Building Brushyhenge III
December 2021 - July 2022


Back in the Fall of 1984, Dad, Don Hale, Richard Dowd, and I built a sunset viewing platform on one of our favorite hillsides at Brushy Land. I was 18 at the time. "Brushyhenge" faced due west, and Dad designed it so that the sides and rails all pointed to a solstice. We built contoured benches to make watching the sunset with friends very enjoyable. That wonderful cedar struture lasted 22 years before it needed to be rebuilt.

In January 2006 we tore down the original Brushyhenge and rebuilt it. Brushyhenge II was built mainly by Dad, Chuck Mandernach, and me - but several others pitched in too. It was built with treated pine, instead of cedar like the original structure. And Brushyhenge II was a little larger than the original. The lumber industry had recently stopped using arsenic in their wood treatment, and unfortunately the new treatment did not last long. So several of Brushyhenge II's boards began rotting after just ten years. After nearly 16 years in existence, we decided to rebuild it once again. This time we'll keep the existing large wooden supports underneath because they are still strong. And this time Brushyhenge III will be built with better treated pine, so it will hopefully last 30 years or more.

Items on this page:
Trip #1 - December 4, 2021 Trip #13 - April 9, 2022
Trip #2 - December 11, 2021 Trip #14 - April 16, 2022
Trip #3 - December 25, 2021 Trip #15 - May 1, 2022
Trip #4 - January 22, 2022 Trip #16 - May 14, 2022
Trip #5 - January 29, 2022 Trip #17 - May 21, 2022
Trip #6 - February 13, 2022 Trip #18 - May 28, 2022
Trip #7 - February 19, 2022 Trip #19 - June 18, 2022
Trip #8 - March 5, 2022 Trip #20 - June 25, 2022
Trip #9 - March 12, 2022 Trip #21 - July 2, 2022
Trip #10 - March 19, 2022 Trip #22 - July 9, 2022
Trip #11 - March 27, 2022 Trip #23 - July 16, 2022
Trip #12 - April 3, 2022 Trip #24 - July 23, 2022

Trip #1 - Saturday December 4, 2021

Today Dad and I inspected the existing Brushyhenge II structure. Over the past few years we have already replaced several floorboards. And many more need to be replaced. In fact, a friend stepped through a floorboard just a week prior to this trip. After looking carefully at Brushyhenge II, we were delighted to find that most of the big 6x6's and 4x6's supporting the structure from underneath are still in good shape, so we will leave those in place. So we'll be replacing the floorboards, the benches, the steps, and the top flat board of the railing. Of course, we'll replace anything else we find that is weak.

Trip #2 - Saturday December 11, 2021

Dad picked me up at my house at 7am, and then we headed over to Jason's to pick him up. The three of us drove to Mama's Daughter's Diner in Forney for breakfast. This has been our normal Brushy Land routine for many years now. Our favorite waitress there is Diana - she used to wait on us at the Cotton Gin Restaurant in Crandall, TX before it burned down in 2014. The country is still in the Covid pandemic, but at the time of this trip the case numbers in the north Texas area were pretty low (we were on the tail end of the Delta variant surge). And all three of us were vaccinated and boosted - and we wear masks in public. But there's growing concern over the new Omicron variant, so if things get worse again we will forgo stopping for meals until the new Omicron surge calms down.

It was windy and in the mid-40's for most of the day at Brushy Land. But it was pretty comfortable after we started working. We first did some random chores (check the Game Camera, start our motorcycles, chainsaw a fallen tree that had been blocking a trail, etc.). Then the three of us headed to Brushyhenge. We unscrewed the first dozen floorboards, and we applied sealant to the exposed supporting boards underneath. Some of those support boards (especially the 4x6's) have a few rotted areas on top, so we will buy an appropriate wood filler to fill the holes. Dad will soon purchase the new lumber from Smith Lumber in nearby Athens, Tx. We'll have them deliver the wood to the Compound area. Then we'll need to somehow get the boards up to the worksite.

