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An Invitation from E. P. Dixon

I am an elder and a seeker. Many years ago I was given the honorary name, Sings Many Songs by a man called Bearheart, a lifelong friend and leader of Creek, Shawnee, Cherokee, Métis descent. The name was a gift to honor my interest and prayers for his people and my work to help him restore and keep alive the rightful place of the Creek Peoples in the history and cultural fabric of the Southeastern homeland.

I’m an outsider by nature, always looking through cracks in the fences of life, just trying to make sense of the world. Being an outsider can be lonely sometimes, but oh, what treasures can be found in most unexpected places. The name “Sings” began to take on a its purest meaning as I reached out for understanding and came to know some remarkable Native warriors hidden in a world of their own. As a writer and editor of sorts, my goal with Journeys of the Spirit is to give voice to two who have so enriched my life and my journey. Perhaps I may add a thought or two myself from time to time.

In the weeks and months to come, my hope is more and more people will come to know, love, and understand these two kind and generous Native elders through their own stories, art, wisdom, humor and insights into worlds few of us can even imagine as we follow their personal “Journeys of the Spirit.”

Ghost Dancer – Known as a “gentle giant,” a wise elder, teacher, artist, and keeper of the old ways, Ghost has a deep understanding of the spiritual and cultural traditions of the Southeastern Native Peoples, as well as the Lakota Sioux and other western tribal People. From his world, Ghost’s Sacred Path, honoring his Muskogee and Ani-Yun-Wiya ancestors, Ghost Dancer has a lifetime of fascinating stories, wisdom and thoughts to share that will expand your world as well.

Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

Walks On The Grass – Readers will be riveted to each Chapter of LONG ROAD HOME as this delightfully warm and talented man shares an honest and compelling account of his amazing journey. From the first line, “I was born broken,” Walks navigates a path filled with bumps, boulders and wrong turns in search of wholeness. Through the grounding of songs, prayers and ceremony in the Inipi, traditional Lakota sweat lodge, and the support of wise elders and teachers, Walks gradually comes home to his true self. You won’t want to miss it. The fascinating story continues in ALONG THE WAY, a post script to Walks’ spiritual journey discussing in short essays experiences, insights & humor on the “Long Road Home.”

And me, I may have a few worthwhile things to say from time to time. We all invite you to join us and share your thoughts while we learn to navigate our way around the wonderful world of WordPress.

Boogerized

Along the Way. . .

Experiences, Insights & Humor on the “Long Road Home”

By Steven Maisenbacher

Walks On The Grass

I gotta share a secret with ya. You may not know it but sometimes when you get that “I’m not alone feeling” you’re right. See I know for a fact that Booger sneaks around “visiting” folks as he calls it. And when he does he goes invisible for a couple reasons, the first being not everyone can handle the fact that there is such a thing as a talking dog that can become invisible and walks around upright like we do. Secondly, it allows him to creep up and see what’s going on without being detected and he is a super sneaky little guy.

Like remember that time that you had French fries but all of a sudden you were at the end of em and you coulda sworn there were more in the bag? Well, there were, you were Boogerized! Or remember the time that your drink was almost full but when you went to take another drink it was half empty?  Yeppers, Boogerized again. Dang ole Booger, I’m tellin ya now right here, as I live and breathe, Booger is pretty much a sneak and he is forever getting into my stuff.

Like the time I came in from work, and there he was, got my extra ball cap on, layin up in the bed, all propped up on my pillow and foam wedge, dang chocolate Santa wrappers all over the floor and in the bed, all foil shredded everywhere and strewn around like he had been tearin up and shakin a feather pillow. The danged dog looks up at me and says, “I didn’t do it.”

“C’mon Booger, I see the chocolate smeared all over your fat little furry face!”

“Naw, man, see there was a burglar in here when I came by to see how you were Walks, and I got into a terrible tussle with him, I tell ya Walks, the fur was a flyin and the candy was going everywhere, but the guy smeared this here chocolate on my face tryin to blind me as he was pummeling me and it sorta kinda stayed there and I can’t seem to lick it off cuz my tongue ain’t quite that long, and you know I’m sure, how sometimes when you’re eatin’ and you feel a little something stuck right above your mouth, ya try to get it and can’t … it’s like that.

“And as we was a fighting and carrying on, some of the foils fell into my mouth but I couldn’t get em out so I just had to chew em up a smidge. then it was easier, but then the guy was so much bigger than lil ole me that he over powered me and got away. But I was tired then and thought I better get me a moment of rest afore you got home or I woulda cleaned your cell for ya, cuz that big guy I was a tussling with sure made a heckofa mess. I just hate that he got away Walks, I did manage to chew him up pretty good bein’ that he was so much bigger than me.”

“Dang mangey mutt, I’m gonna tan your furry little fanny! Get your flea-totin, barn yard smellin behind out of my bed right this minute and take off my hat while you’re doing it! C’mon Booger that’s my good hat, silly mutt!”

POOF!!! Booger vanished. “Damnit Booger! You come back here right this minute, clean up this mess!”

But he was gone and I knew how fast he was. I was positive he had shot out the cell, across the day room and on out the door, but I also knew if he happened to see an officer on the way, that since he was Booger and already invisible that cop was gonna have a wet shoe. Sure enough, here comes the cop looking down… wondering what he spilled on his shoe. smile. Boogerized.

Now, I know these tales ain’t the longest in the world, but that’s just the lay of em. See Booger ain’t the kinda guy to hang out in any one place for a very long time, seems like he might be a little on the hyper side, unless of course he is hanging out in the tube with his (seemingly enough) main squeeze, “Candy” the prison cat.  Yea, ole Booger ain’t too discerning when it comes to the ladies he will run around with. See Candy has had a rough life, pretty much spent in prison, having kittens that always seem to get spirited away by the staff around here, and she lives in a drainage pipe that runs under a sidewalks here on the compound.

She’s one of those ole scruffy brown and black stripped felines, with a poked out eye that she lost in a cat fight, and a serious kink in her tail. But hey, guys like Booger seem to think she’s the cat’s meow. Yeah, I know, bad pun. Anyway, I have seen Booger peeking his head out of her lair on more than one occasion when I am crossing the compound, usually when I’m heading to work of a morning, grumbling about how I hate my job. He will stick his head out and go, “Hey ya big dumb human, ha ha, you gotta go to work and I’m gonna hang out doin’ just what I please…” ha ha… the little so & so…

Anyway, I can tell you all sorts of stories about Booger and me and his antics if ya wanna hear em. they ain’t all long and they ain’t all short, kinda like Booger’s tail, but they are all exactly as I see em in my mixed up crazy mind… Boogerized.

© Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher, 2021

The Naturally Sacred Way Our Ancestors Danced

The Creeks and Their Dances (1)

By Ghost Dancer

To truly understand the history and culture of the early South-eastern Mvskoke Creek People, it is essential that we learn to respect their customs and mores exactly as they were. Nowhere are the strengths, beauty, and good-heartedness of this ancient culture more apparent than in their traditional dances. Considering that life was a hard enough struggle, the people looked for any reason to celebrate and have fun. Whenever games, feasts, ceremonies or social dances were planned, the word went out to all the neighboring towns. These times were pure fun for everyone and they served to strengthen the bonds of clan kinship and allowed young people opportunities to make new friends and find future marriage partners from different clans.

All the different clans that made up the basic structure of the Creek’s matrilineal society, be it, alligator, turkey, deer, bear, wolf, turtle, beaver, opossum, bird, snake, etc., were responsible for arranging dances and feasts to honor the talents and special attributes of their particular animal. Most towns were comprised of several different clans. All towns had a majority clan, but every clan was respected, so even the smallest clan had a time to control the dance and show respect for their namesake.

In reading and hearing other Mvskoke or Mvskoge speak in Oklahoma, I understand many claim to know the true traditional ways. Their grandfather was so and so, and it was passed down and taught to them. I listen and pay attention, and I watch what they do. I’m not saying they are wrong, but I will say this: many things they do have been influenced by other beliefs and practices. For instance, the use of peyote. During the government’s relocation of the tribes, peyote was introduced to the tribes in Oklahoma by the Comanche and the Native American Church was created.

I mention this because I have heard many so-called experts of the traditional Mvskoke or Mvskoge ways say that the use of peyote is our tradition. This is false. We did use certain psychoactive plants for spiritual purposes or healing purposes only, but not peyote. We were known for the different poisonous plants we used. This is the reason many called us the People of the Holly.

Another practice I hear of and have seen claimed in Oklahoma as our tradition are the popular songs and dances of today that bear little resemblance to that of our ancestors. As my Native brother, Richard Thornton pointed out in a People of One Fire article, How Your Creek Ancestors Really Danced, descriptions of our courtship and love dances written by the earliest European explorers on our Southeastern shores reveal they were energetic and exuberant, very unlike our shuffling stomp dances that evolved over hundreds of years of direct contact with Europeans.

