OUTDOORS COLUMN: Nothing better than the ol’ back porch

Herald Outdoors Columnist Bob Kornegay

Herald Outdoors Columnist Bob Kornegay

I miss back porches. I surely do. Not what passes for back porches today, mind you, but those sure-enough back porches like my grandmother and her neighbors once had.

Most of today's back porches are screened, and that doesn't count. If that doesn’t count, all those glassed-in edifices summarily referred to as "sun rooms", birding nooks", and “Jacuzzi parlors" count even less. I have difficulty understanding why today’s society wants to ruin perfectly good back porches by fencing them in or turning them into plate glass people terrariums.

Growing up, I learned early on that back porches were great places to sit and philosophize. Translated into well-understood Deep South parlance, that means lying and gossiping. Not to say lying and gossiping are necessarily customs to be lauded, but the two somehow seemed kinder and gentler when practiced on old-fashioned open back porches. They became vices only after the screens and glass went up. Heck, you could lie like a rug, slander someone's mama, or insult your neighbor's bird dog on a back porch and never feel the least bit guilty or ashamed.

The best hunting and fishing yarns I ever heard were told on back porches. It was there I first learned of Ol' Rounder, the coonhound that needed one nostril corked up or he'd trail two raccoons at one time. And there was the one about the giant bass that baited a half-submerged stump with acorns before hiding in the weeds and pouncing upon the squirrels that came to eat them.

The teller of both those tales smoked hand-rolled Prince Albert cigarettes, chewed Brown’s Mule tobacco, and spat a lot, a few more social gaffes wholly acceptable on real back porches. Jacuzzi parlor and sun room owners don't take kindly to such vices. Lord help you if expectorate a stream of Red Man juice into one of the exotic plant pots or thump ashes into the crystal bud vases. Heck, they even take offense at a fella’s spitting into a brown beer bottle.

Now I don’t want to imply that the back porches of my countrified youth didn't have their own knick-knacks and decorations. They all had their share of “décor.” The porch owners just weren't as persnickety about spitting on mangy feist dogs or into petunias growing in rusty syrup buckets.

I remember sitting on back porches eating wonderful culinary delights like boiled peanuts and hand-turned ice cream. I tossed the shells off the porch into the clean-swept backyard. Ice cream spills were quickly cleaned up by the mangy feist and, if I got thirsty, I drank a cold RC or a glass of heavily sugared iced tea. There were no apoplexy attacks over soiled Persian rugs or stained-glass window panes.

In sun rooms, Jacuzzi parlors, and birding nooks the only things you're allowed to drink are expensive wines with funny names like Madeira, zinfandel, and merlot (the “T” is silent). If you’re allowed to eat at all, they make you eat cheese. The cheeses available are as unpronounceable as the wines and smell like Uncle Harry's feet after a week in the same brogans. No RC or hoop here, folks.

What happened to back porches obviously also happened to the people who once gathered there. The old man with the stories is now a pompous ass who brays about the stock market and his new Mercedes. The great aunt with no teeth stopped gumming boiled peanuts, bought dentures and joined the garden club. The mangy feist turned into a neurotic poodle that visits his therapist once a week and has “pet parents” instead of owners. Geez! Did I mention that screen panels and plate glass also make it impossible to politely throw up?

Ah, yes. I surely miss back porches. Maybe, like someone once told me, the best things from our past are returned to us in heaven. What shall I do, though, if I get there and find Saint Peter soaking in a hot tub behind tinted glass and eating smelly cheese?

Questions? Comments? E-mail Bob Kornegay at cletus@windstream.net