This is a rare photo of the top tier of my old backyard tree fort. My friend, Stuart, is shown in this picture. Stu helped me to build the second and third tiers of my tree fort.
Reflections of the Stamp Collecting Merit Badge
By Richard Mabey Jr.
It was on the first Saturday in March of 1967, that I had my appointment with Mr. Hayden, the Stamp Collecting Merit Badge Counselor. My appointment was scheduled for two o’clock in the afternoon. I remember clearly that in the early morning of that important day, I climbed up to the third tier of my old tree fort. I pulled up my Stamp Collecting Merit Badge Book and The Complete Guide to Stamp Collecting books via “the bucket.” “The bucket” was a big plastic pail that was connected from the ground all the way to third tier by way of a rope controlled by an elaborate pulley system.
For it was in my old tree fort, that I spent many hours studying for my Stamp Collecting Merit Badge. When I look back, I don’t know why it was that I liked studying for school and merit badges, in my old tree fort. I know that it gave me a feeling of power, a certain comfort in looking out and seeing so far out into the landscape. From the third tier of my old tree fort, I could see past the back field, then out onto the woods behind the end of Mabey Lane. It was a tremendous view. For the third tier was at the same height as the attic roof of the old Mabey Homestead.
There was a table on the third tier of my old tree fort. When I was in the fourth grade or so, my friend Stuart and I used to draw “hidden treasure maps” on that very table. We would hide little tokens, mostly gold painted rocks, and hide them about the fields and forest that surrounded the old Mabey Homestead. Then, we would draw “treasure maps” that would tell where the “hidden gold” was located. We would then give the maps to the local kids, who were a bit younger than us to have some fun with.
It was now the Spring of 1967. I was studying for my Stamp Collecting Merit Badge. I can’t explain it, but I loved reading and studying up in my old tree fort. I read the book, “The Complete Guide to Stamp Collecting,” to help me prepare for this merit badge. And, I read most of this book on the third tier of my old tree fort, with my elbows on the old table and my library book resting on the old tree fort’s table. For some reason, I could concentrate to a much greater degree when I was in my old tree fort.
In the picture atop this blog, you’ll note my old friend, Stuart, is looking at one of my old cap pistols. That is the exact place where I sat, reading my Stamp Collecting Merit Badge Booklet and also “The Complete Guide to Stamp Collecting.” It was a most memorable moment in time.
I found myself alone without feeling lonely. Although, I remember while studying for my Stamp Collecting Merit Badge, a thousand and one memories flowed through my head. I remembered the time that my old friend Stuart and I played a game of “Risk” on the very table of the third tier, upon which I was studying for my Stamp Collecting Merit Badge.
I remember studying my stamp collecting books from about eight o’clock in the morning till about eleven o’clock in the morning, on that fateful Saturday of early March 1967. I felt confident. I had studied my merit badge pamphlet. I felt I knew all there was to know about the hobby of stamp collecting.
So, I began the descent down my old tree fort. But first I put my stamp collecting reference in the plastic bucket that I had perched on the tree fort table. I slowly sent them down to the ground, via the extensive pulley system that my buddy Stu and I had built. When the plastic bucket gently touched ground, I began the brave downward climb.
To climb down the third tier, you had to descend by rope. The rope had knots in it, about one foot apart from each other. It made it easier to climb up and down the rope. I have a rare photo of myself on the first tier of my old tree fort and I am holding onto the “descent rope” with my right hand. Each of the three tiers, had their own “descent rope.”
I climbed down the rope and touched ground. I grabbed my stamp collecting reference books and began the short walk to the side door of the old Mabey Homestead. I felt so confident about my knowledge of stamp collecting. My appointment with the Merit Badge Counselor was set for two o’clock that afternoon. I thought for sure that it was going to be a piece of cake. I was in for a rude awakening.
To be continued.