Genealogy Research Notes, October 2012 – Recently I’ve been concentrating on Jack’s ALLEN family and the GREEN’s of my friend, Sandra “Sunfeather” Lee’s family. It was exciting to learn awhile back that Jack’s ancestor, one Thomas Allen b 1610 had journeyed from England in 1633-34 in the famous Ark and Dove voyages bringing settlers to the new Maryland Colony. Naturally I soon found myself submerged in the history of this voyage and the colony and eventually I’d uncover the story of the sad fate of Thomas Allen and his three sons.
So setting that aside, I moved on to Sandra’s paternal family history, tracing her Green family line as far back as possible. I could hardly believe my eyes when the words, “The Ark and The Dove” came up. Sandra’s ancestor on the voyage was Thomas Green, Esq, b. 1609. In time he would become the Governor of Maryland.
The next question, then . . . did these two men have any kind of association? Going back to the history books the answers soon came clear. Maryland Colony was founded by aristocratic Catholic leaders in England. Their goal was to populate the colony as quickly as possible and they were open to non-Catholic settlers.
The leader of this expedition on The Ark & The Dove was one Leonard Calvert, the younger brother of Cecil Calvert, the 2nd Lord Baltimore, mastermind and chief investor in the colony. He remained back in England, sending his younger brother, Leonard Calvert to serve as the Governor of the Maryland Colony. Shortly before his death years later, Leonard Calvert named his close friend, Thomas Greene as interim Governor. Thomas Greene’s wife, Winifred Calvert, was the daughter of Cecil Calvert and Anne Arundel.
Sandra Lee’s 10th Great Grandparents, Governor Thomas and Winifred Greene, produced sons, and in time several generations later, one of their descendants would marry a Cherokee woman, also named Winifred aka Winnie. Their daughter, Mary Polly Green, born in the uplands of NW South Carolina would become Sandra’s 3rd Great Grandmother. (Note: On Sandra’s maternal side there’s an even stranger story of Sarah, another Cherokee maiden, her 5th great grandmother who was a slave. She married her master and their son became quite famous. But that’s another story.)
Revisiting Thomas Allen, we learn that he was a protestant, and traveled the Ark as an indentured servant to Leonard Calvert. Thus, in payment for his passage, he worked the lands of Governor Calvert until 1640 when he gained his freedom and was awarded some 65 acres to call his own. During this time Thomas Allen married a woman remembered only as Mary and together they had three sons: Thomas b 1637, William b 1638 & Robert b 1640. Thomas Allen’s will was written in 1648 at a time when there was much unrest between religious factions and the local Indians. Clearly concerned, Thomas named two “Irishmen” who threatened his life and makes explicit instructions for the care of his three motherless sons already pre-arranged in case of his untimely death.
Shortly thereafter, Thomas and his sons disappeared. In time Thomas’ decomposing body, shot with part of the skull missing was discovered on the beach at Point Lookout, south of St. Mary’s City. In time the two older boys were returned for ransom by the Indians. History is unclear about the fate of the younger son. The middle son, William, went on to become Jack’s 8th Great Grandfather.
Before I came here, my assumption was people were going to be helpful in my making this transition from prison to the “real” world. I’m rapidly finding this is not always the case. In the battle of Time vs. People the level of helpful depends on who it is and what time it is or I should say how much time, that determines who wins.
An example of how this battle works, say if you have an appointment somewhere you get there 30 minutes early like they tell you to on the paper but then they keep you waiting for 30 minutes after the scheduled time. So now you’ve sat for an hour for an appointment you should have had a half hour ago. You had better not say anything because at that point the person you had the appointment with will win.
If you’re talking to someone here and you express yourself by saying what you think, they may not reply, they may not respond at all, but then you’ll find out later that they have replied to almost everybody they know about what it is you said and the timing of this is generally pretty rapid.
Right now I’m going through all sorts of time-related changes. All of my time is metered and controlled by these people. I’m allowed to go search for a job, but that’s not all I need time for. Besides searching for a job I’m also preparing to go to college and I needed time for enrolling, taking the interview test, then orientation and that’s tested too, and I still need to schedule a placement test. Each one of these steps is with different people and at different times.
My keepers hold me to a 3-hour time limit 8:00 to11:00 a.m., Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Anything other than that must be scheduled with them, through them, and approved by them. But when I’m doing these things, I can’t know how much time will be needed. Sometimes I’m in the middle of a test. I can’t just walk out but I know I’m going to be late. So I call as I’ve been instructed to let them know, but when I get back, I still get reprimanded like a naughty child. Once again in the situation of People vs. Time the people won that round.
What I’m saying is that the winner of these bouts is determined by who the time is actually with and generally, the issue does not work out in my favor. But that’s okay. I could get discouraged, throw my hands up in the air, scream and shout, stomp my feet but at that moment Time will have won cuz I just wasted more time throwing a fit that won’t solve a darn thing. That’s another test I must take apparently.
I don’t know what led me to believe that people out in the “real” world will be considerate of others. Certainly seems to me they’re not. I’m finding in my “transition” that people are rude, selfish and unable to value the time that other people (like me) put into the things they are doing. This is not just an inconvenience. If you go outside these time frames in any of the things that you’re trying to accomplish and you don’t contact them or call them, the circumstances could be dire.
You could be punished, charged for a visit you didn’t go to or you could lose privileges you don’t really even have. But that’s only if you’re me. Now I’m not ranting here I’m just making an observation but it seems to me that the rules they make me live by, my keepers should have to follow themselves. It also seems to me that everything I’m doing is all good. I’m trying to work toward living a productive, self-sufficient life but I’m catching hell doing the things I need to do or trying to get done.
