Originally created 06/28/01

Our backyard treehouse began with such good intentions



If you are above the age of, say, 12, and get the hankering to build a treehouse, find yourself another hankering really fast. And if your spouse turns to you and says, "Darling, you really need to build a treehouse for the kids," run - don't walk - out of the house and take the first flight overseas to join the Peace Corps. In the long run, it will be a lot easier than building a treehouse.

I speak from experience. I returned home from work recently to find a pencil drawing showing a few boards nailed together in the general shape of a treehouse. It could very well have been a beach hut where they sell suntan lotion and fruity drinks, which would have been a better deal for me because it would have meant relocating to the beach. But it was a treehouse, not a sun-drenched hut, and it meant that I would relocate only as far as the patch of trees at the far end of our back yard.

When I took my wife's architectural design to the woods, I saw she had tied a string around three huge pines whose trunks form a rough right triangle 9 feet and 10 feet and 11 feet apart.

"That's a lot of area to cover with boards," I said when I found her. "Are you sure you don't want to build a smaller treehouse in the low branches of one tree, thereby saving lumber, nails and my back?"

"We don't have any trees with low branches," she pointed out. "Just tall pines."

"I could set out some saplings and give them a chance to grow," I suggested.

"Or you could get to climbing," she said, handing me the hammer.

So, bravely, I climbed. I didn't need to tell her that I am uncoordinated and totally lacking in carpentry skills. And I didn't bother to tell her that the last time I had been in a treehouse was when I was just becoming a teen-ager and was playing in the woods with my friend Edward.

Now, there is one reason I'm not on the Supreme Court today, and it is Edward. He was the bad influence that was continually leading me astray. On that particular day, he had talked me into ripping pebbled tarpaper off the sides of old sheds for use as walls in the way-high-up treehouse we had built in the woods.

All went well until, as I was hammered from the upper reaches of the treehouse, I looked down and saw Edward on the ground, setting fire to the treehouse - with me in it.

Have you ever seen how quickly tarpaper burns? Have you seen the great black clouds of smoke it produces? My father saw those things because somewhere from across the rolling fields he spotted the black cloud, jumped off the tractor and ran to perform some impromptu firefighting.

That accomplished, he set fire to the seats of our pants with his hand for being the kind of people who keep Smokey Bear awake at night worrying.

Ever since that incident, I have stayed firmly on the ground and kept my hands away from flammable building supplies. Most important, I have stayed away from Edward.

But now, grown up, with children and grandchildren, I was again falling in the clutches of a bad influence - my wife. Under her urging (in much the same way that Patton urged his troops into battle) I would spend every spare minute for several weeks trying to put a playhouse in our pine trees. We would spend way too much money, make too many trips to the home improvement stores and borrow demonic electric tools from friends and family - all the while keeping it secret from the grandchildren until we were finished.

Miraculously, my wife did not set fire to the treehouse while I was in it. And if I do say so myself, it came out pretty good for a man with such bad hand-eye coordination.

There were problems, though, and next week I'll try to explain why the carpenters won't let me join their union.

Reach Glynn Moore at (706) 823-3419 or gmoore@augustachronicle.com.