In contrast to the Europeans, who were suppressed in their emotions and feelings, we Mvskoke and Mvskoge were an openly affectionate and loving people. In our courtship dances, we were unashamed in showing off to each other to attract mates and prove our love and abilities. To see the Turkey Dance, Snake Dance, Alligator Dance, Heron Dance, and Feather Dance was to enjoy the beauty of who we were and how much love we wished to show. In these sensuous dances, the teasing and the erotic beat of the drums would drive the people into sweating bodies and raise the arousal of male and female alike.

Sometimes – well, many times – falseness was told to outsiders by all tribes to keep our ceremonies safe from outside influences. Our people thought it was a joke to tell the outsiders wild tales to hide our sacred ways. The elders of many tribes swore a vow never to speak of these things for more than 100 years and as a result, many true ways were lost on the following generations. When I have seen these dances today they are nothing like the old ways of our people. The Fancy Dance of the western tribes is more like the tempo of our original dances. In doing the Turkey Dance we reflect the courtship ways of the turkey. The males are showing the ladies how powerful and beautiful they are. The ladies in turn, mimic the hens, being coy and attractive, looking all beautiful and sexy, enticing the males to dance even harder to show how powerful they are.

Ceremony – Heart of the Community

Now understanding the significance of the Green Corn and Planting Ceremonies, is to understand the modern-day ribbon dance in some respects. Women do the Ribbon Dance to celebrate the power of life and rebirth they hold as does our Mother Earth. Each year she brings forth new life in a never-ending cycle. As our Mother Earth spins and turns, so do our women because life revolves in cycles and circles.

Therefore, it is so important to understand all the symbolism. All females dance at these ceremonies, from the oldest to the youngest. The youngest ones are carried in the arms and the ones who are too old and frail are lifted and carried too. We honor our connection to Mother Earth, to Grandmother Sun, and to Grandfather Moon, who is in love with them both and chases after both, affecting the energy of both mother and grandmother. This natural dynamic reminds us that women have needs and want love and they become aroused when they enjoy having their particular needs met.

Planting Time

So, look closely at why planting is so important to our people. When planting season came there was a celebration and all members joined in. The ceremony was supervised by the head clan mother and the beloved women. Just as women have moon cycles (menstrual cycles), Mother Earth does as well. So, each year it was important that the fields were burned and cleared. I won’t go into the full planting ceremony now, but the key point to remember is that our Mother Earth’s womb was prepared and ready to accept the seeds we placed in her. We give the seeds love and all the care we can to help it grow, just as we do for a baby growing in its mother’s womb. This is why the women are in charge of these things.

We men, well we do men stuff like listen to our women. Yes, seriously we are supposed to do what we are told to do. Any man that has been around when the woman is pregnant knows full well, you are going to be busy doing this or that. And you might not tell your buddies or friends, but when mama wants something you go get it!

We all celebrate with joyous songs and dance during the planting because a pregnancy is beginning. We are all happy but we know we must all take care of these infants too. We all must work the fields (communal gardens) besides working our personal family gardens. Dancing is a way of celebrating our love. If a woman is pregnant and is singing and dancing, the embryo feels all of this and as it grows into an infant it feels the joy and love even more. The same is true of the plants; the seeds feel you dancing and singing your love. The plants are alive, they feel, and they feel our love. So, we love them because we know they bring life to all of us too. We share this bond with them. This dance of life. The ribbon dance is a symbol of the umbilical cord connection to all women: to our Mothers, Grandmothers and to all life. This is the reason why the women dance the Ribbon Dance.

The planting dance is the connection of love, so the females lead the dance 4 times around and then the males join in, alternating between each female, because males are needed to plant the seed of life. This is balance. We must be balanced to feel our beauty and love. This is a very romantic love dance. In the old times, the males brushed up against the body of each of the women sensuously to arouse them, smiling, teasing and attracting their love. Planting season wasn’t just for planting plants!

Green Corn Time

Green Corn is a celebration of life’s new cycle: The lighting of the new Sacred Fire and home fires. The letting go of all past deeds – gaining balance through forgiving the wrongs and making right the wrongs the people have done over the year. New friends, new goals, new cycle of life. Green Corn is a new day, a new beginning for all. It is a time of being so thankful for all you have been given.

Green Corn is also the time for new courtships and new blood lines to be introduced. Even enemies are invited now to become friends. After the blessing of the lighting the Sacred Fire being by the sacred fire keeper and beloved women, the Fire Dance is led by the fire keeper, the fire apprentices and beloved ones. Each woman of the house, according to their position of rank, takes a burning ember from the sacred fire back to her lodge to relight the fires of each home.

A feast follows and then comes the time for the dancing to commence. The first dance will be the beautiful and sensual Feather Dance. In the Feather Dance, the women will choose their lover or mate. All is done in beauty and a sequence of moves that to see or participate will stir the emotions in anybody’s blood. The women line up on one side of the square and the men line up on the opposite side. The men all have feathers in their hands. Usually these will be crane, flamingo, heron, or duck because of these birds’ very beautiful courtship dances or the fact that their feathers are beautiful and feel good when teasing a woman’s body.

The men must use only the feathers to gain the attention of the woman. The woman may reject any man’s attention, so the men must dance as sensuously as they can to show off their abilities, strengths, balance, and desires. A man may bow to the ground on one leg and start at the feet of the woman with a feather in his mouth insinuating his desires. His body can get very close; just not touch the woman. The discipline the man shows demonstrates his commitment and character. If the woman rejects the man’s attentions with the feather, he moves on to the next available female.

The Butterfly Dance is similar, only the roles are reversed and the women use their shawls instead of feathers. This is the origin of the Fancy Shawl Dance so familiar today. If a woman touches a man with her shawl while she was dancing, she is signaling that she is interested in him. The woman’s body is scented in honeysuckle and wild plum blossoms, and dyes from blackberries used to accentuate her most alluring features. Dancing erotically, arms extended, a mischievous glint in her eyes and a taunting smile, she teases the man, yet he cannot touch her. He must become the male flower, swaying his body in rhythm with hers.

The rabbit dance is a love dance as well. This one the man and woman dance together as a couple and the moves become more and more complex as they dance faster and faster with lots of touching which causes accidents which are fun for dancers and all who are watching.

Now you understand why the Europeans had such a problem with the Native people’s dances. At least on the surface, European attitudes about morality and sexuality were entirely different. They simply could not understand that the Native Peoples saw themselves as natural children of the Creator. With nothing to hide, the people were not ashamed of their bodies or their need to love and be loved. I hope this gives everyone a better insight.

Respectfully, Ghost

Ghost Dancer July 2017 ©

It Occurs to Me

Along the Way. . .

Experiences, Insights & Humor on the “Long Road Home”

By Steven Maisenbacher

Walks On The Grass

I seem to have found a new hobby. It involves just staying in my bed, thinking, and letting my mind wander across the fields of my thoughts and wishes, ear plugs in, eyes closed, blankets pulled up, or not, depending. It’s so relaxing and de-stressing to envision some of my plans or to make new ones, design new jewelry ideas and revisit some old ones, looking to improve on them or add some more styles, and colors, mixing the gems up in my mind, letting the pattern flow like water across the stream. What a wonderful pastime this is proving to be, quiet, even productive.

It’s also proven to be a place where I can explore new ideas and again, revisit old ones, where I can weave my adventures and mold my thoughts, write my songs and forge my stories, who would have thought that the quiet would be so very useful, calming and relaxing, yet so wonderful in its ability to provide a workshop that can be cleaned up with the flick of a thought, erase the slate, just open the eyes or move on to another thought, letting the tide of thoughts free to wash ashore into consciousness.

I kind of like my new hobby; I have been calling it my “Artist’s Workshop” but it’s really so much more. It’s a place I can retreat to where I don’t have to face the fears that I have deep down inside, the ones I don’t tell anyone about because I don’t have anyone to tell and I don’t want people to laugh at my fears. To me they are real, and there that is. See, being out here is being vulnerable to the thoughts I don’t want to think about, but in the workshop….Mmmm, relax and enjoy the ride. Things are mellow and peaceful, and I don’t have to be afraid.

Not so much afraid as apprehensive, the world is frightening to me now because I don’t know it. I mean, I know me and I know my plans, but to do the things I want to do as I finish life, I will have to step out there into the unknown areas, into situations and environments that I am not familiar with. Everything will be brand new to me, and this I am sure is going to be a confusing and tumultuous endeavor.

I will have to try to navigate the seas of humanity, crowds, traveling to and from, here and there, upstream all the way. The thing is, if you don’t know how to do something you tend to be uncomfortable doing it until it becomes as familiar as your pillow or your clothes. So the things you take for granted, things that are commonplace, I have never done and I still have yet to learn. I never really had any experiences as an adult in the world. I came to prison very young, I have learned to live and thrive and survive in here, but I don’t know how to program a T.V. to play a movie, or how to turn on a cell phone, much less how to use it to call anyone or to look up directions or make an appointment or to order something.  

