Published on June 29, 2012 | by Gabe Arnold3
Chucking Apples & Building Forts
The warm Indian summer breeze was blowing past my face, coaxing the dehydrated leaves off the branches, and gently guiding them in swirling motions past my face. They danced and then glided down out of the maple tree, all the way down into the golden orange and bright red piles of leaves on the ground in front of me. Thud. What was that? Oh, look! Another apple had just landed next to my foot. I looked up a little puzzled wondering how it had dropped next to me when I was standing under a maple tree, not an apple tree, in the front yard of my best friend’s house.
About 40 feet away, sitting with a silly grin on his face, Grant pretended like he had no idea what had just happened. I picked up the apple, lobbed it back at him, and heard the splat of soft white flesh breaking with the juice spraying all over the silver spokes of his chair.
Yes, that’s what we did on Saturday afternoons when we had run out of ways to flood his parents’ garage with water, or tease his two little sisters until they would come out and play football with us, or get Grant’s little brother to come out and be one of the Indians while we played the cowboys. We got bored, and when that happens to little boys who are 9 and 11, you have to watch out!
One time, we decided chucking apples at each other had become rather dull, and we decided that moving cars coming down the hill would be a more meaningful target. That theory seemed to hold water until an older gentleman, whom we had successfully pelted with a couple of rotten apples, screeched to a halt, threw his car in reverse, and flew backwards into the driveway of Grant’s house. He proceeded to lecture Grant’s mom, while I stood sheepishly next to Grant in his chair behind her in the garage. Oops! I guess we won’t be trying that again for a little while.
Every time I drive north on South Cheshire Street just past the split at Huff Avenue and come around the curve that sweeps back to the left, I look down at that little house and remember everything. Life slows down, and almost pauses for me, as I peer into the sunny years past. That’s where my best friend and I spent hours, days, and weeks together living out our childhood dreams.
Around the time Grant turned eight years old, he couldn’t mobilize himself on his crutches very well anymore, and he was using his wheelchair more frequently, so we developed a system where I would push with all my 73 pound might, and he would use his ever-stronger growing arms to wheel forward through the grass, mud, or snow, depending on the time of year, until we reached our glorious destination, the “Fort”.
As I look at it now, our “Fort” was only about 300 feet from his back door, but back then we felt like Louis and Clark standing at the Pacific Ocean by the time we reached the small little clearing inside the wide tree line of his landlord’s back yard. Through long hours of toil (in our minds anyway), we had used our hatchets and pocket knives to clear a space that was probably about six feet square in the middle of this tree line. There were some tall oaks, maples, and beech trees that made up the upper canopy at about 40 feet tall, and at the lower level, growth came up about 6-8 feet. It was made up of buckthorn, sumac, and seedling maples that thickly surrounded the bases of the older generation of trees.
I’m not sure how we came up with the thought that this was a fort, but it was a great place to say that no girls were allowed. We also carefully began digging a hole to China. Yes, I still to this day can’t figure out the logic of any of those statements, but when you’re a kid, believing in your dream is everything, even if it’s something unattainable or silly. Some days I’d give anything to be back there in my fort with Grant working on our next bow and arrow set, or talking about the girls we were going to “ask out” this weekend at the library. Those wonderful days slipped by so fast.
What did we actually build back in that tree line that we called ‘the woods’? Come back tomorrow and read all about it….