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Published April 23, 2012, 08:39 AM

Tarzan treehouse

TOWNER, N.D. — There’s a few things a kid just has to have if they’re going to be an all-around, outdoors-loving kid — a good collection of rocks, sticks and feathers; a jackknife just sharp enough to cut your finger and make it bleed; and a hand-crafted treehouse suitable for both playing and pondering the great mysteries of life that only a kid can ponder.

By: Ryan Taylor, Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — There’s a few things a kid just has to have if they’re going to be an all-around, outdoors-loving kid — a good collection of rocks, sticks and feathers; a jackknife just sharp enough to cut your finger and make it bleed; and a hand-crafted treehouse suitable for both playing and pondering the great mysteries of life that only a kid can ponder.

Our children have been collecting rocks, sticks and feathers for years. Two of the three, who’ve reached the ripe old age of 5, have been given official Yellowstone Park souvenir pocket knives, and, as of last week, they have a treehouse built in the great forest a hundred feet north of our house.

I don’t remember how old I was when my first treehouse was put into service, but I must have been fairly young because Dad and my brother built it just 4 or 5 feet off the ground. They didn’t want to build it so high that I’d hurt myself when my sister pushed me off the edge, which she most certainly would do at some point in time.

It got a lot of play time for the small investment made in 2-by-4s and plywood. As I got older, I would outgrow that one. Then I ventured out with a hammer and nails and a few old boards into the great forest beyond my backyard to find a horizontal growing cottonwood tree worth homesteading.

I would nail my ladder steps up to the best sideways branch I could find and commence construction. Eventually, I built on a branch so high that Dad put a pile of loose hay under it to break my fall just in case the old barn siding secured with my bent over nails let loose and let me down.

I built some good treehouses complete with back rests, top decks, lower decks and lookout sentries.

Like old times

Last weekend, my nephew was out turkey hunting and I was trying to think of a project we could do with him and my little rascals to keep them outside. It dawned on me exactly what we should do. I grabbed some tools and had the kids each drag a couple of used boards along as we ventured out into the trees.

The blueprint was in my mind as we set up shop next to two old cottonwoods with a root that served as a sawhorse. I gave lessons in sawing and hammering and, together, the plan went from mental draft to deciduous architecture in no time flat.

I kept the height of the deck at about 5 feet or so off the ground to limit the tears and the boo-boos. That was a good thing because I had the first boo-boo when the old aluminum ladder I was using during construction collapsed and dumped me flat on my back like a pile of bricks. I was sure glad I hadn’t built a 10-footer as I laid there and groaned on top of the crumpled ladder.

We built a more permanent ladder out of wood, one that a sibling couldn’t swipe and leave their brother or sister stranded on a high, lonely 5-foot platform. These kids are resourceful enough little Tarzan cartoon watchers, so I suppose they could swing to the ground if need be with a makeshift vine made from an old lariat. Still, we secured a ladder to our cottonwood condo.

At the end of the day, the treehouse was up, and we all admired it and took pride in our handiwork. I expect, and hope, there’ll be some modifications. I left a few boards out there and I’ll gladly donate the nails, because every kid ought to have a treehouse, and it should be one-of-a-kind.

Now I’ll know right where to find them if it’s a nice day outside, especially if it looks like a good day for playing, pondering or swinging from a vine.

Editor’s Note: Ryan Taylor welcomes comments about his column. He can be reached at 1363 54th St. N.E., Towner, N.D. 58788; email: cowlogic@ndak.net. Taylor, who ranches near Towner, is a columnist for Agweek.

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