I’m supposed to see the psychologist today. I’ve not yet been told when he will see me but he’s come down from Chicago so I will just wait until he can see me. That’s okay, I’m not mad but it would be good to know what time I get to see him so that I can schedule my day around that. Again in this instance it’s the People vs. Time but I’m not going to let it discourage me. I have plenty I’d like to talk to him about when I do see him about all these problems.
Just this morning I was up early and went to the doctor. I thought I was going to get my flu shot and pneumonia shot. Yes, the nurse gave me a piece of paper recommending I get these vaccines but said that I will have to schedule with the health department to get them because they don’t do the vaccinations there. The paperwork that I had been given clearly said what I was there for but still I waited an hour see my doctor in order to learn this. I was glad to talk with the doctor about some of my issues anyway, but I have to wonder why they couldn’t have given me correct information to start with. I later learned that the health department had come here to give shots, but apparently no one had time to inform me of that either.
Anyway, people are funny, even funnier when confronted with the constraints of time. I see everybody in such a hurry yet they don’t seem to have time to accomplish what they’re supposed to do. Maybe we should all just take a time to contemplate the fact that we have all the time we need to get things done efficiently. All we need to do is arrive a half hour early. Smile. As for me, well, I’ll comply. After all, if I don’t, the other people win that bout and at that point, my complaint becomes a waste of time. Have a nice day. Set your clock forward a half hour so that you can arrive at tomorrow a half hour ahead of time, at which point you will see you still have to wait a half hour to get to tomorrow. And you thought you were early!
I’m going to step outside the boundaries of what I’ve been doing normally and speak on something that’s come to my mind in the most profound way possible. I want to elaborate on what’s going on. Wars have been fought over love. Men have moved mountains for love. And women have composed those same mountains into amazing vistas, stunning in their depth and power.
We’ve all experienced things we regret in relationships. Emotions run amok sometimes making us do or say things that we didn’t mean, or did mean and just never said.
Emotions have made strong men cry and weak men strong. I’m a man ruled by passions. I obsess easily and deeply, and when I do, it’s no holds barred. When you love someone there’s nothing you won’t do for them, there’s nothing you won’t sacrifice, there’s nothing you won’t give up, and there’s nothing that can stand in the way of trying to make the person you love understand how deep your love for them is.
How many of us have been in failed relationships only to find out that we were the problems and that we’d driven love away through our stubborn, willful thoughts or actions that fell short of the mark that we would set in order to obtain what we wished for most – love. I found over the past few decades that just because you make mistakes and you’ve lost someone that you loved, you don’t stop loving them. In fact, it’s generally quite the opposite. That love forms its own beautiful pictures in your mind and heart. The memories that haunt you are the same memories you created in loving that person, but whatever happened that made it go away, it’s the same power that keeps it with you. The only difference is who you are after the fact.
We all change. Change is inevitable. There’s no comma there because it’s irrefutable; it’s a pointless endeavor to think that people don’t change. I know firsthand. The things I did in my life and the acts that I committed criminally I find abhorrent. I would no more think about committing any crimes like that than I would think of cutting my hand off with a blunt knife. I’m just not that person. I don’t see those things. I couldn’t even imagine myself going there. But the one thing I can see in all the wrong, in all the failures, and all the hurt, heartache, and anguish: the love is still there. Not for that kind of life, but for the things that I lost because of it.
How many of us have suffered addictions? Addiction so stifling that it ruined family, friends and relationships? And how many of us are in recovery? I know mine is 23 years deep, but it’s not so much a recovery as it is a rescue. I was rescued from myself by the love that I had lost and the love that I’ve found in the Creator, and the love that found me again. I can finally breathe again! Everything is so much clearer to me now that I’ve come to terms with who and what I was, and the realization that I’m not that same person anymore. The power, the sheer magnificent power of Love rescued me when nothing else could.
I had sung my death song. I was courting it at every opportunity, wishing for it, seeking it. And then love came into my heart again and I’ve carried that love like a trophy, like a beautiful treasure. I’ve embraced the pain that it caused and the joy that it brought; the sleepless nights, the beautiful dreams. Tell me what else is that powerful?
How many of us have wished for a chance to just do it over again just for one minute go back in time and unsay something said, undo something done, and move on through life from that moment as if nothing had ever happened, as if our heart hadn’t been broken, or we hadn’t broken someone’s heart. Every moment of every day in the back of my mind all the way at the very bottom of every thought there’s Love. Again I ask, how powerful is that?
I was talking to Sings today, telling her about how I had become such a sensitive emotion-based man that I can still cry over a dog food commercial. The storyline was a young girl running through the house jumping into a chair and a puppy chasing her. Then it moves on Fast Forward to an adolescent teenager sitting sideways in the chair like they’re not supposed to with the dog, now obviously older, just laying on the floor at the foot of the chair waiting on his little girl who’s not a little girl anymore. Now fast forward even further to a beautiful young woman walking in the door obviously coming from somewhere back home to visit her family maybe. An old gray-muzzled dog that had been the puppy chasing that little girl, now walks slowly to the door. He can only wag his tail he had aged so much. The young woman sits down on the floor and loves that dog. As she holds and pets him and you could feel the sheer bliss between them in the entire scene. As silly as that seems it brings tears to my eyes; hell it brought tears to my eyes right now just talking about it.
