I 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.
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.