We went to the State Fair one Friday evening, and it started to rain. When I got back to my apartment that night it was still raining. A few minutes after I had gotten in bed the telephone rang and rang.
The pre-medical student was gone for the weekend. He lived on the other side of Columbus and bicycled everywhere. He was very industrious. The way he bicycled was indicative of him. When he got an A on a paper, which was often, he would call his father. I couldn’t help but marvel at the closeness between them. We liked one another as different as we were. One time I used his frying pan to cook some meat. He was very upset because the meat I put in his frying pan wasn’t kosher. He did not ask, but I bought the frying pan from him. He could not use it anymore.
I answered the telephone and it was my friend, the vet student. He asked if I would drive him somewhere very important. He didn’t want to talk about it on the telephone. He said normally he wouldn’t need a car, but it was raining. I said I would be there in a few minutes.
It turns out he was going to be the middleman in the sale of an illegal narcotic drug. He told me all about it so I knew what he was doing. According to the law I was a conspirator among other things.
The vet student had a friend or an acquaintance that lived North of the University on California Street. This friend had some cocaine. Several weeks earlier the vet student had picked up a quantity of cocaine from him at his house, and passed it on to a third person who got arrested in the rain that night. The vet student explained this to me as we were languishing in jail. The third person agreed to cooperate with the police. He probably made a deal that if he set up his supplier they would go easy on him. He telephoned the vet student, and said he had a buyer who wanted an ounce of cocaine that night. The vet student didn’t know the buyer was the Columbus Police. It was right after the call from the third person that was in a city police station down town that my friend called me for a ride. It was still raining.
I met the vet student in the room of another student who was arrested with us. All three of us went outside where there was a car parked on the curb. The driver was the person doing the buying and he held his hands out the window, and fanned out six one hundred-dollar bills which was the
purchase price of what he was buying. My friend the vet student bent down, looked at the money, and he said he would be right back. The one student went back to his room in the dormitory. The vet student and me went to get the cocaine. The police were following us. I learned later when I was being questioned that the police thought I was using evasive tactics when I went past California Street on High Street, and then turned around in a parking lot to correct the mistake. The police said I was backtracking. I had never been there before and I drove past the street in the rain.
The person with the cocaine lived near the end of the street in one of the row houses. A policeman didn’t believe me when I said I didn’t know the address of the house. There was no place to park that night so I waited in my car. The vet student jumped out. I didn’t see, or attempt to see, which house he entered. We drove back with the cocaine in his pocket, and we went in the dormitory room of the student who was arrested with us. The buyer came in the room also. There were two clear plastic bags. One bag was an ounce of pure cocaine and the other bag was one ounce of lactose power that looked exactly like the cocaine. The second bag was provided so the buyer could mix the content of the two bags together to make two ounces of the narcotic. Then it would be “cut” fifty per cent. The buyer put his money down on the desk where the two bags were, and he made several statements one of which was that he was going to sell it in “nickel bags” on Mount Vernon Street. Then he turned around, unlocked the door, and four plain-clothes policemen burst in with guns in hand, several of which were pointing at me. They said, “Police, put your hands over your head.” The buyer left.
First, they came to me and several of them searched me and handcuffed my hands behind my back. It was like they thought I was an armed guard. People were sleeping in the bedroom. The police rudely awakened all of them. There was a lot of yelling and screaming in there. I heard the police yell “police, get up.” and I heard a girl who was probably naked and not assigned to that room yell for them to get out. All the students came out of the bedroom fully dressed. Some police came out after them and they sent the students from the bedroom out in the hall like so many innocent bystanders.
Soon a van with two doors in the back arrived and we went to the police station in handcuffs. Before I went downtown I saw a police tow truck hooking up to my car. The van had two bench seats that went the length of each side. A light on the ceiling stayed on the whole time. There was a metal partition between the front where the driver was and the back where we were.
The police took a picture of my face that included a row of numbers under my chin. We were put in the City Prison in a room with other prisoners. The room was 75 feet by 25 feet. One of the short sides of the room was a wall of steel bars with a door. A policeman sat at a desk on the other side of the bars. On the opposite side there were dirty windows covered with heavy wire mesh and bars. On the two long sides of the room there were rows of jail cells, each one six-feet by ten-feet, where we were locked up at night. Each cell had one set of steel bunk beds welded in place with a thin mattress. Each cell had a toilet, and a locking door made of bars just like the ones on the front wall.
The next day the vet student telephoned a lawyer he knew. When he came back he told us we would be arraigned the next morning.
Theoretically, in the United States everyone who is in jail for any amount of time has to be either charged with a crime or convicted of a crime. To be arraigned meant we would go before a judge and be told what the charge against us was (what law we have broken). We would respond to that charge with a guilty or not guilty plea. The judge would then assign us a trial date, and he would determine if we wanted counsel assigned by the court, or if we wanted to get one for ourselves. He would also decide if we would be released, or put back in jail until our trial. Since we were each from another city the judge might be concerned that we wouldn’t show up for our trial. Then there was bail.
Bail is money that the court holds instead of a person. If I was released on bail, and I didn’t show up at my trial I would forfeit the bail money, and the judge would issue a warrant for my arrest. If I did show up the money would be refunded and my trial would proceed.
There were a host of enterprising individuals who sold insurance bonds for anyone who needed money to make bail. The cost of the insurance bond was ten percent of the bail set by the judge. The ten-percent was the cost of the money. It was not returned no matter what happened. When a bail bondsman put up the money for bail and the person didn’t show up for trial it was the bondsman who lost money.
Many other people were arraigned with us. The lawyer who the vet student called on the telephone was not present, but he must have talked with someone in the court system. The judge didn’t look at us or speak to us.
We were released “on our own recognizance” which meant we didn’t have to put up any money for bail. The lawyer later told us the day and time of our trial. He also said that we were charged with five felonies. They were possession of narcotics, possession of narcotics for sale, keeper of a house where narcotics are kept, transportation of narcotics, and conspiracy to sell narcotics. The vet student told us the lawyer had told him a conviction for first degree murder didn’t carry as much jail time as a conviction on all those charges. The policemen who arrested us were plain-clothes detectives just back from a national training center for drug enforcement. That explained why they seemed somewhat rabid to me. On the evening news we were named, it gave our Columbus address, and said we were the main drug suppliers for the entire campus area. The vet student told me about the report. It also said our bail was set at $25,000 each.
