Photos: Grandfather becomes treehouse master

Aimée Bourgeois wanted a treehouse for her seventh birthday. She got the idea from her second-most favorite television show, “Treehouse Masters,” the Animal Planet series about exotic treehouses.

Mike Bourgeois, her grandfather, toiled in July’s scorching heat to build Aimée’s castle in the sky in a double-trunk pecan tree in his backyard.

“The main beam, a huge plank about 10 feet long, 4 inches thick and more than 12 inches wide, is a souvenir from a June Atchafalaya River Basin fishing trip,” Bourgeois said. “It was retrieved from the water as a memento of the trip.”

The heavy plank played an important role in the construction. The spot where it fit in the crotch of the tree fixed the height of the treehouse, and its length determined the total dimensions.

“The slide, three ladders, four flags and a red, yellow and blue tarp were recycled from an adjacent, manufactured playhouse that had seen much better days,” the carpenter added. “The height of the ladders and the slide determined the height of the first level of the two-story structure.”

At 66, Bourgeois is retired from a career in public relations with several government agencies and United Way in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. He and his wife, Jacqueline, are raising Aimée, a second-grader in the Academic Magnet Program at the Dufrocq school.

Aimée’s cousin, Aidan Negulescu, 8, is her best friend and a regular companion in the structure they call the Fun House. He’s in third grade at Episcopal.

“The treehouse is very fun,” says Aimée, who admits that “Treehouse Masters” runs a close second to her favorite show, “Duck Dynasty.”

Mike Bourgeois built the treehouse in two weeks with treated lumber and a collection of old-school tools, including his stepfather’s hand drill, a little crosscut saw, a hammer, a screwdriver and a wrench.

“If that’s not manual labor, I don’t know what is,” he said. “When I would come in from working on the house, you could take my pants and shirt and wring them out.”

The treehouse is outfitted with a homemade bird feeder, a toy telescope, several hanging baskets of plants and an LSU banner. There’s even a small tent on the top story.

Bourgeois built the house in an “open manner” with wire for the sides to protect it from strong winds.

“Three hurricanes have come close enough to do damage, some serious, to trees in the backyard since we built the home on the property some 23 years ago,” he said.

Like most homeowners, Aimée and Aidan are always thinking about improvements. They really want a third story.

“I am already thinking about expanding the thing, but there will be no expansion in the hot weather,” Mike Bourgeois said. “It’s a work in progress. Just when you think it’s finished, you think of something else.”