That’s the kind of love I’m talking about. Unconditional! Doesn’t matter for who or what, it’s just that powerful. No matter what, it’s love and I promise if you look past your angry words, your hurt feelings, or you’re unmet expectations and can get to the next minute with your mouth closed and your heart open, you’re going to find that love, or you’re going to realize it’s already there. Maybe this isn’t what you expected out of me, but it’s what I have to say.
I’m in a situation right now that’s less than ideal. I’m being restricted more than anybody in the building. I’m being looked upon as irredeemable by the very staff that is supposed to help me because of what I used to be. If they could only see inside my heart they would find this, but they won’t look. They all claim that I have to prove this but I myself know I don’t have to prove anything. I just have to love the way I love, that deeply, that profoundly.
So the next time someone makes you mad or disappoints you, just remember what it is about that person you love, because that part you love is still there. You just have to open your heart and let the love heal the wound. Romeo loved Juliet. That’s just one story. What’s yours? This is mine: I refuse to let anger or hate or disappointment get in my way. I will live the rest of my life In Love – obtainable or not, requited or reciprocated or not, I will not stop loving. I will not stop being the man I know I am, right now in this moment.
Well it seems like it’s a done deal, only not done the way I initially had planned. It looks like I won’t be taking Computer Sciences. I was contacted by the success counselor who advised me that the Computer Sciences program is a rigorous, in-depth, two-year course of studies designed for computer-adept individuals. The course basically involves writing programs in several computer languages, all new computer technology. These are the things that I don’t have the basic skills for; I’m still trying to learn the basic skills. So, instead, I might be doing what I have wanted to do for the past 10 years.
I might just go ahead and start the prerequisites and a couple of electives toward earning an Associate Degree in psychology and sociology with public speaking as well. Once I hit the associate mark I’ll have the credentials I need to go ahead and start shopping around for a job as a youth counselor or drug addiction counselor. Hopefully I would have the ability to serve a residency towards the remaining credits needed, or at least that’s the way it is in my mind.
I have an appointment with the success counselor for next Thursday October 20th at 9:00 a.m. to discuss my options. On the phone, she was very nice as if she wanted to be helpful. Keep your fingers crossed for me; I’m going to need the extra luck. I’ve been out to the college several times now, each time with less and less stress. It finally occurred to me during the orientation process that I’m exactly where I need to be, that I have just as much right as anybody on the free planet to better myself with an education in order to help other people. For me that’s what it’s really about, what it’s been about for decades.
Even while inside, teaching youngsters the ceremonies and the traditions, helping them return to their native roots, even encouraging them and helping them learn their languages, that’s mostly why I now speak three native languages. It seems ironic that my English is atrocious but I have an extensive vocabulary. That can only come from the upwards of 5,000 books I’ve read in the past 25 years. I know that number seems crazy but it’s probably well under the mark. That doesn’t make me smart, it just means I was able to conquer my dyslexia and seek the education for myself that I couldn’t get anywhere else.
Now I’m insistent upon getting the education I can’t get for myself at the one place I can get it – college. Sixty-two years old, beat up, battered and bruised, I still want to learn and I still want to help even if it’s only one person. That would be worth it. I ain’t trying to come across as no superhero, I’m just the man I’ve become. And then becoming this man, I’m coming to terms with all that I didn’t do in my life – the things I should have done I neglected or ignored, the things I shouldn’t have done I did with vigor. Which leaves only one comment. What a bonehead I was! But being the stubborn bonehead that I was, I finally got bored with being bad. Somehow in my mind I came to the point where I thought to myself: I’m My Own Worst Enemy! That won’t happen ever again not in this life or the next.
I went through the orientation test, probably the most difficult thing I’ve done in decades. I was asked about career goals and expectations. The test had me draw a mind map of where I wanted to go and where I am now in my journey to get to where I want to go. My map was all stick figures, a bit of a catastrophe on paper; Yeah my drawing skills are lacking to say the least. Smile. But I got it done.
In the middle of orientation, I discovered that I was going to be late getting back to the halfway house so I did what I was told to do. I called, and I told them I was still in the middle of orientation and I was going to be late. This is what my case manager told me to do if I was confronted with the situation. So I did it. I finally finished the orientation after asking the student counselor for help several dozen times just navigating a computer that I knew nothing about – files and tiles and drop downs and enters and deletes and all sorts of alien things.
I went to the bus stop to come back to the halfway house. By this time I’m an hour late, so I called again and told them I was at the bus stop. I’d be back as soon as the bus drops me off. I’m waiting for it now. This is the second call that I made when really I was only required to call once. So I get back to the halfway house and the first thing out of the staff member’s mouth is, “I’m going to call your counselor, you’re late!” Well imagine that! I did what I was told and still they want to gang up on me for it.
I’m finding that this place is nothing but all the speed bumps in the world, all the tests, all the trying situations and all the petty, stupid rules that aren’t in the manual or the handbook that they make up as they go. I don’t know if it’s all meant to see what I’ll do but I do know it’s ridiculous, oppressive, and lacking in sense. But that’s not going to stop me. It’s going to take more than some silly rules to stop me, it’s going to take more than some aggravating staff members to stop me, because I am thoroughly and absolutely convinced that I’m going to succeed in spite of it.
