Today is Monday, August 8, 1967.
I’m scribbling this entry on toilet paper in a cold, dark holding cell in the Franklin County Jail in Hampton, Iowa. You see, it turns out the “town museum with the bars on the windows” I was wondering about, was actually the county jail. Built in 1880, or so they told me.
And I, a fugitive from justice, was dumb enough to park in the jail driveway. Fucking brilliant.
You see, shortly after drifting off to sleep, I was rudely awakened by a burly man in a “Correctional Officer” ballcap, rapping his nightstick on my car window. I tried to shake him off, but the message was clear – open up or else.
Uh oh. This is a problem. And where the fuck did a correctional officer come from?
Before lying back in the seat to catch a nap, I’d tossed my green wool ranger jacket over my chest – half for warmth and half to conceal the incriminating handcuffs still locked around my right wrist. I could just shift around a bit to pop the door open, but if I got up, there was no hiding them at all.
I pulled the inside handle, trying to open it just a crack – but the man, whose name I would soon learn as “Pitbull,” wasn’t having any of it, and yanked it open it all the way.
Who the fuck are you and what the fuck are you doing parked outside my jail?
…parked outside your jail? What?
I glanced again at the building’s sturdy brick construction, the bars on all the windows, the sheriff’s cruiser parked four spaces up, and the sign – dimly lit, but still readable – “PRIVATE RESIDENCE NO JAIL BUSINESS”…
Oh, fuck me. Are you serious? I parked outside the county jail? This can’t be real.
Of course, it was.
Pitbull was not amused by my hasty explanations, apologies, and excuses, and demanded that I get out of the car. Then he pulled the jacket away.
The instant he saw the handcuffs – the goddamned bailiff’s handcuffs – the game was up, and I felt myself be lifted up and flung against the back door, face planted into glass by an arm against the back of my neck. The hand of an unseen second officer reached around and unbuckled my belt, dropping all my ranger gear to the ground. Another set of handcuffs went on – this time, behind my back on both wrists. I barely heard him tell me I was under arrest, and I didn’t even have time to process that my fugitive flight was over – it just was.
I was frog-marched over to the lawn and unceremoniously pitched over on my face. Momentarily miffed that my uniform would get grass stains, I was brought back to my harsh reality by the invasive sensations of strong hands methodically emptying my pockets. Still upended, I then felt steel against my ankles.
Are those leg irons? They’re putting me in leg irons. Fuck, they mean business.
The two guards grabbed me by the shoulders, hauled me around a sidewalk and up a ramp toward a brightly lit door on the other side of the building.
Is this really happening?
Of course, it was.
Through the portal, they led me into the booking room. On a bulletin board, I caught a glimpse of a “Wanted by the FBI” poster – with my face on it staring back at me. I could just make out “Interstate Flight – Infamous Crime Against Nature – Aggravated Battery of a Peace Officer – Escape” before I was shoved through a heavy grilled door into a holding cell.
Two steel bunks, a small desk and chair, and a toilet and sink – that was it. I felt the handcuffs being slipped off through a trap in the grille, and the leg irons removed likewise. Then Pitbull barked.
Back of the cell – hands on the wall – feet spread apart. NOW.
What choice did I have? I complied, but evidently not fast enough.
Move it, you little shit.
I assumed the demanded position, visibly trembling.
You listen to me good, DR754. You are now an inmate of the Franklin County Jail. You will immediately obey any command by any officer. You will address officers as “Sir.” You will answer every question with “Yes, Sir” or “No, Sir.” Any disrespect toward an officer will carry consequences. Is that clear?
“Yes…” I stammered.
I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU AGAIN, INMATE.
Good. Now turn around.
I faced Pitbull for the first time. Short, stout, built like a brick shithouse, with a glare that could melt steel. I got the feeling he was not to be fucked with.
Strip. Everything off, starting with your shirt.
As I undid the khaki green button-down, I glanced at the shield on my left shoulder, and it occurred to me that this might be the last time I ever wear a ranger’s uniform instead of an inmate’s uniform.
Methodically, Pitbull stripped me out, until all of a sudden, I was naked as the day I was born, and my clothes were on the other side of a steel gate. Evidently, mere nudity wasn’t enough, as he ordered me to show him every part of my body to prove I wasn’t smuggling anything into his jail. “Contraband,” he called it, and he demanded to see inside my mouth, under my balls, and literally everywhere else it might possibly be.
Smuggle something into the jail? I thought, as I coughed on the third squat and grabbed cheeks to reveal my shaved asshole – I didn’t fucking think I was going to jail.
Once satisfied that I was clean, Pitbull grumbled something about not waking the other inmates before shoving an orange jumpsuit, cheap boxers, and a thin blanket through the trapdoor. I pulled the ugly, ill-fitting suit on, then knelt on the chair at his command – he unlocked the door and put the leg irons right back on.
Then the door slammed, the lights went out, and I was alone in a jail cell for the first time in my life.
I walked, stiffly, with chains clicking, to the heavily barred window at the back. Staring out at the dimly lit alley, I could see my car still parked just a few feet away, taunting me by its very presence. Stepping back to the cell front, I touched the flat iron bars – themselves covered with a welded steel mesh. Short of a cutting torch, it wasn’t going to budge, and I didn’t suppose they issued those to inmates. So I wasn’t going out the window and I wasn’t getting through the door.
Sure, I’d escaped custody once before – but that just involved punching a cop and running. Breaking out of jail? I knew even less about that than about being a fugitive.
There was a pencil stub sitting on the desk – at least I can write my prison diary and turn it into a best-seller, I thought wryly. What choice do I have now but to curl up on this shitty plastic mattress and try to get some rest?
Forlorn hope? No, I no longer have any hope at all.
To be continued …