We loved building forts as kids

My childhood home was the second one built on the 800 block of Third Street East in Fort Frances.
Art Debenedet had built the first home, which stood at the corner of Third and Frenette Avenue. There was another home at the corner of Third and Shevlin without any between.
Third Street soon developed as a “baby-boomer” subdivision.
No roads ran north of Third Street east of Phair Avenue. Everything north was grown-up bush with lots of willow bushes sprouting up, where once large piles of sawn woods dried from the Shevlin Clark saw mill.
A railway right-of-way ran north and south along the west side of Reid Avenue, which eventually was sold off for additional homes to be built.
As children, our playground was the bush behind our home. Where Fourth Street now exists, a drainage ditch ran east and west and always filled with water in the spring and after rainstorms.
Where Fifth Street today exists, a huge pond seemed to have water year-round and we chased tadpoles in the late spring.
We had trails throughout the bush that ran all the way to the tracks and criss-crossed the whole bush. We built forts and tepees all over. Sometimes when a new one was being built, we would ask our moms to pack lunches for us.
The forts were built with willow shrubbery, and would have entrances and roofs. Willow branches were cut with our jackknives and we pushed them into the ground.
We then would weave other branches through the branches that were stuck in the ground.
The roofs were built from stronger branches with sticks with crotches put on the sides and other stronger branches crossing over. We tied them together with the bark from the willow branches.
When enough rafter sticks had been formed to create the roof, we then threw over thatched mats of willow branches.
Hours were spent creating these forts and we competed amongst ourselves to build the best fort possible.
As eight- and nine-year-olds, we got to use a hatchet. That enabled us to chop out branches that at the base were more than an inch thick. With enough, we would begin creating a tepee.
Three branches would be formed to create a tripod, with one of those trees having a sturdy crotch at the top to lay the other two large branches into. The three were tied together at the top.
More long branches then were added around to complete a circle. It was tedious work but once the branches finally were all in place, we began tying them together with smaller cross branches.
There would be one set of cross branches around the bottom and a second higher up. Once it was sturdy, we again would begin weaving small willow shrubbery around the outside.
A door was created with an opening you could crawl through.
The forts and tepees became our castles. Designs were refined. We might use them for a week or a month, then we would tear them down and start again.
They were never permanent and we never slept in them. They were all out-of-sight of our homes but we knew that we were safe in the bush.
A parent would show up or call to us from the lane to remind us that it was lunch or suppertime, and we knew that we had to come in before it became dark.
We had our boundaries, but also enjoyed lots of freedoms and independence.

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