Sunday, October 31, 2010

Strength to be Named Cowboy

From the moment that we are born, (usually before) we are given a name to label and identify ourselves. Through our entire lives, we are represented by this name, and at times guided by it. So how do we define what we call ourselves before it defines us? Where do we get the strength?

When I first moved to New York, I was invited to a party through a friend of a friend. Although there was something exciting about being surrounded by real New Yorkers, there was also something terrifying. These were the people spoken about on television and in magazines. I was an unemployed Cajun with a strange accent that former co-workers had described as sounding like Celine Dion with a head cold.

I stood by the food table, and used cheese, crackers and seafood to guard me from vulnerability. But I was only able to eat one shrimp and brie saltine sandwich before a man in his mid-twenties walked towards me. He was wearing sunglasses, (inside, at night) jeans, and a blue and white t-shirt that said, “Smooth move, Exlax.”

“Somebody told me that there was shrimp,” he said.

His t-shirt made me smile, but also made me self-conscious about the denim shirt and khaki pants I was wearing. It made me feel uptight, overdressed and square.

“They taste great with cheese,” I said. “I’m Jacques by the way.”

“Super Fly DJ Number Eight,” he responded.

It took me a few seconds to understand what he had said. I understood each word, but together they made no sense. It sounded like a different language.

“So you’re a D.J.?” I asked.

“No, I’m an accountant,” he said. “My name is Super Fly DJ Number Eight.”

When he didn’t laugh, I realized that he was being serious; dead serious; stone cold serious that his name was Super Fly DJ Number Eight.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard that name before,” I said. “How did your parents come up with it?”

This time he smiled and said, “My parents didn’t come up with it. I did when I moved here. I just wanted a different name.”

For the next few days I thought about Super Fly DJ Number Eight and his bold move to wear sunglasses at night and give himself a name like no other. Years earlier, I might have made fun of it. But at that time, I wanted to be like him; to be so cool and confident about my choices that I could re-invent myself and wear t-shirts with clever sayings about laxatives.

I couldn’t help wondering though, why he hadn’t picked something a little less unusual like Kevin or Bruce. But I did understand why he wanted to be someone else. I had been Jacques for thirty years and was beginning to get tired of it. My move to New York was sparked by a need to figure out who I was on the inside. I’d never accomplish that by continuing to be the same person.

So for an entire weekend, I stared in a mirror and practiced introducing myself as general objects around my apartment like books, lamp and end table. But as much I wanted to sound as cool and confident as Super Fly DJ Number Eight, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Then one day a name popped into my head that didn’t make me laugh. It was short, confident and somewhat pertinent considering my Cow Island origin. From that moment on, I became Cowboy.

I got a charge out of that and began emailing friends and family to let them know about the name change. From then on, whenever I met people out and about, (except job interviews) I introduced them to the new me.

“What’s up?” I’d say. “I’m Cowboy.”

“Where’s your horse?” They’d ask. “Shouldn’t you be wearing chaps?”

“To be clear, I’m not a Cowboy,” I’d reply. “It’s just my name.”

Although there was plenty of laughter, the conversations were interesting and made me feel more relaxed about who I was and who I was becoming. But what I especially liked about the new me, was that I had created him.

But that all changed a couple of months later when a friend and I worked as bartenders at a party. We were required to wear nametags, and my friend wrote, “Cowboy,” on mine.

Throughout the night, when people came up to the bar for a drink, they’d comment on my nametag. Some would simply say that it was strange, while others would ask me the usual questions about my horse and chaps.

Unlike before, when I controlled what I revealed to people, that night I was labeled. Others had an opportunity to judge me before I’d even spoken, and I wanted to scream out that there was more to me than just a name.

The next day I went back to being, Jacques, because I didn’t have the time or money needed to be Cowboy (Horses and chaps are expensive). Instead, I spent my resources searching within to define my name. Through exploration, passions are revealed. With self-discovery, there is strength.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gas Station for the Sky

EMPLOYEES: Crystal Mouton, Mike Mouton, Stephan Hargrave, Kevin Gardner

Mike Mouton was in college when he began a part time job washing aircrafts at the Abbeville Chris Crusta Memorial Airport. He eventually acquired full time status, and has been working in the aviation industry for the past fifteen years.

