BALLAST POINT — Sometimes it's easy to forget that Lance Maulsby, 8, is still a kid.
He can tell you all about the battle of Gettysburg, describe in detail the last moments of Adolf Hitler's life and quote Richard Nixon.
But on a Monday a few weeks ago Lance's only real concern was finding a way to get his new toy boomerang off the roof of his garage.
Pragmatically, Lance — who is entering third grade at the Academy of Holy Names — explained that he hadn't quite figured out the aerodynamics of his new plaything and that he would have to wait for his dad to get home. His mother, Maurisa, bought the boomerang for Lance earlier in the day at the Flight of Fantasy in Polk City, which showcases rare and vintage aircraft, including military planes.
They were there because Lance has developed an interesting obsession.
He likes war. He studies military history with the vigor of an amateur historian three times his age.
While many of his peers spend rainy afternoons watching cartoons, Lance sits in front of the Military Channel learning.
Other children in his grade really like Hannah Montana, but Lance's favorite shows have titles like Weaponology.
He defends television.
"People say TV makes you dumb, but it doesn't!" Lance said quite emphatically.
Lance has become the classroom authority on war, his second-grade teacher Betsy Smith said. The other kids seem to gravitate to him and ask questions any time classroom discussion veers toward history.
"He is amazing. He has filled my world with his knowledge," Smith said.
Lance traces his interest in military history to a day he spent watching television with his father, Mark, a property manager. They were channel surfing and landed on a program about soldiers in the desert. Lance found it interesting and the rest, to him, is history.
Now Lance hopes to one day become a military pilot.
"You don't get shot at. The only thing you have to worry about is SAM missiles and RPGs," he said.
Lance — whose great-grandfather sailed in the Philippine navy during World War II — once gave a biographical presentation on Hitler.
He came in costume, with a home-made Nazi-style uniform, made by his 18-year-old sister, Sarah, and an electrical tape mustache.
"I had to rip the tape off; it felt terrible," Lance said. "It took off a little of my mustache."
As a second-grader he was able to describe Hitler's cold relationship with Eva Braun and explain that they took cyanide pills in a bunker in Berlin. Lance said that Hitler was a very bad guy, said Smith.
Though a fascination with war could lend itself to a morbid outlook, Smith says Lance is a ball of positive energy.
"He's not aggressive," she said.
"He is a happy little boy that just happens to be very interested in war."
Joshua Neiderer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3374.