Three trees surrounded our fort, and their roots shot out at the base as if they had multiple legs, but they were good for sitting on. My legs itched from carrying stone through brush up from the bank, from where Jason was throwing. I took off my Royals hat and loaded up on small stone, then with my right hand grabbed a large stone and lit out through the brush. Our fort was at the top of a hill, just off the trail. The eastern slope was steep, too steep to trek without climbing, but the northern and western slopes were less steep. I trekked up to the fort and placed the stones in a line, creating a low wall, then I went back for more stone, and after three trips, Jason joined.
“We should use branches of wood,” he said in between puffs.
“Agreed,” I said, thankful he was not throwing any more stone.
“We can create a wall there,” he said, pointing to the opposite end of the fort from the stones. “I will go to the Trading Post,” and he bounded down the hill in search of wood.
Jason stuck a branch in mud and placed it so its small limbs stuck out from the fort. The upright branch stuck out in between two of the trees in the fort. A man could wedge another branch horizontal from the leg of the near tree to one of the limbs of the upright branch. I placed three branches this way then another opposite to the other tree, and progress was slowly made. Jason heaved a log up the hill and placed it beneath my three branches.
“They used to make cabins this way,” said I, in wonder.
“We just need lots of mud,” he said.
We sat on the legs of the trees, and examined our work. A beginning. A base of one wall was begun, and this wall was meant “to keep the enemy out.” Jason, next to one of the trees, hoisted another branch, smooth and straight to the top, it was about ten feet long. Its end was mangled, and four or five little limbs jutted out in all directions, much like Gandalf’s staff. After it was wedged in mud and upright, Jason grabbed our jackets, stripped from the heat, and hooked them to the branch.
“All we need is a flag,” he said.
The Old Military Road in Manhattan is tucked away behind the Southwind Shopping complex to the west of town. It lay just north of Manhattan’s first disc golf course and assumes part of the eighty-acre Warner Park. Uncompleted, the trail traces a path once used by the American cavalry in traveling from the Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley military bases.
There are at least three entrances to the trail, but the main way is easy enough to find. A large, stone pillar explains the trail’s purpose shortly after you arrive, and about one hundred yards in, you must decide whether to climb up a flight of wooden stairs or take a more wooded path to your right.
I have taken both, and I say, if a man has any sense, he will probably end up on both paths at one point or another. They cover the same area of land, more or less. The trail with the steps leads close to the disc-golf course, and on a cool, spring day, a man can here multiple men hooting and hollering over their throws. This trail, in fact, comes out a ways on the fifth hole of the course, though a man would have to be a poor thrower indeed to hit you. No matter, for the trail weaves back into the forest, leading up to what I believe is an old oak tree with scraggly, though large, branches jutting out all over the place.
I cannot tell what happens if one continue on this trail, for I have never finished it myself. At one point in our exploration, Jason and I fled the main path, as any man would, for we saw a ledge covered in moss and it looked interesting. Most trees and slopes were covered in moss, and the entire forest was a mixture of dead limbs, leaves, and live moss. Birds fluttered about, but without binoculars I could not get a fair glance at their glory. Eventually, when one leaves the main trail in this forest, he is rewarded by one of many, lesser-known trails, and we spotted one.
Following one of these trails, we came to dry creek beds and cliffs towering ten to fifteen feet high. They do not appear dangerous by any stretch, but a fall would make a man think otherwise. One of these cliffs towers roughly forty feet in height, and I explained that “if I were ten,” I would climb it. This cliff was near an old pine, bent over from old age and other catastrophes. It bent over in a half-mooned shape near the trail and at the base of a cliff, and after seeing it, Jason called it “The Trading Post.”
While we were on one of these lesser-known trails, Jason and I eventually ambled out of the woods into a small tall-grass prairie. This trail now seemed like a main trail (it is hard to know sometimes), and we quickly left it for another, small enough to be made by a deer. However, it led into a thicker forest of pines and evergreens, and we quickly knew it was made by man. For to our left was a campground made of small stones stacked upon each other and a fire pit made in similar fashion. The pit had dead leaves and twigs in it, almost as if the men were shortly to return. We stared in amazement at the scene, for over a hundred stones were used in its creation.
“And this,” said Jason. Walking over to a smooth stump by the fire pit, Jason sat on it and marveled. “It’s a perfect stump for sitting.”
Two other ply boards were placed across stone, and though they were not perfect for sitting, they did the job. We sat for some minutes both wondering and weary. Eventually, I too sat on the stump, and indeed, it was glorious. If any man reading this post finds the place, he must have a sit on this stump, for a man can nearly lean back while he cooks his dinner. It is proof not of man’s desire for convenience but for God’s grace toward men. I say, the stump was made for one thing, sitting.
In our wonder at this fort, we realized that we had been one-upped.
“We must make a spot like this,” we concluded. But where? It must be out of the way and hidden, somewhere not likely traveled.
And back we trekked to the fort of The Old Military Road.
Broom Snow,* theficklefarce.com
Written at his sister’s house,
While watching the nephew squirm during quiet time,
Painting: “Fort Henry”
By British (English) School,
Oil on board, 1850
*On the sad end of Mr. Samuel Snow, click here.