Note from the Hosts: From time to time (well pretty frequently) Paul (or The Paul) will email me stuff from his archive over at Remodel Crazy. and Hey, I don’t really mind because they cover a day when I have days to cover, and they usually perform fairly well. They end up being, well, pretty fun and well written. Here’s one he sent early last week. His email said only . . . “Here JB, this is the kind of shit you guys are into!” (and maybe you can call that editorial indiscretion.) Thanks Paul and enjoy. ~ jb
A Builder Grows up, but Not Before He Builds a Tree Fort
by Paul Lesieur of Mpls Remodeling
The Heart of the Matter
When young and full of magic I was the wizard of fun. My days were spent looking out for anything to occupy my “above it all” attitude, and “being alone” was somehow more complete than joining my friends.
The World was My Oyster
Little did I care what people thought, busy as I was wandering over the soiled and urban backyards I called home. It was my time to begin what would be a lifetime of making things. A journey of thoughts put to hammer and nail. And I was developing an abstract eye that never saw an object alone. Things made more as a piece to a puzzle that I could master.
Wood, nails, and a motley assortment of hammers, saws and pliers scrounged from the basement workshop of my father, and grandfather, gave me the instruments of destruction that I called my tools.
In the developing outer city areas, men built homes for the Baby Boomer Generation. The most affluent Americans to arrive not on ships from European cities, speaking only their native language, these Boomers were the offspring of the men and woman soaking in the new prosperity of an efficient post-war economy. They were wanted and they were the hope and future of America.
It was My Time
The Beatles British Invasion was about to begin, Kennedy was getting ready to invade Cuba with a bunch of intoxicated expatriates, and my only concern was not getting caught taking scrap lumber from a building site. I would pick up the dropped nails, regardless of size, and stuff them into my worn and filthy nail apron — preparation for my project, a tree fort.
My First Building
Mrs White the Irish widow lived in a home that bordered an un-buildable lot. Mrs White owned a few acres of rocky hill that a mountain goat would have needed cleated boots to climb. Forlorn and dangerous and warned as off limits by all diligent mothers, it was where I chose to erect the Taj Mahal of my boyhood. It was a perfect site, avoided by anyone with common sense, dangerous and dissolute, it afforded a careless boy a degree of abandonment and solitude.
It was summer, I had tools, and a giant Chestnut tree had spread its branches close enough to a ledge where I could carelessly plank my life away to a large a gnarly branch. I was set.
It took most the summer. And my structure went through design changes set by available materials. But I did end up with a large and usable fort that only a foolish and fearless child would feel comfortable in. A hatch with a knotted rope-ladder could be used to enter and bring tied-on supplies up to the occupants. It was my castle, and a safe and private place to smoke tobacco and look at the pictures of semi-naked woman in the Detective magazines my friends and I had gleaned from the trash.
The Soul of It All
All things come to an end. My fort was discovered in the fall when the leaves of that chestnut dropped. My father had arrived and saw the smoke coming out of the glassless windows. We (my friends and I) were just finishing the pack of Newports we had filched from the market. And as he stood there yelling up demanding I climb down to take what would surely be a strap on the ass, I finished my smoke and descended to my fate.
Did I become a builder because of that tree fort? Probably not, I became a builder because there remains a boy in every man and building is not age-related. Its an event you create, an event you control, it’s an ageless outlet that is not dependent on the product. It’s dependent on the craftsman. It’s the heart of the matter and the soul of it all.