Friday, July 6, 2012

Forts, Heat Waves, and Wizard 101

Vincent and I decided to build a fort today. Actually we didn't get much farther than the planning stage because it's been blisterly hot here lately. The temperature hovers around 100-104 during the day. But we can't be expected to stay inside during summer vacation can we?

The past four days we've waited until dark to leave the house but not today. I woke up, got dressed, fed the boy, dressed him, scrubbed his teeth and told him that we were going to build a fort no matter how hot it was outside.

"Um, Dad. If it gets too hot I might have to go back in the house OK?"

"Don't worry buddy. We will take it easy. In fact we are bringing water bottles and cookies with us so we can stay hydrated and keep our blood sugar up."

"Whats hy-ja-tay-ted?"

"Hydrated, it means that we have to keep drinking water so we don't dehydrate or dry out inside."

"Well can't you just say that we have to drink a lot of water so we don't get dried out inside?"

"I guess I could." 

"Dad, we could die out there and then...."

I interrupted him,"No we will not die out there. We will only be 200 feet from the house."

"OK Dad."    

I filled a backpack with rope, water, a hammer, nails, cookies and some tape. I don't really know what the tape was for. Maybe it was the boy scout in me. Be prepared!

Vincent watched me load everything into the pack. "Dad. Mom said we aren't supposed to take rope into the woods. We could hang ourselves."

"No, YOU are not supposed to take rope into the woods because YOU could hang YOURSELF." I pointed at him and grinned, "See the difference?"

Dawn heard us from the other room and came in the kitchen. "Mike. I don't want you two taking rope in those woods. Someone's gonna get all slung upside down and I don't want to have to cut anyone loose or visit the emergency room today. Put it back."

"See Dad! I told you! Neither of us can do it!" Vincent smiled ear to ear.

"Dawn, I need the rope so Vincent can pull on the trees I have to chop down."

Both Vincent and Dawn chimed in together, "WHAT?"

"Dad! Are we really gonna chop down trees? HAHAHAHOOOOOOO YEEEEAAAH!"

"Mike you've lost your mind. It's five thousand degrees outside and you want your 9 year old son to pull down trees in the tick infested forest. Why don't you two find something to do inside that doesn't involve chopping, building, or hanging from anything?"

"Mom, Dad is really safe. We will be OK." Vincent was using his most reassuring voice. Then he looked at me and said a little incredulously, "Dad, are you really gonna chop down a tree?"

"Yep, I'm gonna chop down more than one tree actually. See, we need to make a floor for the tree fort and I measured out a ten by ten foot area that we need to turn into the floor and....."

"WOOOOOOHOOOOOO! We're gonna chop down trees!"

Dawn grimaced."Vincent! Don't shriek please." He apologized and jumped up and down in place for the next minute. Clearly the idea of chopping something down was right up his alley. I knew it would be. I was nine years old once too. I know all about that kind of stuff.

Dawn continued, "If I have to take someone to the hospital today I'm going to leave you both there. I'm serious. I will take you there but you will both be walking home."

"Relax Honey. Everything will be fine. Trust me."

"Famous last words Mike. Famous last words."

Vincent stopped jumping and huffed and puffed for a moment. I looked at him and cracked a big Cheshire grin. "You ready boy?"

"YEEEEEESSSSS!" he shrieked.

"Hahahaha! Buddy you have to use your inside voice please."

I helped him get the backpack on and he nearly ran me over on his way to the door. I could hear the water sloshing in the two big bottles and watched as it took him a little off balance. He got to the door and steadied himself then turned around with his hand on the doorknob and waited for me.

"Come on Dad!" He swung the door open.

I would not say that we actually winced as the outside air hit us but we both had a physical reaction. Vincent put both his hands out as if to hold back the heat and I squinted like an old bachelor farmer peering across a dry field.

"WHEW! You ready boy?"


"No, no, no. You can't chicken out on me now buddy. We have work to do."

I took his hand and we made a few steps onto the porch. We were still in the shade of the overhang and stopped just short of the shadow it cast. To say that the air was hot and thick would be an understatement. Every pore in our bodies flew open to prepare for the sweat that was sure to follow.

We made our way through the yard and over to the shed. We stood in the shade of the shed and I gathered the camp ax and machete. The trees were only ten yards away so we ran across the open distance like a couple of jack rabbits. Then we struggled for a bit as we worked our way a little deeper into the forest. The trees provided a bit of relief against the direct rays of the sun but the air was so still that it was a challenge to breathe. Finally we got to the group of fallen trees we planned to use as the foundation for our fort and stopped.

"Dad. I can't carry this backpack anymore. I'm just gonna put it down right here OK?" He was huffing and puffing.

"Bring it here buddy, I'll carry it." I helped him take it off and slung it over my shoulder. Wow, it was heavier than I thought it was.

"OK, I'm gonna jump up here on this fallen tree. I need you to...OUCH! Holy cow! Vincent don't touch that tree it's hot." I had put my hand on the horizontal trunk of a huge fallen tree and was shocked by how hot it was. Little pieces of loose hot bark stuck to my sweaty palm and I quickly brushed my hands off on my shorts. I must have looked pretty concerned because the tone in Vincent's voice told me he was a little nervous.

"DAD! There's trees everywhere. Whats wrong?"

"Oh you don't have to worry buddy. That one tree there was a little hotter than I thought it was going to be is all. Its no big deal."

"Well if you can't touch the trees then does that mean we have to go back in the house?" He sounded hopeful.

I looked around the woods. What else could we do out here that didn't include touching anything hot? I thought about digging a pit under an up turned root system and covering it with branches but decided against it. Every animal in the forest was under those root systems right now seeking shelter. I didn't want to tangle with a water moccasin or a hot opossum.

"We can just go back in the house I guess. You want to play some Wizard 101?" I asked.

"YEEEEEEEEEEHAAAAAAAA! I LOVE WIZARD 101!" He started to jump up and down and thrust his arms back and forth like he just scored a game winning touchdown.

"I'm gonna see if my friends are online and then maybe if you help me we can go after that one guy in the cave together...." He trailed off as he walked back toward the house.

By the time I got home he was already inside, in front of the computer waiting for me with a big smile. I put the backpack down and grabbed my laptop. When I finally settled in next to him I let out a big sigh and turned on the computer. He could tell I was a little let down that we couldn't stay outside. It's amazing how sensitive kids are. He reached over and put his hand on my arm and patted me, "It's OK Dad. We can build that fort any time when it's not hot out. Plus we can't even touch the trees anyway."

I smiled and looked at him. He was already logging in to Wizard 101 and didn't notice me staring at him. I leaned over and gave him a kiss on the side of his head.

"You promise to help me make it the best fort there ever was?"

"Dad, everything we do is the best! And if we don't have to go to the hospital then it will be even better right?"

I just kept smiling at him. Then I picked a wood tick off his neck, crushed it and logged in to the game.


  1. Just watch out for "falling out of trees."

    1. I'll stay out of the trees as long as Dora doesn't climb in them either. The last three times I've climbed a tree was to get her silly butt out of one. I love that cat but she just might be the end of me. Why does she love trees so much? I'll probably never know.