Trip #3 - Saturday December 25, 2021 (Christmas Day)

It was just Dad & me on this trip. In the 43 year history of Brush Land, this was the first time anyone had been at Brushy Land on Christmas! It was an unusually warm day - a high of 83 which set a record in Dallas. But it was a pretty morning, and not too warm then. A few days before this trip, Smith Lumber met Dad at the land to deliver the wood. Today we put wood filler in several bad spots on the exposed supporting 4x6's (which we are keeping in place). And we used our Honda side-by-side (and red straps of course!) to drag several of the new boards up to the worksite. Then we had a delicious steak & baked potato Christmas lunch!

Trip #4 - Saturday January 22, 2022

Due to recent cold & windy weather, it has been nearly a month since we were last at the land. Unfortunately, the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus has really taken off during that time. So, for now, we won't be stopping at East Texas cafes to have meals on our way to and from the land. That's a shame, but hopefully that will soon change as this latest surge diminishes.

We didn't get a lot of work done on Brushyhenge during this trip. Our Honda side-by-side had a battery issue we first had to fix. And then we spent a lot of time trying to get the horizontal floor supports in the same plane. Over the past 16 years, Brushyhenge II has settled a bit unevenly. Those floor supports are connected to one another in various ways - so raising one often raises another one that didn't need to be adjusted. So it was a tedious task.

Trip #5 - Saturday January 29, 2022

It was perfect weather for working outdoors today - calm winds, and temperatures in the 50's. We unscrewed and disassembled 3 of the 5 benches. First we labeled each board in case we need to use them as templates or memory joggers later. The 3 h-shaped braces under each bench were in relatively good shape, so we will re-use them later. We unscrewed roughly 450 screws today. Even with electric tools, that was pretty tiring. My hands and wrists were tuckered when we quit today - but not too tuckered to shoot some skeet with Dad before we left the land!

Trip #6 - Sunday February 13, 2022

We skipped last week due to bitterly cold weather. We also skipped yesterday (Saturday) becauase of a cold front. But today was quite nice. It was chilly in the morning (38 degrees) but the winds were light, and it quickly got into the mid 50's. Today we removed the two remaining benches. As we used our drills to remove the old screws, many of their heads broke off which required us to use pry bars and a lot of muscle. We would also occasionally use a Sawzall when there was room for the blade to reach the screw. It was tiring, and took a lot of time - but we also had a lot of fun. We took a break just before lunch to fly my first drone (a DJI Mavic Mini). That was a hoot. The stability and video quality is quite impressive. The next steps for Brushy Henge III are to remove the remaining floorboards, replace any rotted support beams, try to get the horizontal support beams to be in the same plane again, put down new floorboards, rebuild the benches, replace the top part of the rail.

Trip #7 - Saturday February 19, 2022

It was terrific weather for this trip to the land - blue skies and cool temperatures. We removed several more floorboards on this outing. It takes a lot of force with the drill to remove some of those old deck screws. And sometimes the heads of the screws become ruined requiring either a pry bar or a Sawzall to remove the board. It was another fun day of working in East Texas, but after a few hours of work we called it quits mainly because I had a couple of sick cats at home I needed to get back to, but also because we were tuckered! LOL. We hope to get all the old floorboards removed by the end of the next trip.

Trip #8 - Saturday March 5, 2022

We removed 16 of the final 21 floorboards this trip. Those boards were all very difficult to remove, so it took a little longer than expected. It's tiring work, but a lot of fun too. We load the old boards in the MUV and drive them off into the woods where they will rot. With so many floorboards have been removed, we are able to see that we'll need to replace just one 4x6 floor support, and one 2x8 facer board. That's pretty good considering that the wood was not treated correctly at the plant 16 years ago when we built Brushyhenge II.

