By MARTY RELLES
He began by nailing spikes on each side of the tree up 20 feet to where the base of the fort would be. Then, he sawed off the limbs level with each other. After that, he nailed four two-by-four-inch pieces of wood connecting the four limbs. On top of that foundation he fastened plywood for a floor. The next step in the process involved building four-foot high walls around the fort. Finally, he attached a roll of canvas to one side of the structure. This could be rolled back over the top in the event of inclement weather. It took him about a month to complete the project.
The fort with its clean new wood looked majestic sitting high above the pine tree behind our backyard. Standing in it, facing west, you looked out over the rooftops above Janey Way. Facing east you gazed at the full expanse of the pit. By this time, the pit had been almost completely leveled. Mt. Everest, the mound in the middle of the pit, remained, but the rest of the pit contained mostly small piles of dirt and debris.
We spent hours in the tree fort, playing cards, eating lunch, drinking cokes and just hiding out. After school, I would climb up there to get away and contemplate the events of the day. We also used the fort as a lookout post to monitor activity in the pit or on the block.
Our tree fort lasted about three years. Eventually, workers cut down the entire line of trees on that side of the pit in preparation for the construction of St. Francis High School. That marked the end of an era on Janey Way. The pit had been our playground during childhood and finally, like all things, it disappeared along with our tree fort.
Later in life, Gary built his own home in El Dorado Hills. So the tree fort he built was only a prelude to many building projects he would take on in life. Oh, by the way, Gary went on to be the fire chief of the city of Sacramento, one of many Janey Way success stories.
E-mail Marty Relles at email@example.com.