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UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN



I watched as Wendall sat on the end of his bunk reading a letter from home. Once in a while he would lay the letter down on his lap and take a deep breath. Then he would begin reading once again. I had known Wendall LeRoy Archer for about a year. He was a federal prisoner and I was a state prisoner. I had been confined at The Federal Penitentiary at Lompoc, under contract, because the State of Alaska did not have a state prison.

Wendall had been sentenced to seven years for taking a stolen motor vehicle across state lines. I, on the other hand, had been sentenced on a variation of charges, the first charge resulting from my purchasing of a six pack of beer while attending a party where several under age teens were in attendance. While serving my sentence, I escaped on two separate occasions. The Superior Court sentenced me to two years and six months for the escapes. That was in addition to the two one year sentences that I had received on each count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

I sat watching as LeRoy lay the letter down on his bunk. Then he placed his face into his hands and he sat there motionless. I got up from my bunk and I walked over to where he was sitting.

"LeRoy, you ok?" I asked him, as I placed my hand onto his shoulder.

He said not a word.

I reached over and I picked up the letter. As I read down the single page I saw that someone in his family had been killed in an automobile accident several weeks earlier.

"Come on. Let's walk down to the library." I told him.

He rose from his bed and the two of us slowly walked down the long hallway headed toward the prison library. I walked along beside him not having the slightest idea of what to say. Having been raised in an orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida I had never had a mother or a father. Not even a sister or a brother for that matter. I guess that the only good thing about being an orphan is that you never have to worry about any of your family dying.

All at once Wendall stopped and placed his face against the steel wall. I could hear him crying. I looked around to see if any of the other inmates were looking at us. "Crying" is something that one does not do in prison. It is a sure sign of weakness. All at once he turned toward me. I reached out and I pulled him toward me and I hugged him as tightly as I could. He cried for more than five minutes.

"Can you do me a favor?" he asked, as he moved away from me.

"Sure. What is it?" I replied.

"When you get out could you come and look me up in Salem one day?" he asked.

"Sure. I can do that." I told him.

"You are the only one that I have ever known you who cared if I hurt inside. Not even my own family cared." he said.

Wendall and I continued our friendship until his release several years later.

When I was finally released from prison, I returned to Alaska for about three months. I then traveled from place to place for several years. About three years later I was living in Modesto, California. I decided to head out to Salem, Oregon to see if I might find him.

Within two days I had located his family who put me in touch with him. LeRoy and I worked together at a company called AgraPack Frozen Foods for about six months. It was one of the best friendships that I had ever known. I suppose it was like having my very own brother for the very first time.

One morning I got up and I called LeRoy on the telephone. I told him that I wanted to return to Modesto and get on with my own life. After I had packed my things I drove over to his apartment. As I was about to leave I saw tears in his eyes.

"Do you remember when you hugged me when we were in prison?" he asked me.

"I remember," I responded.

"That did something to me inside. I was never the same after that. You hugged me in front of all those guys. You didn't care what they thought. I was really dying inside that day. That meant a lot to me," he said.

"Does that mean I have to hug you again, now?" I asked him, as I laughed.

"You bet," he said, as he hugged me as tightly as he could.

I retuned to California and started a new life for myself. Several months after leaving Salem, Oregon I tried to telephone Wendall. The number had been disconnected. I never hear from him again.


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