Out Of The Box
Confessions of a 30-year-old kid
By Steve Williams
When I was a (real) kid, I was fortunate to live next door to a vacant lot. Even better, the lot had a minor flooding problem so when it rained there would be great pools of water just begging to be played in. My friends would come over packing their legions of Micronauts, Shogun Warriors, Star Wars, MEGO Superheroes, and the odd ROM Spaceknight or Starbird. First, there was the comic book reading ritual, this whipped our imaginations into high gear, after all what kid wouldn't be stoked after reading about the X-Men's harrowing escape from Arcade's Murderworld? After each of us inspected the other's troops, we would walk to the vacant lot next door and begin preparing our troops for an imaginative battle of epic proportions. Out of these brown boxes would come a modern day collector's find of a lifetime, but to us they were instruments of fun, nothing more... nothing less.
We would spend the next hour or so building forts using rocks, wood and dirt. We'd arrange our armies into the best tactical arrangement our 10-year-old minds would allow. Then we'd forage for the most important ingredient... ammunition. Luckily, I lived in a new housing development in which houses were being constantly built. At these construction sites were a king's ransom in dirt clods that could be thrown with an ample amount of force with a tolerable degree of accuracy. After all, we didn't want to destroy our toys but we did want to be able to knock them down and leave a bit of a mark to simulate battle damage. After loading up with enough dirt clods to invade a small country, we made our way back to the lot next to my house. We'd assume our command positions behind our forts with a supply of dirt clods rolled up the bottom of our shirts.
Now I won't say I was a particularly fussy kid but I did want everything to be kind of in the same scale. My best friend Joel had a Mego Captain Kirk that he believed was the commanding general of his army. After a bit of an argument and some teasing, I relinquished and allowed Captain Kirk to take up a position in Joel's fort. Fate had stepped in and determined who would be the first victim of my salvo of clodded death. The ritual of deciding who would get first throw first was the next item on the agenda. Most normal humans might flip a coin to decide such an important matter, us... we threw dirt clods at a telephone pole. Luck was with me this day as my second clod hit the mark. After such matters were concluded it was time for the battle to begin.
There I stood dirt clod in hand ready to deal punishment out to General Captain Kirk. I wound up and let it fly, the clod seemed to be on a straight course to the hated Kirk, within a second the clod impacted Kirk's right arm spinning him around. A little plastic phasor went flying out of his hand never to be seen again. I had scored my first victory in battle with the first dirt clod thrown. I did the dance of victory over Kirk's twisted, dirt clod stained, plastic body. What a pathetic sight it was. My dance was short lived though as I saw the rage in Joel's eyes as I uttered the only words that came to my mind "He's dead Jim". It was on....
The third kid on the battleground was a small kid named Kenny. Obsessed with Lord of the Rings and unable to throw hard or very far, Kenny often would leave the field injured usually crying from the welt of a stray dirt clod. We didn't know what collateral damage was back then but Kenny was it. He would try to avoid getting hit but would invariably lean the wrong way and take one on the back almost every time we played. He was like that kid in dodgeball that would come running up to the line with a big smile on his face, full of anticipation. He'd throw the ball but the guy he was throwing at would invariably catch the ball and then nail a retreating Kenny in the back of the head knocking him down. We had seen this scenario played out almost everyday in gym class. Kenny was a good kid that read alot and was a little strange, he got picked on alot but we liked him and invited him to play with us. Besides, he had alot of cool toys.
The battle raged on for the next hour, our rule of taking turns had long since vanished, it was now every man for himself. Strewn about the battlefield were the fallen heroes of battle; LT. Starbuck, Captain Han Solo, Baron Karza, Space Glider, Cylons, Stormtroopers, were but a few of the casualties of the day. By the end of the battle, the victor with the last man standing would prevail. My last man standing was a mighty Shogun Warrior sporting no less than 5 dirt clod marks. The winner could pick any toy from the losers. From Kendall I took his Shogun Warrior Godzilla and from Joel I took Captain Kirk. Tears swelled Joel's eyes as he pleaded with me to take something else. I refused; the hated Kirk was at last mine. The following week, negotiations ensued, Kenny's mom called my mom and I had to give the Godzilla back. From Joel, I scored over 50 comic books, some Battlestar Galactica trading cards and tape cassette of KISS (which was banned in my house as mom was convinced Gene Simmons was the devil). I got my due in the end when my mom found the KISS tape and grounded me for 3 weeks.
2 years later I would discover computers. 4 years later I would discover girls, 7 years later I would join the army. 11 years later I would be on my way to the Middle East to serve my country in the Persian Gulf War. 15 years later I would get married and have 2 kids of my own. 17 years later I would be professionally employed and buying my first house. 20 years later I would be buying Micronauts, Star Wars, and GI Joes again, funny how that works. Some people collect sports memorabilia, music, books, stamps, magazines, comic books, coins, plates, thimbles, spoons and just about anything else you can imagine, but they probably wouldn't collect anything unless it meant something special to them. I enjoy collecting GI Joes because as an amateur historian I enjoy putting the uniforms on display, it's alot more interesting than looking at some 2-dimensional picture in a book.
20 years ago I played with my toys because it was fun, 20 years later I look at my toys and remember the fun I had. I enjoy it just as much now as I ever did but just in a different way. Every time I look at my Mego Captain Kirk, I remember vividly that day in that vacant lot back in 1979 when for one day everything was right in the world.
Photos of Joe in ActionClick on Image for Larger Picture