I was at a neighbors house when I read about it in the local paper, “Local High School Coach Accused of Sexual Assault.”

I didn’t even need to read the article to know who or what it was about. I immediately ran home and called by best friend Clint. “They got him!”

We were mostly indifferent to Coach Montgomery except insofar as we feared him. He had this cold and mean way of looking at us. We were in regular Phys Ed, meaning that we weren’t athletes. We were also boys, making us even more useless to him. More on that in a moment. We’d had coaches yell at us before, but he wasn’t one of them. Coach Montgomery had a quiet scorn for us girly boys that were just as happy sitting around talking as we were lifting weights.

But while he didn’t like girly boys, he sure loved girly girls. We noticed it almost instantly. When he wasn’t scaring the living hell out of us with a glare, he was smiling and flirting with the girl students. He was initiating borderline human contact, meaning that he wasn’t touching them in inappropriate places, but he seemed eager to make physical contact with him. Many of the girls really appreciated the attention. Though not a remarkably handsome man, he had an incredibly impressive physique. While we were dodging basketballs thrown at our heads, he was otherwise occupied.

His inappropriate interests caught up with him and a girl’s parents found out about it. Once it’s out there, girls start stepping forward out of the woodwork. The secret that nobody cared about was suddenly out in the open. Coach Montgomery was having sex with students. A lot of them. When it all came out parents and administrators was wondering why no one had said anything. Our answer was that nobody asked. In all honestly we knew it was goofy and morally suspect, but it didn’t seem as monstrous to us as it did to parents. There was never any indication that the sex wasn’t consensual, even though some of the girls later apparently regretted it. The concept of authoritative manipulation hadn’t really been introduced to us at that point.

In between the initial questioning and his eventual arrest, Montgomery attempted suicide using pills of some sort. I don’t know what happened to him, but his career was over and his life wasn’t doing much better. Clint and I actually got a little bit of delight in it all. We didn’t like Montgomery and we couldn’t appreciate what was so wrong about it because sexual harassment was something that happened to adults and authoritative manipulation was a concept we hadn’t really been introduced to.

“It’s kind of funny that his life is practically over but Horton got away almost without a scratch,” Clint mentioned. Not well-versed in the ways of romance and certainly not that between an adult and a peer, the reason that we were so quick to pick up on what Montgomery was doing was because he looked at the girl students the same way that Coach Horton did.

Coach Horton was our coach throughout elementary school. Like Montgomery, he had little use for male students that weren’t athletic and he had too many uses for girls of all sorts. Except unlike with Montgomery, these girls were in elementary school. Rumors swirled for quite a while about the favoritism that he showed girls and the inappropriate ways that he would touch them. Nothing nearly as straightforward as Montgomery (as far as anyone knew), but the kind of creepy thing that lingers with girls years later.

Despite all the rumors and some awareness by the school’s administrators, Horton was there throughout my brothers’ tenure at West Oak Elementary up until we were in the fourth grade. At some point he slipped up and touched the wrong girl in the wrong place. A girl whose parents had enough pull in the community that they didn’t have to worry about the social repercussions of making an accusation. The problem for West Oak administrators was that if they were to fire him for molestation they would be be admitting that it took place and opening themselves up for a world of lawsuits from hundreds of parents. So they ultimately fired him for showing favoritism towards girls.

Last I heard, he was an elementary school coach in Colorado.


Category: Ghostland, School

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10 Responses to A Six Inch Valley

  1. Spungen says:

    So they ultimately fired him for showing favoritism towards girls.

    Hee hee, “molestation” equals “favoritism.”

    Men who are less savvy often end the analysis at, “Look, he spends so much time with the pretty girls. That means pretty girls have it easy and it’s not fair!” Of course, it’s not the type of “favoritism” that usually does its recipients any good.

    Interesting choice of title. Were you referring to the Springsteen song, which starts out “Hey little girl is your daddy home?”

    That use of “daddy” always made me uncomfortable. As an adult, I’ve realized that daddy is an all-purpose endearment term for men, (like “Daddy Warbucks”) but as a kid the only person I called that was my Dad. The ladies at the daycare call my baby son “Da-da,” and “Papi,” so I have to get used to it.

  2. trumwill says:

    “It’s like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull, and cut a six inch valley through the middle of my soul.”

    The meaning of the song is hotly debated, though I think the inappopriate love for the younger sort makes more sense than the simple “falling in love” explanation. Between the above lyric and soaking sheets and freight train in his head it’s something that the narrator thinks more inappropriate than physical attraction. The best alternate explanation I can come up with is that of a boy undergoing puberty and trying to come to terms with it, which is not exactly what I would expect from The Boss. Then again, neither would I expect a song about pedophelia!

    I’m uncomfortable with both “daddy” and “baby” references unless actually referring to a daddy or a baby. But I’ve been outvoted.

  3. Spungen says:

    Between the above lyric and soaking sheets and freight train in his head itโ€™s something that the narrator thinks more inappropriate than physical attraction.

    I always thought it was just because she was with another man (her “daddy”), and therefore was unavailable. But he thought she might be unhappy and neglected by her man, so he held out hope.

  4. Spungen says:

    P.S. Think about the lines, “Tell me now baby is he good to you/Can he do to you the things that I do/Oh no, I can take you higher.” Clearly he’s not talking about her father, and clearly this is a woman considered mature enough to make her own sexual choices. It even gives the impression that he has been with her, but she’s with the other guy and he wants her to leave.

    That sounds a lot more like a Boss theme, doesn’t it?

  5. Peter says:

    My relative unfamiliarity with Bruce Springsteen and my generally filthy mind had me thinking that the thread title was vaguely obscene ๐Ÿ™‚

    But anyway, the fact that Coach Montgomery and Coach Horton were in jobs that brought them into close contact with young girls is certainly no co-inkydink. I do not for a minute believe that they were normal guys who couldn’t resist the temptations when they found themselves surrounded by nubile young flesh. What’s far more likely is that they had these pedophilic tendencies from the get-go and deliberately sought out jobs that would give them access to young girls.

  6. trumwill says:

    I suppose you may be right, Spungen, though I still intepret the whole “daddy” thing as in “I can be a better man in your life than can your father” because he can take her to a different (“higher”) level of maturity. Then again, I like songs that are outside the normal dynamic, so that’s probably why I choose to intrepret the song the way that I do.

  7. trumwill says:

    Peter,

    I think that’s definitely true of Horton, though less so for Montgomery. I think Montgomery’s was not necessarily a reaction to being around young people but rather rebellion against the whole aging process. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he didn’t start his daliances until he was in his deep twenties. Horton was almost certainly bad from the get-go, though.

  8. Webmaster says:

    We had one of those creepy phys-ed teachers in my grade school, too. I forget what the reason they gave was when he finally vanished from the school, but I remember thinking it was a really lame one.

    Then again, our whole school district had some really lame teachers – most famously there was the drunkard who was a 4th grade math teacher for over 10 years, even after being caught with a bottle in class, because it would have cost the district a mint to go through court (the teachers’ union still threatened to sue if they dismissed him) to get rid of him.

  9. Peter says:

    Today’s climate is such that I would be very reluctant to coach a youth sports team or get involved in any activity that would entail contact with children. There’s just too much risk of false accusations.

  10. Becky says:

    I think that until our society stops stigmatizing (is that even a word?) the victims, then it will be difficult for anyone to come forward — esp. as the first one. This situation is more difficult since some of the sex was consentual, but as you brought up, the power of an authority figure can be manipulative. I’m sure the girls were scared of what their parents might do to them, if they had come forward.

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