Building true friendships

Published 11:59 pm Friday, July 31, 2009

Charles McCauley said his wife always wanted their house to have a back porch. And now, thanks to the kindness of two friends, McCauley has been able to make his late wife’s wish come true.

The 71-year-old McCauley, a retired veteran who lives by himself in northern Covington County, purchased the materials to build the porch a month ago, before being told by his doctors he wasn’t physically able to work on it anymore.

Two of McCauley’s friends, Don and Ronnie Barnes, offered to build the porch for him.

“He was always a good customer of ours,” said Don Barnes, who was once co-owner of Lakeview Grocery near Gantt. “He needed help, and we volunteered to help him build his screened-in porch. We’re not charging him nothing; he just bought the materials and we’re happy to do it for him.”

McCauley said he built the house’s front porch many years ago, and thought he would be able to build the back porch just as easily.

“I built the front porch by myself, but I was a lot younger then,” he said. “Age caught up with me, and I just couldn’t do it. I passed out one day when I was just trying to put up the posts.”

McCauley said his VA-provided housekeeper is Ronnie Barnes’ wife, who told the brothers of his fainting spell.

“I was working in the garden one day and all of a sudden they pulled up here in my front yard,” he said. “They came over and told me, ‘you don’t have to lift a hammer, we’ll do it for you.’”

Don Barnes said he and his brother have been working on the porch for about a month, taking time out of their schedules whenever possible to help with the project.

“Mr. McCauley’s been patient with us and is always willing to go get us something if we need it,” he said. “When we get finished, he’ll have a nice little porch. I just think it’s a good gesture from me and Ronnie and being able to help our friends.”

McCauley first met the Barnes brothers shortly after he and his wife moved here from Pensacola, Fla. McCauley’s wife passed away just a month after that meeting, and that was the point McCauley said he realized the Barnes brothers were true friends.

“When my wife passed away, none of my so-called friends would even stop to say ‘hello,’” he said. “But (Don and Ronnie Barnes) came up with a big platter of cold cuts, and bread and sodas and were there for me. I had only known them for about a month, but they did a really good thing for me and we’ve been friends ever since.”

McCauley said some family members have asked him to come live with them in New York, but he has turned the offer down, because he enjoys the friendliness of people in Covington County. McCauley, who is part Cherokee Indian, spends much of his spare time making Native American art and with his two dogs — one of whom is a half-Alaskan husky, half-wolf.

“They’re my reason for living now,” he said.

McCauley said once the porch is complete, he plans to hold a barbecue to celebrate.

As for Barnes, he said that although he’ll certainly appreciate the barbecue, no reward is needed.

“Friends are better than money,” Barnes said.