SDPB would like to wish our Public Relations Manager (and editor of the SDPB Magazine) Katy Beem a big congratulations for winning the Landscapes category in the South Dakota State Poetry Society's annual contest. The contest was judged blind by Courtney Huse Wika and the top poems, including Katy's, will be published in the Spring 2018 edition of Pasque Petals.
by Katy Beem
Before you undertake the construction of your own fort, be sure to have the following on-hand:
1. Tree (One will suffice; however, many are better.)
2. Fallen tree branches.
3. All-consuming drive to live outside, pretending to cook twigs and eat grass.
4. At least one hour of remaining daylight.
Turn off Captain 11. (Too much Popeye, anyway.)
Depart the empty Dakota Avenue duplex—stop! Go back.
Leave a note for Mom in case she gets off work early. (Maybe the mangle will break down or Mr. Buhl will feel magnanimous today.)
Write carefully: “Outside. Hot dogs on stove. Love you.”
Depart once more. Traipse to the tree claim. Consider what a great ABC Afterschool Special this would make, if only you had a stutter or a new stepfather.
En route through the un-mowed field, vee your thumbs and fingers into plowshares. Pretend to harvest barley.
Prior to entering tree claim, side-eye: the Bible College, the trailer court, the snowplow and bulldozer lot. If the coast is clear, slip into the thicket of box elders and pines. (If not, abort! Go home and watch Family Feud.)
Choose a home-base tree. (Pine is best for its low branches. These will provide shelter from the deadly blizzard that will arrive any moment. Hurry!)
Gather dozens of boughs. (Take care as you disentangle from the grassy forest floor. You will need dozens, so allot plenty of time. NOTE: If you are working with a friend, be prepared to go it alone. The sky will darken, evening sirens will sound, her mother will call her home to dinner with a piercing gym teacher whistle that embarrasses everyone but her mother. But you must attend to your homesteading undeterred. There’s a deadly blizzard coming!)
Lean your hunted lumber upright against the trunk of your sheltering pine. Craft a wood wall by circling the mother tree’s center.
Feel pretty sure this is a bona fide lean-to or perhaps a tipi.
Make a note to fill any cracks with mud and leaves at a later date -- perhaps after you’ve built a fire and ridden out the deadly storm!
Scout the ground for big stones and little sticks. Arrange stones in attractive circle. Array sticks inside using starburst pattern. Flint two sharp-edged rocks. Ignite for pretend. Rub palms together over flames.
Jab nearby leaf fish onto spear you’ve whittled using omnipresent pocket jackknife. Cook leaf fish over fire for 30 seconds, turning constantly.
Throw fishbones onto fire. (Make sizzling sound.)
Sit. Regard the rectangles of light emitting from the Bible College dorms and trailer windows. Consider your friend who will ride out the storm having eaten Hamburger Helper and watching Happy Days.
Regard the sky. Feel the cold, wet pinprick of the first snowflake on your cheek.
Take shelter in your fortress. Hear the crackle of dry cottonwood leaves, smell the tang of rangy earth, the high notes of sweet, pungent, loamy rot—so inviting you want to dig deep into the ground, burrow as naturally as a field mouse.
Consider spending the night in your fortress, for real, even though tomorrow is a school day. (Could you emerge feral from the forest, arrive at school with leaves in your hair, open your social studies book to page 36 and read aloud the paragraph on the American Colonies?)
Picture your mother at home, alone.
Hope no one tears your fortress down before you return another day to ride out another dangerous storm.