By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
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Finally, the ordeal of the pneumonia – cancer – TB was over and my mind relieved. But all during the two-week quarantine, I still had the huge concern that my cell mate was using drugs and worry whether my personal property, especially the sacred items, were secure.
Now my cell is in Sigma A but before I left the quarantine unit, I was told I would be going to the B side of Sigma Unit, that the counselor had given my cell slot away, which meant that my cellmate had to have agreed to let someone else move into my bed and that would not at all be cool. See, the feds have a policy that if you go to the hospital or the hole for that matter, if you do not get a “shot” (incident report), you do not lose your cell. I had been in my cell for more than two years, it was my home, so I’m thinkin if they gave my bed away as the lady officer who released me from the q-unit said they did then I would need to go track down my property as well as my extra mat and pillows that were medical issues for my back so that I don’t lose them to a shakedown.
Instead of going into Sigma B, I went to the office in Sigma A, my old unit, and asked the officer where my property was and who had moved into my bed and cell. She asked me if I had looked in the cell. I told her I had not, I didn’t want to just go walking in her unit without permission.
She asks me what cell I had been in and I told her C-13 lower. She tells me I’m still there, the marker says “held,” so you’re in there. I went to check and sure enough my property was all still there. My extra mat was gone, but it could be and was replaced. My locker was still on “full” because I had just gone to the store the day before they took me to the hospital, so now I’m cool, my “house” is still there.
I explained to the officer what I had been told by the officer in q-unit and that she had assigned me to Sigma B. I sure did not want count to be messed up and get blamed for that again. She said she would call control and get it straightened out. So I get back in, get myself together, take a shower, and call a few people. Then I wait for the Unicor guys to come in. As they filter in a lot of the guys greet me with their “welcome backs” and all, but I notice my cell mate is not among them. This seems weird but I think no more of it and go hang out in the cell. When he does come back I thanked him for holding the cell down while I was gone.
He says, “Yeah, I was almost gonna sell it but I figured you would want it when you got back so I didn’t.”
He acted kind of strange and I picked up pretty quick that he was high, I just didn’t know on what. Later I would find out all too certainly, he was smoking K-2! This stuff is said to give a synthetic weed-like high, but from what I have witnessed in these dudes, it is nothing like any weed I ever smoked. I have smoked some weed in my 61 years, but never have I been stuck on the wall like a fly or zombie, nor have I ever drooled uncontrollably or laid down in the middle of wherever I was and start moaning or screaming. This K-2 stuff is dangerous and a serious no-no, especially in my circle. I do not tolerate it and make it clear to everyone that comes around me that I want it nowhere near me or my sacred items. Now here I am, stuck with this situation and I must deal with it.
Time goes on, my cellie has some horrible “episodes” because of this stuff. Another younger brother, a good guy, Chris, and I have to go “rescue” him and get him to the cell, never knowing for sure if he will be able to be led there or have to be carried without him going into a fit or freaking out and becoming violent. The situation became unbearable to me. Now he was even doing it at work, going into the bathroom and smoking this bug spray and having to be hidden from the cops till he was sobered up enough to at least act like he was ok. It got so bad I even considered quitting my job after I’ve worked for more than 29 years. I just couldn’t stay there seeing him slide down the mud into this addiction and I knew it was only a matter of time before he would be caught and not be able to wiggle his way out of it.
I had to tell him he could not attend the cannupa (pipe) ceremony because I would not stand by while he defiled the sacred pipe by being on drugs and trying to handle it. One thing that is not ever done is to handle a sacred pipe while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Unlike Hollywood’s portrayal of the pipe it is not used for anything other than prayer.
When confronted about his behavior, he told both Chris and me, “I’m a grown man and can do whatever I want,” and punctuated that with, “What I do is not your business.”
So here we are at a place where I have to literally start locking my locker after I caught him in it trying to get something to eat. He had sold all his commissary items for K-2 and was now trying to get mine. This isn’t how it works, so I had to tell him he was no longer welcome to anything I have. He had abused my kindness and broken my trust so I informed him he needed to find another place to live where you can continue to “do as you want to do.”
