I decided to lighten things up today and toss in a chapter from my book, “The Huckleberry Days of the ‘50s.” This will take us back to the “good ole days.” Back to the days of “I like Ike” buttons and fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror. It’s a sane place to visit when you need a break from a world gone mad. You can find the book at www.ralphhhiggins.com.
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Why Are Boys Driven to Build Forts?
I think it’s a genetic adaptation or defense mechanism that drives boys to build forts, because every kid I knew back in elementary school had a fort. To build a fort was something boys were instinctively driven to do and the more complex, with underground tunnels and places to hide, the more admiration you received from your peers and from those you allowed to enter your domain. Naturally, girls weren’t allowed in a boy’s fort back then. We weren’t quite sure what girls were. All we knew was that they giggled and ran funny.
If a kid tried to build a fort today he’d be required to have a building permit, an environmental impact report, a variance of some sort, a union contract, liability insurance, workers comp, a health plan, a sprinkler system, and about thirty additional permits and clearances. HUD, OSHA, EPA, County Planning, and the Women’s Temperance Society, are just a few of the agencies that would be looking over the kid’s shoulders as he dug his foxhole, reinforcing it with scrap plywood, and covering it with tree branches for camouflage.
His building project would be red tagged for code violations before he put on the roof. I don’t think it’s as much fun to be a kid nowadays.
A tree fort was the ultimate fortress, but more skill was required in the construction of a tree fort. After flooring boards broke and a number of us fell out of trees, most of us decided to stick to digging holes. There was a group of kids who felt that they had the physical attributes for tree living, but it didn’t work well for them either.
The main problem with the “tree-dwellers” who tried to build tree forts was that those with prehensile tails didn’t have opposable thumbs. They could climb trees and get around up there all right, but they kept dropping their tools.
The drive to build a fort was something young boys couldn’t control. When you hit a certain age, you became a fort-building machine and you wanted the best fort in the neighborhood.
The blue prints for forts are rolled up somewhere in a boy’s DNA waiting to unfold at just the right time in his development. Like a duck imprinting on mama duck, when that timer goes off, the kid is a full blown mini-architect. He can’t help it. It’s beyond his control.
If the urge to build a fort hits too early, a small child will become obsessed with hiding behind furniture or under blankets hung over chairs. But if it hits too late in life, the unfortunate young man may eventually find himself living in tunnels under
City or in the sewer system of . Chicago
Miraculously this building urge hit all my friends at about the same time. The neighborhood was pock-marked with foxholes and it looked like the area had been taken over by a hoard of large ground squirrels. Wood disappeared from construction sites and the sound of hammers punctuated the rhythmic grinding of hand saws.
We definitely needed wood for our forts. A local contractor was building a house on the next street over from ours and the word on the street was that his house came up one bedroom and half a garage short. He ran out of lumber. The poor guy was still studying his wood order when I tossed the last of the camouflage over my hideout.
It was great to be a kid in the ‘50s.
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