Just like in the 1980s movie Poltergeist, “They’re b-a-a-a-ck.” In the mid-1990s, there was a trend in lawn decor that consisted of life-sized silhouettes of plywood people (often painted all black), leaning against trees, bent over flower beds, or just captured in mid-stride across the yard. Occasionally, there was a bear or other animal. It was weird.

Some 20 years later, they’ve begun to reappear. It’s still weird. So far, all I’ve seen are silhouettes of Bigfoot, aka Yeti, or maybe Sasquatch. I’m not familiar enough with the supposed differences between those three hairy beasts to successfully identify them. I think it depends on where in the world they supposedly roam.

In the 1990s fad, one of the more popular plywood decorations was a little boy, who through the addition of a length of large-gauge wire, appeared to be “relieving himself” in your front yard. Apparently, this bodily function had become too much of a hassle for the homeowner’s child, so he has constructed a plywood stand-in, and oddly enough, in full view of passersby.

Another popular silhouette was the ample backside of a woman bent over the flower bed. To make sure you didn’t miss seeing her plump rump as you drove by, she was wearing a dress painted in a loud floral print guaranteed to grab your attention.

During the last era of plywood friends and family hanging out in yards, I wondered if it was a decorating trend or just a feeble attempt to fill the need for companionship that used to be met by actually getting to know your neighbors.

Nevertheless, just in case the trend is about to fully erupt once again, I am prepared to cash in. I have been busily sawing, sanding, and painting in my garage for weeks. I’ve produced a veritable forest of plywood figures, ready to be sold at a large profit. All that remains is my ad campaign. How’s this?

“Let ‘Fake Friends and Family’ give you the illusion of friends, without the annoyance of maintaining actual physical contact with real friends, family, and neighbors, who might hold loud parties, borrow your tools, ask you for 6:30 am rides to the airport or for help them moving into a third-floor apartment in 90-degree weather.

“Does your busy career leave you with no time, energy, or money for birthing and raising children? ‘Fake Friends and Family’ can provide you with the well-behaved child of your choice. At only $89.95 each, your plywood child will never need feeding, changing, or potty training.

“Always wanted a child who excelled in sports? Make your fake child a star athlete with our full line of painted-on uniforms and accessories in your choice of team colors and logos. An optional trophy with your choice of lettering is available for an additional $19.95.

“Eliminate the outrageous bills for childhood disease. Our plywood tots are guaranteed free of root rot, termites, and Dutch Elm Disease.

“Are you a potential executive clawing your way to the top? Check out our Presidential model, clothed in a painted-on replica of a top-of-the-line business suit. For an additional $49.95, our Accessories Department will paint in a fake briefcase. As part of our summer special, you can purchase an accompanying executive assistant for only $79. Both the executive and the assistant are available in the gender of your choice.

“In the interest of realism, we carry a large stock of ‘black sheep’ family members, including Uncle Fritz the bigamist, Aunt Mabel the counterfeiter, and Uncle Jake the extortionist. This month’s special is our juvenile delinquent model, available in either male or female, which comes complete with a plywood attorney, judge, and jury. These large plywood groupings sell for $3,500, due to the rising cost of plywood and the time involved in production. They also require frequent time-consuming sharpening of my jigsaw.

“Fake Friends and Family also carries a full line of easy-care pets in over a dozen breeds, guaranteed to never shed, bark, or bite a real neighbor, so no danger of related lawsuits. No vet visits are required. Price will vary, depending on the size and breed. A plywood Saint Bernard will be more costly than a plywood Chihuahua.

“Stop in and meet our full staff of plywood salespeople. I guarantee no high-pressure sales tactics. Beware of my large and aggressive-looking guard dog. He didn’t take well to the sanding process. You could get a splinter. All major credit cards accepted.”


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