The Purple Tree Fort

It was the fall before my first teenage year. At least I recollect it to be, as I write this now, fifty or so years later. My father was part of my life then. He took me places for ice cream or to R rated Clint Eastwood movies, where I saw my first shooting of some scantily clad swimmers in a pool in the ritzy part Los Angeles. When we were not going to the hardware store for some weekend project supplies; Two by fours, 16d nails (not the finish nails, but the real deal ones), and some snacks.

It was a different day; however, and not our usual supply run. We needed wood, lots of wood to build a tree fort. Yes, my Dad was going to build a tree fort for me. Not the little kind with a couple of two by fours between three limbs.  No. It would be a large 12×10 structure with a full ceiling and be built between 4 well-placed pine trees in our backyard, in Massachusetts.

And while we would need some two by fours, my Dad mostly wanted this pine planking from some houses that were going to be demolished in his business office park; Houses slated to be demolished to make another corporate building. So off we went.

We arrived on Sunday afternoon. His friend Chip was with us and there were some tools, crowbars,  prybars and one boy. I was not so adept at pulling apart a building, just yet, so was allowed to roam around the 8 or so unlucky houses as Chip and my Dad found the stash, the goods, an entire house made of knotty pine planks and siding. These were yesteryear houses, cottages in the woods, left for nature to claim them back, but not today. My Dad and his friend would tend to them first.  My Dad, with his tools and a sixteen-pound sledgehammer, not some five or 8-pound wannabe, but the real deal … the sixteen pounds of sledge, most likely gifted to him from his father. Several tools would be required to pull the wood from its supports and they were ready, willing and able.

I was unsupervised for quite some time and for some reason had been instructed to break the windows. Perhaps I asked about the demolition and Chip suggested I start early. I have never broken so many windows in my life. Let’s just say, I got breaking things completely out of my boyhood system that Sunday afternoon.

As the day moved forward, the men had gathered all the wood they needed. I don’t recall if we had a truck, but we must have. There was a lot of wood, enough for the 12×10 treehouse and then some.

It was a fun day, a different day, and come Monday morning, my Dad was back in the office park programming his computers and watching the houses be taken down. The windows were all taken care of the day before. Thank you very much.

I don’t recall much about the building of the fort. I think my Dad did most of it. Framing it solidly between the four trees, building stairs to the roof.  He called it a crows nest. Something I later learned to be part of a sailing ship.

He built bunk beds and we installed some kitchen cabinets and of course electricity. Heck, this was a Mellone after all building the thing. Playhouse, tree fort or not, it was going to have electricity.

When it was done, I played in it and on it. I slept out in, with friends and we made bacon and eggs in the morning with electric frying pans. I jumped off the roof onto the ground below (I was into stunts in those days) and it also had a trap door so we could get in and out, not to mention two windows. The whole of it, minus the studs was built out of knotty pine.

I went to Georgia the following year. It was our annual trip after school got out. My Dad would drive us all down, my sisters, myself and my mother and he would fly back home to work. He would come back to get us toward the end of the summer.

I spent time with my southern relatives and my grandfather was a house painter. He would take me to work where I would sand or fill finish nail holes with putty. He had some extra paint from a job and it was purple. Four gallons of it. We brought them back on our return trip and of course, but you guessed it, I painted the tree fort purple.

It was a magical place and there are a few other stories to tell about it as I grew into my teen years watching Clint Eastwood with my Dad and spending time with my neighborhood friends. I’ll save those stories for another day, or when I’m encouraged to tell this story to a very good friend of mine in Venezuela.





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