“My excitement comes from the operations of the airport,” says Mouton. “It’s a community here. We all work with each other.”

Mouton is the manager of Vector Aviation, which is owned by Joey LeRouge. The fixed base operation sells quality fuel to individual aircraft owners and helicopter companies. Additional services include guidance with travel arrangements, the storage of aircrafts, parking spaces and a facility for travelers and pilots to coordinate trips.

“I guess you can say we’re a gas station for the sky,” says Mouton. “But our main purpose is to provide great customer service.”

Vector Aviation sells aviation gasoline, and Jet A fuel, which is aviation grade kerosene designed for use in gas-turbine engines. Although there are exceptions, the aviation gasoline is mostly used in fixed winged aircrafts and the Jet A is used in helicopters.

“It’s very important to use the right fuel in the right engine,” says Mouton. “You can tell them apart by their color. The Jet A fuel is clear, but the aviation gasoline is blue.”

Mouton’s responsibilities include having extensive knowledge of FAA regulations, and negotiating and managing the logistics of trips with helicopter companies and aircraft owners. Before working at the airport, Mouton was in the United States Marine Corp where he was an Aviation Ordnance Marine. His duties included mechanical troubleshooting on helicopter weapon systems.

I visited Mouton at the airport last week to find out more about his job at Vector Aviation. It was a foggy morning so the runway was quiet as pilots and travelers waited patiently for a clear sky.

“I tried to arrange a helicopter ride for you but it’s too foggy,” said Mouton. “But I can let you fuel one up.”

Although the technique is very similar to tanking up a car, (insert nozzle into fuel tank, squeeze handle, wait patiently) I was pretty excited to be fueling up a copter. It made me feel like a military pilot or an international crime-fighting playboy with a trust fund.

Mouton gave me a tour of the airport via a golf cart. We visited the heliport facility as well as the hangar where the fixed winged aircrafts are stored.

“Most people keep their airplanes inside a hangar,” says Mouton. “Aircrafts are very fragile and the outdoor elements can be damaging.”

As the morning progressed, the fog lifted and fixed winged aircrafts and helicopters began taking off. Mouton drove the golf cart to the side of the runway and we watched a single engine plane lift up into the clear sky above us.

“This is fun for me,” said Mouton. “I can’t say enough good things about working at the airport.”

Vector Aviation is located at 262 Jimmy C Vorhoff Street. For information on their services call 337-893-1128.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Strength to Make The Best of It

There are many unexpected turns in life, sometimes changing the world we know forever. We have learned that despite the difficulties and challenges, we must make the best of the new situation. But how do we keep our head up and stay positive during the pain and suffering? Where do we find the strength?

Zelda Hebert of Abbeville is now eighty-eight years old. She was married to Lovelace Hebert, who passed away sixteen years ago. The couple had two children, Judy Hebert and Bonnie Hebert Broussard.

Five years ago, Zelda Hebert was leaning over to pick something up off of the ground when her hip shattered. Despite surgery and physical therapy, she has never been able to walk since then, and spends most of her time in a wheel chair or in bed.

“My daughter Judy has made so many sacrifices to take care of me,” says Hebert. “I never wanted to be a burden to anyone.”

Before breaking her hip, Hebert’s favorite things to do were visiting family and friends and going to church. She loved driving, and often drove her mother to run errands.

“My life wasn’t that exciting, but I enjoyed it,” says Hebert. “I was always glad to be able to go to different places and experience things for the first time.”

Now that Hebert isn’t as mobile, she spends most of her time watching television and reading. Her favorite part of the week is when Becky Moss, a Eucharistic Minister, brings her communion. Hebert also looks forward to visits from friends and family.

“It touches my heart that people stop by to see me,” says Hebert. “There are a lot of good people out there.”

Hebert’s advice to the younger generation is to not rush into life changing situations. She encourages them to be involved in their community and to travel to wherever they’d like to go.