I didn’t make it this far to fail and I owe it to those who love me and to myself, but most of all, I owe it to the Creator to be the man that I have been blessed to become. I know a lot of you don’t know me, some never will other than these writings, and I’m so glad you didn’t know the man I was before. That’s not who I am and I will not let them make me be that man by trying to put speed bumps and trials in my way or hindering my progress in my reentry into society. School is going to be super difficult but I’ll overcome that too. After all nobody there is going to use a taser on me and I won’t be handcuffed behind my back. The only hurdles I have to pass are my own mind and the assimilation of the knowledge that will be presented cuz that’s what they will do when Walks goes to college.
Why does everything have to be so difficult? I’ve been out for a little over a month now. I have filled out a hundred applications and applied at probably 50 places. With 25 years of education and training in the quality assurance field, you’d think I was employable, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. I have no computer experience. Even this phone is a navigation nightmare. Were it not for the people around me here with their loving hearts and patience I would be lost. Speed bumps.
After arriving here at the halfway house my PTSD really kicked in. I was afraid to go out anywhere in the world and didn’t for almost 21 days. Finally I went to Walmart for the first time. It was amazing. I rode around on the little car, got some of the things I needed, but then there he was, the monster inside my mind. PTSD. Another big speed bump. I don’t know how to explain what it does to me other than it makes me afraid, anxious and sad for no reason. The slightest thing makes me cry and I go to fearing crowds of people around me. None of these people has an agenda concerning me, still they terrify me. I feel like everyone’s watching me, looking at me, suspecting me, judging me, not liking me, or simply being worried about me doing something horrible.
I tell myself this is not true. This is not real. This is not the way the world is. But then I look at the news, watch the way people act, and think pretty much everyone is aware of what’s going on in our world today – except for me. I wake up in the middle of the night in panic, thinking that someone’s coming to get me to take me back to prison. The Last Place on Earth I ever want to go! How do I conquer these fears? I still don’t know. To this very second I’m afraid of what I don’t know, and I think that’s pretty much everything. I’m afraid of falling short of the marks that I’ve set for myself. I’m afraid of what other people might think of me. I’m afraid of somebody trying to hurt me or take the very little that I have.
I have a scheduled appointment with a mental health specialist today. It’s supposed to be a phone interview. I’m even anxious and apprehensive about that. I’m afraid he won’t understand what I go through on a daily basis. From the moment I wake up to the moment I go back to bed, I’m living in fear. I don’t know why. I don’t know what has happened to me to make this happen. I only know that it has and I never knew it would be this bad until I got out.
Even getting on a bus is a challenge. I usually ask an employee at the bus stop which bus do I take to get where I need to go? Which bus do I take to get back? Usually they look at me like I’m an alien or just plain weird when I don’t know how to do something. What a strange new world with all these hurdles, all these people, all these places, and all these things that go on. Yesterday I applied for housing. They gave me another application and told me to fill out both of them. I’m not sure if they’ll even help me; I’m number 5,421 on the list. Guess I’ll be here for a minute.
I am sitting alone outside. I had my prayers at dawn, now I’m watching the sun come up. I hear sirens in the distance and I have to ask myself if that could have been about me at one point in my life? I know the answer. And that too scares me. I have so many regrets. I’ve apologized and spoken about all I planned on for the future, but in the same breath, I still wonder where do I go from here? What’s in store for me? How do I get to the place I need to be when I spend most of my day fighting in my own mind? I don’t know the clinical terms or definitions of what’s going on and I don’t think it would matter if I did because I don’t think that would fix it. So I’ll keep pushing on every day, trying to get past one fear into the next, trying to make sure I do all the things I think are right and praying that they were the right things.
Tomorrow morning I have an appointment with the admissions counselor at Lincoln Land Community College. I’m going back to school at 62 years old! I’ve got a lot to learn but this too comes with its own bag of fears. I don’t want to sound like a whiny crybaby but I feel so alone even though I know there are many who love me and do care. I know they want the best for me and I believe that they’re the reason I’m able to keep fighting these fears all day, every day. Everything seems to be a speed bump on my way to normalcy.
I want to succeed. I have to succeed. There’s no other option and this scares me too. I look at the people around me when I’m out in the world. I’ve been out several times now, taking the bus here or there getting lost once or twice and kind of freaking out about what I would do next. That’s when the anxiety kicks in. I don’t think I need to describe what anxiety feels like; we’ve all gone through it at one point in time or another, but it ain’t good, it’s not pleasant and it leaves me unsettled.
Several times I’ve had to go to my room and just lay down and hide. But what am I hiding from? Why would I have to hide? I’ve done all that I was supposed to do. I’ve paid my debt to society for my past wrongs. But it seems obvious that society won’t let it be debt paid. Everything I ever did is held over my head here, from the simple fact of needing to put in paperwork just to go to a store to buy a toothbrush to having to put in paperwork and have it approved to try and find a job.
There are several people working behind the scenes to see to it that my path is smoother and helping make opportunities available for me to succeed. You Know Who You Are and I thank you so deeply. There are others who would like nothing more than to see me to fail, for me to go back to the cage that I’ve lived in for well over half my life. To them I say, you are a speed bump.
For decades I had the chance to stand outside of all the madness from my cages and now I’m in them. The madness that I face every day is not so much from the world around me but for my not knowing how to navigate that world myself. In the prisons they scream about rehabilitation and pre-release preparation but in reality, there wasn’t any. My only rehabilitation came from within and my only pre-release preparations are the plans and dreams I have and so want to do.
So I’ll continue to do what I do, get up at 4:00 in the morning so that I can be outside to pray at 5:30. Then I’ll plan my activities for the day just as if I were doing so without the fears. The simplest things are difficult. The hardest things are already done. Everything else – my mental health, my physical health, where I will live, where I will work, what I will do – these are just speed bumps. I’ll get over them.
