Friday, August 16, 2013

Dave's Little Wars, Part 1

“Big Dave and Little Dave”

I am fascinated with miniature soldiers. For most of my life I have collected, glued together, painted and occasionally “fought” battles with little warriors from several time periods, and count myself lucky to have a number of friends who do the same. This interest in warfare throughout history doesn't mean I actually believe we should tread too often down that path.  In the words of my friend Jeff Nordin, "May all our wars be  . . . LITTLE ones."

Yours truly and his Zulu War figures, many years ago, while stationed at Camp Pendleton.

 A taste of my 30mm tall Revolutionary War collection; nearly all are Charles Stadden figures.

These tiny 10mm tall Civil War soldiers are my newest obsession; they are fun to paint, and they create quite a spectacle . . . in miniature, of course.

My first ever stop-motion movie features a small part of my World War 2 army.  Sit back and enjoy!

You may well ask, “Where does it all start, this passion for toy soldiers and miniature figurines?” For me, the answer lies so far back in my childhood, I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t drawn to that little world. I do know that my dad, the ORIGINAL David Geister, is part of the story.

I have three distinct memories of “playing soldier” with my dad. Dad was not a game player,  but he knew the right time to take an interest in what his eldest son was doing.

My original play-set disappeared decades ago. Thank goodness for Ebay!

In the first memory, I am 6 years old. We are laying on the floor of our duplex in Spring Valley, Wisconsin, and Dad is helping me snap together the “wooden” palisade and mount the blockhouses on the corners of the classic Marx’s Fort Apache (This is a gift from my Aunt Bonnie, who will spoil me rotten for years). It has cavalry soldiers, Indians with a tepee and a cannon that shoots little plastic shells. I have no doubt that we both get a thrill out of the experience.  

Be kind, dear reader - this is long before we had our eyes opened by watching the movie “Little Big Man" or reading “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee”. The real story of westward expansion and the destruction of American Indian people is something I will learn about later; my love/hate relationship with military history will gradually follow; for the moment, however, we are simply a couple of lads off on an adventure.

These plastic Airfix soldiers were my mainstay for years, even after I discovered metal miniatures.  GREAT box art, totally inaccurate but totally inspiring.

In the second memory, I am now perhaps thirteen years old.  It is a rainy Saturday in the late fall and the two of us are at our first and only wargaming convention, a small affair held in a cold building at the fair grounds in Rochester, Minnesota.  Thanks to a poster glimpsed on the wall of the Little Tin Soldier Shoppe in Minneapolis (more about THAT place later), the two of us “answer the call” and join in a Civil War battle being fought with hundreds of quickly-painted blue and grey plastic Airfix soldiers.  Later, we spend time talking with Dungeons and Dragons co-creator Dave Arneson.  Dad proudly shows him some of my sketches of Napoleonic soldiers, and I am both thankful and a little embarrassed.

 Battle Masters was guaranteed to satisfy my sword and sorcery needs.

In the final memory, I am in my late twenties and my father is just about the age I am today.  It is Christmas afternoon, we are laying on our groaning bellies right smack in the middle of the kitchen floor, playing with my newest toy, Milton Bradley’s Battle Masters.  Plastic knights, goblins, beast-men and even an ogre march back and forth across a large vinyl map in a Titanic Struggle between Good and Evil. The family carefully tiptoes around us as we unconsciously recreate the scene from my childhood.

As I seem to remember it . . .

To be sure, I would have played with these things, and collected them as I do now, regardless of whether my father had taken the time to play with me on those few occasions. But his presence here, in the midst of these fond recollections, makes the memories that much sweeter. He was a good man. Not only did he encourage me to become an artist; he showed me it was o.k. to be a kid.  I appreciate that gift more than anything else, especially as I start to feel time slowly chipping away at me.

My dad, a couple years before he passed away - can YOU see the kid hiding inside him?

Thanks, Dad. You are missed.