"" bshawise: Fort Francis

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fort Francis

Do kids still make forts? Is that a thing anymore? I like to wax nostalgic about the summer days my neighborhood crew and I spent creating elaborate encampments worthy of media coverage. The kind of forts Daniel Boone would swoon over. Wooden fortresses that could protect us from invasion or hold enemies hostage long enough for the enemy leaders to get us our demands (helicopters full of popsicles and fireworks). Two-story spy mansions with secret entrances and underground tunnels. We had a woods behind our house that was owned by a convent. There was a cabin that nuns retreated to from time to time for even deeper silence and refuge. We didn't know that. We thought it was a half-way house/cabin for escaped convicts. A prison was down the road so it made complete sense.

I remember one week where we broke into this cabin to use their tools to build our own cabin. We loved the convicts' cabin but we were scared of getting killed. We needed our own place. And tools. So we used their saws, machete, ax, etc. to cut down about eight medium sized trees. This actually happened. I'm not just waxin' fantasy. Long story short we got caught. The Father of the St. Francis convent (and part time Columbo) used his super sleuth skills to ruin everything. Three things happened in that moment.

ONE: We got into lots of trouble with our parents and learned that stealing from nuns is wrong.

TWO: The cabin lost its appeal when we found out it was for nun camp overs and not for runaway felons.

THREE: we had a bulletproof excuse for not finishing our perfectly planned cabin. Usually we had no excuse. We just stopped. The fort that was going to be completely underground ended up being a two foot deep hole. The double decker tree loft ended up being a tree with a few sheets of plywood nailed into it. As much as I like to remember all those sweet forts the truth is we never finished one. Ever. We started lots. Had great plans and great excitement. They just always ended up being hard work. The fun part was the brainstorming.

I haven't changed much since then. I still love the "what if" a lot more than the "what now?" Maybe I need to change. Maybe I need to get better at finishing stuff. Who knows. Or maybe I just need to find grown ups who used to run with neighborhood crews who actually completed forts. The kind of kids who graduated from cub scouts and stuck with piano/viola/drum/trumpet. Maybe I just need to surround myself with former and current over-achieving, viola-strumming, knot-tying nerds. Because lets be honest. Even if I make all these great plans to change into someone who finishes stuff with as much gusto as I start stuff, I know I'll lose my excitement after I buy the TrapperKeeper and other colorful organizational tools. There's probably still a circle of about eight tree stumps near a rustic nun-cabin that can vouch for that.


brother said...

as one part of the "convict fearing clan" I can attest to brad's story as being complete fact. I can totally remember the verbal thrashing we took from mom and dad that evening. Also I remember us sprinting to the house and grabbing the nun's axe from my t-shirt drawer and running back to the woods, remember that?

Anonymous said...

As another member of that clan, I completely attest to the veracity of these facts.

bshawise said...

i'm dying to know which member you are, anonymous.....

Anonymous said...

The member who left the Tecumseh Trail enclave for Arizona, only to return during the summers. I am about to head back for a visit, took a little stroll down memory lane, googled you, and found this.

bshawise said...

holy crap. matt klopp. it's been so long i can't remember if it's one P or two. shoot me an email. i'd love to catch up. bshawise@yahoo.com