When I visited them, I slept in a fold-up Murphy bed in their room. The bed had a straw-filled mattress and when the bed was folded up, it had a curtain around it so it didn’t look like a bed. Their bed was across the room and beside their bed was a long window that went almost to the floor. I remember being afraid of the unknown things that might be lurking on the front porch looking in that window. A big fireplace with two small windows on each side filled most of one side of that room. Then there was a door that opened onto the front hall and another door opened into their dining room. In the center of that big room was a library table with an Aladdin lamp for them to read or sew by.
Never in my life, in any other place have I felt so safe. The little puff sound that Ma made when she snored in her sleep was so reassuring.
I would hear Pa get up in the night to put a log on the fire and I knew all was well.
Though I felt safe in that old house, I always worried that some day, something bad might come through that window and sure enough, we had a real scare one night. Pa heard old Buck, the big dog that never could decide whether he lived with Ma and Pa or with my family, two miles away. He often spent the night on the front porch in summer. Pa heard Buck fighting with another dog so he told Ma and me to go out into the hall, which had no windows, and he took down his shotgun and slipped out the hall front door onto the porch. He said to my grandmother, “Sally, don’t open that door, no matter what you hear, unless I tell you to”. The dogfight raged for several minutes and finally, all was quiet. Pa told Ma to open the door and he came back in to tell us that the dog was a mad dog and had finally run away and Buck was still on the porch. Pa watched from the window until Buck left and then he called my folks to tell them that a mad dog was coming their way. However, the dog didn’t turn off at our lane but kept going. Buck showed up at our house shortly and Daddy looked him over for mortal wounds and fastened him up in a shed. Since it was dangerous to have a dog that had been bitten by a mad dog, Daddy kept watch for 40 days as the veterinarian told him to do. He cut a little window in the door to the shed and every morning, he would take a look at Buck, wagging his tail, and he would let him out for a run and to eat and put him back in the shed. He did the same thing in the evening. Buck never went mad but that dog went on to the next little group of stores and homes and did bite some animals that went mad later.
In talking with Pa years later about the dog incident, he said that the window was very old and not able to withstand much pressure and he was afraid the dogs would come crashing through into their room if he didn’t go out to shoot the other dog but he could never get a clear shot for fear of hurting Buck.
That old front porch was the scene of many family visits, much laughter and even served as a sleeping porch a few times over the years. The house was built on a hill with another hill opposite with a road in the valley so there was a good breeze most of the time. Pa loved to sit out on the porch and listen to night sounds, the bobcats or night birds or sometimes, foxes. Pa kept an old folding army cot on the porch and on very hot nights, he would sometimes sleep a few hours on that cot.
There was a very deep well at the bottom of the hill, next to the road, and that is where Ma kept a long tin bucket of milk for supper. It is also where Pa would drop down, on a rope, a couple of bottles of his “home brew”, which he would draw up as he came home from the field in the evening. Then he would sit on the porch floor, lean back on a post and drink a cool brew. That was the extent of Pa’s imbibing.
Ma loved to sit on that old porch in her swing. There was just room for Ma and me and how I loved to sit with her. She often told me stories of her childhood and her life as a young married woman in that same old house. Until she and Pa married, she lived a couple of miles away with her parents and their big family. Those stories are important to me now because I understand what made her the beautiful person that she was.
Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or comments.