My Own Private Mission -Control (or, “Ground Control To Major Don…”

While we were driving home from work last night, my wife pointed out to me a huge tree-house in a nearby yard.

“Wow, that’s pretty cool. I never had a tree-house when I was a kid.”

“Neither did I,” I said. “But remember what I told you before? I did have a rocket.”

You see, when I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. Not an unusual aspiration for a little boy, really… especially when it’s the early ’80’s in Florida and all you hear on the TV news is “space shuttle this, space shuttle that”. My room was full of space-themed toys, and my wallpaper was space-themed as well. That was my thing.

My grandfather (mother’s side) was… interesting. On the bad side, he was a bit of a bigot, he cheated on my grandmother, and he could be ill tempered. On the good side, he treated me like gold when I was a kid (before I was old enough to form my own opinions) and he could show brief flashes of kindness to others… and he loved his pets, just like the rest of my mom’s family.

He was also a master of woodworking. He built all his own furniture, plus he built insanely detailed wooden models of the ships he served on in the Canadian Navy in WWII. Not model kits, mind you, but wooden replicas with metal, plastic, and wire piece accents…made from scratch! And they were beautiful.

My grandfather got it into his head to build me a rocket one day. His idea, no one else’s. He worked for weeks on this thing, and it was quite a surprise to me when I went over to my grandparents’ house and saw a 14 foot rocket in the backyard!!!

(The description is necessary, as I don’t have any pictures scanned yet to show you. I will eventually, so keep your eyes peeled.)

It was wood and tarpaper on the exterior, but painted in gloss red, white, and blue on the outside to make it look like painted metal. It was a wooden cylinder, tapering to a cone at the top (and topped with a metal spire); just below the cone the sides were wooden slats for about 3 or four feet, and I could see something inside that slatted section. The bottom third was supported by three large red tail-fins at the bottom, and between two of those fins, where the vertical “USA” was painted, were hinges and a latch. It was a door.

Opening the door revealed the “rocket” to be hollow, with no floor. Against one side of the inner wall was a ladder, and the ladder led up to a platform with a trap door, which opened to the hollow, slat-sided section I could see from outside. When shut, the top of this trap door was revealed to be a padded seat (complete with a seat-belt), which faced a freakin’ control panel.

My grandpa’s dumpster diving had paid off with a partial dashboard, which he covered in simulated dials and indicators, and blinking lights (which explained the extension cord I saw outside leading to the house). A CB microphone’s cord was connected to the control panel, and from inside the “panel”, I heard low radio chatter (actually a cleverly hidden AM radio). At the top of the “cockpit”, there was yet another panel of flashing “indicator lights”, and from where I was sitting, the world I could see from between the wooden slats seemed so far below.

I was in heaven.

I played with that “rocket” every time I visited my grandparents, visiting far-away planets and battling hostile aliens (my fantasy was more “Star Trek” than NASA). Eventually, I grew out of my space-play (a little thing called “comics” took care of that). Wasps moved into the rocket ship and built nests, insuring I’d never play inside again (the alien hive-mind had won at last). Eventually it was torn down, but a few pictures do exist: one picture was taken from the air.

It was cool: for a short time, I was the envy of all those kids with simple “tree houses”. My crazy grandpa had built me a rocket, and that was pretty freakin’ neat.



Published in: on May 17, 2007 at 7:27 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My….God.

    I wanted to be an astronaut too…but the closest I came in equipment was an old football helmet covered with aluminum foil and an unusually shaped piece of plywood that I drew controls on.

    Darn it.

    Well, at least my vacation starts on Monday…so when today’s over, it’s party time! Take that!!)


  2. Damn, you got one up on me.

    Well, I’m playing hooky today, so take that! Ha HA!

  3. Aaaarrrgg! You FIEND!!

  4. I grew up in apartments my whole life. I never so much saw a treehouse!

  5. Apartments and such can be fun to play in, too, when you use your imagination.

    “Look out, the neighbor just sprouted tentacles! Shoot to kill!”

  6. […] and optimistic futurism, but it’s fun. I can remember my grandfather (the one that built the rocket) and I making paper airplanes in his front yard early one evening when I was a kid. While he was […]

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