Zelda Hebert is my mom’s sister, and therefore my aunt. I see her once a week when my mom and I stop by her home in Abbeville for a visit. Whenever we do, my Aunt Zelda is always pleasant and positive. She’ll ask me all about my life and usually jokes with me. I love her sense of humor and have grown close to her over these past couple of years.

“Where do you get the strength to remain so positive?” I asked her recently.

“From my faith,” she said. “I’ve learned that no matter what happens, I have to make the best of it.”

This is the lesson that I learned from my Aunt Zelda; that we must make the best of difficult and challenging situations. It is so easy to be negative and angry about certain parts of life, but at the end of the day, this changes nothing. But focusing on the good around us helps us to see things in a different light. Remembering the love and positive energy that you give to others, and that they have given to you, will bring you strength.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Abbeville RV Park

The Abbeville RV Park, located just outside of downtown Abbeville on West Port Street, is more than just a place to park your camper for the night. It is a thick, shady forest with wooden bridges, curious critters and people from around the globe.

“When I saw the park, I thought it was a jewel,” says property manager Arlene White. “My ambition was to bring tourists here.”

The park, which is twenty-four acres, includes a clubhouse, fire rings and fifty-four RV sites, most of which have water, electric and sewage hook-ups. There is also a one-mile nature trail that is designated as one of the Great Gulf Cost birding trails. Animals that have been spotted include armadillos, raccoons, deer, bobcats and once, even a black bear.

“The trail makes a loop through the middle of a forest,” says White. “It’s amazing that it’s so close to downtown Abbeville.”

According to White, approximately half of the park’s visitors are local and the other half are from out of state. The locals usually stay a few days, but the tourists sometimes stay as long as four months. Visitors have come from as far as New Zealand.

“We have a lot of retired Northerners who come here for the winter,” says White. “The people who stay here become a big family.”

White’s responsibilities as property manager include book keeping, advertising, maintenance and general overseeing of the park. She also manages and works with host campers, who live at the park in an R.V. One couple lives there in the fall and winter months and the other in the spring and summer.
HOST CAMPERS: Gene and Cyndy Junker. Arlene White

“The best part of this job is meeting new people and sharing our culture,” says White. “My most memorable moment was when the Airstream caravan committed to coming here year after year.”

White also runs a full service travel agency called, Travel and Events. She enjoys the travel industry and showing tourists our culture.

On my recent visit to Abbeville R.V. Park, husband and wife, Dave and Linda Andrzejewski from New Hampshire drove into the park pulling their classic Airstream R.V. White recognized them as returning visitors, and greeted and welcomed them like they were old friends.

“We come to Abbeville every year because it’s the perfect place,” said Mr. Andrzejewski. “We have to get our Cajun fix.”

While I was talking to them, an armadillo scurried out of the forest onto a path coincidentally called, Armadillo Alley. I tried to get a picture of it, but it quickly ran away. I guess when you have an alley named after you, you’re too important to bother with the media.

My favorite part of the interview was walking on the nature trail that cuts through a thick forest filled with a variety of plants, trees and flowers. Every few hundred feet are little wooden bridges that cover small ditches and swampy areas. It was so picturesque that it made me want to take up residency with the armadillos. But only if I could one day get an alley named after me.

The hiking trail is opened to the public, but everyone must check in with the host campers. To reserve an R.V. site, call 898-4042. For more information on the park, visit For information about Arlene White’s travel agency, Travel and Events, call 893-0013.

Strength to Make a Gumbo

There are certain skills that people associate with Cajuns. They include being able to cook a gumbo, dance the two-step and ask someone how they are doing in French (Comment ca va?).

This knowledge and ability can be gained from practice or simply from frequent exposure. But what about Cajuns who have been away from the culture for an extended period of time? How do they reconnect with their heritage? Where do they find the strength?

One of my friends (non-Cajun) recently asked me if I would mind cooking a gumbo for a little party at her house. It had been over ten years since I’d made one, but I said yes because I was sure it was one of those things, like riding a bike, that would easily come back to me.

