Ashton and Tula Carver began their wedded life at 202 St. Charles St. in Bay St. Louis in 1974. The L-shaped shotgun house built in the late 1890s was the Carver family home, and a Carver had always lived there, which Tula found comforting.
   It even had a few "presences," including a mirage cat and an unexplained knocking on the door.
   "When I first moved to the Coast and heard people say their homes were haunted, I thought 'Y'all have to be crazy.' But there was a presence in the house," Tula said.
   "I never was afraid because that was a family home. It was a great place to live, full of character and lots of floor space but of course no storage space because of its age."
   The couple raised two girls at the corner of Third and St. Charles streets and they owned the house when Katrina struck. Ashton had stayed for the storm because no water had entered the house during Camille and he thought it safe. He swam out as exterior walls crumbled, rescued the family cat P.J. and put them both inside a floating chifforobe to avoid flying debris.
   "Since the storm those two have really bonded," said Tula. "That cat follows Ashton everywhere."
   What remained of the house could not be rebuilt, so Ashton, retired from Stennis Space Center, slowly disassembled what he could of the old yellow pine and beaded board. Then in March the bulldozers came.
   The salvaged wood sits on their property as they study house plans because they will use some of the old wood when they rebuild. Also on the property sit two trailers, one for their youngest daughter and one for themselves.
   It was important for Ashton to save what he could of the house built by his grandparents, Emma and Butch Carver, and where Ashton had lived for 51 years.
   "Like everyone else we're in the wait-and-see mode on financing and what to rebuild," Tula said. "A lot of people stop by to tell us how much they miss seeing that old house."
- KAT BERGERON