Major Matt Mason & The Alien Attack (1999 Thurber House winner)

While my wife Sharon’s youth seems almost idyllic with memories of maypole dances and afternoons climbing grandma’s apple tree, I remember the time I decided to find out what it would be like to run my tricycle off of the front porch. At top speed. With Mr. Winky our guinea pig. I was seven the summer I broke my nose for the first time. It’s not that I was a bad kid, it’s just that I was creative. Creative as in “Where’s Jeff going with that shovel and has anybody seen the cat lately?”

My parents encouraged my creativity and my interest in science and at nine years old I became the proud owner of the Major Matt Mason deep space action adventure play set (batteries included; it was 1969 after all).

Major Matt Mason was 6-inch high, rubberized, Gumby sort of thing. He was molded to look like he was wearing one of those accordion-pleated spacesuits from 2001 and could strike any one of two lifelike poses. Major Matt Mason had an evil nemesis, but my Dad got the cheaper set and Callisto (Major Matt Mason’s mysterious friend from Jupiter) became, to me, the evil green brain guy. Callisto had a gun that, when you squeezed a small red air pump, shot the most deadly weapon in the Major Matt Mason arsenal; a light yellow string with a knot at the end. Even when I was nine, this seemed like a pretty wimpy weapon, so this was soon replaced by the contents of a green ink bottle I found in my Dad’s desk. Now, even if Callisto wasn’t especially lethal, he did at least permanently stain.

Major Matt Mason had an amazing lunar command base. The base was a three-foot high, two-story white plastic affair with the top floor shielded in indestructible blue plastic. Indestructible, that is, to anyone except a nine-year-old with a geology set and a small hammer.

Major Matt Mason also had a very cool two-wheeled space walker that looked like something out of Lost in Space and was guaranteed to traverse any terrain. I innocently tested this guarantee on my dog Corky who, having been recently neutered, was none too happy with the intrusion of a motorized space vehicle into his dog house. Callisto didn’t survive the encounter and Corky’s nose was a light shade of shamrock green until the day he died 12 years later.

The space crawler also had a winch on back and, when attached correctly to the top of the space station, could haul items into the air. When attached incorrectly, the crawler made an incredibly loud and entertaining screeching sound and emitted colored smoke. When attached VERY incorrectly the crawler would pull over the space station and crush the plastic shields to bits. It was way cool.

Despite my destructive tendencies my parents continued to replace Major Matt Mason and the headless, green Callisto. Until one fateful day.

One Friday, my father stepped out of his car at the end of a long work day to a sight that, after all the lectures about the cost of Major Matt Mason toys, must have brought tears to his eyes. Major Matt Mason’s space station was standing upright and fully intact.

Dad didn’t see my friend Phil and I there, hidden behind some nearby bushes, and we didn’t see him until we leapt to our feet and tossed our Frisbees at the space station with all our might.

When the Frisbees hit the space station, the plastic shields exploded into shards of plastic. The station swayed and crashed to the ground majestically. The space crawler ($5.49 in 1969 dollars), still attached to the station, dragged the station ($7.99) and all the characters ($5.97 total) into the street and into the path of an oncoming car. The resulting crash had no effect on the car (it didn’t even slow down), but everything Major Matt Mason was destroyed. It was the greatest thing that could happen to a nine-year-old.

My father then uttered the only obscenities I heard cross his lips until I left for college.

“What the hell are you trying to do to these God dammed toys?”

Phil was, needless to say, gone. I shrugged, patted my Dad on the shoulder, and calmly explained, “Alien attack Dad.”

It was the next day that I started working for Dad, earning an allowance, and paying for my own replacement toys.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *