I’D RATHER BE IN THE WOODS: series by Sarah Cartron

Chapter 3: The Tree Cowboys
After the nine-hour car ride my legs were quivering as I walked into a smoke filled garage in Lanesborough, Massachusetts. The boys were lounging in an array of chairs surrounding a coffee table instead of a campfire. “Beer!” they shouted in unison as I lift up the two six packs of Sierra Nevada attached to my hands. “Where’s my new puppy?” I replied, looking for the newest member of the family that walked on all fours. I entered their circle, plopped down on the couch, opened a beer for myself with the lighter on the table with “DD” etched on the side, then lit myself a cigarette. The boys passed the case of beer around, grabbing a bottle one by one and opening it in the same fashion with the lighter. Though it had been well over a month since I had visited, the conversation continued as though I had never left. I was welcomed home with open arms once again, in our new version of “The Hill.”

Our initial community was a place for us to hide away when we needed hiding. Now, it has transformed into a network spanning the United States, giving us the opportunity to continue to grow. Through the connections built on “The Hill,” many have found a way to transition into their own versions of adulthood. I guess no one is ever really ready to grow up, and the challenge is trying to bridge the gap between the fantasies and realities of life. My Lost Boys have migrated to a location that allows this way of life to thrive. They have begun to find the sweet spot between their inner Walden and conventional life, and maybe, found a way to live out our dreams. The family that originated in the hills of West Virginia has begun to spread its wings. Instead of jumping from job to job, the boys succeeded in building new careers.
I didn’t know what to expect when my Man Candy left. He was hand picked with a handful of others from “The Hill” to become a “Tree Cowboy.” They migrated from the hills of West Virginia to the mountains of New England. On my first visit all hesitations disappeared when I saw that our tribe wasn’t breaking up, it was just growing.  Things were much the same as they were on “The Hill.” Grizz was found more often than not playing his guitar, but now he had Ocoee to jam with. Double D and Thor, the pair that found pleasure in creating the means of entertainment on “The Hill” was now able to buy toys of their own. Old Man River was just as wise as ever, reciting the stories of how he initially became a “Tree Cowboy” and the master plan he and Grizz had been developing for months to help their family grow. And there were new additions to the family, The French Men, experts with a chainsaw and fit right in. They played the same sorts of silly games we had on “The Hill,” getting bad songs stuck in your head, and flipping each other off as often as possible. They were working with their hands, becoming real men, and having a grand time along the way. Slowly, we are beginning to come out of our cocoons, and with luck we will become beautiful butterflies. The boys were in man paradise.

The atmosphere of the garage reminded me of sitting around the campfire. Even though there was a perfectly good living room in the house, the garage was where the camaraderie of the “Tree Cowboys” took place. Sitting around our “new campfire,” we reminisced about blood red summer sunsets. We laughed at yet another performance of our old trademark bus jokes –in a way I imagine it resembled a reciting of “The Aristocrats.”  This conversation of summer’s past segued into the prospects of our future –and what the next chapter of our lives would have in store for us. 
“Can we take him?” Grizz asked to me on the side of the riverbank over stale PBR’s. He wanted to take my Man Candy away from me to build Aerial Adventure Parks in the fall. It was as though he were asking permission to ask for my boyfriend’s hand in marriage. I gave him my blessing, under one condition; I got to visit whenever I wanted. “Obviously” he said.  Many miles and months since the initial conversation, here we were, once again planning the next chapter, together. I felt as though I belonged in this garage just as much as I had felt welcomed in our Neverland on “The Hill.” As the evening continued the night echoed with our merrymaking once more.

The snow began to fall. I listened to the sound of my footsteps crunching the snow. I was anxious to see the boys at work in such a beautiful environment, hidden in their new forest. They had their own little winter wonderland. At first, it was so quiet I could hear myself breathing, but as I got closer the sounds of chainsaws, power tools and laughter echoed throughout the woods. I was amazed at the intricate obstacles hanging in the canopy above where I stood. These “Tree Cowboys” were able to move through the courses with ease, quickly zipping from one side to another, overcoming hurdles because they knew the place like the back of their hand. Like Peter Pan and his Gang of Lost Boys, my friends have found refuge in the woods. Now they are building Neverlands for others to enjoy. 

It wasn’t until my last visit to the park in Massachusetts that I had the courage to overcome my fear of heights. Man Candy, Baby Face, and I decided to go run a few courses on their day off, something none of the boys had done. “I don’t really think about spending my day off playing in this park,” Baby Face said, “I’m here enough during the week, but this will be cool.” We sat at the shop, had a few drinks and pumped each other up. I was excited, nervous, terrified and extremely happy all at once. The adventure began and I was very timid, but with each obstacle my confidence grew. I jumped from lily pad to lily pad, racing to pass the boys and quickly I was leading the pack, carefree. I was finally able to see their line of work from their perspective. The canopy of the woods was a magical view of the world below.

{editor’s note: we at DBP MAGAZINE ONLINE are pleased to bring you Sarah’s work, which runs every Wednesday morning. Tune in for the next installment!}
SARAH’S BLOG IS:
http://www.idratherbeinthewoods.tumblr.com
the website to the project itself www.idratherbeinthewoods.com
and her personal website that is in the process of revamping www.sarahcartron.com
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