I am awash in the things I don’t know or have or have never experienced, I’m virtually a time traveler, unwelcomed in your techno world by the sheer fact of where I came from, so I’m kind of afraid of all it will take to get from here to there. Once I arrive, I’m sure that I will make it thru. I’m fairly clever, I’m now able to read and understand and I’m pretty good at masking my emotions and being the stoic person that this past 37 years has created. I have survived intact in spite of it all,

I’m not going to keep tripping on what I will have to go thru. I’m just merely saying that I WILL go thru it, and if you happen to see me looking confused or baffled, or if I don’t seem to understand something, I assure you it’s because I don’t. Not that I’m playing dumb, just that I don’t know, but give me time, I’ll figure it out. After all, I can always go to the “Artist’s Workshop” and cogitate on it. Smile. You all have a nice day, I’ll be glad to share mine with ya….

© Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher, 2021


Stir Crazy

Along the Way. . .

Experiences, Insights & Humor on the “Long Road Home”

By Steven Maisenbacher

Walks On The Grass

Well hello there and welcome to “Where the hell did that come from!” I’m your host, Walks On The Grass and for the next however long it takes I will be introducing you to a very special and very clever dog, invisible tho he may be. (please forgive the bad language; it goes with the territory.)

I first met Booger in United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, PA in 1990. I had stirred the pot with the prison administration in the wrong way, as I was often to do, and this particular stir landed me in just that, “Stir.”

See, there are actually levels of “pissed at you” that the cops can entertain, and this one was a doozy. I found myself in the “tombs,” a section of the hole down in the basement at the far end of a terribly dark and dank corridor, like the hole that time forgot, and that was mostly what it was.  

Now I had been in there for more than a month, no human contact, food slid under the door like a dog, no phone, no mail. There were no books, no pens or paper or anything, and I was the only one in this hell hole. A nurse came every 3rd day to take my vitals thru a bean slot in the door. Other than that, there was no one anywhere around and with a steel door and the long hall I heard nothing from the outside 24/7.

The situation was really bad, in fact, it took “Booger” to keep me sane, or at least in the semblance of sanity I am currently still enjoying. I’m not the most stable of all, but I’m not drooling on myself and or babbling incoherently either. Well, mostly not. Smile.

So here I was, sitting in my cell. The floor is a slab of concrete, there’s a super thin rubberized mat in the middle of the floor and a lightbulb in the ceiling about 12 feet above me and that’s it. Oh, yeah, they gave me a paper blanket too, the type they use for suicidal inmates when they are watching them. I guess it was more to say they gave me something to keep warm than anything else, because it was like November and that would explain Booger’s winter coat.

Anyway, Booger is about 11 inches tall at the shoulder, but when he is “playin’ it cool” and walking upright he’s almost 2 feet tall in his bare paws. He’s as black as a devil’s heart and twice as smart as Albert Einstein; he has figured out how to become invisible, also how to talk and do all sorts of amazing things. Booger is definitely a crafty little mutt, and as bad and mischievous as the work week is long, (and that’s pretty darn long).

So let me tell you, as I was sitting there wrapped in paper like the crappiest of Christmas gifts. I happened to look up and “poof” there he was, standing up on his hind feet, leaning against the cell wall by the door, looking at me looking at him.

“Dude,” he said, “What the hell did you do to get stuck like this?!?”

Now imagine my surprise as I was sitting there doing the stir, just thinking and tripping on all the “how longs and what ifs” that were so firmly and obviously a part of my circumstances to come. I just shook my head thinking, “Damn, now I’m seeing things.”

“Walks,” he says, “You’re in a f-ed up position here! I mean, you know you can’t beat these people and I don’t know what it is about you that makes you think even for a second you can. But Dude, I’m a friggin’ invisible damn dog.”

Then he like turns into this vapory clear mist that settles in the spot he was in and then rematerialized and said, “My name’s Booger, and I’m your dog, but I ain’t nobody’s pet and I’m gonna keep you safe and help ya out on the old noggin side.” (Meaning help me keep what little at the time was left of my sanity.)

Now I’m thinkin, what the f***? An invisible dog?

So he goes on to say, “Check this out,” and he pulls out a chess board, and pieces from his seemingly endless invisible pocket, and starts setting the board up.

“Care for a game or two? This ought to help, ain’t no one ever not been restored without a good ole ass kickin, and I am definitely the dog to plant my little chess boot in your behind.”

Then he swipes the board off the bed, all the pieces go flying all over the cell and he screams, “Checkmate fool! I win,” and vanishes into thin air.

I’m floored thinking, oh no, I’m done for, I’ve finally snapped, my lord I’m seeing dogs that talk and act like humans and oh no… Well I tried to resist as long as I could, then out of the same thin air he had vanished into he re-appears.

“Don’t worry Walks, I’ll be back to hang out when I feel like it, but don’t forget, I’m your dog bro.”

So there it is, the story of how I met Booger.

But you ain’t seen nothing yet; I’ve been cool with Booger for 30 plus years and he has sure as heck gotten us into some spots and pulled more than his share of antics. I can’t count the times he has given me a fit or gotten me into trouble. Smile…

One time I refused to attend a disciplinary hearing because the cop told me no pets allowed when I told him I needed to bring my dog or he would tear my pillow up if I left him alone. So needless to say they came in and shook my cell down looking for a pet, then breathalyzed me and then urine tested me thinking I was either drunk or on drugs.

Booger has also gone thru transit with me, peed on the legs of U.S. Marshals on the tarmac while I was waiting to board CONAIR, and even more wonderful moments of mischief. Smile…

I sent Booger to obedience school and now they want to send him back, seems he started a dog-food insurrection, demanding pop tarts and cheese puffs and chicken bites and crackers. Got all his other furry felonious friends involved as well.

Yes, Booger has all sorts of adventures, in fact he is almost a super hero, note strong emphasis on “almost” but he has a bad boy streak, a spoiled little brat. smile!  Now he is almost famous! Again, emphasis on “almost.” Smile…

So take your time, go get a cup of coffee, we will be back later, Booger and me…

© Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher, 2021

Booger appears in Long Road Home (Ch. 17, 20, 21)

Native Rules of Respectful Behavior

Sacred Medicine Ways – Part 12

A Teaching by Ghost Dancer

I would now like to speak with you on the importance of showing respect when around Native people. You may be at a powwow or visiting a reservation or someone’s home, and knowing a few key rules of respectful behavior can mean the difference between being embarrassed or enjoying a pleasant experience. Most people don’t even understand it is offensive to take a Native’s photo without their permission.

1) Showing respect for sacred items: Sacred items could include drums, rattles, pipe, eagle feathers, hawk feathers, turkey feathers, claws, staffs, regalia, or offerings. You never touch any item that belongs to a Native unless it is offered to you to do so.

2) Feathers: Say if you went to a pow wow or Indian day celebration, stomp dance, or any ceremony, and for some reason or other a feather is flying around loose and it comes to you. What do you do? Handle it with respect, but try to find who it belongs to. Now some may say it came to you so it belongs to you. But no, this could cause you a lot of trouble. the person the feather came with may just want it back. Remember respect and honor always. If you are at a dance and you see a feather fall off a dancer. Do not, do not touch it. Only certain ones are permitted to pick it up. 

3) Remember the federal laws as well. Unless you are ready to face legal criminal charges, do not pick up eagle, hawk, or owl feathers anytime, anywhere. This is a federal offense and if you are caught with one without the proper paperwork you could be in real trouble. You may have been personally gifted one of these by someone who is federally recognized as a Native American in which case you should have been given a paper signed by that person stating the feather was presented to you. If you travel with the feather, you will need the paper work with you as well.

4) All traditional people will look at you crazy and worse if you don’t know the simplest things such as gift offering out of respect. If you visit an elder, clan mother, or micco, always make a gift offering of something. It could be tobacco, a sandwich, cold drink, piece of fry bread, just at least something, as long as you are making them aware of an offering of thanks for all they do, or have done.

5) Hair: Never touch a male Native’s hair unless you are asked to. Only his women family members, his mate or girl, or a brother, son or closely related member can do this. Our hair is sacred to us. It is an extension of our senses and spirit. The same applies to a woman’s hair as well.

6) Circle: If you are at a circle and gifts or sacred items are being passed around, each item must go all the way around to complete the circle first. Then they are passed on to the person(s) they are to go to.

7) Now I know ladies love it when they see a beautiful necklace or some gorgeous beadwork, especially when it is on a warrior. But do not touch any of this unless you are given permission.

And men, do not touch a woman’s jewelry or any part of her unless you are given permission. Personal space and respect for these medicines they are wearing is very important.