The following Monday when I walked into a Journalism class (I was unaware of the television news story at that time) the teacher went on for the first five minutes in a high pitched voice about how young people had too much money. I didn’t understand how that related to anything. I thought he was acting like a babbling idiot that day. Later, when I heard about the evening news I understood why he said what he did.
Two days later at lunch I was sitting by myself in the commons with a tray of food. I was at the end of a long table, and no one else was there. This girl comes over with her tray of food and sits down across from me at the end of the table. I had seen her before many times. She was particularly beautiful looking. She was a beginner, and apparently mindless as well.
She had a lot of sparkle, and the people I saw her with were flashy. They didn’t cavort with anyone except their own kind. At first I had to stop chewing when she sat down with me. It was like she did it all the time. I never thought I was cool enough for her. It didn’t matter that I wore un-ironed shirts all the time, and that I was “wrinkles” to some people. It didn’t matter if I was a farm boy from a cornfield in Ohio. Suddenly everything was different.
She was even better looking up close, but then she started to speak about “uppers” and “downers” and about pills called “black beauties” and “soapers”. She knew about the arrest, and she was so impressed with me, or who she thought I was. She was mine for the taking at that point.
As she rattled on I said her name (I knew her name) to interrupt her. She stopped in mid sentence. I put my fork down, and leaned forward to talk to her intently. I said her beautiful name another time. I said her balloon should be popped. I said there was nothing glamorous about spending 20 to 40 years in the Ohio Penitentiary. I said the truth was not what was said on the evening news. I told her how scared I was about what could happen. I didn’t give her a chance to respond. I was nearly full, and my food was nearly gone. I left the table. That was the first and last time we ever spoke together alone.
The person I shared an apartment with on Fourth Street came back after the weekend. When he came in I was there cooking in my very own frying pan. He had heard the address of his apartment on the evening news. He asked me what happened. I knew he wouldn’t eat one of the hot dogs in my skillet so I didn’t offer him one. The cheese was melted. I put a heaping fork of sauerkraut in the pan, and sat down at a table that came with the apartment. It had a vinyl top and chrome plated tube legs. There was a chrome band that went around the top. The pan was on a dishtowel on the table.
I put a spoonful of mustard in the pan, proceeded to eat, and tell him the whole bloody story. I was finished with both my food and my tale of woe at the same time. He said if they searched the apartment, and found illegal drugs he would never get to be a doctor. He said they had his address as my address. He said if he was ever implicated in any kind of drug activity he would be out for the season. I told him there were no drugs in his apartment that I put there. He seemed to know I wasn’t the heavy-duty trafficker of narcotics portrayed on the television. I never asked him why he wanted to be a doctor, but everything he did was with that in mind.
Our trial date was several months away. That night seemed like a bad dream, but it wasn’t. I wrote a long expository account of what happened for the Lantern entitled, “The Anatomy of a Drug Bust”, but it never got printed. Since I couldn’t use the names of real people I used the names of horses at Markin Farm. That is most likely why it never got printed. There were names like Travelair, Rob Roy, Casey Jones, Jumping Jack, Prime Power, Pepi, Little Man, dar dar Da Buchi, Moon Shine, Sea Moon, Resaletta, Electric Storm, Bea Booty, and others. I handed it in to a student editor without any explanation. I didn’t ask or hear about it after that day.
The two people I was arrested with left the University and the next time I saw them was outside the courtroom the day of our trial. We were tried together. The vet student paid the lawyer or rather his parents did. It was a sizable hunk of change. According to the vet student if he were convicted as charged it would end his plans to be a veterinarian. Our innocence would help his guilt, or so he said. In exchange he would pay our legal fee. I paid the lawyer a token amount of $200, and the other person did also. When I told my parents about what happened my father said, “I’ll see you through” which sounded good, but he did nothing. It wasn’t like the time as a child he fixed my three speed English bicycle. It was one of the first bicycles sold in America to have more than one ratio between the foot crank and the back wheel. I thought it was the most beautiful, sleekest bicycle that ever existed.
One day the bike was by one of the rock walls in front of the Little Barn, and I was standing beside it full of despair. The cable that shifted gears was messed up because of some folly of mine. I was sure the bicycle would never be the same. My father was on his way to the office. He diverted his direction and fixed it in two moments. His hands got greasy and he went back into the house to wash them. The bicycle worked perfectly, and as I peddled away I thought there was very little he could not do. I suppose when I told him about the crime I had the silly infantile notion that he could somehow fix everything, but I was a big boy now. It was like I was naming convictions to him when I said what the charges were.
I sold things to raise money for expenses, but I ended up selling all the things I didn’t use anymore. I sold a better than new Western saddle. The thick leather was extremely soft and pliable. I kept it with me, because I liked the way it looked. I put a leather conditioner on it every day even though the horse was dead. The saddle had detailed tooling. It looked good.
I rode with an English saddle growing up. That was a very proper way to ride a horse. Then there was the American Western saddle. It didn’t promote rider and horse contact the way an English saddle did, but a person could work in the Western saddle all day. It was different.
The only horse that was ever born at Markin Farm was an Arabian Stallion named Sea Moon. When I rode that animal with the western saddle toward the end of his life it was practically the only time that horse was ever ridden, and it was the only time he was ever ridden regularly.
One warm summer night I stood by an open stall door in my pajamas and watched a foal be born. A veterinarian who had become a family friend arrived to make sure everything went okay. My brother and sisters were there. I was a small child. My mother named the foal Sea Moon. In a book the name belonged to an airplane that went back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean. She said the pilot gave the airplane that name.
Sea Moon, the horse, was seldom ridden. He was never bred and he was never gelded. He spent most of his time in an end stall kicking the wood walls that were twice as thick as any other stall. Every once in a while, Sea Moon would be harnessed to a training cart with large wooden wheels and be driven around an outdoor ring. Once he went to an Arabian horse show. I wasn’t there, but I heard indirectly that he got an erection in the show ring. At Markin Farm Sea Moon was never with other horses for any reason because he was a stallion. Sea Moon was only able to relate with another horse sexually (copulating with females and fighting with males). He kicked the walls all the time, and acted sexually frustrated. When he was suddenly in a show ring with all the other horses moving around he apparently still had sex on his brain, and he showed all in attendance what an erect horse penis looked like. It was embarrassing to the female rider, and it was educational to all the men, women, and children who were there.
