An incredible life for a quiet man | News, Sports, Jobs

“Now don’t cry ’cause I’m leaving, ’cause see I had my day

“I have led a life that is not for mourning, so rejoice with me and pray”

– from the song “Magic Valley”, performed by George Jones

I will always remember my grandfather as the strongest man in the room, the man who knew more than anyone around him.

I will miss him. Winfred “Win” Hinkley died this week at the age of 82.

Grandfather surprised me.

He could identify the year, make, and model of any classic or antique vehicle with just a glimpse of its taillights or the curve of its fender. He built and repaired (and occasionally raced) hot rods and classic cars, either at official shops around Fort Mill, Rock Hill and Indian Land, South Carolina, or at personal shops he ran in every house where he lived.

For a time, he worked at a store in Rock Hill that made custom Shelby Cobras for the rich and famous. He built one for country star Alan Jackson, who mentioned my grandfather during an appearance on the Conan O’Brien show.

Grandfather also worked in the wood. He built my first toy box, an elaborate wooden thing designed to look like a red barn. He built my brother and I rocking horses when we were born. He built the deck on his house, and he built a garage in the back of his house — fitted out to look like a Wild West storefront — where he could build another hot rod.

That Christmas we spent with them in Indian Land, when my brother and I were afraid we would miss Santa Claus so far from our homes in Battle Creek, Grandpa cut out two wooden stop signs and placed them at the end of the driveway. He painted the stems of the panels to look like candy canes and painted words on the octagonal face: “Santa, stop!” The Hinkley boys are here!

He also worked as an auctioneer with his father, going wild in that ancient, fast, rhythmic cadence as he worked in estate sales and antique sales. When my great-grandfather opened an auction school in Battle Creek in the 1960s, grandfather taught there with great-grandfather.

As if that weren’t enough, he also worked for a time as a stunt motorcyclist in a traveling circus, jumping through rings of fire and speeding around those spherical cages and zooming around with grandma standing in the back. biking.

Despite the noisy life he led, grandfather was a calm man with incredible patience. He enjoyed watching NASCAR races on Sundays after church and listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio when he came home for lunch. When Grandma was buying clothes, Grandpa would sit quietly somewhere in the store, cleaning his fingernails with his pocket knife. On the long drives from Michigan to South Carolina, when Grandma was driving for a spell, Grandpa would sometimes sit in the back seat with us boys and carve an apple, working it slowly with his pocket knife to that the skin of the apple comes off all at once. long, coiled slice.

His patience showed itself particularly with my brother and me. Once, when I was 11 or 12 and my brother was 8 or 9, he let us wax his truck. We left masses of excess wax all over the exterior, piles in every crevice. Grandpa just looked at him, twitched his mustache, shook his head. He kindly told us and showed us what we had done wrong and then proceeded to fix it without complaining.

I helped him cover this Old West style garage he built behind his house in Rock Hill when I was 13 or 14 years old. Did a terrible job leaving horribly ragged shingle edges. Grandpa just looked at the edges and twitched his mustache and shook his head. He quietly told me what I had done wrong, then climbed onto the roof and cut the straighter edges.

I loved knowing about all the amazing things he did, but my favorite times with Grandpa were those simple times.

Walk around the pond at the back of this garage in Rock Hill, listen to the bullfrogs or watch the trees for the huge red-headed vultures that annoyed Grandpa to no end. Showing me around his shop and his latest project. Walking around a car show, listening to him demonstrate what made each hot rod unique. Sitting on the floor in front of him as a young boy, wearing one of his t-shirts as a nightgown, eating ice cream on chilly Carolina summer nights while we watched “America’s Funniest Home Videos “.

The volume of his life captivated me, but I enjoyed having quiet moments with him.

Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-354-3112 or Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.

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