After several hours of removing floorboards we flew my new drone for a bit, and then headed to Ochoa's in Athens, TX for a late Tex-Mex lunch. We always enjoy eating there. Their salsa is very unique - it is served chilled, and contains a lot cilantro which I normally don't care for, but somehow it works. The latest coronavirus surge due to the Omicron variant has finally subsided, so for now we are eating at restaurants again. We still wear masks getting to and from our table, but it's sure nice eating at restaurants again.

Trip #9 - Saturday March 12, 2022

It was a brisk 26 degrees Fahrenheit when we left Dallas this morning. But it quickly warmed to the upper 40's. The skies were nearly cloudless, and there was just a very light breeze - so it felt great once we started moving. We stopped by Smith Lumber in Athens on the way to the land so that one of their guys could follow us to Brushy Land to drop off a 20-foot long 4x6 as well as a few other boards that we'll use to replace a couple of rotted support members in Brushyhenge.

Dad & I removed the final five floorboards (they were very difficult to remove - just like the others had been) and then we replaced the long, rotted 4x6 support beam. It took longer than expected to do those chores, so we were both pretty worn out afterwards. We may have been tuckered, but we both commented how much fun that day was. On our way home we stopped by one of our favorite East Texas restaurants, "The Boathouse" on Lake Athens. It has large windows that overlook the very scenic lake. And they have great food, including the best chicken tenders in the state. We ended up splitting a terrific piece of keylime pie. That late lunch recharged our depleted batteries. During the next trip to the land we'll replace a rotted "facer" board on the north side of Brushyhenge, put some sealant on the support beams, and then try to get the horizontal floor support beams in the same plane so we can begin putting down new floorboards.

Trip #10 - Saturday March 19, 2022

It was another beautiful late-winter day in East Texas. Per usual, Dad, Jason & I stopped by Mama's Daughter's Diner in Forney for breakfast. And after our work was done at the land, we had a wonderful late lunch at The Boathouse restaurant at Lake Athens on our way home. In between, the three of us replaced a rotted facer board, got most of the floor supports to be in the same plane again (so that we can begin re-flooring soon), dabbed some wood sealant in various cracks of the old floor supports, and we flew my drone for a bit. It was another very ejoyable trip.

Trip #11 - Saturday March 27, 2022

It was unusually hot (85 degrees) at the land today, with no wind and a bright sun. We had already decided that we would work a bit longer this trip and have an early dinner on the road home. It was a fun day, but by 4pm we were all pretty tired. But not too tired to shoot some clay pigeons before we left! Today we put shims under a few posts to get all the old floor supports in the same plane, we put wood sealant on the top of those old support boards, we screwed a long 2x6 "scab" onto a partially rotted 4x6 floor support, and we screwed 13 new deck boards into place! Good stuff!

During our lunch break, I took a few drone pictures of the worksite. And I put the drone in Sport mode to show Dad & Jason how fast it can fly. They were impressed, but I ended up getting the drone stuck in a briar vine 30 feet up in a small tree. LOL. We tried everything to get it down, but eventually Dad chainsawed the small tree down. The tree gently cracked over, and the drone was fine! We'll use that tree for firewood in the Fall. That little DJI Mavic Mini is one tough drone!

Trip #12 - Saturday April 3, 2022

After a pleasant breakfast at Mama's Daughter's diner in Forney, Dad, Jason & I got quite a bit done on Brushyhenge. All the floorboards are screwed down, and some have been cut to their proper angle pointing to a solstace. Dad brought us 7-11 sandwiches for lunch. We didn't leave the land until close to 5pm, and then we had a delicious early dinner at the Boathouse Restaurant on Lake Athens. Dad always pays for all the meals, regardless of how much we try to nab the check. He's always done that - he says that if it's a Brushy trip, then he pays for the meals. Very nice! Today was a bit sunny and warm (80 degrees), and the reflecting sunlight off those floorboards makes it feel even hotter on your skin. But it was another very enjoyable trip to East Texas.

We use my cordless Ryobi circular saw to cut the ends off most of the floorboards. But we have to get creative whenever the vertical rail supports get in the way of the circular saw! That's Dad using a hand saw.