Once I saw Sea Moon do well in the show ring. I was a small child and my uncle who knew about guns rode him in a costume class at the Cincinnati Gardens horse show. I never saw him ride a horse before or since. At that time more than anything he wanted to gallop Sea Moon around the show ring bare back like Arabs did years ago in Arabia. He had a tiny snaffle bit with braided horsehair reins that were from Arabia. He wore flowing robes with cloth wound around his head and face to keep out wind blown sand. In one raised hand he brandished a rifle. It was the first generation of breech-loaded guns. It was long and heavy. He galloped around and around past all those pompous trotting horses with their silly organ music. It was dramatic to see. He should have gotten first place, but he didn’t even get a ribbon. Sea Moon moved like an Arab horse, and looked like one. I wonder if the judges would recognize an Arab if one bit them in the aft-end.
When I rode Sea Moon he was fourteen years old and Markin Farm was not the same. The lady who ran the barn was gone. All the familiar horses were gone. Another lady rented the barn and taught riding lessons to a few people. No one in my family rode anymore. Sea Moon was still in the end stall kicking the walls. I bought that Western saddle to ride him.
There was no riding teacher nearby to correct my equitation. I rode him on the trails and I carried a sawed-off shotgun, which also chambered and shot 45-calibre cartridges. I charged down embankments that would finish a thoroughbred horse. They were so steep that Sea Moon slid down them on his haunches and loved it as much as I did. There was no place that horse wouldn’t go or water he wouldn’t plunge into. There was a television program about a person who had a sawed off 30-30 and I carried and shot the 410 like he did. That was the best time I ever had on a horse. I rode Sea Moon the several months I lived at Markin Farm right before I went to the University. When I went away to college his grain wasn’t cut back. The rich food and the inactivity got to him and one day he just reared up in his stall and fell over dead. When I heard what happened I felt terrible that I hadn’t paid more attention. My brother was the only one home, and he called a new veterinarian who said the horse died of heart attack.
At that time I also sold Morituri, the wrecked autogyro, and the AK-47. I put an advertisement in the paper, and a man with the words “Boot Hill” on his shirt came, and bought most of everything I wanted to sell. He gave me the name of someone who would most likely buy the assault rifle.
That person was a military man who was never in the military. His business card read, “Licensed Machine Gun Dealer / Buy, sell, or trade any kind of military item or edged weapon.” He lived alone in a large old house on the edge of a gravel pit. Rooms in the house, and the attic, had rows and rows of World War Two “D-Watt” guns. He explained that “D-Watt” meant the cartridge chamber was welded up so the gun could not be fired. He said the government inspected his collection often. He showed me the main bedroom in the house. It was like a museum with a manikin standing on the rug wearing a Nazi uniform complete with medals. There was a large Nazi flag draped on one wall.
After he showed me through the house we sat down in a small room with the AK-47. He called someone on the telephone and told him about the rifle. After he hung up he said it was a live weapon I was trying to sell, and he didn’t want to keep it in his house just yet. When I took it back to my car to leave he said he wanted to buy it, but he would have to do it later. He took parts out of it and told me what to say if a policeman found it during a routine traffic violation. Another day I brought it back. He kept it and gave me money. The first day I was there with the rifle I also had an arm full of corroded silver that was horse show first place awards. I sold it all to him. The second time I was there we walked out to a shed. He showed me on the bottom of several platters and other pieces where it said “sterling silver”. He thought he had something.
Since his card said he wanted to buy any military item, the second time I went there, I took a pair of North Vietnamese standard issue shoes. They were sandals made from a rubber automobile tire. They had automobile tread on the bottom of the sole. They were cut in the shape of a right and left foot, and they were held to the foot by four strips cut from tire inner tubes. The strips were less than an inch wide and some instrument that pulled the ends of them through the sole fastened them. Two strips crossed over the front of the foot, and the other two went on each side of the ankle. I called them VC Flyers. The man whose card indicated he collected or traded any type of military item wasn’t the slightest bit interested in them. They couldn’t be polished. It didn’t make any difference to him that it was the Army with car tire shoes that won.
The lawyer who handled our drug bust was either a former city prosecutor, or he once worked in the prosecutor’s office. He knew the detectives who arrested us by their first name. All of them were outside the courtroom the day of the trial.
The lawyer telephoned the day before the trial. I asked him if I should bring a toothbrush, and he said “no”. On the day of our trial we were sitting in different places in the hall. The lawyer came up to me, and said the charges would be reduced to the misdemeanor of possession of a hallucinogen plus we would have to spend 90 days in jail beginning on that day. I wasn’t very happy about going to jail any day, especially that day, and I as much as said so. I didn’t bring my toothbrush. The lawyer took two one hundred-dollar bills out of his pocket, and held them out to me. That was the amount I had paid him. Then one of the police detectives who arrested us came over, and asked the lawyer what was wrong. The lawyer told the policeman, “He doesn’t want to do it”. The policeman stepped very close to me pointed his finger in my face, and said, “I’m going to put you in the Ohio Penitentiary for 40 years.” I told the lawyer who was standing right there that I just reconsidered. I’ll do the 90 days. I asked him if I could have a day to closeout of my classes, and do other things in preparation for a 90 day all expense paid vacation. He said he would see what he could do.
In those days judges weren’t assigned cases by the court. A person or his lawyer could “shop for a judge”. We were in the hall when the lawyer came out, and said the judge he and the police had just seen refused to hear the case or reduce the five felonies to a single misdemeanor with jail time. The lawyer said the judge was up for re-election that year. He said there was another judge who would see us after lunch in his courtroom.
The vet student and one of his parents had lunch with the lawyer. The other person arrested with us had lunch somewhere else. I had lunch by myself near the courthouse, and gnashed my teeth thinking how rotten things were in Denmark. After lunch we met back in the hall, and went in the courtroom. There were two or three spectators. On one side of the room was the three of us and our lawyer. On the other side was the police detectives and another person who might have been the prosecutor. The prosecutor didn’t talk the whole time. The judge never said what our sentence was, but he gave us a big lecture about how we were “playing with fire”. The judge commended the prosecutor and police for being subjective. The lawyer asked if we could have a day to get our “affairs in order”. The judge looked at the other side and they didn’t object. The judge agreed, and he reiterated that we were “playing with fire”. In the elevator on the way out of the courthouse the lawyer said to me that the police told him I would be back. I looked down at my trousers to see if they were neatly pressed, and felt to see if my tie was straight. The only difference between the other two and me was that in the courtroom the other two had their eyes downcast. The police thought they would see me again in the criminal justice system because I looked at the judge when he was talking.