“Would you like me to buy a roux for you?” my friend asked.

“I’m from Vermilion Parish,” I said. “I think it’s illegal for us to use roux from a jar.”

I knew that the secret to a good gumbo was time and patience, so I made sure that I got up early the day of the event. I chopped up my bell peppers and onions and seasoned my chicken. Then I started the roux.

During the process, a friend of mine from New York called. He asked what I was doing and I told him about the gumbo.

“That’s such a stereotype,” he laughed. “Are all Cajuns required to make weekly gumbos?”

“Only during the cold months,” I said. “It’s where we get our strength.”

During our conversation, I stirred the flour, oil, bell peppers and onions in a pot on the stove. The mixture resembled caramel colored Play Doh, but before it could get any darker, the chopped up vegetables started to burn.

I hung up with my friend and dropped my roux into a pot of boiling water. Once it started to dissolve and turned the color of chicken noodle soup, I sensed there was something wrong. Although it had been ten years since I’d cooked a gumbo, I was fairly sure it was supposed to be darker. I also realized that the reason the roux was like clay was because I hadn’t used enough oil.

So I started over again. I cut up more onions and bell peppers, and threw them in a pan of olive oil and flour. My Cajun confidence began to diminish, so I called one of my sister-in-laws for advice.

“Don’t let this get out to the public, but I’m cooking a gumbo and need some help with my roux,” I said.

“Why didn’t you just buy it from the store?” she asked. “That’s where I get mine.”

“Pride and stupidity kept me from buying the roux,” I answered. “Stubbornness is going to keep me from giving up now.”

My sister-in-law told me that my roux was supposed to be the color of a dark chocolate bar. When I explained that my cut up onions and bell peppers were starting to burn, she said that I was supposed to add those afterwards, and that I’d have to start over again.

I was out of flour and patience by that point. It had been almost two hours since I’d begun the process, and couldn’t start over. The party was that afternoon, so time was an issue.

“I’m just going to have to scoop out the onions and bell peppers later,” I explained. “What do I do after the roux is the color of a chocolate bar?’

My sister-in-law said that she liked her roux and water to be the same temperature. For example, if the roux was cold from the refrigerator, she put it in a pot of cold water. If it was freshly made and hot, she put it in boiling water.

“After a couple of hours, taste it,” she said. “If it tastes too much like roux, add a tablespoon of tomato paste. It kills the sharpness.”

It was a good tip to know for the future, but not practical at that point because I didn’t have any tomato paste. I planned to kill any sharpness in the gumbo with potatoes and hot sauce.

After my second roux was dark enough, per my sister in law’s suggestion, I put about three heaping tablespoons of the mixture into a pot of about one and half to two gallons of boiling water. Once it had dissolved, I poured it through a strainer several times to remove the burnt onions and bell peppers. Then I put it back on the stove and let it bubble for a couple of hours.

By this point, I was exhausted and irritated. I was about to call my friend and tell her that there would be no gumbo for her party, but that I’d drive through Popeyes and get a bucket of Cajun chicken.

Where do people get the time and patience to do this? I wondered. Where do they get the strength?

A memory of my dad in my parents’ kitchen popped into my head. He loved making gumbo, and would dance around to Cajun music during the process. To him, it was a fun-filled event, not an exhausting chore.

I took the memory as a message, and grabbed my dad’s old cowboy hat, put on some Cajun music and began dancing around the mess I’d made in the kitchen. I boiled smoke sausage in water to get some of the grease out, and then added it and the chicken to my bubbling roux. I occasionally stirred the concoction, and several hours later, I had myself a gumbo.

My first taste came nine hours after I began the whole process. While I’m sure there are gumbo snobs in Louisiana who would have given me the thumbs down, my first spoonful tasted like success.

No one at the party vomited or asked for heartburn medicine, which I took as a good sign.
But I was especially happy about the lessons I’d learned from the process.

Being able to cook a good gumbo isn’t what makes us Cajun. But spending nine or more hours in a kitchen reminds us of the struggles our ancestors endured in the journey to make a better life for themselves; that wonderful nourishment can be created with a little time and patience; that mistakes are a part of life, but learning from them gives us strength.