Brushyhenge from 30 feet up using the drone

Trip #13 - Saturday April 9, 2022

We didn't stay too long at the land today - it was pretty hot, and Jason (who turned 57 the day before this trip) needed to get back home to attend an FC Dallas pro soccer game. But we still managed to get quite a bit done. First, we used Dad's chainsaw to remove a stump near the dirt road leading back to our compound area. Then we finished sawing off the ends of the floorboards on Brushyhenge, and we installed a few more "hangers" that connect the facer boards (which hold of the rail) to the floorboards. And as is the tradition after completing a deck at Brushy Land, Dad cooked us hot dogs on the newly installed floorboards. It was a good day!

That's me sawing the ends off the floorboards using my cordless Ryobi circular saw

Dad served us hot dogs (with beans and chili) for lunch!

A drone shot facing west

Trip #14 - Saturday April 16, 2022

It was just Dad & me on this trip - Jason was on vacation with his wife. After we arrived at the land, we spent some time doing chores at the Compound Area preparing for an Easter gathering of friends there the very next day. Then we headed up to Brushyhenge and replaced the top boards of the railing. Next we'll replace the wooden steps, and then rebuild the benches. Before we left the land we shot some skeet - that's always a lot of fun. And, of course, on our way to the land that morning we had breakfast at Mama's Daughter's Diner in Forney, and then we ate a late lunch at the Boathouse on Lake Athens on our way home. Fun stuff.

here for a drone video from today.

Trip #15 - Sunday May 1, 2022

I had a conflict this Saturday so Dad & I did a rare Sunday trip. Jason could not join us this time. It was very warm (85 degrees) with no wind. It gets very hot on top of Brushyhenge. All that reflected sunlight feels like a sauna. We screwed down the boards for the tops of the steps - Dad had already cut them to the right lengths on a quick trip he took during the week without me. And then we screwed down the very important perimeter boards for the benches. We also screwed into place the first row of boards that will become the back of the benches.


Trip #16 - Saturday May 14, 2022

The north Texas area is experiencing unusually hot weather right now - highs are already in the mid to upper 90's. So Dad, Jason and I left Dallas a hair earlier in the morning than usual to avoid the heat. Of course, we still made time to stop at Mama's Daughter's Diner in Forney for breakfast (and then the Boathouse restaurant on Lake Athens for lunch on our way home). Today we brushed on a general wood sealant on all 15 h-shaped bench supports that we kept from Brushyhenge II. And we added new wood to most of them to strengthen them. And then we toe-screwed all 15 bench supports into place. Next we'll begin adding 2x4's to the bench supports to form the five new bench sections.

Trip #17 - Saturday May 21, 2022

We didn't get a lot done on Brushyhenge this trip because we had a few other chores to do first. Our Honda MUV (side by side) wouldn't start last trip. So we took the front passenger seat out, and discovered that rats had chewed through the wires leading to the fuel pump. I couldn't get my fingers to that area very well, but I managed to splice the wires back together and tape them up. The MUV ran after that, but it may only be a temporary fix. Jason and I also started our aging (and beloved) Honda XR400 dirt bikes and rode them for a bit just to make sure they still ran okay - they did. It was very warm and muggy this trip, but a cool front with potential heavy rain was expected early in the afternoon, so we didn't stay too long. But we did manage to get the new back boards for the middle bench screwed in place.

Trip #18 - Saturday May 28, 2022

It was a warm and windy day at the land today. But we managed to install the back boards on two more sections of benches. So three of the five sections have backs now. It's starting to look like the old Brushyhenge now! As usual we ate breakfast at Mama's Daughter's Diner in Forney, and we had a late lunch at the Boathouse Restaurant on Lake Athens on our way home. And, as usual, Dad paid for both meals for me & Jason. Nice guy! And the food was great. It was a very enjoyable trip.

