For many Texans, a screened sleeping porch is an essential part
of small town and rural home life. All that’s really necessary to
hasten a quick porch nap is the numbing rasp of the cicada bugs and
the rhythmic panting of a yard dog sprawled out under the front
steps. Call it rural Prozac.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents
in the town of George West, Texas. My grandfather was a diehard
porch napper. During the hottest days of the summer, long after the
whole house had been air-conditioned to near-Minnesota extremes,
you could always find him after lunch stretched out on the little
twin bed on the screen porch. I’d stare out at him from inside the
house and shake my head in dismay. Who in their right mind would
prefer ‘natural’ Texas heat over the cool blasts from a window unit
the size of a washing machine? When I’d ask my grandmother why he
didn’t just stay inside, she’d shrug nonchalantly and smile, ‘I
‘spect he just likes it that way.’
One day after lunch, I decided to study Granddad during his
siesta. At first, he lay there motionless; then after a time he
picked up the front page of the San Antonio Express off
the floor. Gazing at the paper for a moment or two, he quickly
tossed it aside — nothing of interest. He lay there a bit longer,
then suddenly jumped with a start and scooted over to the far side
of the porch to assess the sky. After some deep scrutiny, he
returned to bed, exhaling sharply.
A minute or two later, he went to the screen door and spit. Back
to bed. Several minutes later he looked up to see what the fat
grackle on the lawn was complaining about. Back to bed. Soon after
that he reached into his khakis, pulled out his pocketknife, and
began trying to dislodge a thorn in his toe. Job done, back to bed.
And on and on it went for the next half hour or so.
What I began to realize about Granddad’s desire for open-air
napping was that for him, even when you’re resting outdoors, you’re
doing something! You’re never out of touch with your surroundings.
A neighbor drives by in a new car; you make a note. Smell smoke
coming from somewhere; log it in. Cat and dog fighting next door;
mental memo. Pyracantha bushes need watering; tell Grandmother.
Granddad was an old cowboy who dropped out of school in the
seventh grade to work on the big ranches gathering wild horses. I
suspect that as he got older, sleeping on the porch became the next
best thing to lying on a bedroll by a campfire. It connected him to
Come next August, I’m not sure you’ll find me lounging through
sweltering afternoons on any gabled porticoes. Heat and me stopped
being agreeable years ago. I must confess, however, that I have
given serious thought to dragging the bed out on the lawn some
night so I can look up at the stars, smell the moon vines, and gaze
at the bats zinging off the satellite dish. If you happen to see me
out there, be sure and honk. I’ll make a note of it.
William Jack Sibley’s first novel, Any Kind of Luck,
was a finalist for the 2002 John Bloom Humor Award given by the
Texas Institute of Letters. From Texas Co-op Power (June
2003), a magazine about Texas living — its people, history,
travel, and food — that has been delivered for six decades to
member-owners of Texas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. Subscriptions:
$15/yr. (12 issues) from Subscription Dept., 2550 S. IH-35, Austin,