1. Buy a dark roux
2. If you’re too stubborn or proud, then make your own. Put on Cajun music, then mix olive oil, butter and flour in a skillet on low to medium heat. Stir for about thirty minutes, making sure that it doesn’t burn. Use enough oil so the mixture is a little thicker than cake batter. Cook until the color of a dark chocolate bar.
3. Put about three heaping tablespoons of roux into pot of boiling water with about one to two gallons of water.
4. Season and add cut up onions, bell peppers and whatever else you want.
5. Let bubble for at least two hours. The longer, the better.
6. Add chicken, seafood or sausage and let cook on medium heat for about two hours. Stir every twenty minutes or so.
7. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hebert's Meat Market and Slaughter House

I was about eight years old the first time I realized how the cows in our back yard transformed into the best hamburgers in the world. My dad and I drove to a pasture of cattle and met a man driving a tow truck and carrying a rifle. I remember my dad pointing at a calf and a series of events that made me lose consciousness. I woke up at sixteen years old with a face full of pimples and a fear of tow trucks.

The process has changed since then, and is a lot more streamlined. I learned this first hand last week, when I took an in-depth tour of Herbert’s Meat Market and Slaughter House just outside of Abbeville.

Clement Hebert opened the market in 1955. He has since passed, but his business and legacy lives on thanks to the many generations of his family who followed in his footsteps.

“My great grandpa started his business by killing and processing a calf and bringing it into town to sell it,” says Blake Weaver. “I’ve been working here ever since I was a kid.”

Herbert passed the business down to his daughter, Marjorie Luquette and her family. Her husband, Albert Luquette Jr., and their three children, Shannon Luquette, Joetta Weaver, and Donna Faul are now the owners, and remain actively involved in the business.

“My most memorable times here were with my late wife, Marjorie.” says Albert Luquette Jr. “The part I enjoy the most about working here is being able to speak Cajun French to a lot of the customers,”

Hebert’s Meat Market and Slaughter House sells (but is not limited to) andouille and smoked sausage, cracklins, boudin, hog head cheese, debris, and stuffed chicken, pork chops, and beef tongue. Their deli, opened from 10:30-1:30, sells shrimp poboys, hamburgers, french fries and hot link sandwiches. On Sundays, they sell barbecue plate lunches.

“Next year we’re planning on building a new facility just next door,” says Blake Weaver. “We’re going to have a smoke house, expanded deli and tables for customers.”

Hebert’s also processes meat from animals that customers bring in. Most of their business is from calves and pigs, but they also work with deer, wild hogs, elk, buffalo, sheep and goats.

According to Weaver, a customer will receive approximately 55% of the weight of the animal in meat. For example, a five hundred pound calf might yield 280 to 300 pounds in product. He says that calves from six to eight months in age and 300 to 500 pounds usually provide tender cuts.

“One of the hardest parts of this job is lifting an animal because they can weigh up to 700 pounds,” says Weaver. “To be in this business you have to be willing to work, and be good with the public.”

Across the street from Hebert’s, there used to be a horse race track named Cajun Downs. Many local jockeys like Randy Romero, Calvin Borel, Ricky Faul, and Kent Desormeaux raced there. The location was used in the 1978, movie, Casey’s Shadow, and might make a future appearance in a film about Randy Romero’s life.

When I visited Hebert’s Meat Market and Slaughter House, Weaver gave me a tour of the facility. He was very explicit in describing the different areas and what happens on a daily basis. I got an up close look at the pen where the animals are stored, and learned about their journey to becoming boudin in a rice cooker.

The retail area of the building has display cases filled with a variety of meat specialties ranging from stuffed beef tongue to pan sausage laced with veil of stomach. Behind the counter, employees cut, season and package products for the many hungry customers visiting the store.

“My grandpa Luquette told me that to be successful, you always have to put the customer first,” says Weaver. “We appreciate everyone’s business and hope to have it for at least another fifty-five years.”

