Posted by: Banta | April 6, 2013

The Road to Wayne

Before we found the right man to build our mountain house, we fell down a few rabbit holes. First, we interviewed a female contractor whose crew kept jumping ship, and whose inattention to detail made us wary. Then we had coffee with a very anxious Eeyore type who insisted that our project was extremely complicated and (by implication) I shouldn’t trouble my pretty little head trying to understand the engineering work needed to get it off the ground. Not an effective sales pitch. The remaining three builders, in turn, took one look at the property and came away shaking their heads. Steep slope codes. Zoning issues. Might not perk for a septic system. Excavation expense. The whole catastrophe.

Then along came Wayne. Spinning the wheels of his Road King down the gravel drive to meet us. A mountain man in a red bandanna, hair braided down his back, ZZ Top beard, tat sleeves, cut off jeans, work boots spattered in Carolina mud. “Bosdawg,” he said, by way of introduction, extending his hand, “Wayne East.” We met, we talked, and the next day we rode over to the property in his truck. Wayne walked the land with us. We showed him a rough draft of the house plan. He nodded, made a few mental notes, and said he’d be pleased to build it for us. We would be the general contractors; Wayne would manage the project, start to finish. Another handshake sealed the deal. No formal contract, pay-as-we-go, no muss, no fuss.

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He had the callouses and wisdom of experience, the trust of local suppliers and sub-contractors, the ear of the Buncombe County building inspector, and a skeleton crew we came to know and love. No one worked harder or longer hours than Wayne. No one has a tougher work ethic, is more honest, loyal, or fair.

During the eight months of construction, when we could not be on site, we knew Wayne was there from dawn to dark and often seven days a week. He called every morning and sent photo updates nearly as often. With one exception. About a week before each of our monthly visits to Black Mountain, Wayne shut down the photo log. He went dark. His morning calls, usually brimming with detail and color commentary, turned vague and non-specific. The first time this happened I felt frustrated and annoyed, even anxious. What’s going on? What is he not telling us? Is there a problem?

Turns out, Wayne really likes a good surprise. He enjoyed unveiling the next big thing. It was a ta-da moment for him, and for us as well. He relished our delight in seeing the latest growth spurt. We clapped and squealed and ran around touching timbers and stone like kids unwrapping gifts at Christmas. On those mornings, Wayne was our personal Santa. It became a running joke and a guessing game between us: what’s he hiding this time?

We might drive up to the construction site to find all the windows had been set, or the exterior siding completed, or the light fixtures hung. One very big surprise was the day we arrived to find our reclaimed Georgia black walnut 8” wide floor planks laid down. An unexpected grace under our feet. Heartwood solid, worn with age and character, the warm mottled color of rich dark chocolate. I think that was the moment we realized, finally, that this was going to be home.

Wayne watched us, beaming. He knew all along what we could only hope: the house was becoming real. Wayne had help from his small crew and a few trusted subs, but the truth is, he has all the skills to build a house with his bare hands. He handled all the big machines – excavators, dozers, and loaders – as easily as his Road King bike. He cleared the house site, mulched the felled trees, hauled concrete and timbers, spread dirt and gravel, laid the foundation, framed the shell. He set the roof trusses, did most of the interior trim work, tiled the bathrooms, and then morphed into a stone mason when the time came to build the hearth for the fireplace. He designed and sculpted a two tier stone retaining wall in front of the house for a perennial planting bed, put in the Trex decking, and scattered wildflower seeds on a hillside below the house. Peonies, sweet alyssum, daisies. They bloomed all last summer and fall up to the first frost.

When we passed the last of the inspections and got the coveted Certificate of Occupancy last June, we celebrated over dinner. We gave Wayne and the crew personalized tee-shirts with the logo Builder of Dreams. But dinner and a tee-shirt cannot come close to expressing the deep gratitude we feel toward this man for making of our particular dream a green-built and welcoming reality. After the long uphill (no pun intended) push to get this project off the ground, and all the naysayers and head-shakers we encountered along the way, we have come to understand at a cellular level the truth another mountain friend uttered when he said, “Nothing is impossible in Wayne’s world.” Thank you, friend, for your vision, your unflagging energy, your toughness and your tenderness, your foresight and your flair. Thank you for making the months of construction a joyful process, nourished by laughter and surprises, fueled by beers at The Straightaway and single malt scotch on the deck, and sustained by the bond of friendship that is as sturdy and weather-tight as the house you built for us. We are forever grateful.


Responses

  1. Well, if we are ever able to build a place nearby, I know who we will be calling …he sounds like a jewel. What great energy to grace your home.

  2. This is great Banta. I think I’ve been led to the one to help me when I make the decision. Enjoyed your other articles also. 🙂 cherie g

  3. Please add me to your e-mail list for simple and grounded.
    Sorry we didn’t get to meet you at the Straight Away last week. Your piece on Wayne was very affirming for us as we have decided to have him build our home! Thank you for your beautiful words ! Becky and Kevin Huck


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