Orphan Survival Stories Index |
A crowd of several hundred inmates began to gather around a large cement structure which sat in the center of the prison yard. The wall was used as a hand-ball court by many of the prisoners.
My friend, Leroy and I stood up and watched as a male prisoner began to scale the 14 foot wall. Several other inmates began to help him climb the wall by pushing on the bottom of his feet. Finally the man swung his leg over the top of the wall and pulled his body to the top. Carefully he got to his feet and raised his arms upward toward the sky. As he did, everyone on the yard began to cheer. The sound could be heard for over the entire prison complex.
Leroy poked me on the shoulder with his finger and then he pointed toward one of the four guard towers. The officer had walked out onto the tower walkway and began looking at the inmate through the scope on his rifle.
"Are they going to shoot that poor bastard?" I asked Leroy.
He just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head back and forth.
"ALL INMATES ARE ORDERED TO SIT DOWN IMMEDIATELY," came an announcement over the loud speakers.
Within seconds every prisoner on the yard began to sit down on the ground.
"GET DOWN FROM THE WALL OR WE WILL SHOOT. I repeat....GET DOWN FROM THE WALL OR WE WILL SHOOT," went the loud speaker again.
Every eye was now upon the man who was on top of the wall. The yard was totally silent. Once in a while several prisoners would turn their heads and look toward the fifty foot towers. I watched as the guards from the other three towers walked out onto the platforms and raised their automatic weapons.
"There comes Dryer," said Leroy.
Mr. Dryer was one of the prison case-workers. We watched as he walked up to the wall and began to talk with the prisoner. The inmate listened, shook his arms in the air, and then shook his head violently, as if to motion "NO!"
"You will come down or I will have you shot," the parole officer hollered up at the man.
The prisoner began to dance along the top of the wall. Back and forth he walked from one side of the wall to the other.
"These ass-holes is gonna shoot me. These ass-holes is gonna shoot me," kept singing the prisoner.
"You know he ain't right in the head," yelled out one of the inmates from the back of the crowd.
The case-worker began to look around to see if any other guards might be coming to assist him. As he looked in my direction he stopped and looked directly at Leroy and me.
"KISER, come hither," ordered Mr Dryer.
Leroy and I walked up to the wall.
"Look here. I want you scale that wall and I want you to push that son-of-a-bitch off. You got that?" he asked.
"I ain't climbing up that cement wall. Fall and break my damn neck," I told him.
"HEY! How about Kiser coming up there and you come down here so that we can discuss this man to man?" said Mr. Dwyer, as he looked up toward the man.
"You let him come up first and then I'll come down," the inmate told him.
"Will you give me your solemn word that you will not come down until they let me come back up?" yelled the inmate, looking directly at me.
I looked over at Mr. Dryer and said, "WELL!"
He shook his head in approval.
I walked up to the wall and I stood there for several seconds looking upward. Three large prisoners walked up and began pushing me upwards. I grabbed hold of the top of the wall and I pulled myself to the top of the structure. I sat there for a minute looking down at the ground.
"Damn it looks a whole lot higher from way up here," I stated.
Several of the prisoners laughed.
The parole officer stood there with his hands on his hips, waiting for the inmate to come down.
"You promised. You gave me your word", said the man as he turned onto his stomach and started down the wall.
I shook my head letting him know that I knew our agreement.
When his feet touched the ground he was grabbed by Mr. Dryer and thrown to the ground. Several guards came running out of the crowd and jumped, full force, onto the two men who were now wrestling with one another. Within a minute they had the prisoner hand-cuffed and began dragging him, by his legs, toward the prison.
"OK, get your damn ass down," the parole officer told me.
"I'm not coming down. I gave that man my word," I replied.
The entire prison population started clapping. Almost five hundred prisoners began whistling and yelling at the top of their voices.
I watched Mr. Dryer's face. It turned beet red and it looked as if his head were about to explode.
I stood on the top of that wall for more than two hours. I came down when the original inmate who had climbed the wall was brought back out on the yard. He told me that it was best that I come down.
Having given him my word was not the reason that I did not come down. I would not come down because the parole officer, himself, gave me the "ok" to give my word. That to me meant that he had also given his word.
I suppose someone in prison giving "their word" means very little. After all, we are nothing more than common criminals. But what about the fellow who is guarding you - are they not supposed to be better than the inmates? Isn't their word supposed to mean something? Isn't that why we were locked up and they were not?
I felt that it was important that I prove that point to myself, as well as to the other men.