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Spires: Growing up near the woods

Spires: Growing up near the woods

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I grew up with a large patch of woods across the street from our home.

It was a wonderful place to explore. I spent many hours wandering through the many trails we made, and the ones made by animals.

Over the years we built at least a dozen forts of different sizes. Some were pretty simple, a few however were pretty elaborate.

One in particular comes to mind. Me and several of the neighborhood boys spent many afternoons after school building this particular fort.

It was big, as forts go, about 12-by-15 feet with a lookout tower in one corner. Back then, folks were always adding rooms or replacing porches on their houses so there was always an abundance of wood left over. Most of the wood, however, was odd lengths, therefore the fort took on a strange look on the outside.

My father had bought several 30-or-so-pound boxes of assorted nails that he stored in our shed, so we had plenty of nails to put stuff together.

Our intent was to build Fort Apache, like we had seen in one of the Saturday afternoon matinees at the theater.

What we lacked was a set of blueprints, not that any of us would have known how to read them. There were several serious discussions over the building of that fort as to the exact layout.

In the end we just started nailing boards together with the general idea of how it should be built. One of the boy’s dad was a carpenter by trade and he did know a little bit about building. Not enough to make a whole lot of difference in the final product.

My brother Eddie helped us as well. He had hearing problems and for some reason he seemed to be fixated on nailing boards. Now I think it had something to do with the vibrations he could feel.

The fort ended up with three or four times as many nails in it as were probably necessary, because of Eddie and our large quantity of nails. I don’t think my father ever realized any of his nails were missing.

The finished product did not look anything like Fort Apache. It actually looked more like a shed after an earthquake.

Once it was built, we spent hours playing it. The fort became an Old West fort many times, a camp in Africa (after seeing a Tarzan movie), a World War II combat zone, and a river boat (Huckleberry Finn inspiration).

That old fort lasted a long time, even after most of us were grown. Development changed the old woods to a housing development and of course the fort was torn down.

It would have been interesting to have been around when they tore that place down. I’m sure there was some profanity used when he came to removing all those nails.

Byron Spires is a retired newspaper editor. He has written dozens of short stories and serials in the Havana Herald. He recently published “The Curious Life of Marci Bell: Part I,” in a series of three books. You can contact him at

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