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James R. Stout

The Tall Doll

This story begins with the Christmas of 1961. I was 6, my sister Barbara was 12, and my sister Debbie was 9. The story really has nothing to do with that Christmas and we only start with it because it is, well, the beginning of the tale of “The Tall Doll”. The Tall Doll was one of Debbie’s Christmas presents. It was not a typically sized doll. It was quite literally about 3 feet tall. It had curly dark hair and its arms, legs, and head could be moved to allow it to stand-up, look from side to side, and wave. Obviously, with a little help from it’s “mom”. Its Mom would be Debbie.

Within about two years The Tall Doll was taking up too much room in the bedroom that my sisters shared. So, it was decided that it would move to the farm and reside with my grandparents. It would be there in the event Debbie decided to play with the doll which was increasingly less likely as Debbie got older.

Now we come to a rather dark time for The Tall Doll. It was sometime in 1964 or early 1965. It was such a traumatic event that not even I remember the exact date. However, I do remember the assault The Tall Doll received and miraculously survived. I also remember the aftermath of the assault. I remember these things so well because I was the perpetrator of said assault. Now, before you dip your mind in the gutter it was not some twisted X-rated assault. After all, I was only about 8 or 9 years old.

It was a Saturday afternoon like any other Saturday at the farm. I was supposed to be taking a nap after lunch. But that silly doll was standing in the corner of what we call “the sleeping porch” and it was just staring at me with those big blue eyes. That’s when I noticed the pair of scissors on the old chifforobe and in my mind, there was a perfect correlation between The Tall Doll and the scissors. Before you say, “You didn’t”, let me say that I did. I gave The Tall Doll a haircut. A rather severe haircut. You might say that doll could have worn a U.S. Marine uniform to go with its buzz-cut.

Well, Debbie discovered The Tall Doll, laying on the floor amid it’s shorn locks, with a glazed look coming from it’s blue eyes. I was nowhere to be found by that time, but that didn’t save me. It was obvious that I was the culprit. I mean, who else could it have been? I very nearly got into bad trouble over that foray into being a hairdresser and probably should have except for my sister Debbie, distraught over the mistreatment of The Tall Doll, took my brand-new set of 48 count Crayola Crayons and broke them all into pieces. Mom decided we were equally wrong and were therefore merely sentenced to Debbie living with a buzz-cut doll and me living with broken crayons.

My grandfather passed away in 1967 and Grandma moved out of the farmhouse later that year. The farmhouse over the next few years became a “catch-all” for a myriad of family furniture, discarded wall art, appliances that either didn’t work or barely worked, and as my father would have said, “Stuff like that that there.”

Now, you might think that The Tall Doll would have finally been tossed away by the time Debbie was out of high school. Nope. It was recycled for a younger cousin to play with when staying at the farm on a weekend. But even that came to an end when she got to old to play with buzz-cut tall dolls.

This brings me to what is known in our family as “The Tall Doll’s Last Stand”. This was sometime in the late 70’s. Tall Doll still resided at the farmhouse along with the mice, a 1958 TV set, and other long forgotten items. An extended family member, a cousin of my grandparents named Louis, had bought some of the land adjacent to our farm in about 1963. He was about 15 years younger than my grandparents. At some point in time he started to lease the farm land to raise his cattle on. Part of the agreement was that he would check in on the farmhouse from time to time. One Friday night Louis was on his way to his house and decided to stop in at the farmhouse to check on things. It was dark. In those days when night came it was truly dark here in the country. I’m talking about so dark that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face with the lights out. The story goes that Louis unlocked the front door while armed with a flashlight. He hadn’t bother going around to the breaker box on the side of the house to turn on the power. He didn’t plan on being there but for a couple of minutes. He was just going to walk through the house with his flashlight and make sure everything was OK. Louie’s flashlight swept through the living room and that’s when Louis’s heart skipped several beats. A little girl, about 3 feet tall, was sitting on the couch just staring at him. All he could think to say was, “Can I help you?” Well, if the Tall Doll had answered I kind of think that Louis would have been gone like Speedy Gonzalez. But, after a few seconds he realized he was talking to a rather large, buzz-cut, blue-eyed doll.

Louis reported his close encounter of the strange kind to my grandmother who then reported it to the rest of the family. Laughs were hail and hearty over the whole thing. My mother still liked to retell that story until she passed in early 2018. The Tall Doll would live another few years but was finally laid to rest when the farmhouse underwent a remodel in 1983.

But wait! There’s more! In 2014 I was walking through a CVS pharmacy in Huntsville, Texas around Christmas. I passed by an aisle of retro toys and I thought I heard a whisper. It went something like, “I’m baaakkk.” There was Tall Doll! No not THE Tall Doll, but a reissued Tall Doll. I had to buy it for my granddaughter. I waited until Christmas Eve when the whole family was there – Debbie included – and I gave the “New & Improved Tall Doll” to my granddaughter Sofia. I penned a note to the doll that said, “No scissors allowed.”

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