On this Father’s Day, it’s hard for me to believe that the little guy I built the fort for is the same fellow that grew up to go sailing to Cuba this year… But here’s the story of the fort I built for Bradford.

It seems that the time comes in the life of young boys when they long for a place of their own where they can hang out together without interference from adults, and maybe even put up a sign reading “No Girls Allowed.”

When He Was Brad

When Bradford was perhaps eight years old we discussed building a fort. It was a joint project, but Brad was really too young to help a lot. By the way, at that time we called our boy Brad. It was later that he chose to be called by his full name, Bradford.

There were some large bushes, maybe ten to twelve feet tall in the back corner of our lot. We chose this to be the best spot to build a fort, and the bushes provided a privacy screen. I put up treated wood posts about six feet tall to support the little building. An A-Frame designed structure all of treated wood was built on top of the posts.

Bradford climbing the rope to the fort.

The roof was brown asphalt shingles. At the peak of the roof a two-by-four protruded, to which a climbing rope was attached. The young guys could climb the rope and swing into the open front of the fort, pull up the rope, and no intruders could then enter.

The fort also featured a trapdoor in the floor with a rope ladder leading to the entry. The rope ladder could also be pulled up into the fork and thusly secure the structure.

A wall, built of pine slabs of wood with the bark still attached, secured the fort from prying eyes on two sides. The tops of the pine slabs were pointed to imitate the style used in walls protecting our ancestors in the early days of our Republic.

Old Ladies and Forts

It looked pretty neat, and we thought that we had built the perfect fort. However, the old lady next door, who could not even see the fort due to the bushes, complained that we had not applied for a building permit from DeKalb County. I guess that little old ladies just don’t appreciate forts, but to her credit she never reported on the building code violations to the County, and the fort stood strong, a bastion for young guys to play in.

Hogan’s Heroes

In the Seventies, there was a TV program called Hogan’s Heroes was watched by a lot of young guys. Hogan’s Heroes had built a tunnel under the camp in which they were imprisoned. Consequently, Brad and his friend Ken decided to dig a tunnel under their fort.

Bradford in a tree.Digging in the red clay was not an easy chore for the guys, since red clay when dry becomes hard as a bricks. In fact, a lot of bricks are made from red clay. They obtained a lot of digging tools from my shop, unknown to me. They succeeded in digging a sizable hole under the fort, piling the dirt behind the fort. They gave up on the tunnel when the hole filled with water, a case of bad planning and engineering by the boys, and a lesson learned.

The Case of the Missing Tools

Strangely, I begin to find various tools missing. After looking extensively for them and not finding them, I bought replacements. Later I decided to put the pile of dirt behind the fort back into the hole under the fort.

Guess what? My missing tools were in the pile of dirt. Apparently, when a tool didn’t work very well, and in the boys enthusiasm to dig the tunnel, the tools were discarded on the dirt pile and subsequently buried.

Well, boys will be boys.

Bradford in the fort.

The Fort Moves On

Much later, when Bradford had long outgrown the fort and tunnel days, a neighbor who had a young boy asked if he could have the fort. I thought that this would be a good thing, so about eight or ten of us neighborhood guys carried the fort to my neighbor’s back yard. A happy ending for the Fort Bradford saga, with some additional little guys getting the enjoyment of playing in their own little world inside of a real fort.

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