Little house that could

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2004

MEADVILLE &045; Rainy mornings are meant for sleeping in.

Hearing the fat drops of water plop against a roof is cause for leaving every light off and yanking the covers over your head.

Yet there Wayne and Donna Kay Cambre were, fluorescent lights beaming from the kitchen ceiling, floor lamps clicked three times to maximum capacity and table lamps shining brightly as well.

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It’s all of little importance &045; or is it the exact opposite? &045; to the Cambres, who lived in Wayne’s converted deer camp for three years in the Homochitto National Forest before receiving electricity.

&uot;I had people visiting during the summer in July and August saying, ‘Man, you keep it like a deep freezer in here,’ and I said, ‘I intend to,’&uot; Wayne said with a hearty laugh.

Hauling 40 to 50 gallons of gasoline per week from Baton Rouge to fuel a generator gives you that peace of mind.

Wayne built &uot;The Roost&uot; in 1988 for he and his buddies to have a place to stay when they made the drive up from Baton Rouge to go out hunting.

It was not until he rekindled with an old high school friend, then got married to Donna Kay, that he posed the question to her of retiring and moving to Meadville full time.

&uot;I loved it right from the first time I saw it,&uot; Donna Kay said.

Wayne added: &uot;We both love the woods and to deer hunt. I just like the peace and quiet.&uot;

It was their mutual interests that sparked a romance between the two 1965 Istrouma High School alums. Both were previously married for more than 25 years before each one was divorced within a month of the other in late 1994.

With an encounter at their 30-year class reunion love was back in the air.

They wed in 1997, and have locked arm-and-arm through some difficult times, the greatest of which is the long battle the Cambres faced against the U.S. Forestry Service, which claimed it owned the property Wayne had his camp on.

&uot;Who would’ve ever believed in the 21st century the average Joe would be without electricity,&uot; Donna Kay said. &uot;We’re active in the community and we want it to be a part of our lives.&uot;

The Cambres quickly hired a lawyer and began writing letters to Mississippi Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott.

In the meantime, their life resembled that of another era &045; a coal-burning stove, hoards of candles spread across the house and an ice chest on the porch that contained nutritional essentials.

There was not a lot of cooking due to a void of ingredients. When the couple needed to wash clothes, they headed to an area laundromat with seven loads in tow.

&uot;I (heard) about a guy from here in the county that goes up to Alaska during the winter and runs some type of outpost where he doesn’t have any electricity or anything,&uot; Wayne said. &uot;I thought to myself, ‘He doesn’t have to go to Alaska. He can stay right here.’&uot;

Jokes aside, the fiasco with the Forestry Service was a mess since the Cambres have the closest piece of property to the Okhissa Lake Project, a 1,000-acre lake and recreation area that is still under development.

The Forestry Service refused to make any exceptions to approve the right to electricity for the Cambres.

&uot;My feeling is I fought in the Vietnam War to live in a place like this,&uot; Wayne said. &uot;Every day you woke up (in Vietnam) not knowing if you were gonna die or not.&uot;

So the Cambres lived off of a generator, which sucked approximately five gallons of gas per day.

However, when they visited family and friends in Baton Rouge the generator stayed off.

That made for some pretty frigid nights during the winter.

&uot;We’d come back and you could see your breath inside the house,&uot; Donna Kay said. &uot;Each time I was praying that the generator would crank up when (Wayne) went outside.&uot;

With a third party intervening, the Cambres got approval to join the 21st century.

&uot;It already had everything a typical house did except a phone line and we didn’t bother with that,&uot; Wayne said. &uot;It’s wired and the plumbing is better than most homes because most use PVC. This is copper.&uot;

Their current 700 square foot jewel pales in comparison to the 5,200 squared foot palace they left in Baton Rouge; however, the Cambres new digs feels like the perfect home they said.

A makeshift pantry sits underneath the kitchen countertop, as a set of two wooded shelves boasts items such as coffee grounds and cans of Coke.

Wayne has plans of adding on to the house, which currently has two bed rooms &045; one of which is now a closest &045; a bathroom and a den that shares the same space with the kitchen.

&uot;We lived here three years without electricity,&uot; Donna Kay said. &uot;We look back on it now and wonder how we did it.&uot;

Added Wayne: &uot;We still joke at night, saying, ‘It’s your turn to go out and turn the generator off.’&uot;