The War of the Mighty Treehouse – The ORIGINAL Story
by Ron Collins
September 1, 1987
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Dedicated with much love and respect to Reverend John Allen and Rosa Wade
I met Brother John Allen Wade and his lovely wife, Rosa, on the saddest day of my life. It was in January, 1964; January 23, 1964, to be exact. My father, Alf Collins, was on his way to work at the J.A. Olsen plant in Winona, MS, when the car he was riding in was hit head-on by a drunken driver. Johnson Cook, the driver of the car my dad was in, and the left rear passenger, Stephen Downs, were killed immediately. My father was riding in the front passenger side and Avery Peeler was in the passenger rear. Avery, although with much difficulty, recovered to be able to worship his Lord again. God had other plans for my dad. My dad died the next day.
John Allen Wade and Rosa were moving into their house by the Vaiden Baptist Church on the day of the wreck. My father’s funeral was Brother Wade’s first service in the Vaiden Church. God had sent him to comfort us in our time of sorrow. I couldn’t bear to go to my father’s funeral. I stayed with my aunt Louise and uncle Wilson Caddess on that solemn day. Phillip, Brother Wade’s youngest, came to stay with me that day and we became friends from the first moment.
It was not long before I became accustomed to spending the night at the Wade’s or with Phillip spending the night at my house; usually camping out in the deepest and darkest wilds and corners of our back yards. Although fearsome creatures walked the earth, I can truthfully say that none were ever seem during our adventures, for even the most ferocious of creatures dare wander into danger knowingly. Phillip’s and my adventures are far too numerous to dwell on at this moment, for they will be dealt with at a later time.
From the time that “Preacher Wade,” as we affectionately call him, stepped into the Vaiden Baptist Church, he was welcomed by all as a pastor, teacher, father, and friend. At this time, the church still had the old Sunday School building, which was beginning to show signs of age. I can still remember the “all day singing and dinner on the ground” that was often held out back of the old building. Preacher Wade would lead us in prayer and we would dive into the food as if it were our last meal. Lots of people studied and prayed in that old building, but soon it would be no more. In 1967, the old building was torn down and replaced with a new Sunday School building. Worship continued in the Vaiden Baptist Church as usual.
I spent many days at the Wade home. Some were spent “mooching” from the cookie jar with Phillip, or riding mopeds and bicycles. I know that we must have worried Mrs. Wade silly, but never was a harsh word said. In fact, of all my recollections and associations with this family, I honestly don’t remember one time when Preacher or Mrs. Wade ever said a harsh word toward anyone. I know, that on occasions of my winning at dominoes, Preacher may have wanted to, but not once was a sound uttered. Mrs. Wade would get tickled at his occasional losing a round and, I would find myself gloating in victory, only to lose it again all too soon.
The Wades have survived1 the mopeds, camping expeditions, bicycles, BB gun wars, army fights, badminton games, go-cart races, and Mighty Treehouse Wars that we, as children, are apt to partake in2. With the growth of the church, came the growth of mind, body, and soul. I was baptized by Brother Wade at the age of twelve. He guided me in the right direction. I don’t have to ponder about my decision, because I know it was correct.
“The War of the Mighty Treehouse,” is a story from those times. It is only a preview of a yet unfinished work that one day, with the Grace of God, will be completed. It is with much love and respect, that I dedicate this, and the final and completed version. This story happened in 1966, when we were young and mischievous. It is through guidance within our communities by people such as the Wades, that our mischievous nature tends to stabilize and lie dormant. I have been touched by this couple, and they will forever remain dear to me.
I have the privilege to be present on November 29, 1987, in celebration of their 50th Wedding Anniversary and know that everyone has been blessed by their leadership, guidance, and love. We can only hope to grow and care about our fellow man in this same way.
I want to thank the Wades for allowing me to be a part of their lives, for putting up with me, and for genuinely caring. But most of all, I want to thank them for guiding me to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is through His Word that miracles happen and through Him that we shall find salvation. Truly, when the roll is called up yonder, you both will be there.
May God Bless and Keep You.
Ronnie L. Collins
1 Brother John Allen Wade passed to his reward on January 6, 1999.
2 [Ed. Note: 05/20/2001]: The dedication carefully omitted the fact that Phillip and I “acquired” a private “swimming hole” in the form of the Vaiden Baptist Church Baptismal Pool. Usually a day or two preceding a baptism, we would accidentally “fall into” the baptismal pool – goggles, flippers, snorkel, and all. I guess I figured that, in case I slipped during my baptism, I didn’t want to be the first “Baptism Casualty at Vaiden Baptist Church” to be entered in the Church’s records.
Standing tall and silent, the weathered old treehouse stood watchfully guarding the dreams and hopes of the many youngsters that had contributed to its origin. There was a proud feeling about this old treehouse. After having been built with scraps and nails bought from our hard-earned piggybank savings, it stood proudly looming against the sky. And after enduring many hours of dedicated children, sweating and grunting to the point of exhaustion to put together every jigsaw piece, finally their refuge was complete.