8) Unlike people in some other cultures who all seem to be talking at once, this is not our way. Only one person speaks at a time. After that person is finished, then another can speak.

9) Most Native languages have no curse words. This is for a reason. Words have power. We don’t say negative things or put people down because we would be bringing that energy, that power into existence. Those who truly know power are very cautious in using it, because like all energy the negative words are never ending and will flow for all time. So be careful what you say and who you say something to, and how you say it. As the old ones say: Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.

10) Now traditionally, among all Native people, no one is ever supposed to do harm to another member of the people. This especially applies to members of your own town or band. That is our true way. Now days on some reservations it is not that way among many of the young ones. If you plan to visit any reservation, my advice is to know someone there well enough to feel safe with them or limit your visit to daylight hours. Why? Because so many of the young ones have lost their traditional values and have taken on the ways of thugs. Some reservations now have gangs, of native blood, native crips, native gd, native pride, bear killers, wild boys, warrior society, and so on. These gangs prey on their own people, their own families. They kill, rob, rape, and terrorize. Now, this is mostly reservations west of the Mississippi and not all reservations are like this. I’m just telling you like it really is. If you don’t know your way around and the proper protocols it could be bad for you or your family. Now traditionally, Native people do not behave this way and where I am I constantly remind these young ones of this. But so much of life on the rez has changed and the old ways have been lost, so this is how it is now.

11) I have visited many reservations to trade. These are some things I learned. When you are meeting to negotiate a trade there are different protocols you must be aware of. With some tribes, you never look them in the eyes. This is taken as a direct challenge. In some you never speak to any of their females. In some you never will get the person to speak directly to you. Rather they speak to someone else and that person relays what they say even though they are standing right in front of you. Some you never speak directly about what you want or need or want to ask about. You need to always converse about their health and family first.  Some will even try to marry you to a member of their family. Why? Because by their tradition they expect you to take care of the whole family and they do nothing until someone else gets married. You need to know tribal laws, tribal customs and religious beliefs when going there. Always have gifts for the leaders, and elders, when you go and show respect.

12) Be careful about things that they are superstitious of unless you know how to do this properly and in your own way be wise. Having this knowledge opens doors and allows you to have access to things most don’t. For instance, I know some Southwestern tribes fear a wolf. So, I took the wolves with me when I went to do any trade dealings. If I thought they were trying to get one over on me, I would look at my brother wolf and he would change his eyes to look another way and they could see that. He would lift and curl his lips back and they would decide to give me a better deal.

13) I love the art of trading and it is a time-honored ritual amongst Native peoples, but it takes skills too, so both sides are happy. Trading with Natives is never a hurry up thing; it shows you respect their ways when you don’t argue and you aren’t in a rush. Never show that you really want something. That is not good manners. Trading is always trading something of equal or greater value, but more value to whom? For example, if your people are turquoise rich, then turquoise really doesn’t mean that much to you, but let’s say you don’t have the sabia, crystals which your tribe needs for ceremonies, for your homes and personal use. Now I know you have turquoise and you know I have the sabias, but I’m not acting like I’m really interested in trading for turquoise, but you are acting like you want the sabias. So after a long discussion on numerous other trivial items, we will get back to the trade you really want and not only will I get the turquoise but also the jewelry you have made or traded for that is turquoise and sterling silver and onyx. But see, I know you will go trade the sabias to your people for more items at a big profit. I have plenty of sabias but now I have items to trade to other people and tribes where they don’t have the turquoise and silver. All this time I have continued the ancient cultural ways of trade and opening cultures with other tribes and nations.  Who knows, I may make a gift of some of these items to other tribal leaders, elders, and spiritual teachers.  I always provide things freely to the spiritual leaders of tribes and always look for things they need. Then I either deliver it to them on my next time through or mail it to them for I encourage and support the spiritual teachings for every tribe.

14) Now anytime you hear that an open drum is now going, what does this mean? Well it means that anyone who would like to come to the drum can come sit and join in. If they say it is a closed drum, that means only the ones on the drum are allowed.  I would recommend that each of you travel to Albuquerque, NM and participate in the Gathering of Nations each year. This will give you a firsthand look at nations and tribes from everywhere. Just remember that the traditional Southeastern tribes are very different than the Western tribes always.

These few small things are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to all the different customs of respect we all need to know about.

Respectfully, Ghost

Ghost Dancer © August 2017

UNICOR

Along the Way. . .

Experiences, Insights & Humor on the “Long Road Home”

By Steven Maisenbacher

Well, how do I start about a factory prison job? It’s crazy in that I have done so many different things thru UNICOR, the Federal Prison Industries.

If you are in prison, you need money to exist – and don’t I know because “I ain’t got none.” LOL. So you have to understand, this being in prison is no picnic. Yes, you have the opportunity to eat 3 times a day and yes you will have clothes to wear and a bed with sheets on it, but there is no way you could imagine what it takes for real to be at least half way comfortable in here.

See it’s like this, what if you want to go to the recreation yard? Well if so you’re going to need some tennis shoes because for real you can’t do much of anything but work in the boots they issue out.

You will also need sweat pants and shirt, or shorts, or maybe a pair of workout gloves. If you are like me, you might want to play softball so in order to play the type of game I was accustomed to playing before my back was wrecked, you will need cleats as well.

So after you have been outside “reccin” you’re going to be hungry. The cheapest snack you can get is a ramen noodle or some crackers. My point here is all this costs M-O-N-E-Y. You’ve got to have money if you expect to have any quality of life. So you have to work to earn it. Fair enough.

Now you’ve got to know all the prison jobs are cruddy and don’t pay diddly squat for real. You may get a job say washing dishes, $20.00 a month. A job on the maintenance crew, or as a plumber or electrician, pays a little more, $30-40.00 per month. But trust me, you’re going to work like a gray-mouth mule and it ain’t going to get you but a few soups, a bag of coffee, and maybe some hygiene items like shampoo, toothpaste or deodorant but you will not make it a month on what you can earn in a prison job. Period. End of story.

BUT… If you sign on to go into UNICOR, the Federal Prison Industries, motto: “We’re Life Changing,” you will do so many things that you couldn’t imagine them and you will make enough money to not only eat a little something, but you will be able to use all the soap, shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste you want because you’ll have a few bucks at the end of the month.

UNICOR pay starts out at .22 cents an hour for 90 days, then .44 cents for 90 days, then .66 cents for 90 days, then .92  for 90 days and finally after a year, $1.10 per hour for every hour that you work like a dog in the factory for them.

Now I know that it doesn’t seem like much (and it isn’t ) but I currently make an extra .30 cents an hour for what is called “longevity.” That’s like incentive steps in pay for the amount of time you have been in the factory working, and it follows you if you transfer to another prison and go into the factory, so all the months/years that you have been in UNICOR follow you towards this longevity. The first longevity is a dime, then .15 cents then .20 cents then finally the last step after 7 years, maximum longevity, .30 cents an hour on top of whatever your current hourly rate of pay is. So I am talking bank here folks, enough for those tennis shoes and sweat clothes and snickety snacks and soups and coffee and a whole passel of other stuff to make your “stay” just a tad bit more comfortable.

See, I’m a really proud and vain man, I ask the Creator daily to help me with these failings, but he must think they look good on me because so far, no luck. Anyway, I don’t like to ask anyone for anything unless I’m at the absolute end of all the options available, whether they be what is called “prison hustling” like stealing a loaf of bread out of the chow hall, or washing clothes in the block, or cleaning houses, or writing letters for people. Writing letters I do for free when anyone asks because I know what it is like to not be able to read or write and that is not a good feeling. These are a few of the things that can generate some money if you have nowhere else to go for it.

Now I will say this right now for total transparency, luckily I am a man with people who love me, family, they are always there when I need a little something to tide me over and they have never failed in all the decades of my captivity to come thru and I am sure that sometimes they will scrimp on something to send to me, so here goes… THANK YOU everyone! I love you and I am blessed to have you in my life and there for me.

As for UNICOR, what I want to tell is all truth and these are the facts on what I like to call it – the BAD PLACE – as in, I don’t want to go to the bad place today; I want to sit in the unit and watch TV or go outside and make jewelry, etc. etc. Anyway, there are a zillion things UNICOR has their hands in – here it’s textiles (military uniforms and tactical vests).

Over the years, I’ve built everything from lockers to modesty panels for office cubicles, as well as computer carousels and work stations, I’ve been trained in so many different areas that most people would find it hard to believe. I have journeyman’s ratings in tool and die design, know auto cad, and hand drafting as well. I’m also able to go from the drafting table to the machine shop and build what I design. I’ve run huge Cleveland punch presses and press brakes, overhead cranes that move serious tonnage in steel rolls for industrial fabrication applications, as well as got my millwright certification, but what I have done most of and had the most training for is “quality assurance inspector.” I’ve been a “Q.A.” for more than 19 years, in several institutions.

