my Fortress of Solitude

While I may have wished I had superpowers as a kid, I was realistic enough to know that my undercover character, the "Tomahawk Kid" had to rely on his own wits to defeat bad guys. Of course, the Tomahawk Kid had to have a the Bat Cave, or the Fortress of Solitude. So I started with a simple log structure built in the Circle of Trees (see the David Tree) borrowing from the techniques of early pioneers I learned about in Indiana History. The structure was too temporal, so, after a remodeling project at the family business I got a stock pile of lumber and built this more substantial structure...."the Fort". I put a rusty nail through my knee while building it...which led to a brief tetanus scare with my mom.

The fort had to be raised off the ground because a few weeks out of the year the Circle flooded. It had a draw bridge style keep the bad guys out. It had a warming mechanism........a large old enamel bowl in which I would start fires, complete with old stove pipe. It had a series of wires running from the bowl around the inside perimeter of the walls. No, it didn't work, but I pretended it did and considered myself rather ingenious. It had a hatch in the roof and wood steps nailed to one of the four supporting oak trees so that I could climb to the "observation deck" and watch for bad guys. It had a back "porch" (a piece of plywood on raised earth I dug myself and piled up). This is where we'd put our sleeping bags if we camped out. I also found a huge coil of copper wire which I put on insulators and ran from the fort all the way to our backyard, sometimes on poles or trees....a distance of probably 1,000 feet. I pretended this was a way to communicate back to home base (aka, my bedroom). Often I had to share the fort with field mice.

Dad bought a gallon of brown paint and insisted I paint it.......I think because when the corn was down, or if gramps had beans or wheat in the ground, you could see it from the highway. My dad was all about "blending in"......of course, I considered it camouflage. The structure lasted several certainly outlasted my character of the Tomahawk Kid (wish I had kept the t-shirt and utility belt). Finally, in junior high, I figured it was time to raze the old fort. I shot this picture before I did. Only a wood step or two remain on the tree along with the raised earth under the former porch from those glory days.

I tell my wife often that a boy has to have a woods he can explore in, a field he can run through, or a swamp he can get muddy in. I'm glad my folks are still on the homestead.


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