The next day the teacher of a creative writing class said I could finish the course from jail. He said there was one more short story due and I could send it to him. I wrote one about jail, and called it “Whirl Pool”.
When I told him the lawyer asked me if he could have my student pass to the football games the teacher spilled his coffee. At that time there were no professional sports teams in Columbus Ohio. Ohio State University had the only football team in town. For several years the parking lot of a fast food restaurant on High Street had a thirty-foot high football player wearing a “Bucks” uniform. The Ohio State football team was big in that town.
When they weren’t playing at another college they played in a stadium on campus. Every student could get a free pass to home games. Seats that were left were sold to the general public. When the stadium was full it was full.
I watched the home games in the stadium when I was a freshman, because the person I was with all the time loved watching football games. After that I never had an overwhelming desire to watch the Bucks play, and I never got a pass. It was amazing I didn’t get a stiffer sentence.
A nutty professor in the School of Journalism proceeded to castigate me when I said why I had to drop his course. Still, another teacher denied my existence. It was a very informative time.
The next day we were processed into the Franklin County workhouse along with five other people. We stood in a line side to side without any clothes on, and one of the guards sprayed us with something that would kill any bugs that might find their way into the workhouse. We were told to turn around, bend over, and “spread our cheeks”. A guard then walked down the line visually inspecting each person’s anal orifice. I was later told that was done to detect and stop anyone from bringing weapons or other contraband into the workhouse via their rectum.
Persons convicted of a misdemeanor were given gray pants and a gray shirt to wear and the people convicted of a felony were given bright orange clothes. We had white under shirts, and no under pants. A guard gave us a razor to shave with which had to be returned a few hours later.
We were given “bed clothes” consisting of two sheets, a blanket, a pillowcase, and escorted to the top of the stairs on the second floor where a guard sat at a desk. Ten feet from each side of the desk there were two heavy steel bar doors. Each door was the entrance to a “dormitory” that was about fifty feet by twenty-five feet. Each room had five large windows covered with bars on the fifty-foot side. The three of us were put in the West dormitory facing the front parking lot. In the back of the dormitory room was a urinal like the one at the Army orientation center. Also in the back of the room there were several toilets with no partition around them. There were several bathroom sinks with no mirrors. The room was filled with five rows of bunk beds end to end, about sixty beds in all. The rows were four or five feet apart. The felons wearing bright orange clothes were in the dormitory beside ours. The steel bar entrance door to our dormitory was in one corner. The rest of that wall was covered with steel lockers one over the other. Each of us had one to keep the few personal effects we were allowed to have.
If a person had more than one year of jail time they didn’t go to the workhouse. They were put in one of the Ohio Penitentiaries. There was the City Prison, the County jail or workhouse, and the Ohio penitentiary. Where a person went depended on the nature of their conviction.
In the Franklin County workhouse there was a cross section of the criminal population. In that place there were people who had done big time in the penitentiary. They were out on parole, and were in the workhouse because of some minor offence like a traffic violation of some sort. There were “decrepit old winos” convicted of public intoxication. There were people there who came for the weekend only. One individual there was convicted of “lewd and lascivious conduct”.
One of the people who said he spent many years in the penitentiary was out on parole. He said a policeman tried to stop him for speeding, and he didn’t stop. A chase ensued. I asked him why he was put in the penitentiary, and he said he shot a policeman who was treating him badly. He wrestled the policeman’s gun away from him and shot him in the abdomen. The policeman didn’t die. He said the traffic judge was startled when he saw his heinous criminal record.
On visitors day for various reasons almost all of us were peering from behind the windows into the parking lot in an insane manner. The guard at the desk came into our dormitory room. He told us to get away from the windows and called us a bunch of anal orifices but he used two slang words for that body part. The superintendent of the workhouse got a piece of paper I wrote and we all signed. It said we didn’t appreciate being referred to in such a derogatory fashion. The next day our dormitory had to file into the eating area to talk with the Superintendent. The paroled individual raised his hand, and stood up to speak. He had a heated voice, and in part this is what he said, “I’ve been in the joint, and one thing we hate in there is a snitch.”
A day later the paroled man was told by the guard at the desk to get ready to leave. He went to the window, and when he looked out at the car parked by the front door he said in a matter of fact way, “I’m going back to the joint.” I went to the window after he left, as did many others. I saw him go from the front door to the car. There were two guards on each side of him. His feet were chained together, he had a chain around his waist, and his hands were chained to that chain. The superintendent revoked his parole.
After the meeting with the superintendent one of the people who was prominent among us made a loud remark about a snitch that I thought was directed toward me. I thought that was odd coming from him. I was in a reclining position on my bunk. He was two rows over on his bunk several bunks down. I couldn’t see him. I said equally as loudly the only one who ever snitched on me was…and I said his name. He had a reputation to preserve. He got up, and walked down the row to my bunk, and smacked me in the face with his open hand. I jumped up, and peppered his face with my fists in an equally harmless way. He seemed very startled and he went back to his bed after some more words.
Our entire dormitory was the kitchen crew. We never went outside. At one point I was the vegetable cook and one time I lost my ring in a five-gallon pot of “greens”. This prominent guy told the guard who watched us about my ring. I was given a different job. I was made the “Pot and Pan Man”.
Coffee Man was in charge of one thing: making coffee. It was exceptionally potent. Since we worked in the kitchen we could drink as much coffee as we wanted. During the first few days I drank several cups in the morning, afternoon, and evening. It made me feel like I wanted to swing from the high trapeze. I asked Coffee Man about his amazing coffee. He said he used to make coffee on a ship in the United States Navy and he was doing the same thing here.
Soon the coffee and the amount I drank didn’t give me the same feeling any more. When I stopped drinking it completely I had severe headaches and tunnel vision for several days. I went a week without drinking any coffee, and by the end of that time I felt relatively normal.
I started drinking multiple cups of the coffee again and it effected me exactly as it did at first. Then I needed constantly more to achieve the same condition until finally I needed to drink it to get normal.
