Wife Brenda and daughter Jess keep a modest doll collection. It started with the dolls Brenda got during her childhood, when she was a world-traveling Navy brat. Since Jess was born, the collection has expanded to include modern dolls that Brenda thinks might turn out to be collectible. So when we heard that motorized Cabbage Patch dolls had gone to snatching children baldheaded, and that the epicenter of the event was our native state of South Carolina (two of the first four reported snatchings), the Jowers family just had to have one of those swell Cabbage Patch Snack Time Kids.
Before I’d allow one of these dolls into my house, I had to know: Were the dolls mutant bad-ass eating machines, ready to snatch hair from follicles, fingers from hands, and eyeballs from the sockets of innocent children? Or were there other forces at work?
Let me make this plain: Any toy that hurts little children is a bad thing. I’m in favor of all children being safe and happy all the time. But I’ve been a father for eight years now, and I’ve been around a lot of little kids. One thing I’ve learned: About every tenth kid is just a mess. These children will be in some kind of trouble from the minute they’re born. They’ll break the good china, they’ll squeeze hamsters to death, they’ll sit on every wad of bubble gum, and they’ll step in every pile of dog crap. They’re a force of nature, and you can’t change ’em. I suspected that the hair-eating dolls had gotten a hold of just such children.
I decided we could have a Cabbage Patch Snack Time Kid, but only if we bought two of ’em. I’d check one out closely before the other came out of its box.
“I want a boy doll,” Jess said. “All the dolls who ate the children’s hair were girl dolls.” We bought Craig Jory (collectible) and Gavin Nicholas (lab rat).
As soon as we got home, I went to work on Gavin Nicholas. My first experiment: observe him eating his plastic french fry. Jess watched over my shoulder. As Gavin Nicholas chewed, Jess whooped, “There’s a mill in there! A mill in his mouth!” And so there was. Two little rollers, and they looked like they meant business.
That’s why the dolls are hair-eaters. Every knowledgeable beauty shop hanger-on or factory worker will tell you: Once you get one wrap of hair around a cylinder, the hair won’t come loose. This is the basis for both the curler and chain-guard industries.
I needed to know more about the inner workings of the dolls. I turned to Brenda. “Have we got a scalpel in this house?”
“Yep, got my old cat-dissecting kit from nursing school,” Brenda said, whipping it out of a file drawer like a sword from a scabbard. “Sorry, buddy,” Jess said to Gavin Nicholas. “You’re gonna have a little surgery.”
I cut along the seams under the doll’s ears. Then I peeled off his face, just like a Mission Impossible mask. My findings: There’s a little rocker switch just under the doll’s plastic lips. When something touches his hard palate, he’s going to chew for about three to four seconds. That’ll put about 12 winds of hair onto his little roller mill. That, my friends, is a hard capture, with no hope of escape. If you try to free the hair by pulling down on the doll, it’ll just throw the switch again and roll up an even bigger wad of hair. A panicky would-be rescuer could just make things worse.
So what do you do if you find yourself confronted with a child who’s in the throes of a hair-eating doll’s attack? Any of these three rescue techniques will do:
1. Reposition the doll so that the captured hair rests on the doll’s lower lip. (This will keep the motor from cycling again.) This way, the unfortunate child only loses a couple inches of hair.
2. Snatch off the doll’s backpack. This cuts the power. Again, minimal hair loss.
3. My personal favorite: Stick your finger in the doll’s mouth. This stops the mill. Then quickly snip off the captured hair, withdraw your finger, and hurl the doll into a fireproof trash can just before the battery overheats and the doll bursts into flames. This one will make you look like a real hero.
Visit Walter Jowers’ Web site at http://www.nashscene.com/~housesense/ .