Like most kids of the ‘60s, most of my time during the year was spent outdoors enjoying hours of unsupervised play, using my imaginations and getting plenty of exercise and sun. Sometimes, I was in packs like neighborhood kids do, and other times by myself depending on what the day’s plans were.
Yes, I spent time indoors, but as little as possible, drawing, watching black and white TV, playing Monopoly, and using an Etch-A-Sketch board. But as long as the weather was good, or there weren’t chores that needed done I would jump on my 20-inch buzz bike and zip to the end of the driveway and rocket downhill to where the action was.
I rode without a helmet or any other protection, mind you. I only popped in back at home long enough to eat lunch, and drink a glass of Kool-Aid, before heading out again to continue what kids did naturally back then. I wandered around in vacant woodlots, rooted in old dumps along banks for hidden treasures, and waded in the local stream. Usually the property wasn’t ours, but it was generally OK as we were allowed to just be there.
Yep, it was a time when we lived in a small, quiet community where everyone knew their neighbors and watched out for one another. Kids usually filled the streets, were playing hopscotch on the sidewalk or riding bicycles except when we weren’t wandering through a woodlot that was owned by the neighbor or the town. We were allowed to walk in the woods or just be there.
But the thing that comes to mind most for me is the time I spent in small woodlots building log forts of one sort or another. Yep, as soon as breakfast was eaten and mother said go play, I was out the door, stopping only at the shed to grab a hatchet before rushing off to a nearby woodlot. I know you’re wondering what a young kid was doing with a hatchet. Don’t worry; my father had educated me on the dangers in using it, and also that no live trees were to be cut down.
That meant that any dead wood and branches were fair game for building my woodland structures. Any of that was put to good use as when as I was a young and spry individual. Almost any woodlot within close walking distance of our house had a log fort of some sort or other on it.
The forts were built in a simple lean-to style. A large tree limb about six to eight feet in length was placed across the lower limbs of live trees about five feet high first. Then more large limbs where placed on it sloping away at an angle to the ground. They were then covered with pine bows or small branches for a roof covering. The style of fort was most common and easily built, but building one still felt like a real accomplishment to me.
There were occasions when a buddy would be along and bigger, more deluxe forts were constructed such as double-sided lean-to that resembled a tent or, in a rare instance, a square log cabin with a hole dug in the ground beneath to enter. If I remember correctly, we did attempt to construct a teepee a time or two without much success.
Boy, those were the days when we ran free, playing cowboys and indians, playing war, and if real lucky were allowed to actually spend a night camping out in our forts. It’s a time I’ll just have to imagine in my mind as those days are long gone and all those forts have surely decayed back into the ground by now. Besides I’m no longer very spry, and all those woodlots are off limits nowadays.