I was disappointed when the Red Green show went off the air. I always felt that Gary would have been a perfect guest. He could have been Red Green’s distant cousin, who instead of correcting the world’s woes with duct tape; he corrected them with yellow dynamite wire. Yellow wire was used in his Albert County home for the purpose of hanging pictures to creating a set of rabbit ears for a poor university student. He could have worn his Albert County sports jacket that keeps him warm as he moves from shed to shed in his backyard, perhaps “fancied up” with some leather elbow patches. Gary has an incredible ability to see nothing and make something out of it. An empty four liter ice cream container, an old metal tent pole and an industrial size spool made up his Christmas tree stand for years. He never saw the point of crawling under the tree only to pour the water on floor and dig pine needles from his hair days later. So the spool held the tree in place, the ice cream container held the water and the tent pole was wedge between the tree trunk and the hole in the spool and ended at the bottom of the ice cream container. When it was time to water the tree he’d jam a funnel down the hollow tent pole and voila, mess free and back saving.
One day I was in one of his many backyard sheds, also known as The Villa, when I spotted one of his wife’s old purses hanging on the wall. I was incredibly curious about what he would do with this. I found out a few months later after they had redone the siding and trim on their house. Proud of the new look, his wife decided it was time to add a flag to their front lawn decor. She returned one Saturday flag in hand, but disappointed that she had not found a pole. Gary’s response was to take her to their birch tree littered back yard and asked her which one would work best. He welded some scrap metal to hold the pole, she stripped it down and to attach the flag he used the handle clasps from her old purse.
I asked Gary if he would let me feature him because I am always so impressed by his innovation. From the old window casings that he replaced when he did the siding, he created mirrors and picture frames. A few years ago he started collecting discarded palates and packing crates.
He hates to see unnecessary waste. His motto is “I’m not cheap, I’m frugal.” He built the back deck on his home from what someone had deemed useless. With this collection he has created deacon’s benches, garbage bins, Adirondack chairs (Muskoka Chairs for those of you in Ontario), and whatever strikes him as a good idea.
He jokingly calls it Plain Folk Furniture, my theory behind it is a place to put your arse and hang your coat. And if you’ve got a roof to keep your head dry, what more can you really demand of the world? In my mind, his Plain Folk Furniture way of thinking is what draws people to the East coast, the beauty to be found in simplicity. When I saw him last year I showed him a photo in Style at Home of a desk I liked, it was made of reclaimed elm and hand-welded iron with the appropriate Toronto pricing in bold black print. I pointed it out to him because I knew he would get a kick out of $1500 price tag. When I saw him a couple of days later, he had made the Plain Folk version with benches to boot. I preferred his version.
I have had many cups of tea from Gary’s teapot, usually on Sunday mornings while his wife is at church. For those of you who know me, you’ve already recognized the first photo and wonder when will the old bugger when get his weary bones to Ontario. I’m working on it, but I think I might have to bribe him with Old Man Candy and stop calling him Gary and use the familiar name, Dad.