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Most backyard treehouses occupy one tree. We were lucky. Four trees supported our three-story achievement. Sadly, its brief life ended with a thud.
We lived on a wilderness farm. Our cow pasture was dotted with clumps of aspen. One of these became home for our treehouse. It started as a platform about 10 feet off the ground. My older sister and I climbed up using cleats nailed to the biggest of the trees. We didn’t stop there.
The two of us decided a railing was necessary. Our little sister demanded entry privileges, too. That made for an easy decision – she’d tell Mom if we didn’t let her up. She was about five years old. Most of the time, we were mean to her. Her crime was being born younger than us. The truth is, the guardrail proved that my older sister, about nine and me, around seven, really were concerned about her safety. But we didn’t want her to know, of course.
About that time, we the construction crew of two, decided our treehouse needed a roof. Can’t imagine why. After all, the trees gave plenty of shade. And the roof crafted from an odd array of rough boards liberated from Dad’s pile of recycled lumber was about as waterproof as a picket fence.
We expected our little sister would insist on surveying the roof. So, another guardrail was in order. By now, we were about 15 feet high. And the steps used to carry up the lumber? Well, imagine that! They became steps to . . . you guessed it . . . the new second floor! We were mighty proud.
My sister and I were on a roll. Or so we thought. And if a roof on the first floor was a good idea, a roof over the second floor seemed an even better idea.
You guessed it. The roof went on and then another guardrail. A third floor had somehow materialized . . . or so we tried to explain later.
To this day, we blame our little sister for telling. Most likely that’s not true. But trouble arrived somewhere between our self-congratulations over completing the third floor and plans for a third-floor roof. Okay, call it a potential fourth floor. What else?
Oh, the trouble. That arrived in the form of our worried Mom. At our ages and her stage, her worry often turned into stern warnings and strict orders. And so, it did this time. Orders to dismantle were given. And these were acted upon quickly, by my older sister and I, but with ill-concealed reluctance. Our little sister looked on passively, from a calculated distance.
Mom left us with a stern look and returned to our farmhouse. Thereupon deconstruction began in earnest, in reverse sequence. My older sister scrambled to the top floor, Dad’s best claw hammer in hand. Being the eldest, she took most of the blame for this and our other unrelenting misadventures, even when innocent. We let her, of course. Before Mom left, she gave me orders to stack the wood as it was disassembled. That meant being on the ground. Almost immediately, top floor railings began to shower down, nails protruding. Calling up for the claw hammer to remove the nails, I got my wish.
Recollections are a bit vague after that. My older sister said later she saw me prone in the grass. Thinking at first she may have killed me with the hammer, now also lying on the grass beside me, she sent our younger sibling to retrieve Mom. Somewhere along the line, I recall Mom offering a chunk of ice from the icehouse wrapped in a dishcloth. She instructed me to place it on the prominent ‘goose egg’ forming on the side of my head. It was a glancing blow, Mom assured Dad later. But that minor detail hasn’t stopped friends, who’ve learned of our Treehouse Caper, from observing the blow to the head from the hammer explains a lot of things about me. Some folks have the weirdest sense of humor!