Thus begins our story of Bruce, Tom, Phillip, Wayne, and Ron; five pre-teenagers searching for freedom from the hum-drum, everyday chores that from time to time seem to have engulfed us all.
Above all, this was to be a good day for a fight.
The snapping of the twigs underfoot did little to disguise our presence from the waking world. The warmth of the rising sun had brought forth a new, but saddened day for our gang. A group of five youngsters, assembled together for a cause; a last tribute to a very loved old friend. My Radio Flyer wagon had served us well, but over the years had been dying of cancerous rust and dents. After hauling its last load on the previous day, our old companion was now being given our final farewell. As we lowered our friend into its eternal resting place, the lonely sound of a Bobwhite drifted through the trees. It was only when the first rocks and clods of dirt hit the ground near our feet, sending up little clouds of dust, that we realized that the sound that we had heard had been our club distress call and with the yelling that followed, we knew we were under attack.
Phillip, the son of our Baptist minister, scrambled for the treehouse while yelling for us to follow suit. As soon as the door closed behind us, our fortress was secure and we were ready to do battle with even the mightiest villains or foes that the world had to offer.
“Bruce! Tom!” I yelled. “Get the BB guns!” “They’re poking at the north wall!” David, one of our attackers, had begun using a pole to poke and push at our Achilles’ heel; a wall hastily built by stacking bricks on the only open end of the treehouse. (Our club’s lack of funds had not enabled us to complete this wall). “Don’t let the bricks fall inside!” I yelled. David had not been too bright in his attempt to dislodge our wall. He had pushed the support from beneath the bricks and with a loud rumble and shower of dust, the bricks gave way and collapsed downward, hitting anything in their path, including David.
Clods of dirt, rocks, and sticks began pouring through the opening left by the fallen bricks. “Grab anything that you can and throw it back at them,” my cousin Bruce yelled. Having no time before the attack to prepare for the battle, we hastily grabbed anything that was thrown at us and hurled it back with all our might in an onslaught on the enemy that would have made General MacArthur proud. Tom, the marksman of our group, began squeezing off shot after shot from my rusty old Daisy BB gun and the assailants scattered for cover. Soon they discovered what we already knew; we hadn’t loaded the BB guns in days1. At least our nail-strewn and broken-glass-lined battlefield was already taking a major toll on the enemy. Though we were outnumbered two to one2, we held on with sheer determination. Wayne reached for the aircraft cable that had been buried underground with one end leading up into the treehouse and with a mighty yank, freed it in time to trip two of the villains3 who plunged face down into the dirt.
Suddenly, the yelling and screaming stopped. There was silence as my mother appeared brandishing a large wooden rolling pin, still caked with dough from her making our club a batch of her famous tea cakes. She, in a very un-polite way, told the enemy to either retreat or she would call the police. In their retreat, Marvin emerged with a stick through his foot, Chris lost two good teeth4, and we gloated over our victory.
The Mighty Mo cannon that adorned the roof of the treehouse and had stood ready to do battle for years, had not been needed to disperse the enemy5. The sheer force of wits and power (with a little help from my mom) had prevailed.
This day had seen the burial of an old friend, a hard fought victory, a fresh batch of tea cakes, and a new era in treehouse security.
Those days are now gone. The treehouse no longer stands tall, having succumbed to the test of time. My friends have moved away, perhaps to tell this same tale to their children, and later, when unruly, I was to become very close to the old rolling pin6.
Somehow, deep down inside, I knew that my mama had told me that there would be days like this7.
Editor’s Notes and Corrections – May 20, 2001
1 The BB guns HAD been loaded. I made a “special” trip to Summers’ Grocery on my bicycle to pick up a few extra packs of BBs just for the occasion.
2 It was closer to a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio. There were 15 or more attackers.
3 Upon further recollection, I remember only one (Robert) that was tripped by the cable. However, if you think that two sounds better. . . .
4 Chris was on OUR side. He was the one that warned us with the Bobwhite signal.
5 I did manage to lob one shot from the Mighty Mo cannon (it was a single shot and couldn’t be reloaded without climbing onto the roof while under attack). It had just about enough power to knock over a Coke bottle.
6 I still have that old rolling pin, in the event of an attack against my boys, whenever they build their version of the Mighty Treehouse.
7 There’s FAR more to this story than is told here. See THE WAR OF THE MIGHTY TREEHOUSE – AUGUST 2000 EDITION.
Editor’s Notes and Corrections – August 9, 2014
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS
LONG OVERDUE: When the original story of the War of the Mighty Treehouse was written, I mentioned my
lifelong best friend Tom (Evans) as being in our war. This was not correct. Tom helped build the Mighty Treehouse. He put in hours of
hard labor, as did all of us in ensuring that the impenetrable fortress
remained impenetrable. Tom
was, however, NOT there the day of the war. Larry Tate was. I want to apologize
profusely to Larry for leaving him out. It was, by no means, intentional.
Larry certainly did – as did everyone else – his part in the victory.
Someone told me not long ago
that I was old and sh*tty. I asked them, “Who are you
calling old?" However, as far as the War of the Mighty Treehouse goes,
I'll ALWAYS be 12. So Larry, you also deserve the medal of
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