What impressed me the most about my time at Hebert’s Meat Market and Slaughter House was the dedication. The family and employees were dedicated to working hard and putting out a superior product in an efficient manner. They worked together with precision like a finely tuned machine. One that was built by Clement Hebert and continues to improve through the generations of his loved ones.

Hebert’s Meat Market and Slaughter House is located at 7630 West LA Hwy 338. They are currently looking for a butcher/ meat cutter. If interested in applying or to learn more about the products and services of the market, call 337-893-5688.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Strength to be Green

It seems like everywhere we turn these days, there is information and publicity for green lifestyles and technology. We want to do our part for Mother Nature so we’ve broken routines and adjusted our lives.

But where do we find the motivation to recycle and conserve when it would be much easier to continue with the same everyday practices like throwing all of our disposables in one garbage can? Where do we find the strength?

In an effort to be green, I started composting at the beginning of this past summer. I put a big plastic bucket outside near the back door of our house and asked my mom to throw fruit and vegetable peelings in it, instead of in the nearby pasture.

“It’s going to break down into rich soil,” I said. “It’s like getting free dirt!”

In my fantasy, everything that went into the composter would magically turn into soil. In reality, the bucket filled up with rainwater and became a mosquito farm.

“I’m trying to save the earth,” I said to my mom as I sprayed myself with a can of Off, and grabbed a drill. “I just didn’t realize it would be this challenging.”

After I drilled holes in the sides and bottom of the bucket, the water drained out, the mosquitoes relocated, and the composting began again. That is until I realized the consequences of the next mistake I made, which was not regularly mixing the composted items. Instead of turning into dirt, they became a nesting ground for roaches, frogs and something that smelled like it had been kicked out of a toilet for stinking too much.

It occurred to me that composting was kind of a pain, and it would be much easier (and somewhat green) to just throw fruit and vegetable peelings in the pasture in the back of our house. So I gave up on my composting experiment, and poured old bags of mulch and dirt in the bucket to cover up the smell.

I decided that I would spend my green time focusing on recycling garbage. Although burdensome on occasion because I have to separate my disposables into different containers, (trash, aluminum cans to sell, and recyclables) the work is rewarding to me because I am reducing my carbon footprint.

But even my commitment to that was challenged a few weeks ago when my mom suggested that we increase our aluminum can business by digging through the trash across the street at the old F.I.E.B elementary school.

“But it’s filled with chewing tobacco, barbecue sauce and wasps,” I said. “I can get stung or start smelling like Skoal.”

“I thought you were trying to save the earth,” she said. “That means getting your hands a little dirty now and then.”

Later that day, after dropping my mom off at her sister’s house, and the recycling in the dumpster near the Abbeville Fire Station, I went to sell the cans that I’d retrieved from the garbage. I had avoided getting stung, and we were able to score a large bag of aluminum. But it hardly seemed worth it, because from previous experience, I estimated that my time, work and risks would only get a couple of dollars.

When I arrived at Abbeville Scrap and Recycling, the owner, Earl James Fritz, waved and smiled. He walked over to my car and then helped me unload the cans.

“It’s my favorite customer,” Fritz said. “It’s good to see you.”

After Fritz weighed the cans, he gave me more money than I’d expected. My mom and I usually made a game out of guessing how much we thought we’d get. The one who guessed farthest from the price had to buy the other one lunch. My mom was much better than me at estimating and usually won. But on that day, we both would have been way off.

“Tell your momma that I gave her a little extra this week,” Fritz said.

After I left, I assumed Fritz’s reasoning was that the price of aluminum had gone up. But then I wondered if this had something to do with being his favorite customer. Had Fritz given my mom and I Gold or Premier customer status the way some airlines and hotels do? Would we now receive extra benefits like frequent flier miles and emails on recycling specials?

For some reason, the thought of that put me in a very good mood. Part of it was that someone had shown true appreciation for my effort to be green. The other was that I’d get to tell my mom that we earned almost double for the cans than what we had expected.

When I got home that afternoon, I stepped into our back yard. It had been almost a month since I’d gone back there because of the heat and insects. I was pleasantly surprised to see that from my old composting bucket, there was a vine with yellow flowers growing. From it, were a couple of tiny cantaloupes.

