While most “man caves” consist of poker tables, big-screen TVs and refrigerators full of beer, Danny Ruckriegel’s cave, located in the basement of his home, holds much more significance than that. A fourth-generation firefighter for the Jeffersontown Fire Department, Ruckriegel’s cave is a dedication to his friends, family members, and the 27 years he spent in the department.
“[The basement] takes me back to when I was on my A-game. You think about people when they have a fire, that’s the worst day of their life, but that was the best day of my life because that’s what I was trained to do,” Ruckriegel explained.
While touring his quarters one can see an array of fire-fighting items, a replica of the back of a fire engine, and doors that are fashioned to look like the front of a fire station. Ruckriegel’s handywork is apparent everywhere, as he details the hours of hard work put into his cave.
Currently retired from the fire department, Ruckriegel spends most of his time as an electrician. But on his days off, he can often be found in what he calls his “Zen room.” Referring to his days in the fire service as a “brotherhood,” Ruckriegel’s basement is embellished with old photos, fire engine mementos, and even an old fire alarm system from the 1800s.
Painted in red and black, Ruckriegel’s tribute to the 24 immediate family members who served as part of the fire department alongside him, has taken nearly a year and a half to complete. He is able to turn to his man cave as a way to remember, and his basement serves as a time machine, taking him back to his prime and to what he frequently calls “the good old days.”
Ruckriegel’s man cave also holds homage to those he knew who passed away on Sept. 11. With each piece of memorabilia comes a story. Whether it’s a history lesson or a personal narration, Ruckriegel’s love for this space is evident in the enthusiasm he exhibits while explaining the objects within.
And although his basement far outshines the average man cave, in at least one way Ruckriegel’s manly space serves a purpose similar to that of more ordinary guys’ retreats. When asked if his wife has any “cave” of her own, Danny coolly responded, “My wife doesn’t need a cave of her own. She’s got the whole house.”