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Beer, free stuff lead to 'man cave'

By Ann Hoevel
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(CNN) -- During the week Ryan Samuel, 30, is a married man working in the energy market in Richardson, Texas. But on the weekends he lures men away from their homes, wives and children with beer, camaraderie, power tools and "The Ponderosa."


"The Ponderosa" is a two-story cabin paid for almost entirely with beer.

Three years ago, Samuel, his cousin, his brother-in-law and a host of friends started building a cabin on some family land in Oklahoma. They named it "The Ponderosa."

By Samuel's admission, it's more like a shack. It has no power, no plumbing, a leak in the roof and it's already been set on fire once.

Struggling to find the allure? Samuel admits it's not for everyone. He's never shown the place to his wife.

Every time he and his friends go to the cabin, they have to chase hornets, snakes and other varmints out of the building. Once a cow died in the creek behind the cabin and it stank for weeks.

"You want to talk man caves, this place is a total cave," said Samuel. and got an overwhelming response when we asked readers to send in photos and stories of their man caves -- spaces that foster men's hobbies, decorating skills and technological needs.

Samuel caught our interest when he explained that almost all the building materials and labor used to create "The Ponderosa" were paid for in beer, so we had to give him a call to find out more.

It turns out building a cabin wasn't entirely Samuel's idea. He and his cousin Jeff used to own a 1963 Winnebago camper they kept on their family's land in Oklahoma. One day Samuel got a call from Jeff asking if he wanted "the good news or the bad news."

"The good news was, 'I'm building a cabin where our camper is sitting right now," said Samuel. The bad news: Jeff sold the camper for spray-foam insulation. By the time Samuel arrived to survey the situation, Jeff was already laying the floor. Their adventures continued from there.

They got creative with construction techniques and building materials: The one window in the cabin isn't actually framed in. Samuel said he and his friends used a saws-all to cut an opening and then leaned the window onto the hole. "I have no idea where that window came from," he said.

Samuel's cousin Jeff lucked into roofing materials driving down the road one day.

"My cousin was driving down the highway in Oklahoma. He pulls over and there are 10 rolls of roofing paper on the side of the road," Samuel said. His cousin was driving a car that day instead of a truck, so he was only able to fit four of the rolls in the back, but it was more than they needed, he said.

"And right now there's a tarp over [the roof], because obviously we didn't do it right."

The cabin's back yard got a facelift after a rainstorm: "We left a bunch of sacks of Quickcrete out on the porch, and they got rained on," said Samuel. "They turned into perfect blocks of concrete," he said, which they used to build a fire pit.

For years Samuel, his relatives and his friends bartered for, borrowed or found the building necessities for their getaway cabin.

Samuel said his cousin knew a lot of people who could help them build or help them get building supplies.

"You get some guys who are married, maybe have children or not, and are looking for any excuse to get away from the house, and have access to or actually have the building materials .. It's not hard to talk someone into doing the manual labor, because they're accomplishing something that they wanted to also. They're having a few beers with some buddies. If they're hammering some nails or screwing some screws at the same time, that's fine too," he said.

This was typical of user comments in reaction to the images and stories we received about man caves.

Many women wanted to know what was so terrible about the man cave-owners' families that they had to retreat to a cave to get away from them. Many men piped up in the comment section as well, explaining they felt their wives had reign over the entire rest of the house, and that men deserved at least one space to call their own.

So we asked Samuel what he thought.

"The whole point of it, it's just guy time," he said. "There's no rules, there's no bathroom. It's just getting away. ... Most of it is just relaxation and having a good time. Nothing ever happens out there that can create any extra stress."


"Half of it is about hanging out with guys, your buddies and the other half is being out where nobody can see you. Nobody can find you. You're way out there -- there's no city lights hiding the stars. The time that you can spend out there getting away from it all, doing what you want to do, that's the reason behind building the thing," he said.

"When you leave on a Sunday evening and it's time to go home, you can face all the things that you have to do for that next week. But for the entire time you're out there hanging loose, you have no deadlines, nothing else you have to do but just go hang out."

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