Off Campus

12 August 2005

DUKEing It Out

Seeing THE DUKES OF HAZZARD (or THE DUKES OF HASSARD, as one local theater seems to think it should be called, placing their "z"s backwards on the marquee) imagery once again flooding the airwaves reminds me of one of my earliest scholastic memories, circa 1979.

In our kindergarten classroom, there were several climbable playthings to amuse our young short selves when we weren't being read to, coloring, or playing with (and for some occasionally dining on) paste and construction paper. There was a balance beam, numerous tables and chairs, a small gymnastics mat for tumbling or general horseplay, and a wooden bus, which consisted of a hollow rectangular base that the chilluns could straddle as if they were "riding" it, and a wooden steering wheel at the front. The base of the "bus" opened on the side, so you could store....uh, imaginary luggage in there or something. This wooden bus-like structure was probably the most popular of the classroom play items, and there was always fierce competition to see who would get to use it for the 15-20 minute indoor recess.

Well, one day, two other classmates and I were lucky enough to get dibs on the bus, and it was decided that we'd play "Dukes of Hazzard", which was easily the most popular show amongst the whole school (K-6) at that point, a program that soaked through to the core of our tiny beings. Excitedly, we set about deciding which character each one of us was going to be.

"I'm Luke!" one kid called out, probably more because it was a God-like name at that point, invoking both the "Dukes" character and the hero of STAR WARS, which was the other school-wide obsession at that time.

The other chum followed with a lightning-fast "I'm Bo!"

I followed with a confused "What about me?"

"You're Uncle Jessie."

Now it might be hard for anyone older or younger to understand this, but being designated Uncle Jessie in a game of "Dukes of Hazzard" was just not what a male kindergartener wants to hear. For contemporary kids, it's like playing "Harry Potter" and being told you're Dumbledore. A good character, a noble man, but not someone who gets to mix it up with bad guys or, more importantly, DRIVE THE GENERAL LEE. (Though I never did see the last season or so of "Dukes", so for all I know Dumbledore may well have taken the General Lee out for a spin.)

Stunned, I accepted my fate as the useless character in our little adventure. The other two "Yee-haw"'d and hopped on our bus-shaped General Lee, ready for action.

"What about Uncle Jessie?" one of them asked. (I don't recall if it was Bo or Luke. At that point, I don't think any of us knew which one was which anyway. Come to think of it, I'm still not sure which is which.)

"Put him in the trunk."

I was then quickly assisted into the bottom "luggage compartment" of the, General Lee. I kneeled down and climbed into the dusty compartment, just big enough for a 5-year-old, and the door was shut.

In the darkness, I heard the muffled sounds of two little kids re-creating the average "Dukes" episode:

"There's Rosco!"
"Yee haaaaawww!"
"Take the jump!"

Meanwhile, I waited patiently for the "story" to include the part where Uncle Jessie is let out of the trunk.

"Take that, Boss Hogg!"

Then the bell rang, and I heard the scuttling of many little feet, play objects being picked up, and the teacher issuing instructions to get settled and prepare for the next lesson.

When I climbed back out into the fluorescent light of mid-day, "Bo" and "Luke" were long gone.

And to this day, I've never played "Dukes of Hazzard" again.