We needed it. Well, at least I thought we did. We needed a place to park my truck, and more storage space for yard equipment, tools and stuff. But, in the back of my mind, I saw the garage as something else; my version of a man cave. But it has turned into something else.
I put Pa’s big, old TV out into the garage. It’s even hooked up to cable. But now it’s more likely to be tuned to the Cartoon Network than ESPN. There are kid’s bicycles and scooters beside it, leaning against the wall. There are animal crackers in a jar beside the refrigerator. The storage closet underneath the stairs is filled with balls and toys. It’s not the man cave I envisioned. The grandkids have taken over.
But it’s more than just a man cave, garage, and kid’s play building. It’s the stuff that is in the building. There’s that ECU flag hanging on the back wall. Since graduating from East Carolina many years ago, attending ECU sporting events has been a part of my life. There’s even a small pirate ship sitting on top of the old console TV in the garage. The flag and the ship also remind me of the many times I went to those games with my late friend, Dale Denning, and learned, “It ain’t easy being a Pirate!”
On the wall of the garage is another reminder of Dale. He was with me when I got a hole in one playing golf back in 1992. The hole in one plaque on the wall reminds me once again that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. The hole in one came on a day when I was playing with Dale, who was a CPA, and the minister at our church. So, having a CPA and a minister as witnesses, it has to be legitimate. Speaking of golf, there’s a tee box marker from the 15th hole of a golf course near Laurinburg. I’m not sure how I ended up with that.
There are other items in the garage that have more meaning than the ECU and golf stuff. An old two-man cross cut saw hangs on the back wall. I found it hanging in the top of the shed behind Terri’s mother’s house. I sanded off the rust and cleaned it up. We think it was Terri’s grandfather’s saw.
There are also the items in the garage that remind me of my father, L.F. McPhail, who passed away six years ago this month. Why? Because many of them used to be his. Many of the hammers, saws and other tools have a dab of green paint on them. That was how he could identify his tools, which seemed to be always wandering off. He built the work bench where most of those tools now reside. The work bench is on rollers, so after the garage was built, I just rolled it out of his barn, onto a trailer, and brought it here.
On the wall, there’s an old Smith-Douglass thermometer. Daddy worked years selling Smith Douglass fertilizer. I spent many days at Lee’s Planter’s Warehouse in Dunn helping and working, either with tobacco, cucumbers or with fertilizer. And on the opposite wall, there’s a poster advertising Community Tobacco Warehouse. After being in the tobacco warehouse business for years, my father co-owned and operated Community Tobacco Warehouse in Dunn.
There’s one more reminder hanging up on the wall in the garage that reminds me of those days working in tobacco. It’s a tobacco transplanter. (At least, that’s what we called it.) It was a device used to reset tobacco plants after the crop had been planted. It was basically two funnels, one large and one smaller. The larger funnel would hold water, and you would drop the tobacco plant down the smaller funnel. You would stick the transplanter in the ground, release the plant and water, and reset the tobacco plant. Being a little fellow, I would usually walk along with Daddy, up and down the rows of tobacco, and would drop the plants, while he would operate the transplanter. I found the old rusted transplanter in the barn at Daddy’s, spent hours sanding the rust off of it, and covering it with clear-coat sealant.
A new addition is the storage closet I got this year. Daddy had built two of them for his sister, Martha and Uncle Clifford, to go in their garage. One had “his” imprinted on it, and the other had “hers.” After their passing, my cousin, Cliff, gave me one of them. Now it has found its place in the garage.
So the garage that I envisioned to be a “man cave” didn’t quite turn out that way. But as I watch grandkids pounding nails into scrap lumber on my father’s old workbench, I realize that’s okay. Because it’s my life.
Mac McPhail is a longtime columnist with The Sampson Independent.