I am Walks On The Grass and I Will Never Surrender.
Freedom lost, life found. That’s the gift I have been given. Through all my trials and tribulations I now see the light on a road I’ve never believed possible! Thank you Father God for never giving up on your children. Thank you for hearing my cry and putting the right people in my path. Sending prayers up for eternity in your guidance.
My name is Candace. I am living in a facility of the federal prison system. I am 36 years young and about to give birth to my 5th child. My children are the reason I’m still here on Earth. I was born into a broken home. I was abused in many ways as a child. I started using drugs before I was even a teenager. I believed the drugs were the reason the abuse stopped.
Throughout my life I held on to the drugs. The drugs controlled every part of who I was. I ended up in federal prison on my first felony charge. I didn’t know at the time what would happen. While in prison I accepted Christ as my Holy Savior. I got off drugs and earned my GED. Now I can sit still in my own presence.
Now I know I am more than just a statistic of an abused child. I am more than just a drug addict. I am more than just a mother who was lost. Now I am found. I am found by the grace and the unconditional love of the Holy Spirit. That is the electricity in my soul. I have been given no more than I can handle and blessings that can’t be denied!
To get over my past and move forward there are still things I must do. Healing is a journey and I must heal inside out from everything I have been through. Growing and sharing is a key part of walking this new path. I have to be open to listen to others, learn from their experiences and maybe by writing out my journey, I will be able to help someone else. I am ready for a change. I am ready to see and experience all the good in life. My children have been the only good I’ve ever really known. I just want to be good for them.
First I must learn to be a good mom to my own inner child. I will give my inner little girl all the love and nurture she never had. Only when I learn to love myself can I be the good mom my children deserve. There’s a lot more to who I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I see what I must do. I believe that everything happens for a reason.
Into this life, I was born and I will die. Always on the outside, looking through cracks in the fences of life. Never quite belonging, alone, yet always striving to understand and be understood. Wondering why the pieces never seem to fit. Sometimes wondering if I even possess a piece of this great shifting puzzle . . .
Only to be reminded in precious, unexpected moments that the pieces I hold are gifts beyond my understanding. Signposts along my path alert me to unseen vistas; quiet side paths beckon me to explore the mysterious unknown; to discover the lessons I’m here to learn.
Fleeting chance encounters challenge the discovery of new ways of seeing, feeling, experiencing, and expression; each illuminating the truths I am here to learn. Strangers offer respite from the journey. An insatiable curiosity compels me to take the risk, to discover what lies behind those eyes, to linger just a bit to discover what joys a few kind words can bring to fellow seekers.
Only by examining, feeling the depths of suffering in the human experience can I avoid the crass hypocrisy of self-righteousness. By honoring the struggles and triumphs of the ancestors and fellow travelers, I gain the humility to feel the peace of graceful acceptance, and the healing balm of gratitude.
I learn the lesson of balance by respecting the magnificent beauty and bounty, as well as the overwhelming extremes of power and violence, inherent in Nature. Again, I learn humility and gratitude for I am but a speck by comparison, and it is for me to know these contrasts lie also within the human heart. I discover that in striving to learn how to live with balance, grace, gratitude, and integrity I move closer to understanding my place in the scheme of things, and ultimately, the total belonging of Universal Love.
I am old now. Not the “old” that middle-aged people are just beginning to feel, but the old that treasures each hour, each lesson, each memory as precious gifts. I accept that death is a part of life and we are here to learn and grow as spiritual beings. I am still learning the lessons this life teaches, but look forward to discovering what lies beyond this earthly plane.
The lessons of life create a never-ending story that will unfold far beyond this sojourn on Earth. So when at last the shadows fall on the warm sunshine of my life, I shall turn my face to the stars, and sing alone in gratitude and anticipation, placing my trust in the divine mystery of the universe.
I had been here at the halfway house for 3 weeks and thought things were finally going smoothly. Usually I’m in bed by 10:00 every night because I’m up with the dawn each morning to thank the Creator for another day.
Then something went very wrong. Since I am handicapped and cannot get up and down the steps, I live downstairs separate from the other BOP residents. This particular night, shortly after I went to sleep my door suddenly burst open. I sat straight up in the bed and there stood a large, young black man. I recognized him as another BOP resident who lived upstairs.
“Hey man,” I said, “What are you doing?”
He responded, “Just chill out chief,” as he ran into my bathroom and closed the door.
I heard the lock engage and then him talking in an agitated and animated way. I’m just sitting there on my bed wondering what the heck is going on when he comes out of the bathroom and heads towards the door with his phone in his hand saying to someone, “The man he’s here! The man he’s here! He’s got a gun!”
Then he left the room and I really began to wonder what was going on. I knew that earlier some of the people here had been drinking and were getting loud and arguing. Come to find out later one of the people that had been drinking ended up getting into a fight with another one of the guys and got beat up pretty good. He then left and shortly after, came back with a gun and now he was trying to get in. That’s why the man was so agitated and the staff just allowed him to run around and into my room to hide, putting me between himself and a man with a gun, placing me in definite danger when I thought I was safe.
Incredibly, a few minutes later the same guy came running back into my room to hide in the bathroom again.
I said, “Hey man, if you bring any drama to me there’s going to be issues.”
Again he said, “Don’t worry Chief,” and locked himself in the bathroom.