Trip #19 - Saturday June 19, 2022

It had been a few weeks since our last Brushy Land trip, so it felt good to be there again - even though it was a very warm day! Only Dad & I made this trip. We ate at our favorite spots for breakfast and lunch, and we shot skeet before leaving the land. Fun stuff. We installed the back boards on the two remaining bench sections, so now all five bench sections have backs. The last major task is to build the fronts of the five bench sections. I look forward to getting back out there!

We use our Honda MUV (side-by-side) to carry lumber from the Compound area up to the Brushyhenge worksite. If the boards are less than 16 feet long then we put them between the seats like in this picture. Otherwise we use red straps to drag them behind the MUV. That's Dad in the passenger seat holding the boards so they don't push on me while I drive us on Half Rabbit Trail.

Trip #20 - Saturday June 25, 2022

Most of Texas was experiencing a brutal heat wave during this trip - triple digit temperatures for many days in a row. So we didn't work too long on Brushyhenge this outing. We noticed that the top, flat boards of the railing that we had replaced several trips back had begun to cup a little. So wherever two of those boards met each other, the joint was not very flat. So we used clamps to get the two ends flat again, and then put screws and hidden plates on them to hold them in place. They look better now. Then we we put the top three boards on two of the five bench sections. By that time it was getting pretty hot. So we shot some skeet, and headed to a late lunch at the Boathouse restaurant on Lake Athens, and then drove home. Good trip!

Trip #21 - Saturday July 2, 2022

It was another hot but enjoyable day working on Brushyhenge III with Dad and Jason. We got the three top boards on the remaining three bench sections, so all five sections have their top boards now. We also screwed the front boards in place on the middle bench, but those boards need to be cut to the correct lengths. Then we flew my drone for a bit, and headed to a late lunch (which was delicious) at the Boathouse Restaraunt on Lake Athens. It was a very good day!

here for a drone video from today.

Trip #22 - Saturday July 9, 2022

It was very hot today - high around 106 and humid. So we only worked until noon, and then headed to the Boathouse Restaurant on Lake Athens. Remarkably, it was already 100 degrees at Brushy Land when we left at noon. Today Dad chainsawed the boards of the middle bench to their proper lengths, and Jason hung a large tarp between a tree and a vertical 2x4 stuck in the front brush guard on Dad's truck to serve as a sunblock. It worked quite well - and kept us in the shade while we worked. Good idea Jason! We also screwed down boards on the bench to the right of the middle one. It took us a while to cut those boards so that they fit snuggly against the boards of the middle bench, but we eventually got it done. Fun stuff.

Trip #23 - Saturday July 16, 2022

It's been a very hot summer in North Texas, so Jason's idea from last week of using a blue tarp for a sunblock has been a godsend. This morning, Dad thought we should try fashioning the tarp as a temporary canopy directly over the entire structure - it worked great. At the end of today's trip, we just have the front side of one and half benches left to complete this project. So we'll probably finish up on our next trip - it's been a fun project!

Trip #24 - Saturday July 23, 2022 - final day

It was another hot, triple digit day for our final day working on Brushyhenge. But we left the land by 1pm, well before the peak heat of the day. And, like last week, we put Jason's big blue tarp over the structure via tall 2x4's that we temporarily attached to Brushyhenge. That canopy really helped on hot days!

As usual, Dad picked up me & Jason at our respective homes at 6:30am this morning, and we had breakfast at Mama's Daughter's Diner in Forney. On the way home we had a late lunch at the Boathouse restaurant on Lake Athens. Both meals were fantastic, and as usual Dad paid for them. Thanks Dad!

It's been a fun & meaningful time rebuilding Brushyhenge with Dad & Jason. But all good things must end. We still have some site cleanup to do, and we'll apply some sealant after the structure dries out for a few weeks - but the major work is now completed. Dad's remarkable design from 1984 sure looks good in its new incarnation. Thanks for all the help Jason. And thanks for everything Dad.

here for a drone video from today.

Dad brought a bottle of champagne to celebrate the completion of Brushyhenge III !

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