Appalachia

The Front Porch

Today’s guest post was written by Garland Davis.

front porch

“The Front Porch” by Garland Davis

Where I grew up in rural North Carolina almost every house had a front porch. In winter it was a place to store firewood and during nicer weather, it was a place to congregate and talk about the events of the day.  It was a place where neighbors could congregate and share the news. I learned many things just sitting and listening to the adults.

  In the evenings after the day’s work and the after supper, yeah, I said supper, chores were finished. Dinner was what you ate at midday. The grown-ups would bring the chairs from the house and congregate around the open window where the radio could be heard. They would talk and tell stories, pausing occasionally to listen to a joke by Jack Benny or to a tense moment of the Lone Ranger when Tonto was dangling over a cliff.

 Although, people were sitting and talking their hands were not idle, especially when the garden came in. I remember snapping and stringing beans tor my Mama and Granny to can the next day. Once, a fellow, coming back from down east gave my dad three bushels of peaches. We peeled peaches, it seemed forever.

 It was also a place to sip a little Shine on Saturday nights and “make music.” An uncle with his fiddle, my dad semi-proficient with the five-string banjo, and a fellow with a guitar, as well as a teenager who played guitar and sang. (he went on to make a life in Country Music).  He even had a hit song, “A Rose and a Baby Ruth.”

 But the people who used the front porch most in the spring, summer, and fall were the oldsters. You could drive through the country and nearly every house had an old man, old woman, or one of each sitting on the porch watching the traffic go by. They waved (what we called, “thowed up their hand”) to every car that passed. Looking back on it, the only contact they had with the outside was the people in those cars. I realize they were just sitting there waiting to die. You don’t see them on the porches or in public these days. They are in Senior Citizen’s Homes, Assisted Living Facilities, or whatever fancy name they can come up with in order to charge more to warehouse unwanted oldsters.

There is still a front porch of sorts for those of us who are old and not as physically able to do a hell of a lot. We sit alone in a room connected to hundreds of people we do not know but we call them “friends.” Officially I have 1643 friends this morning. I probably have met and know a hundred of them. My “front porch” has a twenty-seven-inch screen, the latest iteration of Windows, two terabytes of something I do not understand. It is my window to the world where I write serious political commentaries and other crap that wanders through my mind. I, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, try my warped sense of humor on others.

We can write to each other and actually talk face to face, though hundreds and thousands of miles apart. I have recently discovered that some of us can get together in group calls and talk, tell sea stories, and laugh at the antics we engaged in during a younger day.

So, if you run across me somewhere out there in the ether, “Thow Up Your Hand.” Perhaps, we will both live a little longer.

—-

I hope you enjoyed Garland’s post as much as I did.

I’m awful glad all of you come to my virtual front porch to sit a spell and talk.

Tipper

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    June 13, 2020 at 7:21 pm

    Yes, thank goodness for this virtual front porch! Where would we all be these days without it? Thanks to Garland for his great post.

  • Reply
    Hank Skewis
    June 13, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    Being a wannabe banjo picker I frequently have “front porch envy.” Porches truly do connect individual homes with the greater neighborhood. I live in a community where garages face the street and the “front” door is around the side behind a fence and the neighborhood is the poorer for it.

  • Reply
    Terry Price
    June 13, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    Great memories. I have similar memories of my dad telling stories – he was a great storyteller. Also, fond memories of my mom learning new songs from the song book with a family friend, acapello. There was also a lot of fiddle music by my uncle who made fiddles as a hobby. The stories, music, and singing would go late into the night – well past 10, lol – and the night chill would set in, so everyone would get a light sweater or jacket for the last few minutes. I go back to the area often and try to recapture the sounds and smells of the night and sometimes I do.

  • Reply
    Sue McIntyre
    June 13, 2020 at 11:45 am

    Thank you Garland for stirring up more memories. That is part of the reason I enjoy The Blind Pig… My life in North Ga. was very similar in the early 70’s, except our front porch was a big ole shade tree. There was a glider, several chairs, a huge wooden spool for a table, and a platform for for a foam rubber mattress for those hot sultry nights, or company. We lived in a rural area on a dirt road. We knew every one that traveled that road, and even recognized their kin when they came to visit. We felt obligated to see who was coming and going and always thowed up our hand in greeting. Moma would make us sweep the ground till it was as smooth as her kitchen floor. Neighbors often volunteered to help with the garden, rewarded for their labor with fresh vegetables. It did not seem like work, especially when they lent a helping hand. We also played music and sang under that ole tree. Flatfooting or buck dancing (don’t really know the difference), keeping time with the banjo, and guitar. My oldest brother could play anything by ear, and my youngest brother could also read some music. Time passed swiftly in the summer, but those memories remain as fresh as if it were yesterday. Keep on stirring them up, it helps me to pass the time, especially now. I am going to find me a good shade tree and someone to share it with. Stay safe and well!

