Porches are important to me. I like a front porch. I like MY front porch. In dense urban communities, and as in old cabins, they are called stoops, which are steps entering the dwelling. Having lived in both rural and urban communities, I have grown to appreciate the opportunity to watch the world pass by, share stories and learn about people and their cultures. It seems kind of rare today, sitting on stoops and porches.
For thirteen years, I lived in a neighborhood of Philadelphia where people stopped sitting on their stoops and porches. It was hot in the summer, and air conditioning provided relief and comfort. In nearby neighborhoods, no one wanted to be shot in a drive-by while sitting on their stoop. I once visited an older friend at his luxurious apartment above the funeral home he owned and operated in what some would call a “ghetto.” I sat on his couch. “I wouldn’t sit there if I were you, Nathan.” He commanded with a grin. “Why not?” I asked, having failed perceptual acuity 101 (I had not looked at my surroundings before sitting down). “There is a bullet hole where your head is. Came through the window yesterday.” I jumped to a chair. He laughed.
I grew up in rural and mountain communities of North Carolina in the ’50s and ’60s. And people began to move indoors there also. Traffic increased and the dust from the dirt road became unbearable. Better to be inside than to choke on the dust of rude drivers who thought it was more important to roll up their windows, enjoy the portable air-conditioning and purified air of their vehicle than be a good neighbor, smell the fresh air, and slow the pace of life down. It also got hot in the summers. We, too, bought a window air conditioning unit, even though we would have preferred to open our windows.
Porch-sitting had advantages–like helping newcomers size up their neighbors, and vice-versa. “Don’t be awalkin’ up in hya and knockin’ on ma doo, ifin you don know me. Doncha know ereyone got a gun. You mite git shot!” They would advise an unwelcome neighbor or stranger. If someone was on their porch you could say hello as you walked by to see how friendly they were. If they were reasonably friendly, they might just invite you up for a short conversation. And if they offered you iced tea, you could stay a while. “Well, ah reckon, time to git ready fo prayer meetin.” was the signal the conversation was over, whether there was a prayer meeting or not.
In 2016, I retired from my teaching position in Philadelphia and wanted a restoration ‘project’ to focus on in retirement. I had just spent 12 years restoring an old mansion in the historic West Germantown section of Philadelphia and yearned for a similar project. I love western North Carolina. I met my lovely wife Vickie in Black Mountain, NC, and we married soon after high school there. From Philadelphia, I joined Zillow and began looking for a cabin in the area. I found 482 Pheasant in Riverbend. The cabin had over 1500 saved views. It was on the market for over one and a half years. “Own a piece of history” the listing said. There had to be a reason for that.
I couldn’t get a local agent to return my calls, so I finally called a long-time friend from Black Mountain to represent me. It was all I wanted in a project. Vickie, who swore she would not live in the cold mountains again and wanted us to move to near Charleston, called it a House of Cards with all the expense and trouble represented in the movie, The Money Pit. After my inspection, I sent photos to the agent and soon signed a contract much below asking price. There was much work to be done. We also bought a place in Mount Pleasant, S.C. Vickie is happy. I’m happy.
I have worked on the cabin for almost two and one-half years, with help from Vickie, friends, and family. The first thing I did, and what would cost me the most money, was to hire a contractor to reroof the cabin and add a front porch. Getting three quotes was a challenge. I learned quickly, or I forgot, that mountain people don’t always show up – for whatever reason. And forgive my french, but you can’t do merde if you don’t show up. I found a great group of rednecks (they called themselves that) from Forest City who built a solid porch and added a roof. I am sitting on that very porch writing this article, looking out on a beautiful spring yard, cleared of a half acre of wisteria and scrub brush (thank you Jamie), waving at the neighbors who drive by slowly, and who occasionally stop and talk from their cars or while on their walks, and breathing fresh air. With me on the porch, and guarding it all, is my dogson Zulu. More on him later. For today, all is at peace with the world in Riverbend at 482 Pheasant, on my front porch.
Thanks to Julia Parsell for inviting me to share about the cabin restoration. For photos and short stories feel free to follow my FaceBook Page @stagecoachcabin.