The Shop

In or around 1988, dad acquired a parcel of land from his folks. At this time, he built the first shop that his business, Wagoner & Sons Concrete, would ever own. Before this time, the company had rented shop space from one of the local landlords/business owners in town.

What started as a humble, in-ground warehouse space became the center of the universe for the business and the family. This was quickly followed up in 1991 with the construction of a brand new home, and life as we all knew it had begun in earnest.

Although I was just a child when this all started, I have since seen the inevitable expansion and contraction of what dad envisioned. Throughout the years, as our needs progressed, so too, did our usage of this space. No one may have known it by looking at him, but dad was a pack rat of sorts. Beneath this stoic exterior and quiet composure were a man who saw the need to save every little nut and bolt, just in case.

Upon the occasion of dad’s passing in February of 2022, I began to work my way through the piles of accumulated items. Every little piece of “just in case” added up to months of working alone in this space, communing with the dead, and laughing with him in his passing. He wasn’t here anymore, but he was chuckling as I was cussing at the number of duplicates there were of literally everything.

As with so much of what we collectively did throughout the years, this was a labor of love. It was the practical housekeeping that should have been done for decades but the day-to-day business forbade it from ever happening. All in the space of a couple of months.

At the same time I was performing this particular exorcism, I had to be the one to tidy up the last of the business concerns and prepare to close the doors to the public, so to speak. This involved a fire sale on everything not bolted down, and once I had taken up the bolts, all of that stuff too. For anyone who was a witness to this, it might have looked like I was a man possessed because I genuinely was.

The businesses were dad’s pride and joy, but they were the crushing weight of reality to me. I looked at these backbreaking, life-stealing businesses and saw my future. It looked vaguely familiar to dad’s, including an abrupt end which was almost certainly caused by the thing he loved so much. I couldn’t get rid of all of this fast enough, and it was mine alone to deal with.

Everyone had their opinions on what to do with everything. That ranged from like minds who said “none of this stuff matters” to those who would have had me keep every single rusty screw, the businesses, and the aforementioned crippling reality they held over me. But there was no negotiating with me. My task was set, and by the end of 2022, it was sufficiently completed.

Like so much of life’s garbage, it went straight to the dumpster. The more I released, the more it released me, and I began to see a beautiful canvas upon which to work. It was only after several months of screaming at the walls and filling the dumpster that I could see the artistry that dad had to bury with over 30 years of operating a business. The care that was taken to put this whole building together, and the modern touches that the Sons in Wagoner & Sons forced into being.

For 30 years of this building’s existence, it didn’t have a floor. The cobbler’s son had no shoes, and the concrete guy’s sons had a dirt fucking floor in their shop. By 2018 when I said “We aren’t negotiating, I’ve already ordered the concrete.” the floor was basically made of stone anyway since our crew had used it as a litter box for decades. But within a week’s time, between decision, execution, and drunken celebration, we had a floor. A red floor with a black patch because Josh got especially shit-faced and went haywire with the black cast-on color. He was a bit of a black sheep, so this was apropos.

But we all did that together. It is a memory I can hold onto fondly for all my days. To see dad impressed by our resolve, and to help him get something he needed for all that time and just put it off to provide. This was a glimpse into the man. His comfort was not important when weighed against ours.

Shortly after that, we invested in insulation for the roof and a garage heater, and suddenly we had a space that would stand the elements fairly well. It was still a filthy shop space, but I began to introduce elements of comfort to it in an effort to give dad a place to reset and relax after his long days. Then we got to work doing what we always did, pushing a boulder the size of the moon up a hill.

Dad and I had finally reached a point where we understood one another as men and we both worked damn hard to achieve that goal. Naturally, it was shortly after this hard-fought ease that we lost him. But that bell had been rung, and we had no stones left to turn with one another. Peace was swift in the aftermath, and he helped me clean up his clutter with an unseen smile and his trademark silence.

The walls of the Shop stand to this day as a testament to the man who put them there, and they’ll be brought to life by the only caretaker left to see to it. Dad always told me to do what I want to do, whatever makes me happy. 

The Shop makes me happy because it will be whatever I want it to be, just like the man who built it.

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