Scottish Spirit: A Memory of Fala

During the spring or summer of 1942, John McCrea visited the home of President Roosevelt at Hyde Park. On that occasion, the president decided to give John a personally guided tour of the area. For this outing, the president took the wheel of his automobile, specially fitted with controls that allowed him to operate the accelerator, brake and clutch by hand. John sat in the front seat next to the president. In the back seat were Charlie Fredericks, the president’s Secret Service bodyguard, and Fala, his Scottish terrier.

The president thought John should see the Vanderbilt Mansion near the village of Hyde Park. Here I will let John take up his story:

Off we went at what I thought was a pretty good rate of speed, all things considered. … On arrival at the Vanderbilt mansion, just a short distance north of the village of Hyde Park, the president thought I should go into the house. He said that, at the very least, I should look at the elegant ground floor. This I did.

The president decided that this was a good chance for Fala to have a run. From the high rate of speed at which the dog took off, he evidently thought well of the idea, too. On my return from a quick tour of the Vanderbilt mansion—indeed, it was a mansion— the president indicated that we should be getting on. He called to Fala. Charlie Fredericks called to Fala. But Fala either didn’t hear or, hearing, thought little of returning to the car.

Finally, Charlie Fredericks took off after Fala. He cornered him under a low-branched pine tree, picked him up, and returned him to the car. Charlie, who was slightly on the stout side, was puffing. The Scottish Terrier was so little winded by the chase that the president gaily remarked, “You know, Charlie, I think Fala is in a lot better shape than you.” The three of us had a good laugh. Fala, the silent one, only wore a pleased look.

Perhaps he was enjoying the thought that he’d shown the President of the United States that dogs have a Declaration of Independence, too.

Source: Captain McCrea’s War, pp. 80-81.



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