I don’t suppose the childish instinct to build playhouses is unique to Appalachia. But maybe our materials are.

When we were kids with the run of a 100-acre farm, we had quite a few castles, forts, and playhouses. There was just something about building our OWN structure where we could hide out, store childhood treasures, and play to our hearts’ content. Here’s a sampling of what we came up with:

Yup–it was the stump of a tree. Maybe even an ancient chestnut, although I’m not sure. This stump was HUGE and HOLLOW. There was a gap on the uphill side that made a perfect door and inside there was a sort of lip around the upper edge that was perfect for storage. I wish I could remember exactly what we kept there–it seemed like precious stuff.

This was just a small clearing in the woods above the house. There was a stump there–a smallish one–that felt like furniture. We harvested and carried sheets of moss to transplant here until we had a lovely, green carpet. Funny. These days I’d probably be worried about bugs . . .

In the winter, when some of the hay had been fed out and there was room to maneuver in the barn, we’d build forts and tunnels. We’d stack bales into walls and even ceilings to form cozy, little dens. Toasty and oh-so-quiet! Of course, this was also dangerous, as my mother liked to remind us.

The funny thing is, we had plenty of barns and outbuildings (like the one pictured above) that would have made fine playhouses. But we preferred to build our own. Somehow a barn or shed was too ready-made. Took too little effort. It must have been the pleasure of shaping something of our own using our hands and muscles and imaginations.