Once again I stopped drinking it entirely, and I had the same prolonged headache and tunnel vision as the first time. That was some powerful coffee.
One person in a gray shirt who seemed to have the run of the place came in the kitchen every morning after breakfast. He was a large jovial man who didn’t seem to have a care in the world. I don’t know if it is true or not, but he said the police would go looking for him when it started to get cold, because he was the only one who could operate the furnace in the Work House. He would say with a huge smile that when “the sun didn’t shine on both sides of the street” the police would find him, or he would find them. He would spend the winter where he was needed, and it was warm.
When he came in the kitchen after breakfast it was to eat four slices of bread that were in the bottom of a stainless steel serving container that had been full of hot bacon before breakfast. After breakfast it was empty. He liked to eat the bread because it was soaked with bacon grease. He would mop the last soggy piece around the bottom of the container to get all that was there. I don’t think he could read or write. He was a middle-aged man, who although large in size, was not the least bit fat or over weight. The way he was reminded me of the words of a song, “Lucky old Sun has nothing to do but roll around heaven all day.”
Another person in our dormitory was a recovering drug addict. He always talked about the “gorilla Jones” on his back. When he talked like that he was suffering withdrawal symptoms from drugs. A drug called methadone was given to him to eliminate his addiction. When he received his treatment he was quiet until it wore off.
One “resident” figured out which car in the parking lot belonged to a certain guard and he said he was going to do something to that car when he got out. He said he spent 20 years in the Ohio penitentiary. He didn’t tell me why he was there, but he told me about someone he met there. He said that person’s wife was sitting on a living room couch beside her mother. Two children were in the room, and so was a dog. He said, she said, to the man that she wanted a divorce, and she said, “The children aren’t yours. You’re not man enough to have children.” The man left the room, and when he came back he said to her, “You mean none of this is mine”, and he proceeded to shoot and kill everyone in the room including the dog.
When the addict needed medication he would get anxious and nervous, and he would talk crazily. When he first arrived in the workhouse he was dependent on medication.
Out of nowhere and to no one in particular he would say, “You so square, man. Decrepit old winos, if you had some good coke (cocaine) you would probably shove it up your (anal orifice). You so square man.”
Then he would start talking about what he considered his expertise. You freeze a _ _ _ _ _(An American word denoting a house cat but also used to describe the female genital area) with a little coke (cocaine) and she can _ _ _ _ (a common American slang word for sexual intercourse) all night long.” He would go over and over about that and about “decrepit old winos”.
One time we talked about “decrepit old winos” and he told me again that if they had any good cocaine they would probably shove it up their rear end. I said a drug addict who lived in Tangier wrote a book fifty years ago that said foreign substances in the rectum could be absorbed into the blood stream.
He kept right on going as if I wasn’t there. “You nothing, man. You nothing. A decrepit old wino would shove it up his _ _ _ (anal orifice).”
One of the most often asked questions about jail was about sexual conduct. The most often asked question when I came back from Vietnam was did I kill anybody. I developed a stock answer. I would say I didn’t have to kill anyone, and no one had to kill me. So when I was repeatedly asked about sex in jail I thought about using the expression from Vietnam with a slight modification, but it didn’t sound right. How could I say with a straight face, “I didn’t have to _ _ _ _ anybody and nobody had to _ _ _ _ me”. (Then I would have used the slang four letter word for fornicate).
The person who didn’t say why he was in the penitentiary told me that in the penitentiary he saw three people hold another person still so a fourth person could have anal intercourse with the person being held. He said a guard walked by and after watching awhile walked on without doing anything. The person telling me said the guard said the person being held by the three other people was enjoying himself.
It is doubtful that sort of thing would occur in the workhouse because none of the people were there for more than a year. Many of the people were there for the weekend. The workhouse never became the closed system that a penitentiary becomes. Forcible sex didn’t occur there as far as I know.
In the felon dormitory there were two individuals who made no secrete of the fact they thought of themselves as perfect ladies even though they were men. They had nicknames like Buttercup and Lilac but those weren’t their nicknames. One of them requested a douche from a guard.
The third person that was arrested with us was put in that dormitory after several weeks, I suppose, to separate us. He told us in the kitchen that when he went to the urinal without pants, as if he was in a locker room in college his bare buttocks were visible, and he said right after he went back to his bunk to get dressed several people started masturbating in the area of the urinal. The sight of his bare bottom sexually excited them.
There was a person in there for ninety days who was arrested many times before for public intoxication and sent to jail. He liked to drink on Mount Vernon Street, and that is where he always got arrested. He said it happened so often, he had a reputation with the police for being publicly intoxicated whether or not he was. According to him the last time it happened he was sitting on a barstool. After talking with him they told him to get in the van.
He told me he lost a job that time, and when he was in jail his wife had to go to the public welfare office to get financial help. He said they told her in the welfare office that they could only help her if she filed non-support charges against him. He was charged with non-support, and transported from the workhouse where he was serving time for public intoxication to the city prison to await trial on the non-support charge. The first time he was told about the non-support charge was after three weeks in the city prison. That is when he saw a judge who sentenced him to ninety days in the workhouse for non-support. To him it was life as usual.
Several times each week we took a shower. There were two rooms. One room was where we got undressed, and the other was the shower room with eight or ten unpartitioned areas to take a shower. There was a guard who stood in the doorway between the two rooms who told people to hurry up and keep moving. The felon dormitory and our dormitory of mostly long-term misdemeanors took showers at the same time, but we weren’t there all at once. Some people were finishing up when I got there and when I left some others were just arriving.
The first time I walked into the shower room I was naked like every body else. When I looked for an available shower I saw two people from the felon dormitory standing motionless with water pouring down their backs. They were looking at everyone who came in the shower room. I wasn’t in the habit of looking at a person’s penis but I couldn’t help but notice that theirs was large compared to mine. Those people had black skin too. When I got under a shower I kept facing the wall partly because my penis was smaller, and I didn’t want anyone else to make that comparison.
Let me say something about the human penis for the benefit of those who do not have one. There is the full erection, which everyone knows about, but there are many stages between that and a shriveled up penis (the smallest size) which is the way mine was that day, and when I would go swimming in the cold water of Penobscot Bay. What determines the stage of enlargement (erection being the stage of maximum enlargement) is the brain. Not including erections that occur in sleep, which I don’t pretend to understand, my penis would get larger when I thought in a certain way. Sexual excitement aroused my penis automatically but there was something else that could occur to make it swell up bigger than normal without it becoming erect. It required a certain kind of brain control that a person could develop if that was something they wanted to develop.