Shortly after, just like before, he came out again, shouting into his phone, “Come, Come! Hurry up get here. That n***** is outside running around with a gun looking for me.” When he went out, I got up and locked my door from the inside thinking to myself it was time to put a stop to this. I knew I would have some issues talking to people the next day and he would be the first person I spoke with. That is if he hadn’t been shot and if this man with a gun outside who ran away from the halfway house to go get a gun didn’t get in and shoot everyone. I thought I was safe.
I woke up the next day and called Sings just to let her know what had happened and that I had gotten through it with no problem. She could not believe what the night staff had allowed to happen and questioned why I did not have my door locked when I went to sleep. That is because they do a 4 AM count and I would have to get up and open the door. One must wonder why the staff cannot just unlock the door, check my bed and then leave.
So the fact is the staff did not even try and stop this man from running into my room nor did they even try to get the police here immediately. In fact we later found out, the halfway house management has absolutely no protocol to follow if a situation like this were to ever occur. I thought I was safe and had to ask myself if I should say anything to the management or not. Surely they know what happened, surely they know that this man had been allowed to run into my room. I still cannot believe that they actually didn’t try to stop him from coming into my room nor did they stop him from endangering all the rest of the people here. I thought I was safe but in fact the man’s reckless behavior and the staff’s disregard for a situation so totally out of control put everyone’s safety in jeopardy.
So the next day comes and they tell us we’re all on lockdown; the whole place is on lockdown, meaning no one would get any passes, no one could go to work, no one could have any visits, no one could leave the building because the man that came back with the gun after his drunken fight with the other guy was on the run. He had an ankle monitor on, and had they acted quickly, the police should have been able to catch him within minutes.
So the rest of the resident’s routines were turned upside down and the gunman had time to cut the ankle monitor off. As far as I know he is still loose to this day two weeks later. Oh, the feds know how to find him, trust me I’ve been the subject of their manhunts before. They leave no stone unturned and no door un-kicked-in. When they want you they get you, but he is long gone from here.
As for the rest of us, the management is still not allowing weekend passes (except for some), they are not allowing job searches (except for some) and come to find out, the Bureau of Prisons regional office in Chicago was never even contacted about the incident. It’s no wonder to me that this facility has lost its federal contract to house BOP inmates after this contract expires. The staff here seems to be ignorant of official BOP policies and even federal laws. They have a wonton disregard for all rules unless they make them. Official policies are not adhered to unless you force them with a threat of contacting Chicago.
Since I’ve been here the head office clearly Illustrated this fact when they failed to honor my Native American religious rights. They let me go outside in the courtyard at dawn for my morning prayers but only with my eagle feather. They would not allow me to have tobacco to hold pipe ceremonies and pray to the Creator. The fact is everyone here is allowed to smoke cigarettes outside in the courtyard all day every day for their own personal gratification, so what am I missing here?
Their rationale was this is a halfway house facility as well as a rehabilitation center. Other people might see me with that pipe and they wouldn’t understand. My response to that was this is my religious practice and it’s not for them to understand. The staff needed to research the Native American belief system and the laws that protect them. If they are unsure about something, let them ask. I’ve never had a problem explaining my beliefs, my religious ceremonies or my approach to the Creator. It’s simply that, an approach to the Creator.
Sings Many Songs sent tobacco for me to use in my ceremonial pipe. The staff confiscated it saying loose tobacco is not allowed in their facility. That edict did not last when I showed them the BOP policy statements and the federal laws they were breaking by denying me a religious object to pray with thus denying my religious freedom. They gave it back two days later.
I’ve since come to find out they were also told by another inmate that if they “mess with that Indian he will have the whole facility shut down by the federal government.” This man told them I know congressional laws and BOP policies and have been an activist in fighting for Native rights since 1986. He said, “They just don’t know who he is, that guy makes things happen.”
In reality he was thinking I was still the same militant revolutionary that I was in the past. The militancy is gone now, however I am still a revolutionary when it comes to my religious rights and beliefs. Now this “land of the free and home of the brave” allows me the right to practice my religious beliefs in the ways my people have done for thousands of years – it’s the law.
The simple point of the matter is residents in this halfway house facility were allowed to get drunk and go undetected, get in a fight undetected, one man leave and come back with a gun and not be arrested. While fortunately, he was not able to gain admittance to the building, what might have happened had he been able to get in? He would have come hunting for the man he came here for, of this I’m certain. This guy is still on the run; he’s been known to be violent in the past and obviously my concern, my misunderstanding is simply that I thought I was safe.
I thought I had entered civil society and was to work my way towards being a productive and valued member of society. In the short time since being released from prison, I’ve come to see that society is no longer civil and my only safety will be my own vigilance. Now I’m far from a coward; I’ve always faced problems and fears head on, immediately doing whatever I was afraid to do because I don’t believe in allowing fear to conquer anything, especially me. I will never allow fear to rule my behaviors or my actions. While I won’t rush into stupidity, I won’t turn a blind eye to ignorance either. I won’t suffer a bully, I won’t engage a liar, and I won’t live in fear. My wellbeing is certainly not safe in the hands of my keepers. I thought I was safe. I was not. The long and short of the story is that I’m not safe except for my Creator and myself. In this I have every faith and going forward, I will make a good life.
I want to talk about something that is very important to me. This chapter has written itself over the past 62 years. It is one that I never even gave much thought to until recently and it’s long overdue. I want to talk about the women in my life; women who have come through my life and stayed, women who have now passed beyond sorrow, and women I have drawn strength, understanding, and wisdom from.
