There are milestones in all our lives this was one for me. The story has nothing to do with war, actually it is just a childhood memory. Of all the things I have written this perhaps is the one I hold most dear...
The Surrender of Fort Fearless
The old wooden fort stood in the corner of the yard, a monument of sorts to childhood's passing. It stood forgotten and alone, decaying day by day, but somehow proud. I could remember the summer my father built it. He cut and nailed each board with a loving hand, and boasted how it would last long after he was gone. Sadly, he was right. The old fort held many memories between its battered walls and fallen roof. There were countless nights friends and I had camped out under its roof and spent the night talking of the things children do, school and ghosts and dreams that may or may not have come to pass in the days since then. In the long hot days of summer the Fort was the place all the children of the neighborhood gathered, and drank tall, ice filled glasses of Kool-aid, with beads of water glistening as they trickled down the sides of the glasses in the heat. It was there that my sister and her friends played house with their dolls, but to myself and the other boys of the neighborhood it was Fort Fearless, and in our minds its battered walls reached high into the sky and from its ramparts we would save the world day after day. How many desperate battles did we fight there, throughout the days of our childhood, with our imaginations conjuring up war-whooping Indians circling around us, their painted ponies at a gallop, the air thick with dust and Indian arrows thudding into the walls of our fort. Or perhaps the German Army approaching our walls, their panzer's firing on the move, with tank sprockets squealing as they swerved back and fourth in their advance, and the smell of diesel heavy in the air, but yet I did not remember the fort ever being overrun. The flagpole, from which our standard always proudly snapped in the wind, was gone, perhaps shattered into pieces from an imaginary cannon shell bursting close by, but more likely it was gone simply because of age and neglect. No longer did children play there. We were all grown now, and all lived far from home. The fort built so long ago still stood in the corner of the yard, waiting for the children who would never come, who would never play there anymore.
My brother and I dismantled the fort one day, at our mothers request. I believe we each felt as though we were doing something sacrilegious each time we pulled a nail or a board from the walls of the fort. It was the right thing to do, of course, as the years of neglect had rendered the fort unfit for use. The wood on the floor was rotten with age, and one side of the roof had fallen in, some forgotten winter. Yet the hidden children that lived within my brother and I were crying and screaming at each of us as we worked our mission of destruction. By that evening the fort which had never fallen in a single childhood's imaginary battle, had surrendered itself to the adult's hammer and crowbar.
I remember thinking then, as I gazed at the pile of broken wood and childhood dreams that when I had children of my own, there would be a new Fort Fearless for them to play in, and perhaps, just perhaps the child within me would forgive me then.
Copyright 2007 Richard R. Radtke