I’ve been transferred two times in order to train other Q.A.’s in the ISO systems of manufacturing management and am certified to audit internally all ISO systems in place in any factory anywhere in the world, in or out of prison. Even though I am now in my 60ies and have disabilities, if I am forced to work when I’m released, that is the field I will most likely seek out.

We have discussed the why’s of working for UNICOR, now let me tell you about some of the supervisors that I’ve had. I truly can say that some of these cops have had a huge impact on me and my life. I have learned many trades and skills from these dedicated people, I have had laughs and arguments with a few, I’ve had really decent human beings wearing uniforms trying to pay their bills with a good job, teaching me and often working side by side with me, I would never have made it this far in my life without the training and the opportunity to keep my mind busy and my hands active, learning and building and designing and inspecting.

Some of the people who stand out are Ms. G. from Petersburg, Virginia print plant, Mr. Shook, now retired from Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and Mr. Cox, the factory manager and former quality assurance manager here in Talladega. These are just a few of the people I really feel I owe respect and gratitude to. It’s one thing to come into a prison and know your job is to monitor and supervise a bunch of criminals; it’s another to do it and still treat the men with dignity and respect, and actually try to teach them marketable skills, instill work ethics that some have never had or known. For this I feel like the Creator put these people in my path, to aid me in my journey and to help me become a better man than I ever was before.

You need to hear it from me, I needed to spend my life in here in order to get it right, to get myself right and to be ready for the rest of my journey thru this life. This is just the way it is, I’m not mad or bitter. After all, I could have been gunned down in my youth on the path I was taking and I’d be willing to tell you, it’s thru the Creator’s love and care that I was not. The Creator spared my life, he just put some restrictions in place, to keep me from hurting others or getting hurt, for this I am thankful in every prayer.

I will close out this story with a few other facts. I have worked for UNICOR Federal Prison Industries for 29 years. I have been a Q.A. for more than 19 years, I am soon to be done in UNICOR when I’m released next year at age 62.  However… I do not have a 401-K plan, nor a retirement package, nor will I be given a gold watch.

The feds say UNICOR is a training program to help us convicts become able to go into the free world with trades and work ethics, but if this is so then where does the training period stop?

Was it before they sent me to 2 separate prisons to train others in the things I had been trained in or after? All these years and not one dime has been paid into Social Security in my name. Not one red cent, for 29 years of service, 7.25 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, 29 years. Not one cent will I get for this other than the pittance they have given me. They pay me $1.22 per hour, they charge my time to the customers at a minimum of $15.00 per hour.

You figure it out, not one cent in retirement, 401K or Social Security, but hey, I got some tennis shoes and a soup…

As I prepare to enter the free world next year, I wonder who would hire an ex-felon with my resume:

                        

                       STEVEN W. MAISENBACHER

For more than 20 years I have served as a Certified Quality Assurance Inspector with ISO Certification in UNICOR Federal Prison Industries. I look forward to bringing my experience, skills and work ethic to similar manufacturing operations in the private sector.
EXPERIENCE
2001 – 2022
CERTIFIED QUALITY ASSURANCE – ISO CERTIFIED TO AUDIT, UNICOR
Worked in various UNICOR manufacturing facilities – Quality Assurance Inspector, with qualifications in textile, automotive, furniture and modular furniture with a strong background in graphic arts, processes and quality assurance requirements. Was trained in ISO standards and eventually tested and certified to audit operations and factory management techniques as well. Have been transferred by the BOP on two separate occasions to two different locations in order to train other inmates in the ISO standards and to assist prison administrators in restructuring the quality assurance departments in these facilities to operate more productively. Most recently I have been working in textile, inspecting military garments. I have worked continuously until my release from prison.

SKILLS
• ISO Certified to audit, blueprint literate, schematic literate, able to plan and fulfill sequence-oriented jobs.
• Able to focus intensely on a task to see its completion.
• Intelligent, rational, determined
• Patient, loyal, self-starter

EDUCATION
1995 – 2000
GED, some college credits and extensive trades training offered in federal prison including:
• Tool and Die, Industrial Millwright, Industrial plumber/steamfitter, adult continuing education instructor.
• Completed 500-hour residential RDAP program as well as the PrEP DAP 40-hour course and a year aftercare and monthly counseling sessions. Addiction to drugs played a major role in all my crimes as well as problems in life. In fact I would be able to safely and confidently say that had I not been abusing drugs, I would never have committed the crimes that so ruined my life. I have been clean and sober for more than 20 years.
2001
Certified Quality Assurance – ISO certified to audit operations and factory management techniques, UNICOR

PERSONAL ACTIVITIES AND GOALS
• I am a voracious reader. My favorites are the literary classics from all periods of history and around the world, to the old American west to translations of authentic Native American language, history and culture. I have a passion for reading and learning.
• I have worked for years to develop my skills as a jewelry maker and have built my own line of jewelry, “Rocks On A String.”
• My greatest passion is singing and songwriting. I have worked as lead singer with prison bands and sung with gospel quartets. My poetry and song lyrics reflect my feelings and experiences.
• While in prison I have sought to set a good example for younger inmates who are struggling to overcome their own addictions and irresponsible life ways. On the outside, one of my goals is to use my talents and knowledge to help guide troubled youth away from the life I led and help them find a better path before it’s too late. I would love to enroll in college to gain skills as a youth counselor.

© Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher, 2021

* Reference Chapter 12, Long Journey Home for more on UNICOR, Petersburg print plant.

LONG ROAD HOME (24)

By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com
Chapter 24

I Have a Dream

October 2021

When my “Out Date” arrives in about a year, I will be going to a Halfway House where I will receive the help and assistance needed to readjust and get on my feet. The counselors there will have a packet of information on every aspect of my history, medical issues, and recommendations from my prison case manager.

As a part of preparing this packet, one of the things I needed to do was put together a resume to help the counselors there assess my employment potential. Just the act of pulling together my work and educational history, skills, and personal accomplishments all into one document gave me a sense of pride and confidence. It also gave me the courage to dare to speak of my dreams for the future.

I’m pretty sure that if you were to ask 100 men in prison if they had a dream and were able to live it, I might be the only one who would say I want to give back to the community and world in a way that could matter.

When thinking about getting out of prison many scenarios play continually in my mind about what I will do with the rest of my life. I don’t want all the other stuff quite as much as I would like to be able to go back to school just enough to go into the field of social work, maybe speaking to groups and most definitely troubled youth.

In fact the very idea that this could be a reality for me when I get released is amazing and I will positively look into it and see what I will need to do to get accredited or certified or whatever it would take to at least get involved in the field.

This drive and desire is so instilled in me that on the night of Friday the 3rd of September 2021, I had a dream about it. This dream was really life-like and when I woke up I could remember far more of it than I normally do.

In this dream, I was in a gymnasium type setting; the place was full of kids in their teen years, as well as some adults around the fringes. I was standing and walking in front of them, speaking to this young audience, kind of like a motivational speaker. I was telling them that although they were all here because they had become problematic, I understood their problems probably better than they did, for I had walked the same destructive path when I was young. Before it’s too late, I told them, they could change – that even the toughest and most hardened of criminals can change.

On a huge screen behind me, I showed images of myself in some of the most notorious penitentiaries in the country so they could see the person I once was. That while the world had pretty much chosen to throw me away because of the choices I had made, I, me, myself had decided I didn’t like who I was and what I had found myself becoming in the situation and circumstances I was in. I wanted them to see that even though I had been thrown out of some of the roughest prisons in the United States because I was unmanageable, I had changed.

But it took me and my will and commitment to even start that change. No one else can change you, and no one in the world can change for you.

It takes courage to step away from what you know.

It takes strength to step into unknown territory and make yourself into the person that you know you want to be and walk away from the one you had created with bad choices and stupid challenges.

It takes courage, strength, determination and belief in yourself. this is where change comes from for you, from within you.

You are the changes you want to become. You! You must do the things that are hard for you, step into the light, become someone you can be proud of.

No one else can do it – not your parents or your friends, or the neighbors, or your teachers! No one but you makes you who and what you want to be, and it is never too late to become that change! I know because it took me 37 years in prison to get it right. . .

Now as I think of my dream and the empowering things I said, I can’t get over the one thing that struck me most about it – the number of times and the amount of truth that all came back to the one word – YOU.

At that moment I realized that the you was indeed me, and I wanted to be the one who was able to take my truths and share them and get them out to these people, as much or more than I have ever wanted anything else in my entire life.

So here it is, a dream of mine – a real dream – based on things I have mentioned to people close to me before. This is something that I truly want to do, so I am going to have to find a way to take “me” and go back to school, do what is hardest and learn whatever I have to in order to make this dream a reality. I’m sure of this, just as sure as I am of the fact that doing this is going to change a lot of my plans and a lot of what I thought I would do when released.

