By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

Part 1 – Spiritual Journey Toward Addiction Recovery

Chapter 4

Talking Donkey

Man, what a perfect day for this story, raining and nasty, but cleansing and needed, kinda like Jimmy…

I was on a Con Air flight from Coleman Medium in Florida to Beaumont Low in Texas. Now Con Air isn’t like the silly movie, but the air marshals will fix your wagon if you act up. So we’re flying along and from somewhere in front of me I hear loud and clear, “Why son you’re nothing but a stinkin’ rat, you snitched on all your friends, don’t you tell me another word, shut your mouth and don’t talk to me!”

Immediately I’m thinking, damn, that guy’s gonna get some tape to the mouth or tazed if the marshals catch him for what he said to that other guy. So we finish the flight and were in the receiving and classification cages in Beaumont, going thru the rigamarole of interviews and questionnaires and medical and whatnot, when I hear that voice in the cage with me that addressed the stinkin’ rat on the plane. I hear him saying, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout no prison or no politics.”

Yep same voice, same country bumpkin drawl, so knowing now who this guy is I sidle up to him and strike up a conversation, “Look it ain’t my business but I think I heard you telling a guy on the plane that he was a rat and on and on.”

He confirms it and explains how the guy was trying to tell him why he told on a bunch of people to get a lesser sentence and all that. So as we’re talking, I learn his name is Jimmy and I tell him about what I’ve seen the marshals do to people on those planes for acting up or even talking loud.

He tells me he has never been in trouble before except the one time out of boot camp before they sent him to Vietnam and even then that didn’t land him in no prison.

I asked him what he did and he told me, “Well son, I had me a little electric company and I was giving my customers these cable converter boxes as gifts with the bigger accounts.” They got him for communications violations and cable piracy; he had a sentence of 24 months or some such slap on the wrist.

So we continue our way thru the chaos that is intake in a federal prison, finally get to the cell block where we are assigned, and they stick us in the “chicken coop.” This is a big room, with a bunch of beds where they put the new guys till they can get them sorted and into cubes. Anyway, when we walked in, there was the usual “greeting committee,” you know the ones, the fools who think they are tough, or the gang bangers trying to see who is who, or the predators looking for an easy mark.

Now understand, Beaumont is a “political” yard, meaning informants, sexual offenders or homosexuals will have a tough time, and they have to stay out of the way and in their own areas. We had been traveling since like 3 am the day before; it’s now after midnight the next day, I’m tired and all I want to do is catch my rack till morning then go find the pipe carrier for the Natives to announce my presence there.

But no, here come the tough guys – “Where ya from? Who are you? What kind of case do you have? Is your paperwork straight? You’re not a child molester are ya? What kind of time do ya have? How long you been down?”

“No, No, No, we’re not playing this game. First of all, I’m Native so get me a Native or get out of my face with your BS. I promise you’ll know who I am before long anyway, now excuse me…good night.”

Wait a second, I see a couple of the white-boy-wanna-be-supremists have got the old man I was talking to kind of hemmed up in the corner grilling him and kind of putting some pressure on him, so I walk over.

“Is there a problem here fellas?”

I’m told it ain’t my business.

I say it is, “The old man’s with me, he’s my people and we’ll talk to the Native spokesman or the pipe carrier, until then, goodnight.”

We move on into the chicken coop and make our beds. I can see Jimmy is visibly shook up and I tell him, “Listen, I don’t know you but I’m taking you on your word about not being a sex offender.  If anyone asks, tell them you are with Walks On The Grass, anyone at all.”

He says, “OK” and tells me the one boy, Cecil was telling him he was gonna be bringing him a list of items that he was going to have to get for him as “rent” and security on this yard.

I told Jimmy to forget it, so we go on to sleep. Morning arrives and we go to chow for breakfast. I didn’t see any Natives, so after we eat I go on out to the yard past the sweat lodge to see if any Natives are there. There are, and I found out there are two groups. One group is “clean” and the other are “chil mos” (child molesters).

I leave a message for the pipe carrier that I’m here and looking for him then go on to the yard, to check out the band rooms and all. By the time I got back to the unit  it’s been a couple hours and I found Jimmy sitting on his bed looking worried. He has a piece of paper in his hands. I said, “Hey buddy, what’s wrong?”

“Well, that boy Cecil that you told to leave me alone came down here and gave me this list; told me I better have these things on commissary day or else I would have to leave here.”

Instantly I got heated and told Jimmy to give me the list, “I’ll take care of this.”

See, after the confrontations of the night before when we got there and all, I was damned mad and couldn’t get to sleep. So I get up and go to the bathroom. It’s communal with several stalls, urinals and a separate communal wash room with several sinks. When I walked in, there was a guy shaving his head. I had noticed him in the room earlier when we walked in. He was watching the others grill me and Jimmy.

So he speaks to me, “Hey man, I can see by your way that you been down, you know this is a political yard and the fellas are just trying to see who is who, don’t take that shit personal.”

