy for the oldest and most charming town in the Louisiana Purchase.
A few years before the move, no one could have convinced me that I’d be moving to north Louisiana for what would probably be the rest of my life. I loved New Orleans and I still do. There’s just so darned much to do there, culturally, and once you get used to the traffic and what neighborhoods to stay away from, it’s really a pretty cool place to live.
We actually lived in Gretna, on the West Bank, which has sort of a small town feel all it’s own, but we were just 15 minutes from the French Quarter, with all its charms and museums.
Then along came Katrina in August, 2005. We were lucky. We had just relatively minor roof damage and the backyard fences were blown down. But there was so much devastation and suffering all around us, plus, remember, that the “experts” were saying that Katrina was just a forerunner, that powerful storms were going to grow stronger and more frequent year by year.
Well thank God, that prediction hasn’t come true for South Louisiana, as least in the last 11 years. But I was pretty convinced it would happen and I didn’t want to be an old man going through the anxiety of having to evacuate the city every time a category three got into the Gulf of Mexico, with the strong possibility that when we returned we’d be coming back to an empty lot.
So, how did we end up in Natchitoches? Well, there had been several near-miss hurricanes and false alarms in the years before Katrina and we’d end up coming here for our evacuation, almost always staying in the little apartment buildings behind Bobby Deblieux’s Tante Huppe Inn.
I could (and actually have) written a whole column on Bobby himself. He was a wonderful character, a walking encyclopedia on this area and such a friendly man who always welcomed good company, good conversations and good whiskey. Our stays with him were always a joy.
So, after a few trips here Mary and I agreed that Natchitoches, with its beauty, history and friendly people, would be a good place to retire and to get away from hurricane alley. Retirement was fast approaching for me so in the late winter of 2006, we found a nice house that met our needs and made the big move.
And like I said, it’s been a quick 11 1/2 years. Some things have changed here and some, I suspect will never change. Good people, like Bobby, have gone and other younger people are stepping up to become community leaders. A lot of people are working hard to make Natchitoches an attractive place for visitors and for the most part I think they’re succeeding.
Some restaurants have closed and others have opened up. Some of the mainstays, Merci Beaucoup, the Landing, Mama’s and Papa’s, The Mariners and others are still around, happily filling tummies.
The parish roads are still abominable but it seems that the Parish Council, like the U.S. Congress, has lost the ability to govern.
But for a place our size, we have a lot to do. The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum, Fort St. Jean Baptiste, the Grande Ecore Visitors Center, and numerous other area attractions host thousands of visitors a year.
We must be doing something right. And barring any unexpected health issues, I expect Mary and I will be part of the population for some time to come. Hey, anyone up for a walk down Front Street?