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By Jesse Utz 

Forts: the forgotten practice

Jess Shut Up


Remember the fort. Ours was in the middle of a bunch of sagebrush out by the bird hills. OK, some of you are saying, where the heck is the bird hills? Well, we locals know that out along the shoreline in Electric City is a slightly hidden place named after the many birds that make their nests in the clay cliffs. Many a dirt clod fight was had there, and a few injuries as well, but I am here to write about the fort today.

The fort was dug out by someone before my brothers and me, but we accepted it as our own once it was discovered. We hauled plywood up and other boards to fortify the walls and to add some type of a roof. Now that I think about it, it was probably a perfect place for a rattlesnake but we did not think about such trivial things then. Even if a snake did wander into our fort it would have been its mistake. Pirates, robbers, good guys and bad all, at one time or another, spent time in the clay dirt peering out of a crack, looking to fire a clay dirt ball at an unsuspecting friend. Sometimes we would ride our bikes out and race them up and down the trails. When it got to hot a quick trip to the water and then back at whatever war we were raging that day.

Of course, other kids had different forts. Tree forts and forts with actual walls and a floor. But no matter what type of fort you had, they all had rules. Some, “No boys allowed” others, “No girls allowed.” Some even had signs that read “No adults.” The rules for entry to a fort were all different, too. Some had special knocks or a password. Others, more sophisticated, required a test of strength, or in simpler terms, a “dare” had to be completed before you were welcomed into the inner sanctum of the hallowed fort. There was always a stack of magazines or comic books mixed with all the special treasures found by the fort members. Sometimes even a special snack could be found hidden among the supplies.

Forts are not something commonly talked about with the youth of today. It seems they are too consumed with killing zombies on a video game or texting friends that are just a few houses away. Forts are a dying pastime that seem to be left to only the country kid or the adventurous camper. But even then, when they realize that there are no plugins to recharge their electronics, they soon abandon the fort idea and retreat to the bug-free, mudless and electricity-rich house of their choosing. The forts of the world are fading away. Soon they will be joining the sling shot, board games and homemade bows and arrows on the recently retired list.

As a kid, many times I wanted to spend the night in the fort. We always tried to last as long as we could, but it was always inevitable. As soon as the darkness set in and the flashlights clicked on, noises started and the coolness wrapped around us. Soon the flashlight battery would start to fade and the dark trek home, with our heads hanging in defeat would beckon us to our beds.

So, here is a challenge. No matter how old you are, this weekend go build a fort. Either outside or the simple blanket fort in the house. Bring back the legacy of fort building. Don’t forget to make rules and have a membership drive. Invite your friends. I just have one suggestion. Make it a no-electronics fort. Enjoy the sound of laughter coming from your own throat. And if you happen to have a beautiful fort, won during Colorama time, don’t forget to let me in if I come looking for a warmer place.

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