Building Huts, Tree Houses and Forts

Building huts, tree houses and forts were always a big part of summer. By mid-August, we had built more than we could use but still continued to build them.
Building them was the biggest part of the fun.

I always wanted to build a log cabin, as did my friends Harold and Hal, but our hatchets were never up to cutting down trees and notching them. So, we made do with what we could handle.

We found four small trees growing in some-what of a square on a hillside overlooking Dearing Branch. They would be the corner post of our cabin. We cut sweetgum saplings the right length for the walls. Since we couldn’t notch them and stack them like a real log cabin, we tried lashing them to the corner post but quickly gave up and used nails.

When the walls were about three feet high, about half done, we realized we had not made plans for a door. So, we made another post five feet high, cut the wall poles shorter in one corner and made our door there. Harold ended up graduating from UGA with a degree in architecture so maybe that influenced him.

When it came time for the roof, we thought we could make a thatched roof with the branches from the sweetgums we cut. Wrong. The leaves are nothing like the palm fronds used for real thatched roofs we read about and they quickly dried out, making the rain come through like nothing was there. Even when green it slowed the water down very little.

We found an old army surpluse tarp that didn’t leak much and used it for our roof. But we didn’t spend much time in it, the gaps in the wall “logs” let mosquitoes in. But it was fun building it.

A better hut was one we built of lumber. Harold’s family owned a sawmill and lumber yard, so he had access to lots of wood. We made prefab walls and a roof from 2x4s and 1x6s and laboriously lugged them to the woods under our biggest tree house in a big pine tree. We dug holes for the 2×4 post and nailed the three walls and roof together. It was to serve as our supply hut for the tree house.

We were afraid to sleep in that tree house. Although we put side boards around the platform, it was just too high. So we camped under the tree in our army surplus pup tent and sleeping bags and kept our stores in the hut.

Putting out a sleeping was always fun. No matter how hard we tried, we could never get all the sticks and rocks cleaned up that would dig into us and make us miserable all night.

The old tent leaked a little. I will never forget one morning after it rained most of the night. We managed to get a fire started at the mouth of the hut with wood we kept dry in it and cooked breakfast. Taking our tin mess kit plates back into the tent to eat our perfectly burned eggs, bacon and toast there,
I set my plate down on the floor. It floated in a puddle of water. I could spin it and it would spin several times before stopping.
But breakfast was good!

We built tree house all over the place, but my favorite was in my front yard. A pecan tree just a few feet from Iron Hill Road had two somewhat parallel, somewhat level, limbs coming off the trunk. I built a simple platform about five feet square on those limbs.

During the summer, I spent many hours sitting or lying on that platform, watching the occasional car go by. I watched as that road it changed from dirt to tar and gravel and finally asphalt over a ten-year period.

I loved reading and often took a library book up in the tree with me, getting lost in adventures all over the real and imagined world. And many of them were science fiction, taking me off our planet completely.

Outdoor magazines were read there, too. I had a subscription to Outdoor Life, Sports Afield and Field and Stream as far back as I can remember. I read and dreamed about hunting, fishing and survival adventures like the folks in them.

Although I knew I would never be able to build one in middle Georgia, I wanted to try my hand at igloos and snow caves. I wondered if I could survive the cold and attacks by polar bears while eating bear, seal and caribou meat.

Tree houses and huts were good places to dream and scheme. Some of those dreams, like salmon fishing in Alaska, came true for me. Many did not. But just the dreams were invaluable.