I thought it would be fun to shed light on a phrase that has been shouted at me for 10 years now. When I was 17-24 years old, I literally couldn’t leave my house without someone shouting this phrase at me. I am 27 years old now, and still hear it occasionally. I don’t hear it as much anymore though. The phrase has kind of started to fade away a little bit, but I guarantee anyone associated with me during that 7 year time frame still remembers it.
The phrase is, “Joshua you are a dumbass!!! Justin, go feed the fucking horses!!!” It frequently came out of the mouth of my dad, an intense man with a short temper who is simultaneously a pretty funny, cool dude.
This quote became an inside joke between my family, friends, family-friends and primarily my brother, Justin and I. Many people who don’t know me well, probably don’t understand the inside joke, but have probably often heard random people calling me a dumbass followed by the quote, “Justin, go feed the fucking horses!” I would hear this while I was trying to drink a beer at Fun City, purchase groceries at Wal-Mart, walk down the street, pump gas, etc. People even used to post this quote on my Facebook and Myspace walls. In the peak of “feed the horses,” I would have this phrase shouted at me 20-25 times per day. This is not an exaggeration.
It is inevitable that many of you reading this are confused as to why in the world people have so frequently called me a dumbass followed by insisting that my brother, Justin needs to feed the fucking horses. This entry will chronicle the origin of the phrase.
Even if you don’t know me personally, but have read my blog, it is probably not difficult to guess who the more disobedient child was growing up between my brother and I.
My younger brother, Justin was always the golden child of the family. He made appearances on the front page of the sports section of our local newspaper on a regular basis with his various wrestling, cross country and track accomplishments. For those of you who don’t know, Justin was a 3 time state finalist and 1 time state champion in high school wrestling. Last I knew, he was in the top 20 in career wins for anyone who has ever wrestled in the state of Iowa. Pretty impressive considering Iowa is notorious for having the best wrestling in the nation. He was also a 2 time state qualifier in cross country and competed in the state track tournament. Not only was Justin a great, dedicated athlete, he was also very involved in other extra-curricular activities such as band and theater. In terms of education, he was very studious.
Justin may disagree with me on this, but I believe he did have a wild streak, but he wasn’t as bold while acting on it. He was good at being obscure when it came to being disobedient. He had more of a passive-agressive approach when he felt the need to rebel. However, he would probably tell you that the rare occasions where he did get in trouble in the past was a direct result of peer pressure.
Growing up, I was always considered the “dumbass” kid by my parents. In fact, sometimes I think my parents still have this opinion of me. I had great potential in certain aspects, but was very rebellious. I was apathetic towards some of the things I was expected to possess a positive attitude with and often made impulsive decisions which led to me getting in trouble and not living up to my parents’ expectations. Some of the poor decisions I made in life, led to my dad labeling me a “dumbass.” When my dad would shout a demand at us, Justin would immediately do what he was told while I would spend a lengthy amount of time arguing with him and being blatantly defiant if I believed the expectations of the barked orders were unreasonable.
Our roles were determined at a very young age. I have been consistently reminded through the years of how easy of a baby Justin was to raise compared to me. I am also consistently reminded of how much easier it was for them to raise Justin as a child and teenager than me.
Ok so Justin was the golden child, I was the dumbass, but what does any of this have to do with Justin feeding our horses?
When I would get in trouble, Dad would scream a lecture at me which usually consisted of the reasons why my life has been polka-dotted with short-comings and dissapointments. He would always conclude his “chew-out” sessions with this; “Joshua, the only thing left I have to say to you is that you are a dumbass!” At this point he would glance at Justin in an attempt to think of some dirt to say to him. When he realized that he had nothing negative to say to him because he was the epitome of “golden child,” he would scream, “Justin, go feed the fucking horses!!!!”
I bet Justin hated it when I got in trouble much worse than I did because he always had to feed the fucking horses when I was disobedient.
Why wouldn’t Dad ask me to feed the horses if I was the one who was being disobedient? Good question. I think it’s because I never really had anything to do with our horses. I never had any interest in showing the horses at the county fair like Justin did. Another possibility is that he knew I wouldn’t feed the horses if he demanded me to. I think if my dad told me to feed the horses back then, I would act like the mouthy, defiant son I was and scream back, “NO! I HATE THE HORSES! YOU FEED THEM!” Which would lead to another unwanted argument.
Let me chronicle for you, an example of a true-life “chew out” session I received from my dad that concluded with him calling me a dumbass and telling my brother to feed the horses.
When I was in 7th grade, I received my 2nd detention ever. My best friend at the time, Tyler Clover received one with me. Our detentions were a result of a brilliant idea we thought of in shop class. While we were supposed to be dilligently working on a drafting project, we thought it would be hilarious to pour baby powder in someone’s hair. I can’t remember why the hell I had baby powder in my backpack, but I did. Shop class was the last class of the day and the drafting project just wasn’t letting the time go by at a quick enough pace. Pouring baby powder in someone’s hair sounded much more fun than working on the drafting project.
We dumped baby powder in the hair of a dude named David Wacker. Why did we choose David Wacker? Because his hair was charcoal-black. Therefore the white baby powder would be more visible in his hair than it would be in anyone else’s hair. I admit, it was kind of a dick move on our parts, but oh well, we can’t change it now. When we did this, our teacher saw it and immediately started yelling (while noticeably trying very hard to keep a straight face) and gave us a detention. This detention sucked ass. For an hour, we had to scoop fish shit out of the shop floor gutters with a tiny spoon.
To say the least, my dad was not thrilled when he caught wind of my actions in shop class. Here is the lecture I received from my dad almost word for word.
“God dammit Joshua!!! (his face almost purple with veins popping out of his head due to being so angry.) A Wacker brother?!?!?!?! Why in the HELL are you pouring baby powder in a WACKER brother’s hair?!?!?! You know damn well that all of those Wacker bastards have pitch black hair!!! What the hell is wrong with you?!?! Seriously, what in the HELL were you thinking?!?! What in the WORLD were you doing with baby powder in your bag in the first place?!?! Joshua, the only thing I have left to say to you is that you are a dumbass!!!! Justin, (long pause) go feed the fucking horses!!!”
On many occasions, my dad let loose with his “feed the horses” lectures in front of my friends who would be hanging out at my house. Anyone who witnessed it, thought it was hilarious and would tell everyone at school about it the following day. I do a pretty good impersonation of my dad, so I started performing the “feed the horses” lectures for crowds of my friends which always resulted in heaps of laughter.
The “feed the horses” stories spread like wildfire. Therefore, I can’t even approximate how many times I have had someone tell me that I was a dumbass and that Justin needed to feed the horses. For a few years there, it didn’t matter where I went, I would be guaranteed to have an abundance of people yelling at me a variation of dad’s quote such as, “hey Swaff, feed the horses!!!” or “Swaff you are a dumbass, get Justin to feed the horses!!!” or “Your a dumbass Swaff!!! Justin, go feed the fucking horses!!!”
If I ever raise a dumbass kid like me, I wonder what my catch-phrase is going to be when I chew him or her out for being disobedient. Suggestions are more than welcome.
The Swafford family after attending a St. Louis Cardinals game in 1990. From left to right: me, Justin, Mom (Jacinta) and Dad (Mark.)