On the north side of the road in Natural Bridge, the back yards slope down to a spring hole where the Indian River, exits the caverns and wanders off through a sandy plane with occasional Pine-topped outcrops. Naturally, boys build forts, camps, and shacks back there, often making an updated hide-out every year or two, each a little further away. Some boys take apart and move the whole thing. A person closely related to me, hustling with his friends, took some unattended lumber from the saw mill in town, and tossed it into the river below the dam. The lumber made it through the caverns without getting caught up in the low overhead sections, and the boys collected it a good way downstream. The best fort I saw was an anteroom to a small cave on the river. I suppose that, since then, that cave has seen many generations of Natural Bridge boy-builders.
Dicky Bray and I, aged five or six, built a fort together just behind the old Bonaparte house foundation near my family home.
We used some half-rotted boards from inside the foundation hole, but relied heavily on a blanket. One day we discovered that someone had taken a few of our boards .
Later, when we found our boards on new wood and canvas fort further out back, we slashed the canvas with Dicky’s jack knife.
Many years later, I partnered in a building business, with Ed Franqueentont who had spent many of his young summers, staying with his uncle Moe Morgan and family in Natural Bridge Moe owned the caverns and the adjoining store.
We met and worked mostly around Ithaca, but Ed pretty much designed the camp for us to build on Round Island, in Lake Bonaparte. The main support is two massive beams, fabricated on site from two-by-tens and three feet up on piers of local stone, laid up on the bedrock. I had green wood sawed for it a year ahead, so it would have time to cure. After a few months the wood disappeared, reappearing again as a shack way out back of the mill.
We eventually got another batch and put up the carry beams up on Round Island.
Then somebody knocked them down. So I put them up again and framed for a floor across them. Brother Herb, whose camp it was to be, helped me nail up the floor. Ed Franquemont didn’t work on the job, because he was running our office in Ithaca and the big barn moving/house-building project at the time. Four other N.B. workers , including my daughter Mnetha and my Niece Liz Morse both worked on the barn house , with me on Round Island …and with Natural Bone Builders for a lot of years.
One morning we had the roof rafters half up, but poorly braced …. when they fell off. They fell mostly on the second floor, and David Morgan was the only one standing right there, but the rafters just fell around him. Not much was said at the time, and we had them back up before lunch time. I wrote about that rough building project and sold the article to the Mother Earth magazine, but they edited out the part where the roof fell in.
So this should right that wrong.