August 20, 2019

Porch Settin’!

Yep, the time has come. Summer weather is here and it’s finally time to get serious about America’s favorite rural tradition: porch settin’.

For those few ignorant souls out there who don’t engage in this summertime inactivity, allow me to provide a brief refresher course on the accepted standards for this most popular pastime.

Porch settin’ is a simple thing but, done right, it’s a perfect expression of grace, artistry and tranquil demeanor. As with any human undertaking, the experts make it look easy. But careful analysis reveals the wealth of training, discipline, careful study and attention to detail that combine to create an artful “set.” Among the many elements blended to master the art are Environment, Equipment, Attitude and Etiquette.

Environment

A proper settin’ porch is a carefully crafted stage upon which the true artist can maximize the opportunity of a stellar performance. The perfect porch is neither too small (you’ll be crowded) nor too large (you’ll get lost in the setting). Think of your porch as a picture frame in which you are the prime element. Accessories are important. A few droopy ol’ hound dogs or sleeping cats are essential. The porch must have a roof. Railings are optional. Make sure the view from your porch is not obscured by too many old cars up on blocks or dead refrigerators.

Equipment

Obviously, you need a chair. Rockers are preferred. Either weathered wood with woven seats and backs or painted ones (white only) are acceptable. A loose floorboard is a nice touch so you get a little “squeak” when you rock. Variations are at your own risk. New oak rockers or anything upholstered are tacky and insincere. Used sofas or recliners are totally unsatisfactory unless you’re going for the Jeff Foxworthy long-neck beer, redneck look. Carved out sections of tree trunk work well for the Snuffy Smith floppy hat/whisky jug/hillbilly genre.

Attitude

All other aspects of porch settin’ are secondary to attitude. To produce a masterful performance, you must get into the proper frame of mind. Old hands, who seem to come by it naturally, are exhibiting the fruits of long years of practice. For the novice, a few preparatory mental exercises might be helpful. Imagine you’ve been out in the fields all day cutting hay by hand under a hot sun. Returning home, you discover the hog pen roof has collapsed, mamma sow has developed an attitude, the chickens got out into the road, and the toilet is stopped up and overflowing. After fixing all these things, you deserve a rest. You pour yourself a tall glass of iced tea or lemonade, shuffle out to the porch, nudge aside a lazy ol’ hound dog, and finally settle down into the comfortable old rocker that has cradled your backside so long it’s become molded to your shape.

You sit. You squint at the sun sinking slowly in the west. Your mind downshifts from high gear, to second gear, to low gear. You ease the throttle back to idle. Slowly, ever so slowly, you begin a small comfortable, almost imperceptible, rocking back and forth. Building gently over a period of minutes, you arrive at the perfect rocking chair rhythm that gentles your brain waves and caresses your whole body into a slow, comfortable cadence that proclaims peace with the world.

Now you’re beginning your porch set.

Etiquette

This is an aspect of porch settin’ that requires judgment and finesse. You’re in your own cocoon. All’s right with the world. How much do you allow the outside world to penetrate your peacefulness without destroying it? Some decisions are easy. A friend cruises by in his truck and honks a friendly “Hello.” Gently you raise your hand and perform a short friendly wave (it’s all in the wrist). Mission accomplished.

What do you do when your bushy-tailed neighbor pops over the hill and says, “Hi! How’s your grass growing this year?” You want to be cordial while conveying the message that you’re in your own mental relaxing-place and intend to stay there. Situations are best handled with one-syllable answers. You say, “Okay.” He replies with, “That’s great! I put Scott’s Weed & Feed & Green & Clean on this spring. It really did a super job!” After a studied silence you reply, “Okay.” If he ventures another attempt to start up a conversation, you wait even longer before saying, “Okay.” By this time, he’ll get the point and turn and walk away.

Situation handled.

Once you’ve mastered these few simple principles, you’re ready to enjoy many years of relaxing, fulfilling, soul-satisfying porch settin’. I could go on and on about refinements to this almost lost art, but I’d be robbing you of valuable time during which you could be out on the porch.

Happy summer.

See ya around,

BUCK

 

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