My husband Arnie and I had started house hunting one month earlier, but saw nothing that felt right for us. When we drove out to the countryside to visit an old brick farmhouse by a small river, that changed. From the first moment I felt captivated, even though it needed much professional remodeling. Something about the place made me feel at home. After touring the house, our realtor took us out to a red barn on the backside of the property. Studying the barn’s layout, Arnie said, “The partial wall near the doorway would make a great place for a work bench.”
Buying the house was all we could afford at first. Any thoughts about remodeling were set aside for the distant future. Painting some of the walls and buying a few yards of pretty fabric remnants to make curtains, was all we could afford. While I worked at branding our home with my signature style, Arnie was doing the same thing outside, only in a man’s way. He set to work building his red barn work bench shortly after we moved in on the 3rd of October.
The chill of winter soon set in and the workbench in the barn quickly lost its appeal behind drifts of snow, which made it hard for Arnie to even get to it.
During January, the warmth of our wood-furnace-heated basement made Arnie eye-up a stone wall between the furnace area and my washer, dryer, canning shelves and freezer area. For this new work bench, he salvaged two display tables from Marshfield’s downtown J.C. Penney store’s closing. He put one on top of the other and laid down a sturdy board work surface.
The small white garage at the end of our driveway had suffered a small amount of fire damage before we’d bought the property. When spring arrived, Arnie went out to fix it. He lined the walls with boards from an old house, then installed a work bench in front of where my car parked. Next, he hung used kitchen cabinets on each side of the window. Hooks to hold rakes, hoes and shovels lined the walls.
Years passed and we finally began remodeling the house, which we discovered had never been insulated. The first room we worked on was the children’s bedroom. The kitchen, dining and living rooms followed slowly.
Our daughters were starting high school by the time Arnie decided he needed more storage space. When he found a Quonset building someone didn’t want, he took it apart, brought it home and put it up. One day when supper was ready, I went out to find him. He was building a work bench in the Quonset building. I gave him a look that said, “Another workshop?”.
Interpreting “the look”, Arnie explained defensively, “This is my welding work shop.”
Our youngest daughter was in college when Arnie decided to put up a large pole building in our yard. One Friday night I arrived home with our college girl and found Arnie tending tall, leaping flames where the small white garage had once been.
Noticing our latest building project, a neighbor quipped, “Why don’t you put a roof over your entire property while you’re at it?”
The new shed is where Arnie built his fifth work bench. It was the biggest, best equipped work bench of all that he had made up to this point. It has a heavy-duty vice and shelves installed nearby to store his drills, saws and other hand tools. A rack on one wall is for nut and bolt storage. A table saw sits in the middle of the shop.
After my husband passed away ten years ago, I charged myself with the task of sorting and eliminating clutter Arnie had left behind on his work benches and in the sheds. Since then, I occasionally use the work bench in the basement and the big one in the shed for craft and repair projects.
Tammie, my youngest daughter, who lives in the Twin Cities has been looking for a small house to buy for the past year. When she first started her search, she said to me, “I want to quit paying rent.” Last month she finally found a house that fits all of her criteria. It is small, has very little lawn to care for, has no carpeting and was built in the early 1900’s. She put in an offer that was accepted.
Tammie sent me pictures of the house via Facebook. Together, we took a virtual tour of her new home. We studied the siding and flowerbeds. We counted cupboards, shelves and electric outlets in the living, dining, kitchen, bath and bedroom.
After making a second visit to the house, Tammie’s pictures of the two-room basement made me exclaim, “Oh, look at that! Daddy’s already been at your house! He’s left his signature.” A small work bench was nestled next to a window with a peg board wall for hanging tools.