I turned around in the shower to rinse off my back and when I was facing outward I saw the guard motioning people to hurry up. Then in walks this person from our dormitory that was very small in stature, but his penis was huge. I mean it hung half way down to his knee, and he had black skin too. He seemed self-conscious.
When I first saw him up in the dormitory I thought he didn’t seem old enough to be in the workhouse. When I asked him how old he was he said he was nineteen years old.
After that first day in the shower I talked with him more. He said he was in jail for a conviction of some long words he didn’t know about, but he did know about what happened. He said he was spinning a child around in circles. He said he was holding her by the legs in such a way that her ankles were under his arms and his hands were holding onto her legs above her knee. He said they were outside, and when the girl’s mother saw what she saw the police were called. This person said when the judge saw him and exchanged words with him the judge wanted to dismiss the entire thing, but the police insisted that he go to jail (they were probably white skinned males who knew about the size of his penis from a routine strip search).
In the shower where everyone was trying to make their penis look bigger than it was this person felt afflicted because his penis was huge. After that day the person who smacked me in the face said it was a “Horse _ _ _ _”(he used a common American word for penis that is also a proper first name, Dick). Other people started to use that terminology and it became a frequent joke among us.
In the afternoon before we went down to prepare the evening meal there were several hours to spend in the dormitory talking to other people, reading, writing letters, or sleeping. Among all the people in that dormitory there was a tremendous amount of law breaking ability. I suppose if you asked any civil authority they would say a prison or jailhouse was the highest concentration of contrary people anywhere. All we had to do when we weren’t working is sit around and develop a future with the unintentional help of the other people who were also locked up. Every sort of debauchery grows there.
The third month I was there I had an idea. The vet student couldn’t believe I was serious. It involved the person with the huge penis so I told him the idea since he would have to be an active participant if it were going to happen. When I started to tell him about my idea he grinned his big toothy grin, but as I got further into it he wasn’t so sure.
I asked him if he would like to be in a short movie. I said a beautiful princess with many jewels arrives at a splendid hotel in a horse drawn coach that looks like a pumpkin. There is a footman standing on the back of the coach and the hotel has a doorman. There are many yellow colored New York City taxicabs in front of, and behind, the coach. Other cars of different colors, makes, and models as well as tandem trucks are going up and down the street beside the hotel honking their horn to make it all go faster. There is only one horse drawn coach with a princess in it and a mist is blowing in the air as if there is an old castle nearby. She gets out of the coach with the footman’s help, and goes into the hotel in a manner consistent with the time when there were coaches and footman. Inside, in a hallway she goes into an American style motel room that has two large beds taking up most of the space in the room. She takes off her diamond necklace and other weighty jewels while looking at herself in the mirror by the television. She steps out of her skirt and lies down on the bed. In a private moment she is having sexual thoughts. She touches her genitals. No sooner does that happen than there is a very soft knocking on the door. She looks at the other bed with a disgusted look and says ‘come in’ with out getting up. She thinks it is the dashing young prince who she knows so well. He usually has a sword strapped around his waist and gold things on his shoulders like Napoleon wore.
This is where you come in I said to the person with the huge penis, and it is where the plot thickens. He grinned for the last time, and when I went on with the story his eyes darted from side to side nervously like he wanted to get away from me. It is you at the door, and when you open it there you are in a bellhops uniform complete with a little round brimless hat. You have two pieces of modern luggage on each side of you with airport baggage claim checks on the handles. That is why you are there, to bring her luggage to her. She is startled to see you and sits up quickly and even though she is wearing bloomers and a corset that covers her body she crosses her arms in front of her chest as if she is wearing nothing. She tells you, like she is a modern person, to, ‘put them over there.’ You do so with only a ‘yes mam’ in reply, and when you put them down beside the television you turn around and stand there waiting for a tip. She doesn’t know anything about tips. She thinks you are standing there to look at her. She thinks she is so pretty. She is pretty in fact.
Sex is the furthest thing from your mind, but it is the first thing on hers. She asks you to come over to her bedside in a tone that leaves no doubt about her intentions. Like in an old silent movie you point to yourself while mouthing the words ‘who me,’ and you look behind you to see if she is talking to someone else. You do all that in a choppy accelerated fashion. She thinks she is going to sexually abuse some poor child who doesn’t matter to the world. When you come close to her, as she directs, she puts your listless hand on her breast. Then she drops your pants and whammy. The tables are turned about who is going to abuse who. You are not the poor child anymore. She can see how well endowed you are. What follows is a rip-roaring _ _ _ _oree (I used a slang word that means fornicate. It begins with f but is a whole lot shorter). When you leave she tells you it is an extraordinary hotel.
The person with the huge penis didn’t seem very excited about the idea. I said I knew someone who would make a perfect princess and she would do it since it had political and social importance. The hardest part would be the beginning. I said it would have to be done right or else it would be garbage. I asked him what he thought about it and he sort of nodded to the affirmative. Right away someone who heard us jumps off his bunk and wants to be the agent of the person with the huge penis. I didn’t like the idea of involving more people from that place. The vet student over heard the whole exchange and he told me the person who wanted to be the agent might be working for the police. The would be agent was the only one in our dormitory who came and went each weekend and he asked many questions beyond what was normal. So maybe the vet student was right.
I told the person with the huge penis he would be a millionaire over night because of his penis. He didn’t seem very interested. It was like he though some authority that was close to him on the outside wouldn’t like the get rich quick idea. It was probably his mother. Anyway, it never happened.
Motor Mouth Mop and Bucket Man kept things clean in the downstairs areas. He was in jail for as long as I was in jail. He must have been in one of the two dormitories on the other side, because he wasn’t in either the felony dormitory or our dormitory. I never asked him why he got locked up. He seemed like one of the people the drug addict would refer to as a decrepit old wino. He didn’t seem capable of a crime. He would talk about everything and nothing.
He came over to talk to me, his mop and bucket forgotten. He talked confidently about the Universe. He said it keeps going on in both directions. He said what is too big to see is also too small to see. His talk went from one subject to the next. He wouldn’t stop talking if someone was listening, and sometimes he would be talking when no one was listening.
