Growing up in the hill country of Austin Texas, I was the oldest of five kids.
I had two sisters, two little brothers, and my dog, Fred.
By the time I was 15 years old, I remember how important personal space was to me.
So, I decided to tear down the old chicken shack behind our house and build a woodshop, mostly out of scrap wood. It wasn’t that big; maybe 10×16 with a storage shed off the back.
The best part was the 10×10 second floor loft which would be my (escape) drawing room.
I worked during the summers as a carpenter’s apprentice and fell in love with woodworking. It was as if I had finally found my purpose; a way to keep my mind busy, my growing body in motion and burn off teenage angst.
This was the beginning of my woodworking journey.
The Woodshop would be my space. A place where I could make things or just hang out with my ol’ dog, Fred.
I made this Sun face in high school woodshop class.
I remember as a kid, spending a lot of time with Fred exploring the woods and creeks by our house.
He loved to hang out with me as I built the shop, worked in the gardens or did my chores.
Fred was a beagle/ hound mix and in fact, was a girl. I was around 5 years old when I got her. Having two sisters and a mother, (no brothers yet) I decided we had too many girls already.
So I named her Fred.
Fred always wanted to be with me no matter what. We lived on Lake Austin where “he” – just go with it, I was only 5 yrs. old, would follow us after school down to the lake to swim or go fishing for blue gills.
He was always there. We were inseparable.
One day in August, I remember it was so hot, I had my shirt off while working on the framing of the shop.
Fred was laying in the shade on the deck next to his water bowl. He was panting hard as he looked up at me with this sad, tired face.
So I put my skill saw down and went over, sat down beside him and asked, ”What’s up buddy…is it too hot? Wanna go inside?” He wagged his tail a few times and licked my hand as I played with his ear. He liked that.
We sat there together for awhile with his head laying on my leg. I stroked his side as I looked up at the 2×4 walls and softly talked to him. I told him it wont be long before the walls are finished, there’s going to be a work bench over there and a room upstairs with a big drawing table and a bed in the corner, just for him.
He had stopped panting and seemed content, like a child falling asleep.
and then… he slowly came closer and laid down in my lap, gave a big sigh and died, right there in my arms.
This was my first experience with death. The thought that he would be gone some day had never entered my mind. Fred was always there. Tore me up like nothing before.
Many things changed that day.
It’s been a long time since that day I buried Fred under the woodshop. I know, if I ever went back there to visit, I’d imagine him there waiting, tail wagging, ready to go to the lake or just hang out in the shop with me,
.… He will always be there.
Fred was my first dog, my buddy, my best friend.