Now I see that my journey is really only beginning. See, I have a dream. . .

                   SEE SOMEONE OF WORTH

I ache so deeply for the freedoms I gave away, 
I learned my lessons and the price I have paid,
I’m standing on the edge and it would be so easy again to fall,
Without someone to reach out and help me make sense of it all, 
It wouldn’t take much, a kind word of encouragement or two, 
Or a point in the right direction, or whatever you could do,
see, we need to be humanized and shown compassion again,
We need to do the right things instead of where we have been,
So if you look closely, deep inside you will see, 
Someone of worth and that someone is me...
Steven Walks on the Grass to Sings Many Songs
September 22, 2019

Walks, your tender spirit shines through,
In all you say and do,
Walks On The Grass,
I see great worth in you,
I see many angels standing at your side,
Listen! They will help you,
With kind patience they abide,
Your struggles they can see, but that’s not all,
They will guide you if you stumble,
And they will catch you if you fall.
Sings Many Songs
September 23, 2019

And it’s good to know it is still seen, 
even with the cracks and dents in between, 
and there is help in what you say, 
after all it took 30 years and some to get this way,
now I will be closing my eyes as I look inside ,
to that special place where the angels fly,
cuz you told me they will be there, 
and you told me of my worth and that you care, 
So I will walk softly in this new way,
cuz in love and beauty is where I will stay, 
and one last thing before I go, 
you’re amazing and I wanted to tell you so.
Steven Walks on the Grass
September 23, 2019

Post Script

I am actually glowing with excitement and so proud of myself I could explode. I have actually done what I set out to do; I have written a book from beginning to end, from where I started, to where I wanted to stop. I did it and with a lot less pain than I anticipated. For that I thank my awesome editor and publisher, Edna “Sings Many Songs” Dixon, my cousin, my friend and my mentor, to whom I owe more than mere thanks. I owe a debt of gratitude that I can never repay. Sings helped me come out of myself and do what I never believed I could do.

Man, I ain’t no author. WRING! I am now, because of Sings. She encouraged me in this until she had broken thru and got me to be me, on paper. Thanks Sings… but I’m still gonna squirt you with a hose when I water the tomatoes. Nothing personal, just business…haha.

Along the Way

I spoke with Sings about the next project, in fact I told her of it weeks ago, said I was already scheming on it in my mind. So let me tell you, I want to do a collection of stories and essays about things that have happened along the way during this journey.  I’ll talk about people and situations, things that have happened and stories that you just can’t make up about how life in prison actually goes, and the struggles and triumphs over self and system.

Then there’s the fact that I will be released from prison before too many months. A lot could happen this next year and getting my brain wrapped around the very idea of freedom and the world outside these walls will be a big part of that.

So, ya‘all keep an eye out for Along the Way. It’s coming and I’m pretty sure it’ll be a lot easier to get done now that we, (Sings and me) got the first epic adventure across the finish line. So have a nice day in spite of the mean people, and pray for the world, it needs a sweat lodge ceremony.

In spirit I remain,

Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher October 2021

A big THANK YOU for reading my story. Your support and understanding mean the world to me! I would love to know what you think and hope you will return to read the other stories and insights I’d like to share. Walks

Moons, Ceremonials & Dances

Sacred Medicine Ways – Part 11

A Teaching by Ghost Dancer

Now it is important to understand each month has its own specific moon cycle. There are 13 moon cycles per year and 28 days to a complete moon cycle. We counted time by the moon cycles. We harvested crops, planted crops, hunted, fished, gathered fruits, berries, nuts, medicine plants, burned our fields, cleared land, dug post holes, etc. all by the moon. There were moons to seek courtship, to mate; even seeking spiritual visions is done by certain moons. When young ones are being trained and must find their spirit helpers and seek visions (dream walks) they must do these things on certain moons only.

Women planned on getting pregnant by certain moons as well. Unlike today’s society, all women had knowledge of how and when to get pregnant. Women knew what plant to use to help them ovulate and what plant to use to prevent pregnancy. Yes, this is all knowledge young girls were taught. Women had a hard life. Their lives revolved around the family and clan structures, so it was necessary to plan their pregnancies at the best time for adequate support and in the interest of all the family.

During each moon cycle, certain dances were observed and held. Smaller bands did what they could but relied a lot on the larger villages and towns to help them so they had a vested interest in attending and participating in ceremonies and dances.

Each clan such as the deer, bear, wolf, wind, raccoon, bird, wolf, and beaver clans all had special times by the moons that called for ceremonies. It is most important that you understand that all clans had certain moons that were their own particular times to do things. When each specific moon came about, certain ceremonies took place.

LITTLE SPRING MONTH (tasahcuce) is a time to rejoice because the winter moons have faded and new life is beginning. New crops will be planted so we have fasting, drinking the black drink, dancing and prayer offerings for success of our crops that we are now ready to plant. In preparation of this all the town’s crop fields, village crop fields and individual gardens are all cleared off and then burned. The beloved women and clan mothers bless the fields, and offer prayers. They will sing and dance around the fields offering their prayer songs for Mother Earth, Grandmother Sun, and Grandfather Moon, asking all to help in making the crops grow and be fruitful.

At night, dances to honor Mother Earth, Grandmother Sun, and Grandfather Moon were held. Then, when all was ready on the time chosen by the keethla (kerrv) or keethlulgi (plural), meaning “knower(s)” or one who knows – individuals with special gifts or powers beyond the ordinary –  would have the clan mothers and beloved women lead everyone to the fields and pass out the seeds or bulbs that are to be planted. As this was done prayer songs are sung to Mother Earth, Grandmother Sun, and Grandfather Moon so these crops will grow and be fruitful for the people. This was all done with love in their hearts for the seeds to grow. The women continued to sing prayers each day and take care of the plants as they grew. When the planting ceremony was finished, everyone sang together, giving thanks for these things and for life and to all that is.

FROST MOON was celebrated by fasting, drinking the black drink to purge the body, and dancing. The dancing would be started by 4 hunters chosen to lead the dance. These 4 would dance around the square 4 times for 4 different dances. Why hunters? Well, because the frost moon was the time when hunting the rabbit, squirrel, deer, etc. would begin; after the first hard frost. This would ensure certain parasites would be killed off of the animals being hunted allowing for better meat, better furs and skins to use. The dances would later include dances for the deer, rabbit, squirrels, bear, panther, etc. This would include later the rabbit and turkey dance for couples.

Offerings are made to ensure successful hunts. Certain of the best hunters have already been selected to hunt the deer, squirrel, rabbit, bear, and panther, and after all have been successful, each of these will be offered to the sacred fire as offerings for the hunt that will begin later. All villages and towns observe and practice these things. Many times, larger towns host these ceremonies for the smaller villages, or bands, in surrounding areas. Each town will send a messenger who will carry the bundle of sticks to each band or village, letting them know they have that number of days to arrive. Each stick counts as a day and all are expected to arrive at least 1 day ahead of the beginning of the event. In the event that a band or village is late or doesn’t attend, fines or discipline will be sanctioned by the town micco.

After all the dances and offerings are completed, the hunters retreat to be blessed by sprinkling corn pollen, cedar, tobacco and holly over them. Then they go to pray to their spirit helpers and to the spirit of the animals they will be hunting, asking for their help and success in the hunts. When they pray, they offer to give thanks each day and pay tributes to them by singing songs for them and dancing for them in their honor! The hunters now bless their weapons with the offerings of cedar, corn pollen, tobacco, and holly.

Then the hunters begin to do dream walks, visualizing those they are to hunt; see them and send them love, letting them know it is in love for them and gratitude of their people that the giving of their bodies will give life to their people. The dream walk is a not like a normal dream. When doing a dream walk, the person sends their own spirit out of their body and lets it go where it needs or seeks to go.  All hunters, trackers, farmers, doctors, warriors, fishermen, spiritual people do this. All leaders do this so they can see what is best for their people.

The hunters speak to the leaders of the animals they hunt and ask for their help in these matters. Now once this is done the hunters go their separate ways to their hunting areas. As each kill is done, prayers are offered for each animal and for their kind as well. When the hunters return with their bounty of meats, a feast is held and honor songs for each of these animals are sung. A choice meat of each animal is offered to the fire and animal dances are done. The people celebrate life for all life this way.  Now the couples and romancing dances begin!

The Rabbit Dance for couples is a round dance. Each couple side by side, holding hands crossed over between them, dance in harmony together with each other and the drum. Their bodies move as one in every beat and they dance for as long as they choose to make it last. Rabbit dancing is a lover’s dance – yes, all married people are lovers too! 

Couples who play together, dance together, and renew their passion, love, and devotion to each other do not get divorced, or left behind. It is good to have so many different moons and each month different celebrations lead to more dancing. It is good medicine as we say, it keeps love flowing between couples, and it always helps with replenishing the population.

