The Porch

by Mike Peters

The porch ran along two sides of the three bedroom home, which was built by my Grandpa Coleman during the depression of the 1930s.  The slightly altered home, which my Aunt and Uncle now occupy, is located on Spicewood Road about a mile from "old Route 21" in Jackson County, WV.  The Spicewood turnoff is between Jackson County's Goldtown and Kanawha County's Sissonville.

There was ample seating on the porch.  I remember a swing, a rocker and about four chairs.  Many of us preferred to just sit on the bannister.  Sometimes people just squatted, as my Grandmother often did while snapping beans or husking corn.

There was room for two to sit comfortably on the swing.  I remember the time I jealously wiggled in between my Aunt Dee and her date--a man I called "that old Bill Phillips!" I considered him a dangerous threat and did my best to sabotage his attempt at courting.  Years later, my Aunt's youngest son Clifford did the same to me as I sat on the swing with a girl I brought home.  Justice!  I had to laugh.

The porch offered a great vantage point.  From it you could see Grandma's garden across the road.  A salt shaker made the trip with you to the garden and nary a tomato was safe.  I also liked the hot peppers which Grandma mixed in with fried potatoes and the cucumbers which we often ate with onions and vinegar.  I remember digging new potatoes with a pitch fork.

From the porch you could see groundhogs in the meadow, where hay had recently been bailed.  You could see squirrels playing in the hickory tree and rabbits hopping in the clover.  There were deer and an occasional red fox spotted on the point.  At night, when the only light was that given off by fireflies, you could hear Uncle Bob's Walkers in pursuit of coon.

When I was 10 or 11, I sat on the porch and saw a motorcycle hit my dog.  Instead of watching the road, the driver was checking out the backsides of a couple of young ladies walking toward the garden.  I cried!  They buried Red under the apple tree over in the corner of the yard.

From the porch you could see the barn, where Grandma milked the cows and where Grandpa hammered, sawed and planed the wood.  To this day, I love the smell of sawdust.

On the porch, my Grandpa would lean back in a chair, light a Salem and tell  me stories.  I remember the story of "Lightning," an African American gentleman who LITERALLY sold newspapers on the busy streets of Charleston.  A few times "Lightning" got hit as he jaywalked from car-to-car across rush hour's busy lanes of traffic.  I can still hear Grandpa snap his Zippo shut while telling his story.  It's a sound I'll never forget.

My Grandpa and a few other boxing aficionados sat on the porch on 22 June 1938 and listened to the second Joe Louis/Max Schmeling fight.  It didn't last long. But it ended appropriately and there were sandwiches, cold drinks and great conversation.  The porch at its finest!

My Grandmother was partial to the rocker.  That is where she sat and did the crosswords, especially the hard Sunday version published by the New York Times.   After my father died in 1967, my Grandmother said that she expected to see her son-in-law walk around the barn, open the gate, throw his duffle bag up on the porch and ask, "What's for supper Mom?"  I guess she needed that for closure as many of us do when someone dies young, when someone dies without prolonged suffering and when we don't get to say goodbye.

My grandmother sat on the porch's block steps and taught me to tie my shoes. It was on that porch where she also schooled me in the subjects of Scrabble and Rummy.  And I'm proud to say, I was beaten by the best.

From the porch, we saw the dust of the dirt road rise and settle as cars, school buses, trucks and tractors made their way.   One rule of the porch was to always wave.  This did not hinge on whether or not you knew the driver or passenger, which you almost always did.   It was just the right thing to do.  It was courteous.   It was how we do things in the country.   They always returned the wave.   And, you know, I don't remember one incident of "road rage."

I also remember Grandma's words to friends and family as they exited the porch.  It was always, "Ya'll come!" Say it like you mean it boy!  It had quite an impact on me.  Many of you that know me know that I end many of my stories in the same manner.  My Uncle still ends his phone conversations with the phrase.   It is only a "slang" contraction and a verb.  But these two small words tell the story of a more polite time, in a simpler world, on a porch in Jackson County.


Mike Peters

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