Monday, November 22, 2010


As a freshman in high school in 1962, I was told that one of the students in the school had a bottle of scotch and a machine gun in his locker. I was born yesterday, but not last night, so I didn't believe it.

I transferred into a sophomore World History class, and it was there I met Fred. Fred was a tall, lanky boy of a man who looked like he might have lost a lot of weight earlier in his teens. He had long, thin, straight hair and an attitude in the classroom that was shocking.

Gordon was a geek and a nerd, and he talked and looked like one. His parents had a lot of money, lived in a mansion, and he was friends with Fred because he was friends with anyone who accepted him. I liked Gordon, and we became huge Barry Goldwater advocates and worked for his failed campaign in 1964. Gordon was a highly intelligent, full-fledged, wonderful wackdoodle, and one evening on the way to a football game he drove the entire way across Houston, Texas stopping at every green light and running every red. I know this to be a fact; I was riding shotgun.

By the time we were juniors, Gordon and I had gotten mixed up with Fred, and one night Fred was in his red Jeep, and it wasn't one of the new-fangled models. This was a bright red '65 Willys Jeep, and Fred had it roofless. It was open, and it was a cold, fall evening. We were cruising around town with seemingly no place to go, Gordon trying to talk Fred into running red lights and stopping on green and Fred taking hits off a whiskey bottle.....Jim Beam as I recall. Fred was dressed up in brown clothes and was wearing a swastika on his left sleeve. Suddenly we wound up in a older area of Houston, and Fred starting talking about scaring some "queers."

I wasn't homophobic, although lots of the guys were back then. I never had any question of my sexuality, and there was never a shadow of a doubt that I preferred girls, and it wasn't by a margin of any sort. Suddenly we pulled up next to the curb in front of a building at the intersection of two major streets in Houston. Fred reached under the front seat of his Jeep and pulled out a gun, and I recognized it right away as a machine gun. I have no ability beyond that to identify the weapon, nor did I have time to say or do anything. All I know is that Fred left the engine running, jumped out of the driver's seat, ran quickly into the bar, started yelling something, and then Gordon and I heard machine gun fire. Fred came running out, hopped into his Jeep, and took off on a getaway course with the Jeep on two wheels going around the corners.

Quickly we were on the other side of town and riding around in Gordon's Ford Fairlane. Somehow we dropped Fred off and Gordon drove me home, but not before Fred told Gordon and I the story of what happened over and over again. He threw the doors opened, yelled obscenities at the homosexuals, and then started firing his machine gun that was, fortunately for the patrons of the bar, loaded with blanks. One of the details Fred kept repeating was that the men in the bar were all ducking into the booths and jumping over the bar to hide behind it. I was impressed that Fred had loaded all the ammunition himself. Gordon told me he had seen his "munition factory," the basement in his home.

The next day the talk at the school was that someone had gone into a gay bar yelling obscenities and had opened fire with a machine gun. It was true. The machine gun was true. The bottle of whiskey was true. It was all true.

The incident made the papers, and my parents never mentioned it. However, two months later, there was a story in the newspaper that two men were caught by police after driving down Bellaire Blvd. in a Jeep while shooting beer cans off the fence posts. My parents made some comments about gangsters and criminals and how men like that should be locked up. I kept my mouth shut. It was a strange feeling being the one who knew that they weren't men. They were a high school junior and a senior, and I had ridden with them and knew them well.

I asked Gordon about the incident at school on Monday, and he said that he and Fred had spent quite a while setting up the bottles and cans on the barbed wire posts along Bellaire Blvd., way beyond where there were houses. He sat in the back while Fred drove with his left hand and fired the machine gun one-handed with his right. No blanks this time. Their getaway didn't work that time, and I was relieved I wasn't with them. My parents would have made my life more miserable than they had already managed.

The "two men" were caught, hauled to the downtown police station, parents were contacted, and the boys returned home with their parents. They were both in school the next Monday.

Robert Mitchum had a great line in a movie that went something like this: "Sowing wild oats is fun, but they aren't very nutritious."

Gordon went to the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, majored in political science, and graduated cum laude.

Fred was treated very differently than we treat teenagers today. He was nurtured and rehabilitated rather than imprisoned, and with the guidance of his teachers, counselors, and members of the Houston Police Department, he became successful as an expert in special weapons, and his company supplied them to S.W.A.T. teams all over the country.

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