I was talking with an old-time backwoods country friend of mine the other day. We weren’t two minutes together and we started telling “one-up’m” stories. These are stories where simple country folk explain how their life was either better or worse than the other. The story I told my friend is one I like to call “The Redneck Patio”. Not a long story but, a simple story.
Picture if you will, the 1970’s, in the upper portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan. Think about a small 1200 square foot shack style never quite finished home. This home had two tiny bedrooms, a tiny kitchen, and a medium-sized living room. Needless to say, this tiny home could get crowded real quick. Especially, with a family the size of mine. Most of the time it was just four of us in the home; Mom, Dad, my Brother, and I. However, when all the family was around, the group could grow from four to twenty real quick-like.
In the summertime, unlike many families today, my family would spend most of the day outside. In all actuality, the house was a place to sleep and enjoy indoor plumbing; after we shut down the outhouse and finished the indoor plumbing, of course. I recall one summer afternoon, as my family sat out on the homemade picnic table my Dad came to this conclusion. He mentioned to Ma, “Ma, we don’t have a very good sittin’ area out here. For Pete’s sake, all we have is this six-person picnic table. What do you think about making a patio out front under those tall red pine trees? Always a good breeze coming through there.” She said, “Good Idea, Pa”.
The next day, Dad, my Brother, and I headed straight away to the local junkyard. This junkyard always had a bunch of half-stripped big old hulks of American steel just waiting to be parted out, on the cheap. We had been to this junkyard many times, however, today we are not looking for parts to keep our car running. No, we are looking for patio furniture. It doesn’t take long for my Dad to find two stripped out sixty-something Buick Riviera’s. Dad looked them over and saw the seats of these cars were in pristine condition. He talked with the owner of the junkyard and they agreed on a price of 50 dollars for the four front seats and two six-foot-long rear bench seats.
After Dad paid, he said, “Boys, I am heading back out to the Buicks. You two go get the tools.” My Brother and I headed quickly to the truck and retrieved the tools. I was fairly young at the time, I think about 8 or 9 years old. So, my Dad and Brother did most of the work removing the seats. In no time, the seats were out and tied down securely with old rubber bungee straps for the short trip back to the house.
Once we arrived back at our house, Dad went out by the tall stand of red pine trees located about 100 feet from the front door of our house. He sized things up a bit, then decided on a particular area for the “redneck patio”. I remember helping my Dad pull those blue vinyl General Motors American made beauties from the back of the truck, and place them ever so gently on the 2×8 pine lumber platforms my Dad had built the evening before. Today, I think to myself, “The Lazy Boy furniture I have owned in my adult life had nothing on that redneck GM patio furniture.”
With the furniture expertly arranged and tied down, my Dad said, “Now for the electricity.” I remember my Dad digging a 6 inch wide and 18-inch deep trench from the house, near the fuse box, to a spot on the patio next to his chair. In the trench, my Dad placed a piece of Romex that went from the electrical panel to a 4 outlet electrical box, attached to a 4×4 post my Dad had placed in the ground, next to his chair.
My Dad was quite proud of his patio set. As he looked around he noticed something. He said, “I need to figure out a way to keep the electric box from getting wet.” I watched him closely as he nailed a 2-inch thick 8×8 piece of pine lumber onto the in-ground 4×4 the electrical box was attached to. Then he went to our old dilapidated garage and pulled out an old pair of fishing waders. I think he grabbed my Mom’s pinking shears from the house, to add a little design, and began to cut an 8 inch wide and 32-inch long piece out of the waders. He then attached the waterproof piece of material to the board onto the in-ground wooden 4×4 that was next to his chair. Problem solved.
I recall many, many, good times we had those summers on our redneck patio. I loved sitting out there in the evening listening to the song “Rednecks, White Socks, and Blue Ribbon Beer” over and over on a busted, single track playing, 8-track player with old wood speakers. Man those were good times!