A Front Porch Education

Oh, how I remember the days where people sat on a front porch and watched the world go by. The latest generation has no idea of what it means to sit and talk about issues facing our country with grandparents or a neighbor. The front porch used to be an educational platform where you learned the opinions of others (usually the elderly) and how they would do things if they were running for mayor, judge or even President. You were exposed to practical thinking and common sense that has been totally lost in today’s society. You were exposed to the facts of life and how you should act. Everything Mr. Jones said was so profound and accurate. He gave great life advice while pushing his viewpoints on all sorts of topics.

I had the pleasure and fortune to have Mr. Jones as a neighbor who lived across the street from our house just north of my hometown. We lived out in the country and the Jones family lived across the street. Mr. Jones, as I called him, was a kind old soul who had a huge garden and a few cows to keep him busy. He allowed me and my younger brother to fish his two stock ponds as often as we wanted. We spent many a day fishing those ponds and roaming his pasture while sharing some good times with one of his grandsons who lived just down the road.

Our conversations were always enlightening as Mr. Jones would rehash the day’s news and give his perspective on what our world was coming to. He was a staunch Republican who loved his country and did not like where it was headed. We talked about the Vietnam War, and he shared his feelings on how it was a war we would never win. We talked about cattle prices and how great his garden was doing. He talked about local politics and his dissatisfaction on how they were running things. He was also a big Texas Ranger fan and loved to talk baseball with me.

But the one thing he truly cared about was his local high school….the Mt. Pleasant Tigers and their sports teams. He was so excited and loved to rehash our Tiger football games and discuss the good and the bad from the previous game along with my quarterback play. He was a stats geek and could tell you how many yards I threw and ran for each week. He knew my punting average and had a firm grasp on the number of injuries our team was dealing with. He was always so positive and believed in me as an athlete and had a profound influence on enhancing my confidence.

Then the day came that I would no longer get to sit down with him and hear his stories or his opinions. Mr. Jones passed away a few years after I left for college, and I really missed my times with him as he was a huge fan of mine and always had good words of encouragement no matter how bad or how good I played. He was my one constant reminder of how to keep things in perspective. Nothing was ever as good or as bad as it seemed at the time it occurred. But the one thing I always remembered were these words as I walked off his front porch…. ”Remember Steve, you’re only as good as your last play.” He was the first person I ever heard that quote from.

Mr. Jones was a man who had a wealth of knowledge and was willing to share it with anyone who set foot on his front porch. There, he taught me how to use and catch fish with Catawba worms. I even made some good pocket change on his front porch as he would pay me a penny for every fly I destroyed with one of his flyswatters or rolled up newspapers.

Front porch lectures have disappeared from the American landscape, and I hate that for future generations. Because the things I learned on that front porch are things you can’t learn from a book.

Till next time good luck, good fishing and find a front porch and spend some quality time with an elderly person like a grandparent or a neighbor and pay attention, as you just might learn something!

Steve Graf