From Bogalusa to Burning Mtn.
Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on the town of New Castle’s effort to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. Three families came to New Castle after the hurricane. Two have remained and are now part of the community. Part three will appear on Tuesday.NEW CASTLE – There’s not a lot of crawfish, spicy gumbo or alligator-on-a-stick to be had here in western Colorado, but even so, the McNabb family from Louisiana is adjusting to their new life in New Castle just fine.The McNabbs are one of three Hurricane Katrina victim families that were sponsored by the town of New Castle shortly after the disaster.Kristy and Richard McNabb and their 15-year-old son, John, arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley from the city of Bogalusa, La. – about 45 minutes away from New Orleans – on Sept. 6, just a week after Hurricane Katrina struck their area.”We were hit pretty good,” Kristy said. “We had two oak trees and two pine trees that went through our house. We couldn’t tell which end of the house was going to be the safe end.”Richard had family in the town of Silt, so the McNabbs headed to Colorado and stayed with Richard’s sister.
Shortly after arriving, Kristy was able to find a job as a secretary with the Re-2 school district at the office in Rifle. She’d had plenty of experience, having worked as a secretary in a school system for 15 years.Richard is a bricklayer and has been seeking work in the valley.The family started to look for a place to rent and then heard that the town of New Castle was looking for three Hurricane Katrina victim families to sponsor. The town was graciously offering to help the families find a place to live and would pay for three month’s rent and utilities.With their home in Bogalusa mostly destroyed, the McNabbs were offered a place to live in the Castle Valley Ranch subdivision.Robin Burkett, administrative assistant for the town of New Castle, made sure the McNabbs had everything they needed to start their new life.And although extremely grateful for their new opportunity, it has been difficult not to be homesick for friends, family and the culture they are used to. Finances and the high cost of living in Colorado is their greatest obstacle right now.”It’s been hard,” Kristy admitted. “The people here and the environment is so much different. But the financial part has been the biggest challenge. Everything else is perfect. There’s not as much of a crime rate as we had to deal with (back home), and it feels nice to put your head down and go to sleep.”However, the cost of living here is exhorbitant compared to their home state. The McNabb’s morgtage was a little over $400 in Louisiana. They are now paying nearly $1,300 to rent a home in Colorado.
Not only worried about their home, which they continue to pay a mortgage on, the McNabbs have worried about family and friends – some of whom did not make it through the disaster. Other family members were unable to leave the area.”It broke our hearts when we realized people we knew didn’t make it,” Kristy said. “We’re adjusting now – but we come from a little hick town where family is everything. We just don’t know a lot of people here.”From her accent, Kristy is easily identified as a southerner. Along with the famous southern drawl, her speech is peppered with “y’all,” a respectful “yes ma’am” and now and then a reference to the “menfolk.”But one of the biggest cultural differences the McNabbs have faced in Colorado is the food.Accustomed to things like crawfish, catfish, blue-shelled crabs, DD Sausage, Blue Bell ice cream, Borden’s chocolate milk and an array of Creole spices, the cuisine in western Colorado is definitely not the same as back home.”We bought our shrimp right off the boat,” Kristy said. “A crawfish boil with fresh seafood, ears of corn and new potatoes – there’s nothing like it. That, and gator-on-a-stick – it’s good.”Not to mention the salt water taffy and the sweet tea.It’s not that the McNabbs dislike Colorado beef, but they have their limits.
“We ain’t eatin’ no Rocky Mountain Oysters, elk or buffalo,” Kristy said, wrinkling up her nose.Little did they know Glenwood Springs has an extensive array of cuisines, including the Bayou Cajun Restaurant & Bar on Grand Avenue downtown.When told about the McNabbs and their fruitless search for downhome Cajun cooking and ingredients, Bayou owner Steven Beham gave the family a gift certificate to come have dinner at his restaurant.”It was wonderful,” Kristy said afterwards. “We had crawfish, gumbo and jambalaya. The chef (Mike Balsey) was from Biloxi, Mississippi. They hooked us up proper.”The restaurant experience was just one of the many things the McNabbs are thankful for since moving to this area.”We’ve gotten more help here from the people in Colorado than help from the government,” Kristy said with a smile. “I think once we get adjusted with the finances, it’ll be heaven. It’s the finances that are tough. But the people are great.”In her sincere southern drawl, she summed it all up.”You gotta have love, and you gotta have the Lord.”
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After a local District Court judge issued what amounts to an eviction notice Monday, former Aspen mayoral candidate Lee Mulcahy said he’s giving up his standoff with the local housing authority and leaving town.