This is Judy’s porch. Her son Jimmy (pictured holding a chainsaw and not to be confused with the actor) is quite the character. The 20-year-old, whose ear-to-ear smile lacks two front teeth, won my admiration when he approached Aida from behind and told her he had a present for her — it was a dead snake that he held up to her face, and she shrieked like a banchee and almost pummeled him with the shovel she was holding.

Speaking of snakes, I neglected to tell you all that my very first day on the job, I thought someone was going to die. A moment after having a conversation about the danger of copperheads, rattle snakes, and brown recluses, one of the chaperones on the trip felt a sharp poke on his foot and thought a snake had bitten him. He kept his cool, and we made a tourniquet that we hoped would save his life. Between his bad circulation, our haphazard life-saving device, and our hysteria, we could not decipher whether his foot was changing colors. After a 911 call, checking in with the national poison control hotline, and an ambulance ride that he thought he didn’t need in the first place, the conclusion was that there was no bite after all. Talk about a crazy first day!

It took three weeks for the porch to be completed. The old one, which was sinking terribly and had termite damage, had to be torn apart.

And fun fact! The porch was built over a natural spring. Don’t ask why. A couple tons of gravel and a drainage system later, it became possible to build a stronger foundation.