See, this is not so much about these women as it is about men and I feel that I need to say these things because I haven’t heard it said yet. They are amazing to me, these warrior women, and don’t get it twisted, they are warriors.
I would have to start with my mother, Judy Pierce Maisenbacher Montgomery, what an amazing woman! She adopted four children and made us all her own; she loved and nurtured us all and brought us to adulthood doing everything that she could.
My sister, Judy is now beyond sorrow, her life cut off far too soon. She was an amazing woman, strong yet beautiful, smart yet funny, nurturing and loving, raising her son, Josh, by herself helping him to become a wonderful young man. The world lost a whole lot when Judy passed but Josh’s story didn’t stop with his mother’s passing.
Another woman, my brother, Bob’s wife, Bab, stepped in to love and nurture her nephew. Josh is now grown with a family of his own; a beautiful wife, Anna, and a son, JP. I’m so proud of that kid I could just choke. I haven’t spoken to him for quite a while maybe someday soon.
That brings me to another woman who taught me what it means to love and how to love. My beautiful wife, my Janice. I miss you this second, with every beat my heart screams, please don’t leave, I feel so alone without you. I don’t know how I’ve made it this far without your guidance and your love and your giving me hell when I was being an idiot.
I think that ultimately we see women as soft and warm and motherly but we as men fail to recognize the warrior spirit inside our women – the spirit that would allow them to attack any predator, to love and defend their children to the death and meet any odds against them to do so with no fear. This warrior woman spirit is truly a blessing of the Creator. Just like always, Creator provides all that we need if we just open our eyes.
Many other women have made an impact on my life in different ways. One of my bosses, Patricia Groome, was the supervisor at a federal prison manufacturing site. She was more than just a boss. Her guidance taught me many of the skills I have now – how to effectively plan and execute towards a goal, a job that would usually take several people to complete. She also taught me not to fear any task because the only part of the task that you can’t complete is the part that you don’t get started, so if you start it you can finish it. This woman treated us like men and not inmates and that was amazing to me. I wish I could reach out to her and tell her how much of an impact she had on my life but I think she knows. She had a huge impact on all the lives she touched including those of her own family. Wherever you are Mrs. Groome, I hope you’re doing good.
She was just one of many females, warrior women to be sure, strong intelligent creative and courageous. Others have come into my life off and on tapping at the seams of my understanding sometimes getting through to me. After all I’m not the easiest person to reach. I’m stubborn and I’m opinionated and I’m hard-headed. Maybe that’s what has gotten me through all this, my determination to never bend and never give up. As I say most every day, I’m walks On The Grass and I Will Never Surrender.
Men, just think about all women do. They bear our children, they raise our children, they feed us, they give us compassion, warmth, love, and understanding, all the time knowing that they are on the front lines of life even when we are not! They’re loving us and they are doing what they have to do to fight the battle for their own. What else can you call them or what else would you call them but warrior women?
I’d like to speak about some other strong women who have come through my life. First, my “adopted” sister, Leontien, who has meant so much to me over the past several years. She came into my life in an around about way through Helga, a woman I corresponded with who claimed to love me but tried to change me into what she wanted me to be. She was not interested in who I was, nor who I am. Needless to say that relationship did not last more than a couple years and that’s okay because out of the deal I got an amazing woman in my life. Helga introduced me to Leontien. We talked online a few times and I spoke about my sister Judy’s passing and how it affected me. I missed Judy and I had no one in my life to talk reason to me when I wouldn’t be reasonable, to speak lovingly to me when I was angry or being mean. Judy always brought me back to earth and Leontien could too, just like Judy would. Her insight or laughter and her ability to see the same reason that Judy always used to see and to get it through to me in a way that I might understand and become a better man for it. Leontien is from Amsterdam or that area in the Netherlands. She’s has a beautiful family, a loving husband and two beautiful daughters, each as talented as they could possibly be in their own ways, good girls, amazing women, warrior women.
More than once, Leontien has travelled 7,000 miles to see me so that she could share a smile and a hug and to let me steal her strawberry kiwi drink when she got up. I think she knew I did it, in fact we often joke about that. We don’t get away with much when it comes to these warrior women; they just act like they don’t know in order to make us feel as if we did something special, something ingenious.
It’s rather silly but men will be boys and boys grow to men but only because of warrior women. There could be no other understanding of that simple fact; not a man alive would be the man that he is where there not a warrior woman in his past, his future, his forever.
Others that have touched my life, however fleetingly, are some of the women that are here with me right now in this halfway house. They are called MINT Moms, meaning Mothers and Infants Together. These warrior women are in the federal prison system; they are pregnant awaiting the birth of their babies. They live here at the halfway house to receive prenatal care and to give birth. They will be allowed to spend a month or two months with the baby before giving the child to a family member to care for.
These women must go back to prison to finish paying their debt to society, but their warrior hearts want only to go home to care for their babies and older children. The strength and human spirit of these women is amazing to me. They meet each day with a smile for the people around them, treating others with dignity and respect knowing full well they will be separated from that child. How they can share smiles and laughter is simply amazing to me. Warrior women, each and every one of them.
I don’t know Elicia very well yet. She’s a pretty young woman, friendly but stays mostly to herself. Who can know what burdens people bear? Maybe one day, we can be friends. Then there’s Larissa, also pretty, quiet and unassuming but ready with a smile or an offhand comment. To me that shows strength that a lot of people don’t bear. Larissa is really cool; she talks to me, she’s friendly and has been helpful. To me they are both warrior women.
