As a new dad, something I am really looking forward to doing with the little guy is building forts. I have quite a fort building history that extends through high school, which I'd like to pass on to him when he is older. Naturally, my first forts consisted of the typical blankets, pillows, and furniture. However, the first true fort that I constructed was that of my mega-radical, "Super Ninja Club" tree fort (there might have been a "Mega" some where in there as well, lol). The base structure that my dad started out for me was merely two 2x4s mounted up around three thick trunks of the weeping willow tree in the backyard. With this V-shape as my foundation, I was able to take it as far as my imagination would lead me…and I have always had quite an imagination!

After nailing planks across the top of the V-shape for a place to sit, I then realized that I had a need for a roof for rainy days. Once I had a roof over my head, I recognized I needed walls around the structure for those cold, winter days. Of course, should a fire occur, I would be sitting in a deathtrap…so I installed a tall firefighter pole for emergency descents. I also needed a way to bring supplies up to the top level more easily, so I installed a hand crank/crate system for just that purpose.

This all sounds pretty cool, right? Well, where does one kick back to relax on a nice day? I'll tell you where – on a deck! About 6 feet below the initial level, I built out a nice big deck. I even dug a couple of deep holes in the ground several feet out so the support footings had a good foundation and would not shift. Now I had a place to lie out in the sun, but what's a boy's dog to do? There was no way for her to come up and join me… Guess I'd better build a ramp! The ramp was complete with traction/toe-holds to prevent slipping and originally even had a tunnel-like structure surrounding it, but that made it difficult for me to use the ramp as well, so that was nixed soon after conception and replaced with a hand rail.

You're now thinking “man, this kid has pretty much covered everything you could possibly want in a fort.” Well you're wrong. I was missing a trap door! Where does the trap door lead to? Into the basement, as most houses in Minnesota have. I cut a hole in the floor of my deck and crafted a door which descended into an eventually walled-in third tier to my fort. This level even extended underneath the previously mentioned ramp, so I had my own basement crawl-space. Oh yes, and I built a little staircase/shaft off the side of the deck which lead to the basement as well (naturally, to draw focus away from the SECRET trap door).

As I stood back and evaluated all my hard work, I realized it was a bit of an eyesore. One COULD use better construction techniques for a more aesthetically pleasing result…OR one could just throw a couple coats of paint on it and call it good. I opted for plan B – paint it is!

As you can see from the photos, it really was quite an impressive hangout for Super Ninjas such as my friend Bob and I. The bad news is that it eventually got toppled during a really bad wind storm…all of it. Blame it on too many nails hammered into the tree, thus killing half of it or possibly too many broad surfaces for the wind to catch, but it was gone. Not all was lost, though. I believe at this point, I had already started working on my next project, "The Coupe" which I will go into further detail in a later post (TEASER: it was originally a chicken coop and had carpet and electricity once complete).

One other fort that I can quickly detail is the one in my bedroom closet. I needed a convenient, indoor escape…more "escapey" than my own bedroom. So I created a room within a room. I cleaned out half of my closet and made space for myself to sit comfortably and study homework by the light of a wall lamp (power supplied by an extension cord), as well as eat leftover Halloween candy and secret reserves of hoarded snacks such as cookies & brownies, and listen to music on my little boombox. I had a couple of pillows for comfort and my old Kindergarten nap rug underneath me for flair.

Yes, I indeed look forward to passing on my fort building expertise and teach my son the ways of the Super Ninja.


Check out my previous article here:
No Joe! - Regrets of destroying my favorite childhood toys.