I asked my mom if she had planted the fruit, but she said she hadn’t. We both assumed it was from seeds from the peelings we had thrown into the composter. Regardless, it was a sign that there is a reward in living a green lifestyle; food and unexpected riches.

I am very thankful that my mom has taught me how to protect and save our environment. She was green before it was cool, and has been my motivation to recycle, conserve and prevent littering. Her lessons on a green lifestyle have shown me the value of hard work, and how rewards can come in many forms. Her part in keeping the earth beautiful brings me strength.

For more information on the items Abbeville Scrap and Recycling purchases, call 337-523-9322. To learn where you can recycle glass, plastic and paper throughout the parish, call Solid Waste at 337-898-4338. For a list of items that can be recycled, visit

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Heavenly Bites 'N Delites

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans five years ago, Louis and Cynthia D’arcourt left the city and their home for a hotel in Texarkana. For a few days, they waited out the devastation for news to determine their next move.

“We saw on the internet that our home and business were destroyed,” says Mr. D’arcourt. “We knew we weren’t going back, and that we needed to find another place to live.”

The D’arcourts’ daughter, who had also left New Orleans, was staying at her mother-in-law’s home in Crowley. She convinced her parents to come to Southwest Louisiana to settle so their family could be closer together.

After a few days of staying in a hotel in Crowley, Mr. and Mrs. D’arcourt drove down to Kaplan. They stopped off at the American Legion, where the Red Cross had set up to help evacuees. The couple met a man there named John Livings, who introduced them to James and Helen Meaux.

“The Meauxs had an unfurnished house for rent,” said Mrs. D’arcourt. “It was a Saturday and the utility companies were closed. But the mayor at the time, Levi Schexnider, was able to get the water and electricity turned on so we could move in the next day.”

The D’arcourts drove back to Crowley and spent that night in a hotel. The next morning, they headed back to Kaplan with the only possessions they had left. They had planned to spend the day shopping for a few items like beds and furniture for their new house, but when they entered it on that Sunday morning, they found a surprise waiting for them.

“The community of Kaplan cleaned and furnished the house for us,” says Mrs. D’arcourt. “We were so overwhelmed by their generosity, and making us feel like we were born in the town and part of the family.”

The D’arcourts eventually bought the house from Meaux siblings, James, Percy and Betty. As the new Kaplan residents re-established their lives, they began searching for a source of income. Mrs. D’arcourt had owned a flower shop in Arabie that was destroyed by the hurricane. But there were already two flower shops in town and she didn’t want to compete.

“Cynthia and I owned and operated two donut shops in New Orleans for twelve years,” says Mr. D’arcourt. “So in 2007, we started making and wholesaling donuts to sell to local grocery stores and businesses.”

In 2009, the D’arcourts opened up Heavenly Bites ‘N Delites on Cushing Avenue. The bakery sells donuts, cookies, brownies, pastries, cannolis, shoe soles, chocolate chip bites, petit fours, apple fritters, éclairs, twists, crème puffs, turnovers and custom cakes including wedding, birthday and anniversary. They also make king cakes year round, which they’ll ship throughout the continental United States.
“The hardest part of this business is that it’s a very physical, non-stop job,” says Mrs. D’arcourt. “The best part is the excitement and joy in people’s faces when they get their product. If you see that excitement, you know that all of the hard work paid off.”

The D’arcourts start baking at anywhere from ten P.M. to midnight. Then they begin making their donuts with the help of their son, Louis D’arcourt Jr. and Mrs. D’arcourt’s brother. The family works through the night, and then through most of the day at the bakery.

“You have to be married to this job to do it,” says Mr. D’arcourt. “If you’re not going to give your life to it, then there’s no reason to open it.”

The D’arcourts invited me to help them make the donuts one morning at 3:00 A.M. But since I have a strict policy of not sweating before sunrise, I declined their offer and asked them to take pictures for me.

