Blog of Stories

There are 35 blog entries within the category of Stories

The Treehouse - Monticello
Story circa January 17th, 1997 | View Post

Blake Ledet and David Spencer standing in front of Monticello
Perhaps one of the most interesting adventures I have ever been apart of was constructing a four-story tree house on the bayou banks of Ft. Bend County, Texas. The tree house stood 55 feet from top to bottom.

We began construction of the tree house, which was later named Monticello, in January of 1997. It sat about one half mile to the north of Beck Middle School. Estimating about 4 to 5 hours of work per day, 7 days a week, it only took a few weeks until Monticello had multiple rooms, was entirely framed in, had sleeping quarters, a shingled roof, was water tight, and walls full of pornography. Shortly after it became a regular spot for dozens of our close friends to throw parties at. In high school, that was quite a luxury.

Constructing Monticello - Phase I

The construction of Monticello began in early January of 1997. The spot had originally been discovered by a friend of mine, Aaron Duke, and the original construction crew consisted of Aaron Duke, Daniel Putt, and myself. It wasn't long before I decided this was a great project and was going to require a great deal of time on our parts. Aaron was knee deep in high school and Putt was in the middle basketball season; both were inhibited from dedicating the necessary time to the project. Since I was a senior and football season was already over, I was really just counting down the months until graduation. One afternoon I took two of my other good friends, Blake Ledet and David Spencer, to see the site. The size of the tree definitely impressed them. Since they were both heavily into construction projects, it wasn't hard to get them on-board.

From left to right, me, Blake, and David posing from the top of the tree house.

In the first few days we simply created a platform on the tree, just as you would expect from any tree house. I don't think there was ever really a grand plan, but it was so much fun working out in the woods that we decided to go all out. In the next few days we each took on our own separate tree house projects. The general idea was for each of us to construct a room (more or less) thus growing the tree house very quickly. One of us built a balcony, another of us built a sitting deck, and one of us built sleeping quarters.

Once we had each completed these individual tasks, we began focusing on the sleeping quarters (an expansion of the original platform that had been created). We decided that the only proper way to make the treehouse water tight would be to frame it a la traditional framing standards. We laid down the lateral 2x4s on the platform and erected a series of 2x4s about 16 inches apart, each properly fastened to the baseboard. Plywood was harder for us to cut at the treehouse so most of the measurements were taken and the ply was cut back at our houses. Once we had it ready to go, we would bring it out there and attach it to the framed sleeping quarters. The back wall consisted of some plywood, some industrial plastic crates, and a giant road sign that read "Prison Area - Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers" (another interesting story). With the sleeping quarters completely encompassed by walls and the additional deck and balcony attached, Monticello was beginning to take shape.

Gathering Supplies

Many people have asked over the years, where did the supplies for Monticello come from? Naturally most people think we stole the wood, but that's actually not true at all. Since we lived in a rather suburban area, there were constantly new subdivisions being constructed. The houses always had enormous piles of scrap wood sitting around. Rather than stealing good wood, we would instead ask the foreman of the house if we could take from the scrap piles. We were always granted permission and it made for an excellent CYA should someone ever question what we were doing. By exclusively combing scrap piles, we were able to get plywood, drywall, 2x4s, large wooden beams, even shingles and occasionally nails. The only thing we paid for out of pocket were some additional boxes of nails. And of course we all had our own hammer.

Constructing Monticello - Phase II

Blake taking a break in the sleeping quarters. It comfortably slept three people.
It didn't take us long to complete the initial design of Monticello. The only problem was that we were still having such a good time with it that we didn't want to quit.

One afternoon while going through some scrap piles, we came across the cut out of a staircase that had not been used. Most likely it was designed for the construction crew to get around more easily. We took the staircase cutout and immediately built it into the treehouse. This opened the design scheme up to a 2nd, 3rd, and eventually even a 4th floor (though only the 2nd floor was actually accessible via traditional stairs).

The staircase was lined with 2x6s that we had found and cut to fit. The steps led to a small platform that allowed the person to climb their way to the 2nd floor. A few months earlier the local movie theater was getting rid of their promotional "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" cutouts. I had taken them and had them on my bedroom ceiling before an opportunity to use them for a greater cause presented itself. We stapled them to the wall next to the staircase.

Once the 2nd floor had been nailed down, a 3rd floor was built above it. It did not have nearly the structural integrity as the 1st and 2nd floors did, but it was still well supported. The 3rd floor had a heavy roof laid upon it with 2x6s. It wasn't watertight as the single pieces of wood had small gaps between them, but it provided shade from the sun. The roof was strong enough to support people and thus effectively led to the 4th floor (though the 4th floor was nothing but a platform).

