“I feel like a person living at the base of a live volcano.” –Jeff’s Plastic Army Man
As back to school season goes into full swing, I feel myself getting that old familiar dread. Don’t make me go back, Mom!
Not that I have to. I’m 42 years old and haven’t attended classes for quite a long while. Every year at this time when the air gets cooler and shopping carts fill with essentials like erasable bond typing paper and Dukes of Hazzard Trapper Keepers, I get a little nostalgic. Summer is my season and I hate to see it end.
Like most normal people, I still associate summertime with my early childhood. You know, doing all the normal things kids like to do– playing hide and go seek until dark, spinning on merry-go-rounds until I couldn’t see straight, and building Brady Bunch inspired volcanoes in my back yard.
I’m referring to episode #76: “Today I Am a Freshman.” This show features Peter’s science project volcano spewing “lava” all over his sister and friends. Here’s a 48 second clip:
Is this great TV or what? Keep in mind the scene was filmed in 1972, long before computer generated special effects. Every time I watch it, strong feelings get stirred up deep inside me. I mean, did you see the smoke? Did you see the lava?
Did you see the short outfits those girls were wearing?
Okay, to be honest, I didn’t notice the girls so much when I was a little kid. Now that I’m older, I have even more appreciation of the clip, but I’m getting off topic. Where was I? Oh yeah– the volcano.
I spent hours as a child wondering how it worked. The volcano was obviously electrical, but what caused the smoke? Did Peter use dry ice? Was there some sort of lava pump hidden under the table? As I looked around my bedroom strewn with Pick-Up Sticks and old Tinker Toys, I knew I’d never be able to replicate the TV volcano exactly. I didn’t have the proper equipment, but that didn’t stop me from trying. I had my own ideas.
It’s the story, of a lovely volcano…
Mt. Jeffuvious was a magnificent sight to behold. (To be more specific, I distinctly remember thinking it looked “keen.”) It stood about two feet high and was constructed from sticks I poked into the ground in a circular pattern. The skeleton frame looked like a tipi, except the sticks didn’t meet at the top. Instead, there was a gaping hole I referred to as “the caldera of destruction.” The whole thing was covered with a thick layer of mud and dirt and the result was a realistic looking mini-volcano. I filled the inside with dry grass and leaves.
Mt. Jeffuvious, I speculated, had been dormant for 100,000 years. After all this time, the magma chamber was filled to the brim and she was about to blow. It was too bad for the villagers living at the base of the mountain. They were a peace-loving race of plastic army men that drove to work every day in their Tonka vehicles.
Interesting fact: One of the villagers drove a Spiderman car.
Sadly for the unsuspecting citizens, their time on this planet was nearly up.
Jeff the fire god lit a piece of paper on fire with some matches he found in his dad’s garage and threw it in the caldera. He laughed maniacally, “Hahahaha!”
Villager #1: Did you hear that?
Villager #2: You mean that weird laughing coming from the heavens?
Villager #3: Legend has it that maniacal laughter from the sky means Jeff the fire god is acting without parental supervision again. We’re doomed.
Flames erupted briefly and white smoke belched out the top. The volcano looked, well…keen. Peter Brady, I thought, eat your heart out.
Then my dad showed up. He glared at me and ordered, “Put that fire out right now, Jeff, before you burn yourself!”
Villager #1: Who was that?
Villager #2: The god of punishment.
Villager #3: We’re saved! When he cools off, I sure hope he buys Jeff a Dukes of Hazzard General Lee. One of the wheels fell off the Spiderman car.
Unfortunately for the mighty Mt. Jeffuvious, irresistible forces of nature such as plate tectonics, erosion, and my dad’s shovel completely leveled the once majestic peak. It only exists today as a memory– a sweet summertime memory from my youth. Yeah, there’s no doubt about it: summer vacation is the best time of the year.
Unless, of course, you’re an army man living at the base of an active volcano.
Villager #1: Did you hear that?
Villager #2: It sounded like a school bell.
Villager #3: Music to my tiny plastic ears.