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Another Man’s Fort

June 27, 2012

Before I started this blog, I never really took part in any others.  However, from what I casually heard about them, I thought they were generally a medium for information interchange.  A guy would say something on the blog and other people would comment or respond.  I very seldom get comments or responses but a lot of guys have responded about the forts.

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My friend Tom told us his tale and now the “Digger” gives us his take on kid’s forts in the old Santa Clara Valley:

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Ed,

Yep: caves, tree houses, lean-tos, huts and holes we built forts wherever and from whatever. We had to in order to protect ourselves from the enemy.  

It was summer of ca ‘54; and the dirt was dry and dirty when John and I simultaneously got the urge to build a fort. It’s amazing how that happens and like you, we were 8-12 years old.  Our plan was to dig holes and cover them with indigenous materials, like fruit drying trays of which there happened to be gazillions of stacked close by. I envisioned our fort having multiple rooms with halls by which we could walk from one to another. Heck, why not, there were enough trays to build a subterranean Mystery House. I am sure John had similar dreams for what else would motivate two little boys to dig for hours in the hard dirt and hot sun. Well, other than protection from enemy.  

Sometime in the late afternoon, we finished the first room.  It was pretty cool, as in keen or zorch, but not as palatial as we had dreamed; however, once we got the hole deep enough to sit cross-legged without our heads touching the underside of the tray we decided a one room fort would suffice for the time being.  We needed only one 3′ x 8′ tray and to spread the loose, sandy, grey dirt over on top of it to complete the fort. To get in or out we simply dragged the tray back just enough far enough to allow us to slide in or out on our bellies. Once inside and with the roof pulled back, the enemy would never find us.  

OK, so now the forts done, all is quiet on all fronts and we’re sitting in our subterranean living room wondering what to do next.  John suggests we have a smoke.  Sounded good to me so while I stood guard John snuck by one of the enemy, his mother, and from somewhere inside the house copped a pack of Herbert Terrytons and matches and returned to the fort.  

We slid inside, slid the tray back and promptly lit-up.  I do not recall how miserable that was but it surely must have been.  Nonetheless, we sat back (figuratively speaking for there was no room or apparatus to lean on) and “enjoyed” our smokes while dreaming out loud of “adding-on” when all of a sudden the fruit tray came flying off and dirt and dust came pouring in on top of us.  Yikes, it WAS the enemy and the baddest of them all no less and HE found us. Well, in fact the baddest was the other half of the army that lived in the house with John’s mother and sister.  It was Sam, John’s dad. Busted!  What happened next I don’t remember but apparently we were not executed nor do I recall doing time or worse yet, I don’t think Sam told my parents.

For years, John and I AND Sam retold this story.  Sam told us about coming home from work and seeing smoke oozing from the ground but he never did tell us what was going on in his mind during the attack. I suspect San knew from the get-go what was going on and I imagine now that all the while he had a grin on his face or a least in his mind.

Some 20 years later, I came to realize that having Sam and his likes as enemies was actually the best ally two young soldiers could ever have. RIP Sam.   

Pvt. Digger

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