The Turkey Dance is a couple’s dance as well, but this is a beautiful, sensuous, exotic dance.  The women all line up on one side of the square and the men on the other side. Males will act as gobblers and the females will act as hens. Their bodies are covered in oils and painted to accent their gifts and the curves of their attributes. The women sensuously dance towards the males, first flirting and touching the males only with their feathers, then dance away trying to draw them to come after them. Then coming back, the women become more flirtatious, teasing more and more with their eyes, promising all kinds of delights, their bodies floating on air and enticing the strongest of hearts as they fade away to the other side of the square. 

Then the males begin to approach, mimicking the moves of the turkey. Thrusting their chests out, spreading arms out to the sides with their feathers all expanded, they begin their struts. Athletic oiled bodies gleam in the fire light; paint reflects exotic designs to accent their powerful bodies as slowly they move steadily towards the females. Coming close, yet not touching, their breath tingles on the female’s skin as the males slowly, gently use their feathers to tease and arouse their ladies. Then strutting away they dance as a gobbler would, mimicking every move a gobbler does, adding their own personal touches to show off their power. Then the couples dance together as mates, their feathers touching in harmony as one while the drum pounds out the beautiful vibrant beats and the singers all harmonize the songs. It is a sight to behold.

These two dances are very important to every moon and to every important ceremony, especially to our next moon, the blood moon.

BLOOD MOON – Blood moons are rare and very special to all tribes and all Native nations. Each nation has its own beliefs and practices for this event when it occurs. But all understand the importance of the blood moon. To the Mvskoge and the Mvskoke peoples, the blood moon represented two important things. Either Grandfather Moon was angry or Grandfather Moon was very aroused, so the people covered both so as to make it right.

Let’s deal with the angry part first. To most Mvskoke or Mvskoge peoples, when Grandfather Moon (hvresse puca) was angry, it was because some offense towards the people had occurred and had not been balanced out. The people’s blood laws demanded that offenses must always be balanced out and maintained. All towns, villages and bands observed the blood laws, so questions were asked in each to determine who had been violated, or who had violated another under the blood laws.

This usually pertained to other tribal nations who had killed or injured a member of the people, stolen someone or property, or even violated the hunting grounds, burial mounds, etc. Once this was found out, a quick council would be held and balance would be demanded by the clan mothers. The leader would be given her/his orders to get this done. She/he would select a certain number of chosen warriors to go with her/him to restore balance. This would be done under law. For instance, if a child or person of the people had been captured or stolen, the designated warriors would have to go and free that person and capture or steal one of the people from the offending party. If a person had been injured, wounded, killed or crippled by these people, the blood laws demanded balance, so this was done swiftly.

The clan mothers would bless the war leader and all the warriors, sprinkling them with corn pollen, corn meal, cedar, holly, and tobacco and they would all be smudged. They would be given the black drink to purge, and later given special medicine that only the keethla would make and give them to enhance the war leader, and warrior’s abilities, stamina, and awaken all their senses to a higher degree than ordinarily possible. Honor demands that balance be restored. This is our code.

In case Grandfather was aroused, while the war leader led the warriors off to restore balance and harmony, the clan mothers held love dances. Members of all the villages, bands, and towns gathered, fasted, drank the black drink and purged. Each eligible dancer would be sprinkled with the corn pollen, cedar, holly, tobacco and some special love medicine made by the medicine peoples. A special tea was also made so that both female and male would drink and bless their bodies on the inside!

Four women are chosen to lead in the dances four times around the square, each time faster and more skilled as they go, dancing erotically, sensually, teasing all the eligible male participants. When they finish, the four who are chosen will lead all the women in the dance four times around the square, each time getting faster and faster and skilled as they go. Then all the males who are eligible to participate join in, all dancing erotically, teasing all the females, showing off their powerful and athletic bodies four times around the square. When they finish, each woman comes to her mate and they dance together as one all night into the early morning until one by one they wander off to their own secluded places and make love. This helps restore the balance/harmony for Grandfather moon.

This is done each night until the war leader and warriors return. After rites of purification and clean-up ceremonies are completed, the announcement of what they have done is made, and those who are captured or stolen are displayed in the square. Usually these individuals will be adopted into the tribe later. If members who had previously been stolen or captured have been recovered, they are cleansed and purified and danced around the square four times welcoming them back amongst the people. When all these things are done, then the war leader and warriors will now dance with their mates and make love through the night.

The next night it will be announced that all has been done to appease Grandfather Moon and balance/harmony has been restored. The clan mothers, keethlas, beloved women and men will let the people know that life is truly good for all our people once again. They will bless and thank every member of the tribe, from the youngest to the oldest. Making sure every single member feels loved, appreciated and honored, and most importantly that each one is needed and special. This is the way of the people. This makes each band, each village, town and tribe so united as one in heart, mind and body. As we say, one heart, one mind, and one prayer – we are one!

Respectfully, Ghost

Ghost Dancer © 2017

LONG ROAD HOME (23)

By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com
Chapter 23

Roll The Footage

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 – A really good brother!

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.

Walks July 2021

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.

LONG ROAD HOME (22)

By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com
Chapter 22

Headaches, Heartaches & Spiritual Challenges

Jason has left, I’m by myself but another Native is in the block. He had several falls to the addictions of his past while in other units. He had ended up going to the hole but coming out clean and sober and with that mentality in mind, he decided to come to Unicor and move down here. That put him in my block, but at the time I had Jason and since Jason and I had agreed not to just  up and move out on the other person, I told the other brother I had a cellie and he could not move in, that I wasn’t going to break my word to Jason without giving him a chance to make arrangements to have a compatible cellie.

But once Jason left, the other brother asked, no begged, me to let him move in claiming his current cell mate was a problem and involved with all the things he was now “done” with. So I sat him down and told him that Ghost had handed the pipe down to me, that I was the pipe carrier for the Native Americans here on this yard and the spokesman for the Native group even before I became the pipe carrier. I made it amply clear that I live a certain way and there are things I will not tolerate or things that cannot be done in this cell because I have my pipe and the pipe for the group living here with me. See, our pipes are considered to be living entities by most Native Americans; they are reservoirs for our prayers and the spiritual wellbeing of the users of the pipes. So I  let him know I would not tolerate any drugs, drug usage or gambling or alcohol or alcohol usage, nor would I allow any pornography, these are the rules. So if I let him move in he will not violate these conditions otherwise he would have to move out.

He really wanted to move in with me and of course he agreed, said he would never disrespect me or the pipe so we got with the counselor and made it happen. Things went well for a month and a half, up until I went to sick call. I still had the hacking cough and it was producing copious amounts of nasty stuff so finally I had enough. I went to sick call and saw (my now) favorite nurse. I sat down in her office and pulled out a vitamin bottle with a sample of the coughed-up stuff and said I thought I might need some antibiotics. She immediately agreed, said she would start the antibiotics but added she was going to need to get x-rays and some other things to see what is going on. She has me cough a fresh specimen in a bottle to send off to the lab and I’m to start the antibiotics. But then I told her I had had pneumonia a month before and didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to get us put back on lockdown. Well, she kind of flipped out like, “What?!? Are you serious right now? You could have died!!”

Yeah, I’m thinking sheepishly. So ok, I didn’t so let’s just get over it and fix this nastiness still coming out of me. Ten days later I am no better. I see the doctor this time and they put me on an even stronger antibiotic, plus they go ahead and do the x-ray that was ordered 10 days previously. The x-ray technician was out for 2 weeks so it took that long to get to me.

I go in, the tech says, “Chest against the plate.” click, whir, click… “Ok, breathe, now turn to the left and press your side against the plate.” Click, whir, click… “Ok, that’s it, have a seat on the bench while I review it.”

She leaves the door open and I have a clear view into the room. All of a sudden she steps to the door and says, “Doctor, can you please step in here for a moment.”

I see them looking at the monitor where my x-rays are posted, she is pointing and gesticulating. Then I hear her say, “OK, I will.” She was talking about having the radiologist read it ASAP and return the report. This was at about 1 p.m. so I went on back to work. At 3 p.m. as we are waiting to go in for the day the foreman calls me to the door and tells me they want me at medical. So I go over, and as I walk in the door I get a weird feeling, it’s strange, just felt like there was doom and gloom in the air.

The doctor comes out to get me and takes me back to her office. “Mr. Maisenbacher,” she says, “I have good and bad news.”

“OK, give me the bad so we can water it down with the good.”

She looks me in the eye and tells me they have found a mass in my left lung, and it does not look good. So the good news, they will do everything they can to get me out of here to where I can be treated or made comfortable, but first they want to do a CT scan.

The news is devastating. I just couldn’t believe what I just heard. I want to cry but don’t dare. Can’t allow myself to feel like I’ve given up.  All I could say was that I will do whatever is necessary to beat this. “I don’t die easy,” I say, “I’m kinda hard to kill.”

