Along the Way. . .
Experiences, Insights & Humor on the “Long Road Home”
By Steven Maisenbacher
Once upon a time along the way, I had a little winter fun in Gilmer, West Virginia. Yes, it was cold as heck there, see it’s nestled in the mountains of West by god Virginia, and when I say nestled I mean just that. Imagine the top of a mountain being scooped off and then a huge bowl dug out of it, so now you have “nestled” or some such thing. The joint was definitely dug into the mountain. On the yard at the fence there was the security road, then a cliff that went from about 50 feet to 200 feet, with this ravine that ran down from the top of a hill. The deer and the tom turkeys and their harems would parade thru daily like there wasn’t an 1800 man federal facility not 100 feet away and down a little bit. The compound was kind of slanted with the rec yard being on one side then the SHU on the right of it, then R and D, medical, and the lieutenant’s office next to the gate into the compound. Then the visiting complex, education and the chapel. Now from the chapel there’s a nice little hill sloping downwards to a long wall next to the commissary, food service and the chow hall. The cell blocks are directly across and set back into the area, so the whole of the compound is actually set up as a huge triangle.
Well, back to the scene of the crime! See as I was saying it was cold, super cold, the kind of cold that when the wind got to whipping around in this little dipped in area everything froze, and stayed frozen long after the sun came out. Now add the snow on the ground, several inches, by this time mostly tracked thru but still some pristine areas of it like the one we are going to be violating in about 3. 2. 1…
So, there are these garbage carts, see – those big Rubbermaid things shaped like a dumpster with wheels for pushing around the compound for trash men to fill. They kept these carts on a patio up on the deck by the chapel at the top of that 95-ft slope I mentioned, going down to the commissary wall at a 45 degree angle. Smile… Oh wait did I forget to tell you? Yeppers, I sure did, these trash buggy-dumpsters had these big ole lids that just sat on top of the buggy, and folded open in the middle. like you guessed it, the perfect toboggan, so you know it had to happen!
I’m standing on the deck smoking a cigarette (yes, a nasty habit, I gave up decades ago) waiting to get into the chapel. So I look over, thinking…hmmmm, bet that lid would be like a sled and I bet that hill would be a blast to sled down…hey…no one out here but me… I finish the smoke… You know what I did then! Yep! Down I go, but little do I know that the compound lieutenant had just stepped out of his office door the very second my “sled” and I start launch our descent WWWWWWWWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“Hey!!! What the @U&% do you think you’re doing? Get up here now! Put your hands behind your back!”
Then he gets on the radio: “Compound lieutenant to the SHU, soon to be on your door with one.”
Me, I’m laughing hilariously while he is frog-marching me to the hole all for a little sled fun in the snow. I mean what is this guy like? Un-American or some sort of monster that he couldn’t see the humor in the situation? So the answer to that became obvious very soon when they are stripping me and dressing me in a jumpsuit, taking me to a cell, yep, locking me in the cell, and I’ll be darned, not a one of these jerks thought it was funny! Damn, here it is the week before Christmas and now I’m in the hole because I just ain’t got good sense and couldn’t control an impulse to have a little fun.
Well folks, that’s me, story of my life, see-want-do. Crazy as it seems I wasn’t mad at all about it. I just knew someone was going to see the silliness and let me out. Well, four days later when the administrators came thru on their weekly zoo review (where they look in all the cells and ask if you are alright, like it would matter if you said no) here comes the captain.
“Maisenbacher! What are you doing in there? What did you do?”
“Well Cap, it’s like this, you know those lids on the trash buggies, yes? Well I couldn’t help it Cap…I got on one and rode down the hill by the chapel like a sled and the lieutenant saw me and didn’t see the situation like I did, so he locked me up.”
“He did, did he? I’ll be right back.”
Then here he comes with the cop, they tell me to cuff up, get me out, take me up front and dress me in my clothes.
Then the Captain tells me “Don’t you ever sled down the hill in my prison again…now get out of my hole – locked you up for sledding, I’ll take care of him – go back to your unit Maisenbacher.”
So there it is, the story of a boy and his sled. So what if the sled was a dumpster lid and so what if the boy was like 43 at the time, it’s still a true crime story. And yes, if you must know, it was worth all 4 of the days I spent in the hole for doing it, just so I could tell you this story – hardened criminal that they say I am. Smile.
© Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher, 2021