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    June 13, 2020 at 10:40 am

    I sometimes long for the days of the front porch. That is where we could play for hours out of Mama’s hair and protected from the rain. I sometimes still laughingly tell my sister when she is at my door, “Come in lil girl lost in the woods.” We would play that made up game for hours when it rained. My sis and I would sing right there on the front porch, and I was certain I would be the next Loretta Lyn. We still laugh about using the dirty vacuum cleaner hose while singing down into the vacuum. It gave a different sound to our singing like singing into a barrel, and nobody should knock it unless they have tried it 🙂

    Fast forward to the day I had a roof put on the house, and I had the man to go ahead and extend the front porch. Unfortunately there was no time for sitting there, and the only time I enjoyed it was when some of the family visited after a reunion. There was a lot of laughing and video making right there on that porch. Bean stringing was done on the back patio or in the kitchen. I was the sandwich generation caught between helping parents and trying to look after children.

    I can’t thank you enough, Garland Davis, for letting me share in your memories of your front porch. I still see an occasional oldster sitting on theirs, but I fear the magic days of laughter and socializing on the porch may have passed. I enjoyed your post, and it brought back so many of my own memories of the front porch.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 13, 2020 at 10:24 am

    Tipper,
    And Garland,
    I enjoyed your Front Porch Writings very much, the same was the way I was raised. I believe you live in Hawaii and spent many years in the service on the Seas. Thank You.

    After supper we use to go out on the Front Porch and listen to the Nightengales and Whipporwills calling for their Mates. We didn’t have any music, the birds Singing was enough. Mama always said that the Nightengales never said the same thing twice.

    I am one who believes that the older Generation is the Greatest, and it seems Most gave the younger generation a chance to Speak.

    Thanks Tipper for giving Garland a chance to Witness to so Many. …Ken

  • Reply
    Dee
    June 13, 2020 at 9:59 am

    Oops meant to add – fast forward til today. Here in south central PA, we have just moved from yellow into the green. I was tickled pink to finally be able to go get my hair cut after 6 months. Don’t know if I look a tad better but I sure feel like a million bucks better. We have a front porch and a back porch (covered patio). My neighbor called me last evening and asked if I felt like a visit on the back porch; of course, I said come on over. Our chairs are set up about 6 feet apart and we had a delightful time catching up on each other and families – about three hours. She is a math professor for a nearby college and as most has been streaming her classes from her home with just yesterday finishing grading. So we had a lot of catching up. Our neighbors on the other side also visit our back porch, so you can see we still are doing porch sitting just have moved to the back because the back yard with flowers, gardens, flowering shrubs and mountains beyond sure make a pretty setting to gaze out at. Guess I love front porches and back porches when used as a gathering place:)

  • Reply
    Dee
    June 13, 2020 at 9:43 am

    I certainly remember the front porch of my grandparents down in MS and remember sitting out in chairs under the old water oak that sat to the left of the front porch. There seemed to always be a little breeze drifting across the porch or under the tree that cooled you down just a mite bit. Then when they moved from the farm to town, I remember the wrap around porch there and the throwing up of hands as cars passed on the main old 78 highway (been renamed now) that ran from Memphis to Birmingham. We had a front porch in Illinois, but mostly sat out under a tree in the summer. I sure have some wonderful memories of front porch sitting from the pages of my mind:) I enjoyed Garland’s post.

  • Reply
    Frank
    June 13, 2020 at 9:41 am

    no “front-poach” sitt’n today….breakfast is done…kitchen cleaned up, bread dough on its first rise and a bunch of variegated liropes need splitting and transplanted…then maybe some sitt’n-on-the-patio

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    June 13, 2020 at 9:39 am

    We have a nice front porch on our old house. We pass a lot of our summer porch sitting. I like sitting out there with a cup of coffee, of a morning. watching the sunrise.

    Thanks to current circumstances, it looks like my vacation will be confined to the front porch. But, with some good books and my daily Blind Pig, I’m more the ok with that.

    Nice post this morning!

