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
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 kill."
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 basis.
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 his arms.
I let him off easy, though.
It's been years since I last had my
"license to kill."
© 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 and
Roy. His hobbies include woodworking,
gardening and barbecue.