There were six old men in the kitchen called “Part Three” and their job was to “eye” potatoes, and cut them up in smaller pieces. That is all they did. They weren’t from our side of the building. We had mashed potatoes often so they were there often.
There was a large Stainless Steel table. When Part Three was in the kitchen three of them would stand on each side of the table talking to no one as they busily took a peeled potato out of a pot of cold water, worked on it, and put it in another pot of cold water. The table looked like a giant insect, on its back.
When I was the vegetable cook it was my job to supply them with peeled potatoes. A vertical cylindrical appliance with an abrasive wall did the pealing. The machine had an electric motor at the base. The top of the cylinder was open and that is where twenty pounds of unpeeled potatoes would go and where they were taken out when they were peeled.
It was a vibratory machine and a constant shower of water washed over the potatoes when the motor was going. The potatoes would move from the top of the cylinder to the bottom and from the inside to the outside. When they were on the outside they were against an abrasive wall, and it was by rubbing against the wall that the skin was removed. After several minutes all the potatoes would be peeled. If the machine was left going the potatoes would be ground down to nothing.
When I took the skinless potatoes out of the machine I took them to Part Three where any spots or blemishes would be removed, and the whole potato would be cut into smaller pieces.
The six old men who made up Part Three were issued a knife when they arrived in the kitchen, and the only time they put the knife down was in the guard’s hand when they were done. There were no knives, forks, or other sharp instruments loose in that place. We ate with spoons.
There was a vivid individual in our dormitory, who said things that might be thought of as hateful toward other people, but there was no hate in him. We talked often. He would talk in metaphors about the relationship between people. He said this, “One day the white mens will wake up and grab their gun off the wall to kill the black mens, but there won’t be any bullets, because the white woman took them out and gave them to the black mens.”
Another time he talked about a man with the same skin color. For years the man’s picture and name was on a box of food on store shelves. He said that man would “jump over five white _ _ _ _ _ (the slang name for the female genital area also the name for the common house cat) to get at one tight white _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (slang for the anal orifice in this instance one belonging to a male).”
I could always understand him, because his imagery was so good. When I once said it was correct grammar to say there was one “man” and several “men” he quickly and deliberately used use the word “mens” several times as he always did. He kind of shot a look at me now and again to see how I was taking it. The vet student was listening and he told me later how idiotic it was to correct anyone’s English in that place. I knew the vivid person would not take offense. What I said was simply a mechanical statement about the English language. It came from the more years I spent in school that we both knew about. His graphic perceptions did not result from how many years he was in school.
The Vivid individual was not homosexual, but sex in any form was the only power he considered he could attain. He felt economically impotent. He talked about “breaking people down like a shotgun,” and how they would cry, “like sissy punk rabbits as they gave it up.”
A few years ago on the observation deck of a tall building in Cincinnati a person was forcibly sodomized. The city newspaper quoted the judge when he sentenced the man. When I read it I thought about the vivid individuals remarks. Maybe sexual gratification had little to do with it, and power over other people did.
As Christmas day got near I wondered if anything would be different when it came. I wrote our lawyer asking him if there was any chance of my being released early so I’d be out for Christmas. I never heard back from him.
On Christmas day we got up in the dark as usual, and went down in the kitchen to make breakfast for the workhouse population. When breakfast was over we were told to go back to bed. That is what we did for Christmas. I was amused when I heard that instruction. I scoffed to myself, go back to bed just after dawn on Christmas day, that was just great, divinely inspired.
Then the guards passed out small packages to everyone. I asked if it was a bomb and the guard said it was a Christmas gift from the Salvation Army. I had always thought of them as a bunch of tent dwellers with runny noses outside department stores. There could be no payback in mind here. I later learned their mission was to save one soul at a time. It wasn’t clear to me what they were saving a person from, but I knew God was involved. We were the dregs of society, and they were giving us presents on Christmas. There seemed to be a purity in what they did.
Right after I got out of the workhouse I was let go in downtown Columbus, and when I went around the corner there standing on the sidewalk talking to another person was the Superintendent. After I had walked past him I stopped, turned around, and walked back to say hello. I said his name, which interrupted them both. They looked at me. I asked him how he was doing. He didn’t seem to recognize me and he didn’t answer. I explained that I had just been in the workhouse, and that I was glad he ran the place. There was a look on his face that wasn’t exactly friendly. It was as if he were turning wheels in his head about who I was, how I got out, and if I was going to be an embarrassment to him on the street. Before he had time to react further I turned, and was on my way up the street to get a bus to the University.
Several weeks later I saw on the television news that the Mayor of Columbus was taking recommendations for a new police chief (He succeeded the person who was Mayor during the student riots). I never before wrote a public official, but I wrote him. My letter said the Franklin County Work House was run by a person I thought would make a good Police Chief. I explained more than once I saw him stop and talk with an old derelict that wanted to have a few words.
The guards and Superintendent of the workhouse had several tables in the rear of the eating area where they would eat food or have coffee in the morning. They would walk the length of the eating area to leave. It was when the Superintendent was leaving that sometimes a person in jail would intersect his path to talk. It didn’t happen very often, but when it did the Superintendent would stop before the individual ever got to him as if he wanted to hear what that person had to say. I thought that was very unusual behavior in the police community, and it was why I thought he would make a good police chief.
I was surprised to get a letter back from the mayor that thanked me for my suggestion. It said this person was not available for the job of police chief, because people wanted him to be the new Franklin County Sheriff.
He won the election for Franklin County Sheriff by many votes. The existing Sheriff had television advertisements about law and order, and his advertisements showed policemen side by side shouldering pump shotguns. They jacked shells through the guns, and fired them as fast as they could. What they were shooting at was off screen.
I learned as much in jail as any three months in college. It wasn’t the kind of thing someone who was looking at my resume would appreciate, but it was something I appreciated. I would never have met those people if I hadn’t been there.
Neither of the other two people I was arrested with stayed in Columbus. I never saw the vet student after we were let out of jail. The third person was in Columbus for several weeks, but then he left.
I never met the person on California Street who had the cocaine, but an out of state student who had been in several laboratory plays with me knew him well. They both came from the same place. Most of the students at Ohio State University were from Ohio, but there was a tight little
group from New Jersey, and that included both of them. I was in the out of state student’s apartment several times before I was arrested and once afterward. It was a modern two-bedroom apartment with air conditioning. His roommate was also from the same area as him, and there was always a girl with him who was just like him. I never saw either of them have a conversation with anyone. When I was there I would be there a long time before I knew they were there. They would come out of the bedroom without talking much or focusing their eyes on anyone. When they talked to one another it was always in a whisper. They seemed precise about everything from the way they did their hair to the clothes they wore. When they came out of the bedroom it was to go somewhere else.
