When we bought our big house in Pierre in the fall of 1972, one thing in the newspaper ad that drew my attention was the promise of a two-stall garage.
We’d had a small garage at our North Conklin house in Sioux Falls, but two stalls? I figured I’d be walking proud in the neighborhood. Yes, we only had the one car, a mid-sized station wagon. Most people I knew back then had one car. Only farmers and ranchers had pickups. But one car and two stalls? I figured I’d have acres of storage space, something we’d never had before in our marriage.
In our first rented house in Sioux Falls, I parked along the curb on 21st street off Cliff Avenue. People did that all over town. Yes, it was cold on a winter morning, but I didn’t know any better. When we rented the place on Conklin, I could get my vehicle in the garage if I squeezed it up against the right side. And I could hang the few tools I owned against the driver’s-side wall, which meant remembering to skirt by them as I exited the car. The dryer vented into the garage, so it was pretty comfortable in cold weather, if a bit damp. Sometimes the lint made it appear as if the snow outside had begun sifting through the roof.
Our first house in Pierre, rented, had a garage, I guess. It was big enough front to back for me to get the station wagon inside with the front bumper nestled right up against the back wall. The garage had a three-section, accordion-style door that came off its track every time I opened or closed it. When we bought a small home on the north side of town, it didn’t have a garage. It had off-street parking, if you call a break in the curb and two tracks in the lawn off-street parking. In its favor? I never had to wrestle with an accordion door.
You can understand, then, why the notion of a two-stall garage would excite me. Imagine how deflated I was when we toured the place and I learned that neither stall in this two-stall garage was wide enough for my vehicle. Not even a self-respecting milk cow would have called those things stalls.
The house, built in 1906, was wonderful in nearly every other way, with birds-eye maple floors, oak woodwork and stairway and a sprawling, two-level lawn on the corner of the street across from the governor’s residence. Nancy loved everything about it and immediately began making lists of projects: Replace the old wallpaper, which consisted mostly of lavender and grey flowers, open the kitchen by tearing out the mudroom wall, things like that. I started planning a way to make the garage serviceable.
I never did, even though I tore away the partition between the stalls and replaced the two single doors with a double door. There just wasn’t enough room for a station wagon and anything else. Eventually I was able to store my first boat, a 15-footer, in the garage, but I still parked the car on the street.
We lived there a long, long time before we tore down that garage and built a magnificent replacement. It was the Taj Mahal of garages — two vehicles wide and long enough that I could back my boat in, never unhook it from my pickup, get out and shut the door. Oh, yeah, I had a pickup by then. Who didn’t? We had a second car, too. Who didn’t? And still we had room for all sorts of things, including the mower, tables Nancy was refinishing, piles of wood I figured might come in handy some day, a couple of kayaks and the odds and ends that, over time, a garage collects as if it were a giant magnet.
One of the worst things about moving from that place was emptying the garage. Gosh, I fought to keep some things I hadn’t touched, hadn’t even seen, in years. When we finally emptied the place, I vowed never again to keep so much junk.
You should see what’s in our garage these days.