Harry Potter killed my tomatoes
By Mitch Chase
still a brown spot in my vegetable garden, where I had to uproot 20 tomato
plants, all victims of a disease that recently surfaced in the Tennessee Valley.
Although the spotted wilt virus caused the ultimate demise of my beloved love
apples, the real culprit was another disease that has infected the Valley in
recent years: Harry Potter fever.
My 11-year-old son, Roy, is a victim. He idolizes Harry Potter, the fictional
British witch-in-training. Aside from Harry Potter books and the movie video,
Roy's got Harry Potter dolls, dioramas and posters festooning his room. He's
also got Harry Potter T-shirts, underwear and socks, and even brushes his teeth
with a Harry Potter toothbrush. He spends hours playing Harry Potter computer
games, and also fancies himself an expert on arcane Harry Potter trivia.
So, when I discovered that someone had torched my tomato plants, causing what
turned out to be irreparable damage to them, I immediately knew Roy had been
acting out some Harry Potter "Hogwarts" rituals with gasoline and
It was an easy call.
When I was his age, I, too, made gasoline bombs. And I also fantasized that I
was a fictional British character -- perhaps the greatest of them all.
At the age of 11, I was Bond -- James Bond -- and I had a "license to
I got the "license" at a movie house, a diploma-looking piece of paper
promoting the following week's feature, "Dr. No," the first James Bond
I had no idea what it was about, or if I'd even like the movie, but I still paid
35 cents to see it, and it changed my life.
In an era when James Bond is known chiefly as a spy caricature (Austin Powers
being the most popular), it may be hard to comprehend that people --
particularly young boys -- took those movies seriously. The so-cool Agent 007,
played by actor Sean Connery, was everything I could dream of being: an attaché-case-carrying
sophisticate with a wry sense of humor, a magnet for incredibly sexy women with
remarkably unlikely names, and a tireless fighter of the forces of evil
resourceful to the point of being able to escape certain death on a regular
When I walked out of the theater, the rousing "Dr. No" soundtrack
still in my mind, my most prized possession was a movie-house promotional flier
-- my "license to kill."
I taped the "license" to a wall of my bedroom closet, which eventually
became a shrine to James Bond and the headquarters of my own "spy
agency." It was a small outfit, the only two members being myself and a
favored uncle -- a World War II Navy fighter pilot with three "kills"
to his credit -- who presented me with a long pearly-handled pocket knife that
he assured me spies "would use."
Although several James Bond toys soon appeared on the market, a model Aston
Martin car with an "ejection seat" being one of the most popular, my
collection of Bond accoutrements was small. My prized possession was a plastic
"Goldfinger" ring that broke the first time I wore it.
However, living in the country, I was able to carry out my firebombings of
imaginary foreign spy headquarters and the like with impunity -- far from the
watchful eyes of my parents. Roy had much less room, though, and when his "Hogwarts"
rituals went awry, so did my tomatoes. (In their weakened state, they were easy
prey for wilt.)
Roy eventually admitted his culpability in the firebombing after being
confronted with rather convincing evidence, including the singed condition of
I let him off easy, though.
It's been years since I last had my "license to kill."
© 2004 Mitch Chase
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Mitch Chase is an
award-winning copy editor and columnist for The Decatur (Ala.) Daily. Prior to
coming to Decatur, he worked 13 years as a writer and editor for The Daily
Journal in Caracas, Venezuela, where he was twice decorated by Venezuelan
presidents (one of whom was later impeached). A bilingual speaker, Chase also
was a correspondent for foreign publications ranging from Baseball America to
The Times of London. Born in Minnesota and raised in Nebraska, Chase was
educated in Louisiana, graduating from the University of Southwestern
Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette) in English-journalism in 1978. A former
managing editor of the Houma (La.) Daily Courier, Chase is married to the
former Maritza Peñalver of Caracas. They have two children, Dixie Lee, 15,
and Roy, 12. His hobbies include woodworking, gardening and barbecue.
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Funny Columns from Southern Humorists