Final Additions

Once everything was more or less constructed on the tree house, we began creating a camping ground for people to sit around, eat, cook, and drink. Naturally this required a nice campfire pit. Since the tree house was constructed along a local bayou, there were plenty of giant concrete rocks around that we could transport for the fire pit. We dug a hole about 8 feet in diameter and a few feet deep. Giant bayou rocks were laid around the fire. It was a daunting task to pickup the rocks from the bayou, walk them up the slope, and then another 100 or so meters to the actual camping ground. And to make matters worse, since the campfire was so large, the project required quite a few of these rocks. I distinctly remember the process taking the three of us many, many hours.

In addition to the campfire, we built benches, tables, and just about anything else that we could think of for people to sit around on. We even went so far as to bring a chainsaw out there one afternoon and cut down more than enough trees to keep us warm in the cold Texas nights of January and February. We brought lawnmowers and weed-eaters to designate pathways and otherwise created one hell of a venue for our friends to party at.

One of our parties out at the tree house on February 22, 1997.

The Nine Inch Nails
Story circa November 4th, 1995 | View Post
On November 4th, 1995, me and a number of my friends were going on a group date to an Aeros hockey game.  In fact, this was actually my first date with Deanna Ladimir, a friend of mine in high school that I dated for a couple of months when I was just 16.  Daniel Putt and I had been regular concert goers and had heard all day on the radio that Nine Inch Nails was in town for a surprise show at Numbers in Montrose.  Unfortunately it was either impossible to get tickets to the show because they were just giving them away, or they sold out that morning in just a few minutes.  Whatever the case was, we didn't have any.

The Aeros played near downtown Houston at what was then the Summit.  After seeing the game, Putt and I suggested to our particular group of six that we stop by Numbers just to see what it sounded like from the outside (Nine Inch Nails had only just climbed to the very top of stardom the year before and we were pretty anxious to catch any glimpse we could).  We parked in the neighborhood where we commonly had before and headed over to the club.  Although we were far from dressed like club-goers, it was pretty enjoyable to hear the music.

Evidently the bouncer on duty took notice of our excitement just to be standing outside listening and told us that for $20.00 per person he'd let us in.  It's a little harder than you might think to scrounge together $120.00 as a 16-year-old, especially in 1995, but we did somehow manage.

So, despite being dressed like young high school yuppies that had just come from a hockey game with a bunch of other high school football players, cheerleaders, and drill team members, we got to see Trent Reznor perform to a packed house of maybe 800 just people.  I very distinctly remember walking in just as "Something I Can Never Have" started playing.

The only downside of the entire night was that two of the girls with us had to be home by a certain time and refused to accept that this was one of those times it was better just to break curfew (naturally my date did not have this problem).  Much to my chagrin, we did wind up leaving before the show ended.

The only thing that puzzles me to this day is how easily we were able to find our way from the Summit to Numbers without the use of a GPS or even a phone.

Pearl Jam Set List - Southpark Meadows
Story circa September 16th, 1995 | View Post
What a concert. Taken from

Main Set

* Act Of Love
* Go
* Last Exit
* Long Road
* Animal
* Tremor Christ
* Corduroy
* Jeremy
* Lukin
* Not For You
* Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
* Why Go
* Even Flow
* Dissident (W.M.A.)
* Daughter
* State Of Love And Trust
* Rearviewmirror
* I Got Id
* Immortality
* Black
* Spin The Black Circle
* Alive

Encore #1

* Once
* Sonic Reducer
* Leaving Here
* Better Man
* Talk About The Passion
* Whipping
* Porch

Encore #2

* Indifference
The First Zima
Story circa September 4th, 1995 | View Post

Standard-issue Zima
At the start of the high school football season in 1995, I had the pleasure of being openly intoxicated for the very first time in my life. It was also the first time that I'd ever tasted a Zima. In hindsight, I'm sure the evening wasn't one of the most graceful of appearances I've ever made, but it was indeed first of many similar ones.

The first game of this particular year was against Clear Lake, a good football program well out of our district. In fact, Clear Lake was (and remains) a good hours drive from Katy.

I had been planning to go to the game with a good friend of mine at the time, Johnny Smith. A few hours before we were going to leave for the game, Johnny got word that someone could make a beer run for us. I'm not certain who actually picked up the alcohol, but I think it may have been another friend of ours named Jason Schrodi, possibly with the help of Bert Gentles. I do know that Johnny and I went over to Bert's house to pick it up. Since I was uncertain of what to get, Bert recommended to me that I get a 6-pack of Zima. Zima had only been around for a year or two at the time, and though it was labeled a ladies drink, it was a pretty good introduction to drinking.

So like any good high school kids, we got two cases of beer (Miller and Zima), got in Johnny's ugly brown Thunderbird, and illegally drove to Clear Lake merrily drinking along the way. The car ride also taught me just how badly alcohol requires one to pee, a legitimate issue when on the highway. To the best of my recollection I drank three Zimas before that game, one at Johnny's house, and two more in the car. By the time we got to the game I definitely remember being pretty hammered.

Other than have a great time in the bleachers, there really wasn't anything of great significance that happened. I ran into dozens of my friends at the game, most of whom were amused and surprised at me being intoxicated. Our team wasn't very good and so it's pretty likely that we didn't win, but I have a funny feeling that was not of great importance to me.