The doctor offers me some pills for depression and anxiety. I decline. “No, I want to face this on my own terms, not under the fog of some drug, but thanks.”

I walk out the door, this is the hardest walk of my life. I have made it thru 37 years and just when the end is in sight with only 17 months left to serve, to be told I probably had cancer, and to have the doctor suggesting it might not be treatable…so many emotions I couldn’t name one other than the one biggest one: Why would the Creator change me, turn my life around, just to take it before I could ever get to freedom and have a chance to live the changes and share the beauty of these ways.

I’m shaken for real! While walking back all I could think about was how to face this with my family, I just couldn’t call everyone and tell them about this. I need my cousin, Sings Many Songs, she is the one person who always says the right thing. She is so full of compassion and understanding that I sometimes just shake my head when I think of the wise things she says, able to always show me a better way if I feel I’m faltering.

So I get back to the block and go into my cell, I tell my cellie, they just called me to medical to tell me they found a massive mass in my lung and they are going to send me to a medical center. He looked at me and said nonchalantly, “You’ll be all right.” His tone was so cold and unfeeling, I would later find out he was using drugs and under the influence of narcotics at that very moment. So I called Sings, and when I told her the entire story she was as floored as I was. I asked her to please call my brother and email my friends to tell them what is going on. I just couldn’t face all the questions that I couldn’t answer. I was just not prepared to deal with any of it yet and while I had managed to put on the brave face for everyone so far, it was in fact a weak cover for the distress I was actually feeling,

I couldn’t think or do anything but trip over the fact that I was really, really ill and may not be able to get thru it. It was tearing me up and I just couldn’t talk to anyone about it. Evidently medical didn’t have the same dilemma, they told everyone, revealing medical information about me without my permission to all sorts of people. Granted, they were all staff, but they still didn’t need to be briefed on my medical condition. A couple days after the news, on a Saturday morning I was sitting in the day room and watching TV when in comes the chaplain and his assistant. He sits down at the table with me and tells me how sorry he was to hear the news and was there anything I wanted to do or say. Then he asked if I was alright.

Well no, actually I’m not. I don’t know whether to cry or laugh. I don’t know whether to fight it or just die. I don’t know anything other than the fact that if I did know anything he would not be the person I would want to confide in with anything or for any reason. See, I’ve been around the block a few times with these prison chaplains and there is one thing I know. If they want to be a cop as bad or worse than to be a chaplain, it’s not worth the time to even attempt to trust them with your inner feelings or problems, because they are seeing everything from a “cop” perspective and mentality. Chaplains are quick to say they are being paid to be both a cop and a chaplain, then from my perspective, usually the cop part is more important to them than the chaplain part. Maybe not in all of them, but certainly some, and this is a shame because guys in here really do need genuine spiritual guidance.

Anyway, they sent psychology as well. She didn’t even have to decency to call me to her office and offer to sit down with me to talk. She came to Unicor and called me to the front like I was a side thought to just get out of the way. So naturally my answer to everyone was “I’m fine, I’m dealing with it.” I just told them I would fight it however I have to and blew it off with, “I don’t die easy,” but inside I was dying every moment.

I kept praying for strength, especially in my dawn prayers. Normally I get up daily between 4 am and 5 am to pray then I will lay back down and wait for them to open the door, then it’s off to the races. But during this time my prayers were in my thoughts, dawn, noon and night until I went to sleep. So the first week goes by, and medical decides to do an x-ray every week to see how the pneumonia and the mass are progressing. Then here comes a bit of good news, the first x-ray shows the mass has diminished greatly. 

Looking at the X-ray, the doctor tells me, “This is not cancer. Cancer doesn’t just start shrinking like that.”  

I’m still not sure what the heck to believe, so I just keep praying and stressing and wondering what I will do if I have to have surgery or whatever. Then the next week same thing, the mass was still about the same, but the lung seems to be clearing of the milky looking part that all but filled it in the first X-ray. So the antibiotics are definitely working now and the pneumonia is going away. Then the fourth week, on March 11, 2021, they come get me from work, lock me up overnight then take me out the next morning for the CT scan. When I get back to the institution I have to be screened by the doctor and while he is seeing me, he calls the hospital and they tell him they find absolutely nothing of a dreadful nature! The lesion in the lung had been part of the pneumonia, just what I had hoped it would be all along.

So naturally I’m leaving medical so elated I’m actually laughing uncontrollably. This has been one heck of an emotional ride. I had been convinced I was dying and then there was hope, then the attempts to counsel me by both the chaplain and psychology services, and every staff member they told, all my unit team, all the cops at work, and I am totally without any stupid cancer! Insane! I thought I should sue them for mental and emotional distress, but at this point I’m just glad to be ok. But hold on… it gets better…

March 12, I get back to the unit and call Sings to give her the news. We are both beyond pleased and happy. After our call, I go ahead and take a shower and I’m thinking a nap is in order so I go and lay down. Now its 3 p.m. and my cellie comes in from work. We really haven’t been talking because he is using drugs and I refuse to have even the simplest conversation with him. Now its lock down for count and all of a sudden, the cop comes, unlocks the door, asks my name and then tells me I have to go to the lieutenant’s office.

“For what?”

“Don’t worry you are not in trouble.”

OK, whatever, I go up there and see two more cops dressed in what looked like hazmat suits. I can hear a lieutenant loudly talking in the office saying something about “He has been walking around my compound with TB for weeks!”

I’m pretty sure they couldn’t be talking about me, but when they come out  it’s, “You’re going to the hospital to be tested and have tests run for TB.”

“WHAT?” I argue, “Look you got the wrong man, I just got tested for cancer and I’m clear, so I know it ain’t no TB.”

They tell me I don’t have a choice, either I go or they put me in the hole and get a court order to do it, but either way, “You’re going.”

So I say, “You know what? I’m sick of you people, let’s just go and get it over with.”

So off to the hospital I go. We get to the Coosa Valley Medical Center, they get me admitted and I’m placed in a negative pressure room, a private isolation room, with 2 cops in the hallway right outside, 24 hrs. a day. I’m shackled to the bed, with handcuffs and a long chain to the bed, but I’m alone with a TV and a remote and this is where I would stay for the next seven days. Over the course of that week they did 38 blood tests, ran 3 different antibiotics through an IV line 24 hours a day and gave me breathing treatments 4 times a day. They also had me do 3 sputum tests for TB and the piece de resistance, a bronchoscopy under anesthesia so the pulmonary specialist could run a tube down my throat into my left lung to look around with a camera and take a scraping of the lesion area. This doctor told me herself the next day that there was no reason for them to bring me there. They could have isolated me at the institution, done a skin test, and gotten the same results.

All this time I was not allowed to make any phone calls and my family was given no information as to where I was or what was wrong.  I knew my loved ones on the outside would be worried sick wondering what had happened to me. Later I would learn that indeed my brother and Sings had been calling and writing emails to the warden and even high-ups in Washington, only to be ignored or get the usual bureaucratic run around. Further evidence that the BOP cares nothing about the emotional angst of inmates or their families.

An excerpt from one email asks: Was Steven whisked away so rudely that he couldn’t even take his paper with phone numbers with him, so even if someone was kind enough to hand him a phone he may not have been able to recall a number? Or is something more secretive going on? Where in the massive BOP bureaucracy can we find a modicum of compassion?

Despite the BOP’s extreme covert policies and problems with the pandemic, we insist Mr. Maisenbacher deserves better than this totally bizarre and inhumane treatment. He and those who truly care about him deserve some answers now. Whatever he is going through, we know Steve desperately needs kind, loving support and assurances now!

By the time I got back to the prison, the cough was totally gone, the pneumonia fully healed and I was 100% with a clean bill of health. When I was discharged from the hospital after having every test possible run to determine if I was contagious with anything, they put me in the hole in a quarantine cell, without any of my personal property, not even a list of phone numbers for another 14 days. Fortunately I was able to remember one number and I was able to call Sings.

WHATEVER  

Ok so maybe I had it, maybe I didn’t,
But whatever I did have, damn near killed me.
I laid in a bed in a cell, in this place,
Couldn’t breathe, couldn’t eat, just lost in space.

In this place you don’t dare, 
Never let ‘em know you are sick,
Cuz you will be tossed in isolation,
And forgotten is their trick. 

Now I’m still not together,
And coughing every other space,
But at least I’m alive,
Able to sit here and elaborate.

I’ve been ill before,
But never just left alone to hallucinate,
And I’m glad I pulled thru cuz I’ve got an outdate,
And I’ve come too far to give it all up.

So here's my message to you,
And any others that may ask,
Whatever I had,
Sure kicked my ass...

Whatever...

Steven Walks On The Grass
Written during his illness amid the Covid-19 quarantine, Jan 29, 2021

Thanks for reading and sharing my story!

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