Grit Blogs > Modern Day Redneck

The Tree House of Dreams

A photo of the Modern Day RedneckI was around ten years old when I nailed on the first board which was the beginning of my new tree house. It was not till years later that I learned the value of such a simple pile of old scrap lumber stuck up in a tree.

Like most farm boys I was never able to have the childhood all my city friends had. I was never able to simply just hang out at a friend’s house, never able to go on long luxurious vacations or even spend all day just being bored. No sick days, no excuses, the chores had to be done.

 

The tree house

For my siblings and me, the day started at 5:00 AM with my dad hollering out from the kitchen, “GET UP!” Without hesitation our feet hit the floor and out the door we went. My chores consisted of milking the goats, feeding the hogs and tending to the chickens. This left me with just enough time to take a quick shower, get dressed, run through the house grabbing a piece of warm cinnamon toast and onto the school bus.

The evenings were not much different. Of course homework came first. I didn’t mind doing it to much because momma always had a nice little snack ready for me, then it was off to the barn to do chores. It was usually dark when I got back to the house, and by that time I was ready for another hot shower to wash the goat smell off and then to fill my empty stomach with some good food. One good thing about living on the farm is we always had a nice big home cooked meal. While milking the goats I would usually hear my stomach growling due to the smell of those chicken and dumplings making its way to the barn. Momma would start supper early in the day to make sure it was ready for us growing, hungry boys when we all came in. My brother and I fought, pushed and shoved to be the first in line to fill our plate to its limits. For some reason we thought if you were the last in line you might go hungry, but there was always enough food, most of the time even for seconds. If we were really lucky, mom and dad would let us stay up to watch Hee Haw.

Weekends were spent cleaning stalls, grinding feed and building one thing or another. The only escape to childhood I had was a little triangle-shaped, three-story tree house I built using scrap lumber and bent nails. I did not know at the time, but I created a lifetime of memories. On rare occasions when I found myself with nothing to do, I was in that little tree house and imagining a whole different world. If you would have walked by and listened real close, you would have heard an Army commander giving his troops marching orders from the lookout tower. Or you would have heard a play by play announcement of the world title wrestling match between Kerry Von Erich and Rick Flair. I could not tell you the number of times I was either Bo Duke or the Six Million Dollar Man. It was my own world, no one else’s.

On warm summer nights I would sometimes convince momma to let me sleep up in that tree. I would lie awake looking up at the stars, dreaming of space travel or walking on the moon, hypnotized by the sound of the wind swaying that old thing back and forth making the same creeks and cracks over and over as it flowed.

Eventually I got to old for that tree house and eventually it got to old as well. Board by board my imaginary world rotted and fell to the ground until it was no more, leaving just memories laying scattered around the tree base. I did not give it much thought back then, not until several years later when my three girls were old enough and asked if they could have one of their own. We picked out the perfect tree and board by board we built another little house of memories. I remember many days while working outside I could hear laughter and singing coming from that little place, and if I listened real close I could almost hear an Army commander giving her troops their marching orders.

anotherkindofdrew
2/7/2010 6:40:40 PM

My dad was a skilled handyman and a part-time contractor to boot so when he set about to build something, he meant business. So my 11th summer when he asked me if I wanted a treehouse I knew good things were to come. Oddly enough though we had NO trees in our backyard. NONE. But a couple days later Daddy came home with four telephone poles in his trailer announcing, "Now we'll have some trees." During the course of the next month he would call me out and we would build a little more; weekends, weekday nights, an hour here and an hour there. Through building that treehouse he taught me how to build support trusses, measure out studs, do finish work around windows and doors....in fact, I don't remember ever really playing in this little house of ours but I remember listening in admiration as he talked to me about the difference between untreated and treated wood and other such lesson. Those lessons have stuck with me and seen me through many projects including a stint after college as a house framer. I owe him a great deal for taking that time with me. Oh, and for giving me a real house on four "trees" that made me feel like king of the world that summer!


vickie
2/4/2010 9:19:46 PM

Such good memories about your tree house Red,I'm so glad you build one for your girls. Although I never had a tree house I did have a swing set that my sister and I used to sit in and talk for hours even after we were "too big" to swing. vickie Caleb, I'm so glad I'm not the only one that has did that! vickie


s.m.r. saia
2/4/2010 2:39:42 PM

I remember Hee Haw. :0) I enjoyed this, thanks!


cindy murphy
2/4/2010 2:14:36 PM

Caleb...lay off the coffee! It seems to be making your "submit" finger jittery! Another great story revolving around memories, Red, not only of yours, but the ones your daughters are sure to have as well.


cregan
2/4/2010 10:38:15 AM

MDR - Thanks so much for the post. I hadn't thought about the forts and tree houses my brothers and I built for a long time. Like Dave, we too had hay forts and tunnels in the hayloft. Looking back, I'm amazed we never encountered snakes. We lived over a mile from the nearest neighbor, so all we had was each other and horizon to horizon of farmland for entertainment. I wouldn't have it any other way. Thanks for taking me back. - Caleb


nebraska dave
2/4/2010 9:06:30 AM

Red, you are so right about those memorable times. I didn’t have a tree house, but we climbed almost every tree on the place. Make believe was a wonderful world where we could be any where and be any body. Superman, cowboys, pioneer explorers, space travelers, you name it we could be there in an instant. My secret place to live in the make believe world would have been in the upper part of the barn where all the hay was stored. All those hay bales could be piled up in such a fashion to make tunnels, forts, and mountains of all sorts of sizes and shapes. Wonderful hours of make believe were spent in the upper barn. Like you the barn and the make believe world was left behind and life’s journey faded those times away. My kids were city raised and didn’t get to enjoy those great character building times, but some how they have managed to acquire their own precious kid memories. My Dad I suppose could be called a gentleman farmer. It was never the main income for the family. We had the farm life but didn’t have to totally live on the farm income. Therefore we could dabble in animals but didn’t really have to make a lot of money doing it. It did teach me about work ethics that has been with me all the days of my life. Up until High School I wanted to be a Midwest farmer, but discovered it was a lot of work and didn’t pay much so went on to a career in telecommunication. Thank you so much for sharing your awesome memories.