AUBREY ISD, TX – On a visit to his grandparents’ farm in Nebraska over the summer, GW Stander found some pieces of old wood lying around the pasture. The Aubrey High School student and FFA member thought he could reuse the wood and create something for an FFA agricultural mechanics project. GW decided to go on his own and build a tailgate bench and table to compete at upcoming livestock shows. For the last two years, GW had worked on team projects with classmates, building the grey trailer outside the Agricultural Shop, a red utility trailer and a smoker. “It was mostly because I wanted to do something different,” Stander said. “I always wanted to build a tailgate bench. I like cars and want to go to school to work on cars.” What started out as a project created with old materials, turned into a family keepsake for the Stander family. A lot of people, according to Stander, build tailgate benches, which involves taking the tailgate and bumper off a pickup. The older, the better.
Typing “tailgate bench” into Google brings up dozens of images of handcrafted benches. On that same visit to his grandparents’ farm, GW stopped by a few local junkyards to find a tailgate. “I picked Dodge because that is my grandpa’s favorite,” Stander said. In addition to the wood that he collected from the remnants of his grandfather’s old barn that had been destroyed by a tornado, GW also rounded up license plates that his grandfather had kept from his old trucks. Stander brought everything back to Texas and spent a few weeks putting together the tailgate bench and a table covered with his grandfather’s old license plates. Using power tools, he cut the wood, used bolts to put the table together and then stained the wood to make it all match. He looked on the internet for some inspiration but went his own way with it. This isn’t GW’s first foray into woodshop. “My dad and I are really outdoorsy,” Stander said.
“We like building things. I helped a friend build cabinets, and I help my dad a lot.” He also learned something new with his project. The license plates on the bumper light up, and that was something he had to learn. While he was building the bench, his mother pointed out that some of the old wood that he had collected was from her high school FFA projects. She recognized the stained color from some of the wood. Her old projects had been in that old barn that had come down in a storm. FFA runs in the Stander/ Murphy family. GW’s grandfather, Eugene “Doc” Murphy, is a retired veterinarian. GW’s mom was in FFA as well as her siblings. “My grandfather is the reason I am in FFA,” Stander said. “He got my mom into it, and I probably wouldn’t be in FFA if it wasn’t for him.” Somewhere along the way, the tailgate bench and table project that had started with a pile of junk began to morph into a tribute to GW’s family. With the wood from his grandfather’s barn and his mother’s old projects, the Nebraska license plates from his grandfather’s old trucks and the love of woodworking from his father, GW had created a nice memento in his family’s honor. “It just went there,” GW said simply about the direction the project veered off to. The bench and table also reflected GW’s Nebraska roots.
He was born in Nebraska and moved to Texas when he was 10. He has plans to go back to Nebraska for college for automotive repair and restoring. GW began to show his bench in August at the North Texas Fair & Rodeo in Denton. He won a red ribbon at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo and blue at the San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo. He capped off the show season with a Reserve Grand Division for his work. Usually with the Agricultural mech projects, FFA members build them, show them for a year and then sell them to interested buyers at the fairs. GW has no plans to sell his project. He has had multiple offers, but he has turned them all down. He would like to give the set to his grandparents. His grandfather came down to Texas in October and was able to sit on the bench that was made in his honor.