"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Ric’s tree house: 30 year project of reusing found objects

By on September 27, 2017 in Arts with 1 Comment

Ric Evans and his Bum’s Castle tree house: “The joy of being right here, right now, is all a person can ask for. There will never be a time that is not now. Being creative slows down the cerebral monkey chatter in my brain.”

Story and photos by Donna Cassidy

Tree houses are for kids, right?

Not so.

Chelsea Evans recently wrote to The Good Life saying, “My dad — Ric Evans — is an artist and over the past 30 years, has built a three-story tree house that is a work of art in itself, along with being a showcase for his ceramics and found/recycled art pieces. Each year he builds more pieces and adds to the wonderment, while my mom beautifies with flowers, plants and arrangements of her own.”

And indeed, the tree house is a prodigious wonder in the backyard of the Evans’ Cashmere home. So, we had some questions for Ric.

WHAT GOT YOU STARTED?

The enormity of the Catalpa tree in our back yard drew me in for the possibilities of a structure when we first moved to 910 Pioneer Ave. in the early 1980s.

I recall reminiscing about the six-story tree house that my older brother and friends built in the 1950s at 93 Riverfront Drive. I was too young to participate as a builder, so they put a platform just off the ground for me to perch on and watch the activity.

In the early 1990s, I managed the Cashmere Liquor Store. I became an abstinent alcoholic early on in the booze distribution business and after five years of therapy I felt healthy enough to enroll in the Education Certification process at Central Washington University. I also added post-graduate art classes to keep me interested in the academic experience.

I would speculate that this time in my life could be labeled the “Maniac Midlife Stage.” To balance out working at the liquor store and commuting to Ellensburg, I decided to start the tree house for therapy.

WHAT’S THE JOY IN DOING THIS?

Since creativity ponders and problem-solves the mysteries of the unknown, I benefit from a jolt of what I call the cosmic jumper cables. Another way to describe the creative process is through the eyes of my zen dog, Betty:

She knows not where she’s going

for the ocean will decide —

It’s not the Destination…

It’s the glory of THE RIDE.

 The joy of being right here, right now, is all a person can ask for. There will never be a time that is not now. Being creative slows down the cerebral monkey chatter in my brain. Glimpses of “no thoughts” come to mind, so-to-speak. This is the joy of the creative process for me.

WHERE DID YOU GET ALL THE REPURPOSED STUFF?

My eyes constantly scan the landscape for recycled materials.

My family was a bit disgusted when I strapped a sea gull carcass under our van’s bumper on a vacation to the Oregon coast. I thought it was a better answer to the problem than bringing it inside the van.

Bones remind me of our own mortality, which, in turn, remind me to seize the moment. It was not unusual to have the dashboard piled deep with interesting organic stuff that I spotted along the highway, on a hike, or abandoned in an alley of a small town or city.

In the Vale of Cashmere, I concentrated on finding potential building materials.

Wood, rusty metal and unusual gadgets gleaned from the remains of the burned-down Schmitten Lumber Mill, large wooden beams from the remodeled Cashmere Valley Bank or gaudy painted window frames from the abandoned Depression housing owned by the legendary proprietor of The Club Tavern in Cashmere, Stillman Miller.

I walked the banks of the Wenatchee River after each of the 100 Year Floods that occurred in the 1990s and drug home rusty treasures washed down from the upper valley.

Of course, old abandoned barns were always a mark for obtaining potential stuff.

TELL A STORY ABOUT THIS PROJECT.

When my daughter Chelsea and her friend Anna were in middle school, they decided to honor their parents and two other couples with a seven-course dinner on the first floor of the tree house. They did the whole affair themselves and came up the ladder with each course. The dinner lasted hours and it has been one of the highlights of our life.

Another time, my son Chase and his friend Aaron decided to install electricity for the tree house while I was gone on a hike into the Cascades.

They found an overstuffed couch, a TV and a set-up to play computer games.

That experience lasted through the summer until they entered Cashmere High School as freshman. That stuff was up there before I installed the roof and added two more stories. The weather was rather rough on the entertainment center.

IS THE PROJECT DONE OR ARE YOU STILL ADDING TO IT?

I doubt this project will ever be done. I have located and installed an unusual array of industrial lights that transform the backyard into a splendid place to have dinner with friends and extend the evening past dark.

My outside ceramics studio and workspace is set up under the tree. The interior of “Bum’s Castle” (a sign hangs on the front) could use an intense facelift, but since I’m not hanging out in it much anymore, it could take years. My other art takes precedence these days.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?

I’m going on my fifth year of retirement from teaching art at Eastmont Junior High. I substituted in the Cashmere and Eastmont schools since I retired, but that is showing signs of atrophy.

My wife, Jan, closed her yarn shop and retired last year and I think she is near the end of projects she wanted to accomplish around the house, so my low key life style may need to be energized.

I’ve been working in clay the last month in my basement studio and will probably audit another ceramic class from Ruth Allan at Wenatchee Valley College this fall quarter.

I’m reading books by Tom Robbins and that seems to fulfill my fascination for the non-ordinary and unusual side of right-brain thinking.

Zen dog Betty continues to teach me the important things in life and family has always been in the forefront of our lives.

I can be sighted in Cashmere riding my bike and usually adorned with some strange hat and bright clothes.

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  1. Pam Heward says:

    Dear Ric,
    You continue to make me smile!
    You and Jan are so blessed
    With each other in your lives!
    If I didn’t live in a condo,
    I would live in a house with a tree
    But probably not in the treehouse.
    All the best each day,
    Love from Pammie, your little neighbor whose Mom made you walk
    Me home from Elementary School!

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