So there it is, I put out an edict to the Natives that we no longer would rescue him or assist him in any way and he would not be allowed to attend any ceremony until he cleaned up and got sober. I did not want his behavior rubbing off on any of us, nor did I want our group to be associated with that type of behavior. The day after all the other brothers agreed to it, he once again went into the bathroom at Unicor, smoked that garbage and then went out into the factory and freaked out. One of the foreman caught him, the factory manager got involved and he was fired on the spot. Three days later he was removed from the unit and my cell and moved to a unit across the compound where he could “do as he wanted” and is now in the hole for getting caught down there doing the same type thing.
I want to say that I continue to pray for this man. When he was not on drugs he was one of the best brothers you could ask for, a benefit to our spiritual and cultural council and group as well as willing to work hard toward making the sacred ceremonies a reality.
Despite this sad end, I came out ahead. With my cell now open for a new cell mate I ended up getting Chris Simpson moved in. He’s doing time for a drug case and was brought to our circle by the same brother who couldn’t deal with his addictions and ended up out of a job and in the hole. The best thing he did was bring Chris into our circle.
Chris is 41 years old from Tennessee and he is the best cell mate I have had this entire sentence. Chris is able to be in the room and both of us be quiet, or we can talk, even joke and have fun. He is interested and very inquisitive about Native American ways and I believe he has learned a lot from me. Chris still has a hard time with the songs I’m trying to teach him and another brother, Speedy. But he tries so hard, and it’s worth every minute to listen to him wrestle with the pronunciation, the timing, the entire process. Chris has come late to learning these songs and to be learning them under me isn’t the easiest thing to do. When he is blowing it I have no problem letting him know it. When he sings along with me leading he does really well, so I know if he can just learn to relax with the drum and let it play to his heartbeat, he will turn into a really good Native singer.
Now I need for you to understand that what Chris is attempting is far from easy for anyone. He is learning songs in a language not his natural tongue, but he is able to tell you what he is singing, and what it means. This is vitally important. Chris has learned all this in just the time that I have spent with him. He still murders the pronunciations but you just have to love someone who will not give up. The man is as tenacious as a pit bull when it comes to these ways and songs, and I try not to flood him with too much at one time but just when I think I have over educated him on something, he will ask another question, or ask about some aspect of some practice involved with our ways, the pipe, the lodge, the songs, the beliefs just as much as he wants to know.
I appreciate the fact that I get to share what I know with Chris, and in the time we have been living together he has become someone I look up to. I admire things in his character that are clear to see. Chris really is a good brother and I’m so lucky to have him, especially since I am getting “short” (closer to getting out) and I definitely call him a friend, one I will look forward to seeing in the future when this is all behind us.
We have arrived at now. In telling about the last year and a half, I’ve gotten a lot closer to the bone as far as how my journey goes on a daily basis in here – the times I feel happy, the times I’m sad, and some of the crazy things that come up in daily life within these walls as well as my reactions to all the people involved, inmates, associates, and people we talk to or hang out with.
As a result of Covid precautions, I rarely get to spend time with Ghost any more. We live in separate units now, but we’re close in spirit. We send messages back and forth to keep in touch. Now and then our paths cross or we call out to one another across the compound. We can have separate pipe ceremonies in the chapel but we most miss the sacred times together in our sweat ceremonies. The new lodge we built has broken down from exposure to the elements. The antibiotics I took during my illness caused most of my hair to fall out. My hair is growing back now and like my spirit, despite the ordeals of the past couple of years, it’s coming back strong.
So there it is, my 37-year spiritual journey. It’s July 2021 now and I’m looking forward to a bright future wherever the Creator and my dreams lead me.
JEALOUSY IS A POISON Verse 1: Faded memories at the edge of consciousness Take me back to another place in time Words of malice cannot be undone Always keep them inside where they belong Chorus: Jealousy is a poison Makes a monster of those it lives inside Jealousy is a poison Don’t let it get inside, get inside, get inside Verse 2: Kindness taken for a weakness To all perception without thought Buried beneath all reality Out of sight and also out of mind Chorus: Hatred is a poison Left alone it eats you out inside Hatred is a poison Make the devil run and hide, run and hide, run and hide Bridge to Lead Verse 3: Subtle regrets, we all experience them The dreams we lost, cannot get them back What’s done is done and it has been cast Can’t change the ghosts that you left in the past Chorus: Indecision is a poison Left alone, you’re dead before you try Indecision is a poison Don’t let it get inside, get inside, get inside . . . Jealousy is a Poison lyrics © 2009 Steven Maisenbacher (Walks on the Grass)
Thanks for your interest and for reading my story.