I could really only stand the taste of Zima for a few more weeks. It was sometime around then that I was introduced to the various flavored malts like MD 20/20, Purple Passion, and Boone's Strawberry Wine. Those were the days.

The Dagley Bush
Story circa July 3rd, 1994 | View Post
When I was just 14 years old and a freshman in high school, I had a friend named Ben Dagley. He was two years older than me and thus a junior at the time. I played football in high school and consequently was introduced our local version of Fellow Christian Athletes called Student Venture. This was a pretty common thing to be exposed to in the Texas high school football system; Ben was the student leader of our group.

While I'm the furthest thing from being religious today, we had a great group of guys. There were about twenty of us in total. Ben and I became very close friends, albeit this would eventually dissolve by the time I graduated from high school and moved on to my life in college. Ben had a dear friend named Brian Williams. Brian was similar to Ben in many ways, but he and I always had a great time together, namely as he enjoyed my general attitude of pranking people, hijinks, and various shenanigans. Incidentally, Brian was working on becoming a fire fighter - a field that would soon become very important to me.

In the State of Texas, at least in 1994, it was only legal for fireworks to be sold within 2 weeks of New Year's Eve and 2 weeks within the 4th of July. It was the summer time, school was out, the 4th of July was upon us, and fireworks were being readily sold.

Ben's family lived on pretty typical suburban cul-de-sac. The back of his house, however, was part of a unique system of alley ways. Unlike more traditional alley ways, there were three of them all next to one another with a large dirt field in between them. This made for a large open area that we could play in, drive our trucks in, and use for parking at his house among other things. His was the last house on the alley way before it made a sharp turn. So in essence, and even though his family didn't own the land, they had an enormous "side yard".

Immediately adjacent to this side yard was a detached garage and between the detached garage and their main house, but still on the alley itself, was a giant bush. This bush had probably been growing for a few decades. It was an ornamental style bush. Perhaps shrub is a better word for it. It was truly massive and it was a nice feature to this otherwise unusual part of their house on the alley way.

Ben, Brian, another friend of ours named Daniel, and I had all just come back from eating. Neither Daniel nor I could drive yet and so Ben and Brian drove us around. Upon arriving back at the Dagley house, we parked in the alley way, something that we commonly did. Again, there was ample parking back there. Ben went inside of his house to speak with his parents. Brian walked over to his truck to work on something or another which left Daniel and I in the dirt area of the alley way together. We had purchased a variety of fireworks and were setting off some of the BlackCats, M60s, and other similar munitions that don't fire into the air, but rather make a large boom upon exploding. We had a number of smoke bombs too.

For whatever reason, I thought it would look cool to see thick colored smoke emanating from the Dagley Bush. I lit the smoke bomb and to the best of my ability, tossed it right into the center of the bush. I will remind you, it was a good thing that Brian was eager to become a fireman.

At first, the bush smoked as I had hoped it would. As bright purple smoke filled the entirety of the bush and leaked out around all of the pointed foliage, the core of the smoke bomb was emitting a white hot flame, a flame that had no business being in the center of a bush in the middle of a Texas summer. Within seconds, the bush was fully ablaze. Flames shot out from the bush several feet high. Neither Daniel nor I could do anything. Brian saw the commotion and came running around the corner shouting orders at the two of us. "Go and grab that shovel!", "Warn the others!", "Turn on the hose while I reel it out!" were among the phrases he shouted at us. By now the flames were high enough that everyone inside of the house could see them and came running out too.

The bush sat along the Dagley's wooden fence. It took caught fire - almost as quickly as the bush did. We all did our parts to stop the blaze with Brian spraying it down with the hose. It felt like hours, but was probably only seconds; the fire was put out.

In the end, the bush was almost entirely destroyed. What remained of it were just some burnt out innards. They were probably gasping for their last bit of carbon dioxide as they choked on the less desirable carbon monoxide and simultaneously saw their brethren burned alive. The fence was far better, but certainly had a number of boards burned to a crisp.

Mr. Dagley, Ben's father, was less than thrilled. But as Ben was our religious leader, I can only imagine that he was in a pretty difficult position with me. He did have a stern talk with me and made sure I was aware of just how stupid my actions were. He noted how quickly the fire spread and how if Brian hadn't been there to help put it out, it very well may have burned down their house. He was right. The truth is that I just didn't know a giant flame would shoot out of the smoke bomb. When I'd seen them in the past, it just seemed like they got hot on the inside and released smoke. Since I'd run through that smoke before, I knew it wasn't especially hot or anything. Certainly not to the point that it would catch fire. Unfortunately, I was just a bit ignorant of how smoke bombs started their initial process - with a giant white flame shooting out of them.

I helped replace the fence and apologized to the entire family for burning down their bush. They were extremely forgiving and felt that I had learned a fairly important lesson that day. I did. It didn't stop me from playing with fireworks, but to this day, I always know where the hose is first.