Fred McDougall and the Horse Story – a preamble

T his one goes out to all the Troy High School students who had Fred McDougall for American History in high school.  I’m sure you all remember Fred if you were in his class.  He was a good teacher, and very interesting because he quoted Winston Churchill’s most offensive statements and threatened physical violence against slackers.  He used to carry around this hand crafted stick which was supposed to function as a pointer, but probably would have worked much better as a whomping stick.  it was his pride and joy, and I remember the day it broke.   Hugh Kelly, who was the quintessential slacker according to McDougall, answered some question addressed to him with a half-hearted, squinty-eyed, “wait, what?” as if he had just tumbled out of a birth canal and was being asked to recited pi.  McDougall rolled his eyes with the most profound look of disgust and said, “My GOD boy, if you don’t wake up I’m going to whop you over the head with this stick until you die,” and swung the stick down for emphasis. 


Oh god.

It was one of those rare moments where everyone’s ears pricked up, and for a few seconds you believed absolutely anything, from tears all the way to the actual death of a student, was possible.

Now as I remember it, Fred McDougall grew up in Albuquerque, NM, on what he described as, well, I’ll let him tell it.

Fred:  “I’d say I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, but really there was no good side.  Just a slightly less shitty side, and the grits like me grew up in the total pit of the world.  I was pretty big, and I used to get in fights all the time as a kid.  I remember one time when I was a sixteen-year-old puke, a buddie and I decided to take his car down to Mexico to have some fun.  On the way back, we got stopped by border security. 

Now I had pretty long hair at the time, and this is back when the law didn’t look too kindly on dirty hippie slackers like Hugh Kelly over there.  Put that together with growing up in the rough part of town, and I already had a giant chip on my shoulder when it came to authority figures.  So when it comes to our turn, one of the security officers sticks his head in our window and says with an air of contempt, ‘What’chu bringin’ back in that trunk boy, you got a boot fulluh pot?’   If it had been a few years down the line I would have been smart enough to keep my mouth shut, but at sixteen and full of piss and wind, trying to explain to me how quickly a border control officer can make your life a living hell was like jerking off with sand paper.  So I looked him right in the face and said with a sneer, “None of your business, you dirty pig.”

Now if that officer had drug me out of that car and beat the living shit out of me, he would have been completely within his right.  But he didn’t do that.  Instead, he just got this broad grin on his face, and motioned a few of his buddies over. 

My friend looked at me with a look of horror and defeat, and said ‘Oh no, what did you do.’  Frankly, I wasn’t sure, but my instincts told me I had just made a very, very big mistake.

‘Alright fellas’, he says to us, ‘pull over and get out of the car.’  At this point there’s four other security guys standing next to the car, all of them brandishing nightsticks and grinning like they just split a $500 scratch ticket and were about to cash in.  We get out of the car, and the border officer says, ‘Strip.’

‘What, right here in front of the highway?  No way fella, I’ve got my rights,’  I said, still half-way convinced the President of the United States would jump out of the booth and put a stop to this.

‘Let me put it to you like this son,’ he said as he spat a mouthful of dip onto the ground at my feet, ‘you can either strip down, or me and these four gentlemen behind you are gonna beat the everlovin’ shit out of you for resisting arrest, strip you down to your bare ass,  and drag you back into Mexico where you can bleed to death next to the highway like a couple a’ beached whales.  Your choice.’

Oh.  Shit.  So we strip down, and I mean, completely naked except for our socks.   They make us stand there with our legs spread and our hands on the hood of the car while they leisurely rifle through our shirts, our pants, our wallets, and finally take our IDs inside to make some phonecalls.  I remember thinking that forty-five minues was much, much longer than it seemed like this should take, and the whole time there’s these carloads of girls driving by honking their horns and yelling at us.  My buttcheeks got so sunburned I wasn’t able to sit down for a week.  Finally, the officer comes back out, tosses our clothes in a pile at our feet and tells us to get dressed. About this time I’d gone from humiliated back to mad again, so I said, ‘I’m calling my senator you pig!  You have no right to do this to us!’

‘Shut up Fred,’ my terrified friend hissed at me, but it was too late.

‘Boy, I really, really don’t think you got an appreciation for the situation at hand, do you.  I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you one single chance to rephrase that’ said the officer.

‘You heard me pig, I’ve got your badge number!’

He just sighed, shook his head and said, ‘Some punks just never learn.’

I swear to god, they got in the car, drove it into a little shed in the back, and began to completely disassemble it right in front of us.  I’m talking seats, steering wheel, everything.  They even took the engine out, and by the time they were done the car was completely gutted.  After they finished, they tossed me a wrench and said, ‘well, it looks like you fellas are clean after all.  Sorry for the inconvenience.  We’re here all night, so take your time.’ 

Then they walked off…and that was it.  We stared at that pile for a good fifteen minutes in complete shock, until we realized that Santa Claus wasn’t going to pop out of the tool box and make this all go away.  Fortunately my friend was a mechanic, but even then it took us about eight hours to get the car running again.  We never did get the upholstery back in.  We just left it lying there in a heap like a used elephant condom and drove home in complete silence.  He never spoke to me again. 

And that’s the last time I ever messed with the law.  That experience finally sunk into my thick skull that when it comes to authority, it’s best to shut your fat mouth and let nature take its course.  Around that time’s when I also realized that hanging out on my mom’s front porch and getting in fights was a quick road back to more encounters with the law, and I got a little more serious about school.  Personally, I think a few more well-timed beatings would probably fix most of the problems in this world, and I only wish I could be on the delivering end of a few of them now and again to slackers like Hugh Kelly over there.  Too bad I work in education.”  (Grunt)

Now this is not the most horrible story he ever told me by far.  I only told you this one so you’d have a good sense of the kind of person who would tell the next story on my list, which is a thousand times more horrible than the one I just told.  As a matter of fact, the Horse Story, as it’s come to be knows, is perhaps the most indelible story I’ve ever come across.  Stay tuned for the next installment.

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Got an Opinion?


We are interested to hear what you think.  Please send us a message. [contact-form 4 “Opinion”]  

Yes, Flying Saucers Do Exist!

Allison Maddux (Scandal #5) layout bid against Kathryn Lawson (Riot #38). 2013 USA Ultimate Club National Championships Women's Semifinals

Please don’t call it Frisbee. Colorful flying plastic discs fill the air around this time of year, tossed from hand […]

Debate 7/10: You’ve got mail…for now!


Who in their wildest dreams thought Donald Trump could be a consensus builder? Certainly not me. Donald has done something […]

Bubbles to beat the brunch backlash


I casually peruse food articles, as you might guess. One emerging set of hot takes seems to revolve around brunch. […]

Jump, jive, and wail!


Since 1982, Muse Machine has been a staple of many lives in the Miami Valley. Over 76,000 lives, each year, […]

A Monument to Insurrection


Dayton Society of Artists’ special summer exhibit Alan Pocaro, The Distance Between Us When We Communicate (Detail) By Tim Smith […]