Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tree House


A tree house is a right of passage for many American boys. I don’t believe that girls feel the need to devolve back to the inner ape, but boys seem to have tree forts hard wired into their genetic code.

I feel sorry for boys who grow up in treeless areas, and I’m sure they must dig caves where they live. I grew up in the trees and as a kid you learn early to look at every group of trees and evaluate them for their building potential. A group of trees together was always better than a single tree with a split trunk or crown.

In my old neck of the woods, me and my cadre of friends always scoped trees along the Ramapo River. The river not only provided us with isolation from developed areas, but it also provided us with recreation, be it fishing or swimming.

The river also supplied us with building materials. After any rain we would find ply wood and two by fours that washed down stream and got hung up on the rocks or washed up on shore. Like beavers we would build our lodges, and we would make them adult proof. We knew how much weight could be placed onto the rungs we nailed to the trees. They would support less than 100 lbs. No adult in their right mind would ever attempt entry. It looked unsafe even to us, but we knew the weak links in the climb and avoided them.

I was involved in two tree forts on the river. One was a one level ranch style with a grand pebble beach and river view, and the other was a three story manse built on a cluster of trees that hung over the river. It was climbing to this house where one day I forgot about the trick steps.

Suddenly I heard a snap and just as suddenly I found myself without any weight or any part of me attached to anything connected to the ground. In my mind the fall was slow. I felt like a snow flake though on the way down images of everything were blurred. Eventually I did land, but luckily I found myself cradled in the washed out roots of the tree. My body landed evenly all at once with equal pressure. The only casualty of the fall was my left ankle which protruded past the cradle of roots. My foot snapped downward spraining my ankle. Not bad for a 25 foot fall.

They say that some sprains are worse then breaks. This was one of those sprains. I did have x-rays so I knew it wasn’t broken. I was limping for six weeks, and that ankle still swells up on occasion and I can still tweak it if I come down on that foot in the wrong way.

I did continue tree fort efforts after that, but it wasn’t long before I matured to terra based kid structures.

This all comes back to mind because of a cedar tree that was badly damaged during the December storm. When I was building an addition on my home a few years ago, I was placing a large glue-lam beam on a post about 25 feet in the air above the ground. This healthy cedar tree was near by, and for a moment I fantasized about altering my plans to include the tree in the addition.

15 Comments:

Blogger Auntie said...

I think that's what many men could benefit from today. A tree house or a fort.

6:10 AM  
Blogger Hahn at Home said...

One night, my best friend and I decided to sleep in the "treehouse" we built in a neighbor's yard. She told her mom I was spending the night and vice versa. We huddled up there with our blanket with only the stars for light...until I saw the familiar red glow of a cigarette approaching. We were so busted. That was the end of our treehouse days - I wasn't ungrounded for about a year.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Boys do seem to be more into making tree forts than girls, although I spent plenty of time perched on tree branches as a kid. Any forts I made (and we made plenty) were on the ground.
Wonder why that is?

9:19 AM  
Blogger Chantel said...

I was a climber when I was young. But, I've been accused of being part dude more than once. Don't let the high heels fool you.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Rich said...

There's something about the thought of high heels with crampons that's just too sexy. You'd be given honorary guy status in my tree fort any time. ;-)

10:17 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Just wait Auntie, you'll see what it's all about in about four more years.

Lori, would she have minded had you told the truth in the first place? Everyone should sleep in a tree at least once in their lives.

Beth, I think it something that has to do with ape nature and arrested evolutionary development.

Chantel, if anyone confuses you for a dude it is probably latent wishful thinking on their part. Damn, that's a confusing concept. By the way, I loved your travel photos of Eastern Oregon/Washington. Also, don't mind Rich, he is a photographer with an over active imagination as well, but hey, I'll subscribe to his idea. That would be kinda hot...

The funny thing about it all is I just wrote and article that you'll read later this week which touches on the culture of the shoe thing and photography.

11:03 AM  
Blogger weese said...

we had a 'fort' in the woods. on the ground.
does that make us girls smarter?
we thought so. :)

4:35 PM  
Blogger Auntie said...

Would we have peace and eternal bliss if all of the men running the city/county other cities etc had treehouses?

6:48 PM  
Blogger Zooomabooma said...

Fond memories of the Ramapo River? Yeah, I've got 'em, too. Never had a treehouse back in Oakland, plenty of forts on the ground but there was a treehouse at a friend's house or two, memory triggered by finding your post. And that ol' Ramapo... seemingly a part of my everyday life for quite a long time.

It often takes leaving Jersey to truly appreciate it.

12:30 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Weese maybe not smarter, but more evolved, how ever your huts were open for parental invasions and inspections. In trees we were free to be ourselves.

Auntie, you left out the part about setting the tree on fire after they all got in there.

Zoooma, hey former neighbor. I was a couple miles North of you in Mahwah. You know what they say, "Here today, gone to Mahwah." The Ramapo was great river for kids. If you search this blog you'll find other articles about rafting on it and maybe some others. Parts of your town got flooded pretty badly from it. Though there was some industrial pollution, that river was my home and it is still in my blood. Hope to see you here again.

5:36 AM  
Blogger Hahn at Home said...

Guy - where would the fun have been in that?

6:39 AM  
Blogger Uncle Walt said...

Not only did the boys in my neighborhood have a treehouse ... we had a maze on the ground. I created it by weaving thorn vines together, over a couple summer weeks. Other boys dug well-concealed pits as added protection.

Of course, since you could easily see the correct route thanks to all the foot traffic, it was more for looks than real defense.

2:07 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Lori, you would have been able to stay there all night.

Walt, I'm happy to rekindle those memories for you.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Hahn at Home said...

Yes, but that would have been givin' into da' man.

9:14 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

You are screwed either way.

5:43 AM  

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