To The Man-Cave!

by Celia Hayes

We took the opportunity, this last rainy weekend, for a quick jaunt through Bussey's Flea Market, thinking that with the rain and the cold, that there might be bargains to be found, and so there were. Bussey's is a half-acre ramble of sheds and covered tables, on IH-35 North; if you get off at Wiederstein, just trundle along the access road until you see the giant concrete armadillo. This is possibly the only armadillo in Texas which is not dead in the middle of the road, but it should be easy enough to recognize. Anyway, we are terribly fond of Bussey's as many of the vendors are permanent fixtures. Lamentably, a fair number of them know what they have and exactly how much to charge for it: the bargains are most usually to be had from the people who have a table or a booth for the weekend and just want to get rid of stuff.

This bit of wisdom I had from my Dad, who adored cruising swap-meets; yes, a guy who loved shopping. Never mind that Dad preferred tools, electronics, greasy old unidentifiable car parts, bits of military arcana ... the principle remained the same. The best bargains are had from those who have no idea about what it is they are selling ... and Dad had a garage full of such bargains. Dad actually had a fully-functioning man-cave before anyone had even defined the concept. Dad's man-cave was neatly organized and a workshop, rather than a setting for socializing with other guys, or for relaxing and recreating ... unless your definition of relaxing and recreating includes rehabbing elderly motor-vehicles, building replica Mission-style furniture, or pounding out a wrought-iron 10-armed candelabra to hold real wax candles the size of a cow femur.

From childhood, I was acquainted with the man-cave concept; the place that Dad had as his own bit-o-turf, the place where he had his tool collection, the spare parts for the various cars, the place where his radio blared the talk-radio station as he worked at building and fixing stuff. This was guy-land, which Dad was free to arrange and decorate as he pleased ...or not. Dad pleased mostly to 'not', although certain bits of furniture and items of decor surplus to the needs of the house gravitated there – and we spotted some items at Bussey's that would have suited Dads' cave.

As we walk the dogs around our Northeast San Antonio neighborhood, we see similar man-caves: usually situated in the garage, plain to be seen, with the garage door open and all. I am sure there are others: sheds and dens, those places that a man with a wife and a family is pleased to call his own turf, his own place. Of those which are open to view, some have pool and game tables, along with the tool-bench. They have comfortable chairs, sometimes television sets, neon signs original intended to advertise beer. Indeed, a man-cave owned by the husband of a friend of mine had his home beer-making utensils in the garage, which made it handy when entertaining. Some dens are decorated with sports trophies, posters of athletes – or cheer-leaders. Now, it seems that the concept of the man-cave has even gotten as far as consideration by the Home and Garden channel, which seems a little overboard. A man-cave isn't decorated, after all – it just happens.