I did however visit the D’arcourts at Heavenly Bites. The shop was festively decorated with orange leaves and pumpkins for autumn and Halloween. But my attention was captured by the cases holding freshly baked cookies and pastries. It’s very hard to interview someone when an apple fritter is calling your name.

“October to Mardi Gras is our busy season,” said Mrs. D’arcourt. “The cool weather seems to make people buy desserts.”

Heavenly Bites ‘N Delites bakes their king cakes as opposed to frying them. Mr. D’arcourt says he finds that the baked cakes stay fresh longer, which is important when shipping them.

The D’arcourts let me decorate one of the king cakes. They gave it to me afterwards, as well as another one to share with my friends, co-workers and family. The baking couple will be happy to know that I spread the wealth around Vermilion Parish, and I heard through the grapevine that Timmy Cheek of Kaplan got the piece with the baby.

I wish the D’arcourts the best in their new life and business. I visit the bakery a couple of times a month, and am a big fan of their apple fritters. They’ve always tasted great, but after hearing the story of how the pastries are baked with hard work, commitment, and community and family support, each bite I take in the future will be a heavenly delite.

Heavenly Bites ‘N Delites is located at 116 ½ Cushing Avenue. For products, services and store hours call 337-643-1066.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Strength to Build a Home

Most of us have fantasized about building our dream home. But when it comes time to start, the reality of the project isn’t always as easy, glamorous or affordable as the fantasy. So when bringing a dream to life, where do we find the stamina and mindset to make it happen? Where do we find the strength?

Jacob and Regan Faulk, along with their three sons, currently live in a two bedroom, one bathroom house in Cow Island. The growing family felt it was time for something larger, and have begun building their dream home; a four-bedroom, two and a half bath Victorian inspired farmhouse complete with an L shaped front porch.

“When we had two boys in two years, we knew we needed something larger,” says Mrs. Faulk. “We have always loved the Villien house in Maurice. It was the inspiration for our new home.”

Mrs. Faulk, who grew up in the construction industry because her father is a general contractor, drew the first plans for the house. Mr. Faulk’s father, David Faulk, who is an experienced architectural draftsman, drew the final plans.

“Contractors are building the shell, but we’re doing a lot of work ourselves,” says Jacob Faulk. “Regan’s father is doing the plumbing and I’m doing the electricity. We’re very fortunate that we have a lot of help from our friends and family. Especially our mothers, who have been very helpful by taking care of the boys.”

Mrs. Faulk is a beautician and owns Petite Rouge hair salon. She says that one of the largest challenges in building a house is orchestrating all of the details, while continuing to work and tend to her family.

“There are a lot of technical decisions to make,” says Mrs. Faulk. “You need to educate yourself or you won’t know if you’re making the right choices.”

The advice Mrs. Faulk would give to someone building their own home is to build in the winter because construction costs seem to be lower. She also suggests being prepared for changes that may increase your costs up to twenty percent above your budget.

The Faulks are building their new home just behind their current one. It took the family about nine months to plan the project, and then will take approximately nine months to build, for a total of eighteen months from concept to completion. Once they have moved into their new home, hopefully by spring, they plan to sell their current two-bedroom home to be moved.

I visited the Faulks one early evening to learn more about where they found the strength to build a home. Most of the framing and exterior was complete, but the inside required a little more time. Mr. Faulk, who owns a lawn service, had worked a ten-hour day, but was ready to work four more on the new house.

“We’re willing to make the sacrifice for our life,” said Mr. Faulk. “It’s our goal to have a home for our family.”

It was the last day of summer and the sun was lowering itself in the sky. As we stood on the large porch, warm breezes passed us as if saying goodbye.

“You’re going to see a lot of great sunsets from this porch,” I said.

“I know,” Mr. Faulk answered. “I can hardly wait.”

The moment was both a foreshadowing and metaphor for the Faulk’s future. After a long, hard day, when all of the work is complete, they will sit down on that porch as a family to watch the sunset. Through their time together, they will grow, learn and love. From their patience, hard work and sacrifices, they will find strength.

For more details about the two-bedroom house (1125 sq ft) for sale, call 643-2497.