We were gone for the weekend leaving two teenagers in charge of their four younger siblings at home. What pair of teenagers wouldn't relish the idea of being in charge and the freedom that goes with being out from under the watchful eyes of their parents? Ours certainly did.
Their dad, a sales representative for Pioneer, had recently built a steel building as a storage facility for the inventory he had to keep on hand. He built it large enough that the back half could be used as a machine shed for the combine, tractors, etc. What the teenagers saw was that the shed was also big enough to be an indoor basketball court.
They were not sure dad would approve of their idea but they thought if they went ahead and mounted a hoop in a corner near the front doors he would not make them remove it. A decision was made and the search was on for materials. They found an old single piece garage door stored In the attic area of the garage. It would become the backboard on which the hoop would be mounted.
The ringleader of the project had been eyeing the fat hay rope strung at the peak of the old barn. It had not been used in twenty years as a sling to haul loose hay into the loft so there should be no harm in giving it a new purpose. Their dad would not have objected to their using that rope but would have found a better way for them to get it down. The oldest of the boys climbed to the barn peak with an old steak knife and sawed away until he had as much of it as he wanted. His brothers were mystified as to how the rope was going to be used but if it meant basketball in the steel shed rather than outside by the big barn, they didn't ask questions. The rope-hacker had a vision for their new arena and knew exactly how he would use it.
The hoop was easy to come by. They removed the one mounted on the front of the barn. That job required the use of a ladder and some tools but without a parent watching or voicing safety concerns, they went about it with fervor. The muscles they earned riding a flat bed behind the baler and stacking bales all summer served them well.
The ladder and tools were moved from the barn to the steel building for the next step. Holes were drilled through the backboard and the hoop mounted. The rope was laced through the holes and their creation was hoisted pulley -fashion into place. The backboard (which they always called the bangboard for obvious reasons) could be raised and lowered, then secured at different heights. The younger boys could have slam-dunk contests at a height they could reach or the hoop could be lifted to a more challenging height for the high school kids. The rope tethers allowed some give making it possible to do their Dr. J dunks without bending the rim.
Their mission was not complete until they had named their new basketball venue. The majority of the ideas came from the brother nicknamed Orp so he claimed naming rights. His nickname was the result of his bragging that someday he would be a pro. Orp is "pro" spelled backwards. Across the old garage door, now serving its new purpose, they painted in bright red letters "THE ORPDOME". The entire project was finished before the family station wagon bearing mom and dad drove back into the yard.
They were relieved their dad had no negative reaction when he saw what they had done. They had earned this special space with all their hard work helping with chores and fieldwork. He marveled at the obvious engineering skills his sons used making the hoop height-adjustable. He also enjoyed shooting baskets occasionally while waiting for seed corn customers to come pick up their orders.
The dirt floor in their new court gave their mom a few misgivings. They came into the house filthy after playing there. They tried watering the dirt down with a hose drug over from the farrowing barn before playing but it was soon dry dust once again. The only change I saw after that was now they not only came to the house with dust coating every inch of their sweaty bodies, they also had muddy shoes. It was several years before the installation of concrete flooring solved that problem.
Many hours were spent and lots of energy used shooting baskets out there. Our kids and their friends consumed bushels of popcorn, almost drank the well dry and did their part in keeping the Dorito chips and Pepsi bottling companies in business during those years. They hosted Orpdome Two-on-Two and Slam-Dunk tournaments every year complete with bracketed charts that were updated after each game. Their contests had a few unusual rules one of which was "no blood - no foul" and often resembled a rugby match rather basketball. It all ended with the champion receiving a trophy they constructed. I saw it ahead of time and hoped no one in our family would win it. It was made of odd shaped chunks of wood nailed on a partially deflated basketball topped off with a rusty pop can. Date and event were engraved on one of the blocks with a wood-burning tool. A tacky thing no mom would want displayed on her son's bedroom shelf.
They most appreciated the Orpdome when it was raining - obviously because it didn't stop their games as it had when they played in front of the barn. But, most importantly, it added to the fun. As the rain pelted the steel roof it sounded like 50,000 fans in the arena cheering - a terrific boost for imaginations.