Job Well Done

The ugly green thing witnessed it all.
Job Well Done

August 1957 found me watching my first rodeo in the western Illinois village of New Windsor. Little did I know that later, as a young married couple, my wife and I would return and buy an old two-story home there.

The home came with friendly neighbors, drafty windows and an ugly swing hanging on the front porch. It was a faded lime green, with peeling paint and cracked slats in the back. Every eyebolt holding it together was covered with a gob of rust. Thinking that we knew what we were doing, we foolishly agreed that the swing was one of the first things we’d replace. God must have chuckled because we really didn’t know what was to come. We moved into that house with an 8-month-old baby, and we stayed long enough for five of our grandchildren to enjoy that swing.

The swing felt the growing weight as the baby became a little boy who sat and played there with his white-pawed cat. The swing was there when that little boy became a young man, standing proudly in his high school graduation robes.

It swayed gently as I yelled at his younger brother, pedaling Hot Wheels up and down the porch, crashing into anyone in his way. It didn’t flinch at the sounds of his first car, at the noise of a V-8 engine rumbling in the driveway.

It held steady when a little girl joined our family, her giggles echoing across the porch as she cuddled with Raggedy Ann on its seat. Maybe that ugly swing even got a little misty-eyed when that little girl became a young woman, and her prom date replaced her dolls in the pictures we took on the porch.

That porch heard my dad talk about the price of corn and my grandfather talk about the big snows of ’36. It saw me hurrying down the porch steps to run to the grocery for more food—lots more food—as our children became teenagers with teenage friends and a seemingly endless ability to eat.

That swing saw more than just our family. It faced the street, the same street that came alive every August when the New Windsor Fair and Rodeo kicked off with a parade. Overnight, a village of a few hundred people expanded to host several thousand who flocked to see the annual parade, queen contest and rodeo festivities.

Being on the parade route meant our porch came alive, becoming a magnet for friends and relatives and busyness for the afternoon. The kids and I rushed to set up tables and chairs while the smell of fudge brownies drifted through the screens as my wife baked in the kitchen.

In later years, I suspect that porch must have wondered how our little grandchildren slept in their mom’s arms despite the high school band marching by and the slicked-up tractors and bulky grain wagons rumbling past. The old men waved to the crowd as they showed off their restored antique tractors; the new tractors that followed dwarfed them in size.

At the tail end of the parade, after the little girls showing off their tumbling routines and the green and red tractors, the horses came. The parade planners knew that handsprings and horse apples don’t mix.

Everyone stood, the porch swing getting a lot lighter, as we went to the railing for a better look at one particular horse and buggy as it came rolling down the street. When our kids were little, they’d rush to the street to yell and wave at their grandpa, my father-in-law. They were so impressed as he rolled by, waving and grinning.

I’m sure the porch swing saw plenty of changes over the years: some good, some bad. The old rusty hardware was eventually replaced, and the original green paint disappeared under a fresh coat.

Slowly, over time, the crowd watching the parade shrank. First the grandparents were no longer there, then our parents. Even the kids drifted away to new jobs and homes in other states. There were occasional spurts of activity when one of the kids came to visit for a day or two, and the porch thundered again with the pounding feet of running grandchildren. But slowly the porch grew still, and the swing only drifted when the wind gave it a gentle nudge.

Finally, the day came when we realized it was time to leave a home with too many stairs, too many empty bedrooms—and a too-quiet porch. The real estate agent came, the house was sold to a nice young couple, and we packed our memories. The last thing we saw as we drove away was that porch swing. I thought I heard it say, “Job well done.”