I introduce myself as does he and I ask who the pipe carrier is. He tells me, “Duran.”

I asked him who he runs with. He tells me the name of a very well-known group of whites and says the name of their “shot caller.” It was a man I have known for a long, long time, so I asked him to go to Clint and tell him “Walks On The Grass” is here.

Needless to say he did, so when I get back to the unit to find that Jimmy had not been let alone, I just walk down the tier to Clint’s cube and tell him what has gone on, that I had told his fellas that Jimmy was with me and now I’m finding out this fool Cecil is trying to pressure Jimmy. I asked him what he is going to do.

Clint got pretty angry over the whole thing, told me they had told Cecil to tone his actions down and to stay out of other people’s way. Said he would take care of it and took the list from me that Cecil had given Jimmy. He said to tell Jimmy that he needn’t worry about it or anything else from his people and that he had a good friend in Walks.

Now here we are mid-week, it’s store day. I was going to go after lunch but decided to go early. I knew Jimmy hadn’t been able to get a phone call to his daughter yet to have money sent because the counselor told him it would be Friday before he could give him a free 15-minute call to contact his people and all. So when I went to the store I got two of everything vital, 2 cups, 2 bowls, toothbrushes and paste, bags of coffee, etc. I come back to the cell and get my stuff out, then step over to Jimmy’s bunk and hand him a bag.

He kind of freaked out a bit; didn’t know I was going to do this and he was really happy to not have to go another week without, waiting on his own money.

I told him to just pay me back, to the assurances of, “Oh I will, now ya gotta know I will, Walks, thank you! blah blah blah…”

Anyway, I left to go out to see some of the Native fellas and hang out at the lodge area, for an hour or two. When I get back to the block there’s Jimmy, sitting on his bed with a huge bag of commissary, what looks to be $50 to $75-worth of stuff; cookies, food, soups, coffee, shower shoes, all sorts of stuff, and Jimmy sitting there looking at it with a look of bewilderment on his face that you just knew was worry-invoked.

I say, “Hey buddy, what’s all this?”

He says, “Well, I was just sittin’ here listenin’ to your radio cuz you told me I could listen to it if I wanted and that boy, Cecil came in with two of them other boys behind him, and he set this bag on my bed and said, ‘This is for you Mr. Coleman, from me and I’m sorry for any problems or worry I may have caused.’ Then one of them other boys reached over and gave him a slap on the back of his head and they left, it’s the damndest thing I ever did see, Walks.”

Well, you know, Clint and the boys had made Cecil come up with the store and give it to Mr. Jimmy.

I gave Jimmy the name “Donkey,” used to tell him he was the only talking donkey in North America. He was just an old white man who had no business in my world of prisons and politics and gangs and such. He used to come with me out to the lodge and sit at the picnic table while we had our sweats. Jimmy was a good man. Of all the hundreds of people who have told me over the 37 years of my captivity, “Man, I’m gonna look out for you when I get out,” only a handful have, actually less than a handful, but Jimmy did.

He is gone now, beyond sorrow, and I cried when I got the news.  Jimmy Coleman was a good man, he was a veteran of a war that we should never have been in, he came back from southeast Asia, a decorated war hero. He made a life, had a family and raised two beautiful daughters.

When I knew him Jimmy had a wonderful fiancé who stood by his side thru trials that most people would cringe from. Chrissy was the perfect fit for Donkey, she held him up till the end. I may have more to say about him later but for now just know this, as you read this sentence, there are tears in my eyes when I think of the man, what a warm and wonderful, cantankerous, stubborn, swamp donkey – Jimmy Coleman from Epps, Louisiana. Rest with the ancestors my friend, you are sorely missed.


It wasn’t so long ago, we would ride for the fun,
but time changes everything when you run from the gun.

They sent many men after us, and we slipped those we could
but the sheriffs caught up with us so we shot it out where we stood.

Bandits they called us, outlaws on the run,
the noose always haunting us, so we ride for the sun...

Left a trail of burnt wagon trains, filled our pockets with gold,
left no sign to track us with, except the legends they told...

Now we travel the trail of tears, death rides at our sides,
with no one to turn to now, with nowhere to hide...

Bandits they called us, outlaws on the run,
The noose always chasing us, so we ride for the sun,
Bandits they call us, outlaws on the run,
The noose always hunting us, so we ride for the sun...

Walks >>>>-------------->
© Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher Feb. 9, 2020

Steven Maisenbacher “Walks”

“One day, you will stand on a great precipice and see your life from the reverse viewpoint and suddenly, bam, you’ll get it.” ~ Sean Dietrich “Your Life”

Published by Sings Many Songs

I'm an 80-something child of the great depression and WWII. Throughout my life I have been a seeker, an outsider, never quite belonging anywhere, still always looking through cracks in the fences of life, questioning, challenging, learning, trying to make sense of the world and its conventions. A lifelong student with many interests and a love of writing and editing, my elder's path led to encouraging and assisting some remarkable people to write out their amazing stories. This calling became the magic elixir that keeps me growing, keeps me alive.

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