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Publisher’s Letter: Overkill

Ashley Sexton Gordon. Photo by Jeannie Frey Rhodes.

Porches are an extremely personal thing around here. That’s the best explanation I have for the incident, given the benefit of time and reflective consideration. Things happen on porches. Important things like family photos, and first kisses, and the pitter pat of grandchildren’s young feet along the floorboards.

So when the front porch was ripped off of my mother’s house, we should have known that it might shift the universe just a bit, if only for a little while. Front porches aren’t meant to come off. No more than noses are designed to be plucked from a lady’s face. It’s the equivalent of an undressing, in a brutal way, and—I don’t know about your family, but in my family—we’d just as soon you keep your drawers on. Company may come calling.

Because everything wooden eventually rots in south Louisiana (check your windows) the 33-year-old porch was ripped off the front of my mother’s house to be reconstructed. I call it my mother’s house—even though my father lives there, too—because it’s my mother’s house. I don’t have the words to explain that any better. The deconstruction left churned-up dirt from the edge of the landscaping to the French doors that line the front of the home. Makeshift beams stood in place of pillars and kept the overhang from crashing down during the waiting stage.

“What a mess,” I said, peering through the front door with my dad one late Saturday afternoon. At that moment, three armadillos came out of a hole formerly concealed by the porch and started rutting around. We hate armadillos.

“I got this,” said Dad, as he disappeared to the back of the house. I was pretty sure he wasn’t calling Animal Control.

Let me be clear. My parents do not live in the country. Not even close. They have property owner’s dues and speed cameras monitoring their drive in the neighborhood. They’ve got regulations that ensure that whatever they build once they reconstruct the porch is in keeping with the charm of the neighborhood. Bare truth: You can’t do what you want around here, just because you want to do it.

Another bare truth: My dad is a country boy from north Louisiana, and he usually does what he wants.

“That’s a pellet gun, isn’t it?” my mom asked, crossing paths with Dad as she and I walked to her screened-in porch out back. Yes, yes, a pellet gun, he agreed without checking up enough to be inspected. Mom went on talking about how crazy he was and how he can’t be trusted and he has no boundaries for himself. Some of this is true.

But armadillos have been digging up her gardens for years—rose bushes and caladiums and impatiens and I don’t know what. This woman knows the scientific names of most of the plants, and she spends hours tending the gardens herself. If you are over for an afternoon, she likes to walk you around and show you how things are growing.

So when Dad marched to the front with a pellet gun, Mom knew he was wrong, but she was willing to look the other way on account of armadillos are nasty and they’ve cost her a lot of money.

Then the air exploded like Dad murdered someone in the front yard, and we might need to help him drag the body inside.

“That. Was. Not. A. Pellet. Gun.” she said, eyes boring into me with disbelief. Mom then sprang up off her chair and, on her way to the front, said a couple things her church ladies might not be proud of but would definitely agree with.

Dad used a 20-gauge shotgun to kill an armadillo in the space where the front porch used to stand. His only regret was that he didn’t wait until all three were out of the hole so he could have shot them 1-2-3 before my mother rounded the corner. But my mother rounded the corner. And his only response was “Got ’em.”

Sometimes front porches should not come off. That’s the bare truth here. And sometimes, most of the time, country boys shouldn’t live within firing distance of a country club.