Janet Combs

Janet Combs

We ought to coax some Colonial-era historical reenactors off the battlefield and onto the front porch in the sweltering heat of a July afternoon —j ust to show us how to survive the summertime here.

Imagine being dressed in heavy floor-length skirts; an itchy, lacy blouse buttoned at your throat — or if you’re a man, wearing essentially the same blouse but with a suffocating waistcoat.

Now step outside onto your front porch and let that moist heat hit you full-on like a massive St. Bernard barreling out of Winyah Bay. Next, try to be polite to each other for a couple of hours.

How ever did the colonists manage it? Which brings me, naturally, to the subject of ceiling fans. Ceiling fans can certainly make a porch enjoyable — or at least tolerable — in the South. I’m sorry the colonists did not have ceiling fans, ice machines, built-in pools or the concept of sleeveless clothing, all of which contribute to making the heat bearable in 2018. But I believe if we were to put on our historical reenactor bonnets for a moment, we might find their endurance of this heat the source of some of the fortitude of the true Southern gentleman and woman.

Folks down here are definitely not whiners or complainers. They are pleasant, even when rivulets of sweat are cascading down their backs. They do not even talk about the heat, treating it as if it’s some ill-mannered relative who showed up uninvited for the month who must be tolerated without judgment or comment. It’s nothing short of perspiring — I mean, inspiring! This historical analysis has been brought to you by the Planet Janet Institute of Imagined History, which focuses entirely on entertainment and not on fact.

But the fact is, all ceiling fans are not alike, and we learned this recently when installing some replacements for the rusted, inoperable ones that hung on our front porch.

My husband has installed probably more than 1,000 ceiling fans, so he does not read the directions. He knows intuitively how the bracket thing mounts to the ceiling, how the blades are attached, and how the light kit is fitted on at the end. We bought our fans on sale, of course, and there is nothing wrong with that — indeed, thrifty colonists would definitely approve.

But with this particular brand, it was if the company’s fan-packers were early primates, such as tree shrews, dexterous with their fingers but pretty inept in the sorting tasks.

Here’s what we encountered — all of the screws were matte black, in separate sealed bags with no numbers or letters on them. This tricked us into thinking that when we opened them, we would be able to identify them by size and assign them to their various blade-holding or ceiling-mounting purpose, but no! Each bag held assorted sizes and numbers of matte black screws. We had no choice but to go to the instructions, which were evidently translated into English and included helpful hints such as “Try the four if you please to make more tightly.”

Also, it was early morning when we started the project, but the sun and the heat amplified as we sorted screws, turning us into irritated, sweaty colonists. The good news is that once we figured out the first fan, installing the second one went much faster.

Now we can’t stop commenting on how pleasant it is to sit on our front porch under the ceiling fans, which move the moist heat around so it’s like taking a hot springs bath fully clothed. I like to think we’re soaking in the strength of the Southern colonists. All in all, it’s like a trip back in time when life was slower, but just as dang hot.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Contact her at  https://janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com/.