DAVEPETE.NET > HOME > FAR BACK MEMORIES > PORCHES
One day I was reading a book entitled Lake Wobegone Days where Garrison Keillor was talking about sitting out on the porch during pleasant, or was it hot, summer days. He posed a problem about how to greet, or ignore, or invite, or talk to passers-by. We had a porch at home, but I never gave a thought about discussing it with anyone. Porches just happened to be there and there could be no story, or tale attached and we had no problem of talking to those going by. For one thing, only our neighbors usually passed by, and a wave to them was sufficient. Others on the street were intent only on visiting friends, who happened to be our neighbors. Some did turn into our gate -- they were going to visit us anyway, and didn't need to be called in from the street. Usually there was the smell of freshly baked rolls coming from inside our home, and the visitors were expected. I laid the Keillor edition down, fiuffed my pillow and turned out the light for the night. Did I forget to tell you that I was reading the book while in bed? I was.
We had a porch at 316 Idaho Avenue in Mullan, Idaho, many years ago -- it isn't there anymore nor is the house that it was attached to. The Idaho highway department thought that Interstate 90 should have a straighter, smoother, 4-lane highway approach to the summit leading into Montana, so they built their highway where our house stood -- and where a lot of other houses, power poles, sewers, streets and sidewalks also stood. Our porch served as a naval ship at times for kids around the neighborhood -- at other times it was a fort, or a meeting room or whatever was dreamed up by the guys.
One day while the gang was in the midst of battle -- cowboys and Indians, I think -- a neighbor lady came down the walk, opened our gate and came up the steps. We shot our last imaginary Indian and watched her approach. She ordered everyone off the porch except me. I wasn't thinking Indians anymore; I thought of running into the house for a recruit, my mother! The neighbor woman, however, was evidently on a peace mission. She took hold of my hand, shook it gently, and said, "Hello, Edawaan." Then she went home. My friends came around to help me when they were sure she was out of sight. The lady had a problem and this time she was the president, a chief, or a pirate captain. I guess she wasn't the president because she wasn't carrying her fiag! Come to think of it, she wasn't the pirate captain either because she didn't have her butcher knife. As I said, she must have been on a peace mission.
When I was in high school my dad did a remodeling job on our porch. He replaced the railing and its lathe turned spokes with a solid rail with rustic siding and covered the round posts (also lathe turned) with boards to make square posts. The porch no longer had the appearance of a ship, but that didn't make any difference, for when you are in high school, you don't play imaginary games like cowboys and Indians anymore. Now it was time for football, baseball, and controlled types of games out on the street. Games controlled by rules, that is.
With the new porch came a desire by mother to have a porch swing, where she could spend time relaxing -- and talking with a friend or two from across the street (in the summertime, naturally). Since I was in high school, and had manual training (wood shop), to me fell the job of making the swing. I drew the plans (drawing class style), which were approved by dad and mom. After some time, the swing was completed. Dad installed rings in the ceiling and we attached chains from them to the seat of the swing. We gave the swing a push and it performed as it should with satisfactory clearances fore and aft and athwartships. (The porch still seemed to be a ship, requiring use of naval terms.) The next step was to sit on the swing to check for strength. It passed this test admirably also. Next came the final test, which was to lean back on it and enjoy a peaceful afternoon swing. Leaning back was a mistake! The swing tipped over backwards. I can't remember if anything but my pride was hurt -- my folks enjoyed a good laugh. This event is what is meant by learning by experience. The back legs of the suspension chains were then attached to the back instead of the seat and after that the swing could be used without fear of fiipping over backwards. My folks enjoyed the swing in the summer times and stored it away in the garage in the winter. Mom would work on her sewing club projects, and dad would read his pulp magazine cowboy stories. I can't remember what happened to the swing, since the house, and the porch, disappeared even before the new highway took over. I can remember the swing while I was still in High School but not during my college days nor afterwards.