It was my ninth summer knockin’ about this planet and growing up in a rural area there so much to explore; even right there in our own back yard.
Earlier that Spring my brother, my dad and I finished building a pole barn. Well, I guess, if truth be told, it was more of a pavillion as it had no sides until a few years later. It was great fun to build. We first fell some poplar and a few oak trees on the back portion of our property. We then removed all the bark — trust me, not fun. Then we used the poles as the structural uprights with cross beams and rafters above. On top of all this we put a ‘tin roof’. It was actually aluminum, but ‘tin roof’ sounds much more rustic.
As with most construction projects, there is always leftover lumber. My brother and I were given the task to store away the lumber up in the rafters of the pole barn. It was as much a project to keep us out of mom’s hair during the day as anything else. My brother and I, and two sturdy ladders, were enough to hoist the lumber up into the rafters. It was slow going at one board at a time, but we stuck to it.
As a kid, I found that it is often in times a physical labor such as mowing the lawn, stripping bark off of logs or doing dishes, that I recieve some of my greatest inspiration. True, some ideas play out better in reality than others, but while storing up the lumber, I developed a killer plan. Now, to convince my brother.
I made short work of conveying the shear brilliance of my idea to my brother and he bit. A fort. Not only a fort, but a secret fort. Not only a secret fort, but a secret fort that was almost eight feet off the ground and had its own ‘tin roof’. Yes, with a couple of hammers, a box of nails from the basement and the two sturdy ladders we set out to nailing various planks to the rafters which then supported the other boards as they were laid out to create the floor. A ‘tin roof’ and hardwood flooring; how cool is that? Sure, it was a little rough around the edges. We toyed with the idea of cutting everything to length, but figured the odds of cutting this lumber to the lengths that my dad would actually be able to use someday was rather slim. Plus, sawing lumber by hand is only slightly more engaging than stripping bark. Instead, we decided leave the excess hanging over the rafter. With the afternoon quickly closing in on the time dad gets home fom work, we hurried.
Dinner was great that evening and both my brother and I ate well. We explained to dad how we were able to get all his lumber up into the rafters. Surely it would stay dry until he needed it. We decided that was enough information for dinner conversation. Too much detail would have served no reasonable purpose. Besides, my brother and I wanted to play in our new fort.
I finished dinner first and made quick work of scooting out of the house before mom had a chance to remind us of the dishes. Dirty dishes usually had a way of still being there when we got back inside anyway. I made a straightline for the fort. A few steps up the ladder and a quick tug up using one of the rafters and there I was. Cool, I could see all the way down to the house and most of the way up through the woods. Neat! I started adjusting the placement of some of the boards and making more room. I noted how huge it was. Cool!
It was while rearranging some of the boards that I heard something. A perculiar sound. Not exactly a creak, but yet very unpleasant. Then the bottom felt out… literally. From my perch just beneath the ‘tin roof’ I suddenly fell to the ground with lumber of all kinds falling around me. For me time almost stood still, but not for my dad. I didn’t even have time for an explative and there he was, right there standing next to me. In a shaken voice he asked me, “are you OK?” It was precisely when the word “yes” left my mouth that I was raptured. Oh yes, first my butt left the dust of this earth and then my feet as I was taken up. Up toward the clouds, but it was a short trip with a sudden stop.
There before me was my dad. I was eye to eye with the one man who could make my bottom lip quiver just by me knowing he was on his way home from work and I would have to explain why my brother had three stitches above his right eye. The man who could fluster me beyond reason just by asking me what I was up to. Yes, there I was aloft and eye to eye with my father. Then I heard it. Not exactly a trumpet, but still with a most biblical intensity, “Don’t you ever do that again.” I know I tried to respond with a respectful, “yes, sir”, but I doubt much but a stutter of air came out. Just as suddenly, I was back on terra firma. As he walked back to the house I heard him say, “now clean that mess up.” This was actually one time I was thinking ahead of him. You see, I had caught my breath, regained my composure and had already figured out what went wrong. Bigger nails. Yes, next time we’ll use bigger nails…