Chapter 10: The Tree House
After the earthquake the Rose family had quite alot of cleaning up to do as you remember. (Never use the word alot when you are writing in school. Teacher doesn't like it. Alot! Hee hee).
Anyway as I was Saying....
The Rose family hadn't become successful by being wasteful so even when they were cleaning up they recycled. The adults looked at the fallen wood in the forest and thought about fence posts and firewood. The teenage boys in the family saw the same wood and thought "tree house."
All the rest of the spring JT, Joe, and their cousins Tel, Ty, Tim and Tres (Terrance) worked on the tree house whenever they had a spare minute. Once summer break came they really went to work whenever they weren't needed on the farms.
The tree house was quite a creation. They picked a huge old fir tree, which had forked into three trunks sometime in its early years.
They built a wide balcony around each trunk about fifteen feet up.
The three balconies came together in the middle creating a platform.
On the platform they built a house big enough for all of them to sleep in comfortably with large windows looking out in all directions. There was a railing around everything and it had a spiral staircase going up from the ground so that they could go up and down easily.
Down on the ground they made a stone fire pit and patio. On the patio were benches and tables and chairs.
Last of all they built a little covered crow's nest much higher up one fork of the tree with a railed ladder going up to it. The floor of the nest was four feet by five feet. It wasn't big enough for a grownup to sleep on but it was just the right size for a little girl and a big yellow cat.
Belle had carefully monitored the whole project. She had no intentions of having any member of the Rose family falling out of trees this summer. While she was at it she built herself a little tree house of her own where she could keep an eye on things.
When the tree house was ready the whole family had a sleep out or sleep up (If you know what I mean). While every one else was organizing the camp below, Lil Mike and Pal were fixing up their little nest for sleeping.
Once she was done she looked out over the forest from high in the sky. That is how she noticed a light far away through the woods near the road. It looked like a fire.
Belle high up in her little house saw the light too. Her tail didn't itch but she was curious (after all she is a mouse).
Sometimes you might think Lil Mike is a mouse too because sometimes she gets very curious as well.
So while everyone was setting up camp Grandpa James' little mouse named Michal and the flying mouse named Belle headed out to check on things down by the road. Pal, Buddy, Snow and Wink were creating a little parade behind toward the road. JT saw her going and decided to follow. He got Joe and soon all the boys and their assorted guardians had joined the parade. (It takes quite a few guardians to protect the Rose boys. Just ask Belle).
Night had fallen, it was dark and the light from the strange fire sent a bright glow out over a little clearing.
I know you will never guess what Lil Mike and her companions saw. (Would you like a hint?)
"It's a gypsy cart!!" Lil Mike yelled with delight. She had just been reading Wind and the Willow with Grandpa James and she knew all about gypsy carts.
It did indeed look just like a gypsy cart getting a piggyback ride from an old pickup truck. Beside it was a fire where a very startled old man had been cooking and talking to an enormous white barn owl on a perch.
To say the Old Gypsy (for that is what he was) was startled was almost an understatement.
*Have you ever seen animal's eyes in firelight? They glow. Lil Mike and the boys were standing there with animals of many sizes and shapes all staring at the fire. All the poor old man saw were eyes, eyes everywhere. It was just like the scary part in the movie "Snow White."
"Oh my!" he said.
But Lil Mike came up to him so quickly he forgot his fright.
"Are you a gypsy?" she asked looking at his brightly colored clothing and the red bandanna around his neck.
"Why, yes I am," he said with a confused laugh, "and who are you?"
"I am Michal Hanna Witherton Rose. I am 4 and 1/2 and I just read Wind in the Willows with my Grandpa James and it is about a Canary Yellow Gypsy Cart only yours isn't yellow."
"Well, well," laughed the man. "You certainly have a lot to say for someone so little."
"That's for sure," Joe stepped forward. "Sorry if she's bothering you."
"No she isn't. Are you Michal Hanna Witherton Rose?" he winked.
Lil Mike smiled. She liked the old man.
JT stepped into the circle of light next. As the oldest he felt responsible to represent the family. "Sir do you know this is private land?" He tried to sound very grown up.
"Most is nowadays." The old man smiled. "I just stopped for supper and sleep. I use to stop here from time to time years ago. This is where Aristotle and I met. Isn't it you old hoot?" he called to the owl.
The owl blinked.
"You won't even know I've been here in the morning. See how I rolled back the sod before I got the fire going. Tomorrow all you'll see is some trampled grass."
JT couldn't argue with that exactly. "Are you really a gypsy?" he asked, "I didn't think there really were gypsies any more. At least not in America."
"We Romany are everywhere son, most of us don't travel so much anymore but I've always had an itchy foot."
"My Grandpa James has a powder for itchy feet," Lil Mike said looking at the man's feet.
The old man laughed full out loud. "I don't mean my feet really itch, Michal Hanna Witherton Rose, I just mean I get the itch to travel."
Lil Mike looked confused. Grownups were so silly some times.
Pal and Buddy had come up close to her and Snow was close behind. Wink, who was terrified of the strange owl, was hiding behind a bush.
The other guardians: dogs, cats, horses, raccoons and even a deer were all visible by now.
"I won't hurt you," the owl spoke to Wink, "Belle would never allow it." At that several other small animals appeared.
The old gypsy was in a state of wonder." You people have quite a way with animals don't you?' he asked.
"We like them, and they like us," said JT. "It's how it has always been."
"It beats anything I've ever seen and I've seen quite a bit. Would you kids like to join me for supper?" he pointed to his fire.
"We were just getting our dinner set up in the woods," JT said, "I bet you could join us."
Just then Joe saw the violin case on the little porch of the cart. "Hey, do you play the violin?" he asked.
"That's what I do," the man said. "I travel around to family get-togethers and play."
"What kind of get-togethers?" Lil Mike was curious again.
Oh, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, things like that. I have a big family. It keeps me moving."
"I have a big family too." Lil Mike said.
"Yes you do. And, right now that family is missing you." Grandpa James' voice came out of the dark. "Here they are," he called.
At that he stepped up with the grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, and Marie along with a vast number of other animals.
"You certainly do have a big family Michal Hanna Witherton Rose," the man shook his head. "Some of them seem to have fur."
At that the whole family laughed.
The man whose name was Pat was invited to dinner.
Snow carried Lil Mike while Aristotle flew overhead to the camp so he wouldn't be left behind. It turned out he was from this very wood. He and Belle enjoyed a visit.
After a big meal of veggie hotdogs and hamburgers, with potato salad, watermelon, roasted corn and s'mores, Pat joined the family in making some music.
Joe had his harmonica, Travis had his guitar, and Grandpa James had a fiddle of his own. Lil Mike and everyone danced the night away under the stars.
Belle, high up on her perch, tapped her foot to keep it all in harmony. Because, when Belle taps her foot everything is in harmony. That's the way it is.
Airabella Quick of Cherry Hill Farm is © copyright 2008 by Kimberlyn Kammerer. All rights reserved.
May not be reprinted elsewhere without permission from the author/illustrator.