  • Reply
    Shirl
    June 13, 2020 at 8:56 am

    The front porch was the only place to string and break green beans, look lettuce and peel apples. The natural light was good for seeing bugs or worms and clean-up was easy. The back porch was where the Maytag washer got it’s workout once a week. When my parents sold their house in eastern KY and moved several hundred miles north, they brought their metal glider and chairs from the front porch. They continued to use them on their new front porch. I’m sure the folks traveling the busy highway leading into Louisville thought it was odd to see my parents and their visitors sitting on the porch and watching traffic go by. I love sitting on my porch while reading, listening to the birds or just daydreaming. I hate to see all the fancy furniture on front porches that has never been used.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 13, 2020 at 8:54 am

    ‘Virtual front porch’ is a good description of BP&A, the front porch of Appalachia. Guess that really should be “a” instead of “the” lest others get aggravated. But to us here it is “the”.

    I sat out under the apple tree last night just before dusk watching the lightening bugs rise. I rarely sit out there, though I put the chair there for that purpose. I have been trying to figure out why I don’t sit there or on the front porch. It bothers me a bit that I don’t because, like Garland, I remember pre-air conditioning when sitting outside was a commonplace. So that tells me I have changed.

    I do have one friend who comes sometimes and we have a ‘porch meeting’ to talk about some puzzle in our lives, like why people don’t sit on the porch anymore. Or if we had our lives to live over what different decisions might we have made and why we didn’t see it as desirable then. Wish so much of knowing how to live one good life didn’t come by the experience of living a fair one.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    June 13, 2020 at 7:47 am

    Front porches are still all the rage in my mind. I’m definitely a porch dweller any day of the year I can get out there. I had a fall on my porch recently. My foot “ fell asleep” and when I stood, I hit the deck. So now my front porch got closed in for “my safety.” It’s much more private I suppose now. (I feel like I’m 4.) I made a fountain for my porches to hear water sounds. 200$ flimsy plastic at Lowe’s was way too high when I got 2 pumps for 50$ and 2 containers and made my own. I think I’m out 80$ total and my imagination. Ah the porch where you can smoke, chew, eat al fresco, or have a cool refreshment. Get away from the cell phone and computer and live a little outside the Matrix. The porch is real and it’s real cool!!!! Lots of living is accomplished on the porch- be it back or front or side….

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 13, 2020 at 7:43 am

    There was a peacefulness in the front porch days that we don’t seem to have now. Our new worldwide connection is often an agitation to the spirit but it is our way of life now so we learn to live with it.
    Thanks for the memories, Garland!

  • Reply
    gayle larson
    June 13, 2020 at 7:25 am

    In our neighborhood we also had back porches. In the summer that was a cool place to sleep. During the day we played board games and while the adults were on the front porch come evening we had our own world out back. Great memories.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 13, 2020 at 7:23 am

    Tipper–I thoroughly enjoyed this on several levels–the telling commentary about the soulless nature of technology (even though it gives me this daily dose of the mountains), the scathing insight on old folks “lost” in the maws of a “rest” home, the increasingly rare magic of making music, and much more.

    I would add that porches were places where a lot of problems were solved, a pulpit for those determined to preach on pretty much anything (their Gospel wasn’t always of a religious nature), a place to rock away anger or blues (I can remember my sister driving the whole family half nuts as she offered an interminable dirge to a deceased cat as she rocked), and the perfect setting for telling of tales. It is in the latter context I have the fondest memories of all. With my Grandpa Joe comfortably seated in a rocking chair which now rests about four feet from where this is being typed, I listened in total fascination as he told stories of how the lordly American chestnut was once THE staff of mountain life, recounted the time he killed a painter, recalled catching snowbirds to eat with a string-tripped box trap, told of encounters with snakes, and so much more.

    For me, this fine evocation of yesteryear was a grand way to start the day, and I’ll be harkening back to porch mornings all through this Saturday.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Tommy
    June 13, 2020 at 7:00 am

    I agreed about dinner and supper. Don’t mind ‘lunch’ so much but if it’s after 1500 hous it ain’t ‘dinner’. It’s SUPPER by gum.

  • Reply
    Jim K
    June 13, 2020 at 6:48 am

    Front porches were more functional when I grew up, a lot of post- garden work was done from the porch or more social affairs. I remember my mother always telling me not to turn the light on when my older sisters were brought home from a date ( which I delighted in doing).

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 13, 2020 at 6:43 am

    Kind of sad really. Living alone there may be days I don’t talk or see another soul except my cats.

  • Reply
    tmc
    June 13, 2020 at 6:14 am

    Front porches or shade tree sittin was a big thing back in the day, I remember when folks visited we’d all gather out under the big oak tree with chairs for all who came to visit, younguns would play in the yard till just about dark then everyone would leave, strange how things have changed, now we type away and social distance leaned back in our favorite chair and talk to the world.

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