The last time I was in that apartment it was after I was released from jail. She was not there. The out of state student and I went in together. He turned around and locked the door. We stood there by the door. Our conversation quickly went to the arrest, and what took place especially as it related to the person on California Street. I said I did not know that person. Meanwhile I could hear his silent roommate behind me opening a bed sheet.
He asked why the vet student left Ohio. I told him because we were concerned the police would be following us. At that point he unlocked the door, went outside closing the door behind him, and left it unlocked. The silent roommate and me were alone in the room. I had never talked to him before, and I didn’t that time. I didn’t even look at him. True to form he went in his bedroom. I couldn’t see the door, but heard him shut it quietly. There was probably a button lock on the doorknob. I think he was scared I would get the gold chain off his neck. When the out of state student came back inside the roommate was still in his bedroom. For a second there was this look on his face as if he was going to ask where I put his roommate. After the door to the apartment closed the silent roommate came out. He said to the silent roommate, “I didn’t see anyone outside.” He pointed to the sheet on the floor behind me and said, “Do you know what that is?” I looked behind me, and said it looked to me like he was going to cover his furniture.
The out of state student said to the silent roommate, “He thinks we are going to cover the furniture.” Shortly after that I left.
I saw him once more after that time. The third person I was arrested with and myself went with him to another person’s apartment where I had never been. The people in the apartment were friends of the out of state student from the same part of the country as him. I had seen them in the cafeteria before, but never had any conversation with them. There were many red pills on the table.
I had never gotten familiar with pills. He knew about them, and said me and the third person should take two of them. I did, and the three of us left to go to a big place on High Street where there was live music. The third person disappeared before we went inside the place. The out of state student got up several times to look for him, and make telephone calls. After that night the third person left Columbus. I never saw him again after that night.
Those two pills took away all my self-control. I had no control over myself. It was awful. One of the times when he got up to look for the third person I tried to snap out of it, and look in the direction of the music. I couldn’t see the band. There was a relatively customary collegiate couple sitting at the end of the table where I was sitting. When I looked in the direction of the music I was also looking at them. He said something to me in a friendly fashion, but I don’t know what it was. I couldn’t even talk to them or focus my eyes on them.
When the out of state student returned to the table he said let’s go and we did. I could hardly walk out of there. Outside when the night air hit me I felt more able to walk. Amazingly, I drove him to where he lived and then back to my place on Frambes. I never saw him again after that night.
I had some time before classes started again so I got a job pushing a broom around the Animal Science building on West Campus. I cleaned things. One part of the building I did not have to clean was a large room where animals were killed for food.
The processing took place over three days. The three-day cycle didn’t happen continuously, but about once every two weeks. The room where the animals were killed had two large entrance doors at the end of a hallway. The large doors were always open so it wasn’t difficult for me to walk into the room. Most days the room was empty and the lights were off. It had windows at the top of one wall, and a high ceiling.
On the first day of the cycle live animals were put in a small holding area on the South side of the building. There might be ten hogs or five cattle at different times.
I was struck by how lackadaisical the animals looked. The cattle had a blank look on their face as they chewed hay, and the pigs had their noses to the ground doing what pigs do. They weren’t the least bit aware that their blood would spill out the next day, and they would die. The purpose of their life was providing food for people. Generation after generation of livestock was slaughtered, and not one of the animals back on the farm knew what future awaited them. If one told the other what happens to them then there would be some changes. If one animal escaped from a slaughterhouse, and informed all the other animals about their future that would change the order of things, but the animals would have to be reasoning intelligent beings. They weren’t.
On the second day the lights were on in the room and it was very busy with activity. The two doors at the end of the hall were open so I went in to see. A pig was prodded into a pen as narrow as the pig was wide. A person with an electronic device leaned into the pen and pushed two protruding electrodes into the base of the animal’s neck. When a switch of some kind was activated the animal was knocked out. The end of a chain from an overhead hoist on a track was wrapped around one of the animal’s back legs, and it was lifted up out of the pen and moved several feet further into the room. A person with a long, narrow knife felt for the right spot on the animal’s neck, and inserted the long knife toward the heart. When the full length of the knife was in the animal the person holding the knife moved the tip back and forth, and when the knife was removed dark red blood poured out of the incision in a steady stream. Then the pig was dead.
I didn’t stand there very long watching. There were several pigs ahead of the one I saw die so I could see where it was going. There was a large, long stainless steel hot water container with rows of flippers on axles. A pig was lowered into one end, and the turning action moved it to the other end. The process served to remove hair from the dead pig. When it was hoisted out of the hot water it didn’t look like the same pig anymore. Then its guts were removed.
I watched as I leaned on my broom for several minutes. Then I went back into the hall to do more sweeping. When I was at the far end of the hall I turned around to go back. One of the people in the room came out, and I saw him talking to another person as he looked at me. By the time he was finished talking I was half way down the hall towards him pushing the broom and some sweeping compound. He walked over to me, and asked if I was an Agriculture student. He had a friendly manner. When I said no he talked with me further about nothing in particular. It seemed like he wanted to know if I was disturbed by what I saw. His concern was genuine. I didn’t have an occasion to tell him that I had seen animals butchered for food on a small scale. We didn’t talk about anything that was going on in that room.
I ate hamburgers in fast food restaurants on High Street. I was reminded how it got to be. Sometimes when I only saw meat in the market place I would almost forget it came from an animal that was killed somewhere. The third day in another room off the hall the meat would be cut up into familiar looking pieces.
The next time cattle were processed, and that time the two big doors to the room at the end of the hall were closed. There was one small square window in each door. I could see the decapitated, skinned, animal hanging from the chain hoist. The day before the same cattle were standing contentedly in the holding area as if it were their barnyard.
Later someone who worked in a big meat packing plant told me how cattle were killed there. I didn’t see how they killed steers at the University. He said at the meat packing plant live cattle walk up a chute to what he called the killing floor. He said a person puts a device against the animal’s forehead and a steel rod plunges into the animal’s brain killing it instantly.