If it wasn’t for some of these women I wouldn’t be able to just sit here and do what I’m doing right now. See, this phone, this technological pain in my butt would be my undoing. In my mind I’m still in 1980 but in this halfway house I’m forced to be in 2022. Things other people take for granted are amazing to me. Learning to use this phone is part of my journey and I wouldn’t be able to do it if it wasn’t for the help of these warrior women. You women are the bomb!
Then I want to speak about Crystal. She’s a young woman, ready to give birth just any day and so big that she looks like she’s toting around a basketball. After her baby is born she will go home from here. Though she doesn’t have to go back to prison, consider how strong will she need to be to take her child home after prison? Yet Crystal is still able to be caring and tolerant and helpful to an old man who is clueless in this world and alone. Sometimes, most of the time, at least in my mind, I feel that way. All these warrior women are here in my life and it feels like Creator has placed them there for me and for me to help them as well.
And then there’s my little buddy Candace. She’s a cutie and she’s going to have a baby. Candace already has four other children. They are beautiful kids; she showed me pictures. She’s so proud of those children, she just glows when she speaks of them. Candace has a wonderful heart and an awesome medicine spirit about her. She’s a Christian woman who found Jesus early in her problems. He brought her through addictions and she truly walks the walk; she’s one of those people that even if you are not a Christian you have to admire the radiance and the power that the Creator has given them. Through whatever concept, Candace is a warrior woman. In fact she’s the one that showed me what buttons to push to do this right. <smile>
Then there’s Siobhan although she’s not expecting a baby, she’s a BOP woman getting ready to go home. Siobhan has several children at home. She works all day, harder than any woman I’ve ever seen. She comes home to the halfway house so tired she can barely stay on her feet, and then I’ve seen her with a basket full of laundry to do so she will have clean clothes for the next day. After having been on her feet for 12 hours working in a hot, uncaring environment she always manages to make me smile. Siobhan is one of the real women, a warrior woman.
And last but definitely not least a woman who’s just phenomenal. She’s smart, more like genius. If brilliance came in baskets it would take a convoy of semis to carry her load. Her name is Sings Many Songs. Most of you know her as Edna. I know her as a woman of compassion and wonder and curiosity and love – unconditional love. This woman has helped so many people in her life. Without Sings, this world, this planet would be far less, with far less wonder and beauty for those that she’s helped. Sings reached out to me when I met her several years ago through my brother, Ghost. We hit it off immediately. She was able to reach me and from the first moments that we really talked, I knew I could trust her. This woman is the epitome of warrior women.
She has raised her own beautiful family and lived her life with her husband, Jack who is a smart man in his own right. He worked in the NASA space program and helped put a man on the moon on my birthday. Little did I know, none in fact, when I looked at the moon that night, July 20, 1969 from Shaheen’s Raceway that the rocket on the moon with the men walking there would be put there in part by somebody who would be put into my life many years later through his wife. Sings, I don’t know how I can say strongly enough what you mean to me.
You have never wavered in your support, you’ve never faltered in your love and nurturing and care for me, my thoughts, my beliefs or the goodness that’s in me. Often you have said you didn’t know the bad me and the funny thing is, I don’t know that man anymore either. I’m glad he’s a stranger and I don’t ever want to meet him. I want to be exactly the man that you’ve helped me to become. I want to face all these things in my life, this new adventure and journey with your help and your guidance.
You made me a part of your family, and even though we are related by blood so distant, yet so true and distinct, not everyone would take on the burden of a man like me. I thank you and I’m honored to know you. You are a warrior woman and I want to say this in closing. I now understand why my people have always revered our women, why we are a matriarchal society, and why we hold all that is sacred in the hands of our women. I understand and honestly, warrior to warrior, were it not for you there would not be a me ready to face the world.
It’s funny how you think you have yourself prepared and all the mental shackles of the past 23 years of captivity are just going to go away when you’re finally released to a halfway house and the first small steps toward freedom.
August 30, 2022 – Amazingly enough I slept like a baby that night before I woke up with the dawn as I try to do almost every day praying thanks and gratitude to the Creator for the new day. What an amazing day this was going to be; I was being released from prison after 23 years and being given a second chance to experience a good new life.
They called me to R&D to do the release thing and I’m identified by a lieutenant to ensure that I’m the right man, and as he does this I’m thinking in the back of my mind, please let it be a dream, please let it be somebody else that has been going through this hell in the belly of this monster for all these years.
He asked me a bunch of questions framed out of my file that only I would be able to answer. Mother’s maiden name, where I went to elementary school, my family’s names, stuff like that. Eventually it’s decided that yes, I am in fact me so they take me to the front building. This will be the first time I’ve moved anywhere outside of the institution without shackles in two and a half decades. They get me up front, fingerprint me and give me a whopping $39 for two meals and cab fare to the halfway house. I’m escorted out and put into a car with another inmate being released that day.
We are driven to the Birmingham, Alabama Greyhound bus station, right smack dab in the middle of downtown Birmingham, not a good place to be. So there I am. I get to the counter and it’s closed until 5:00 p.m., three full hours from then so I go outside and sit down with my walker and a bag full of all I own at that moment.
My first human contact as an unshackled man is a nefarious looking character who approached me asking for a smoke. “No sir, I say, “I don’t have any, I don’t smoke.” He persists, I respond with, “No thank you, I don’t want to score any crack, ice meth, Adderall, marijuana, or heroin, but thank you for asking, and if it’s all the same to you sir, no disrespect intended, I don’t feel like talking right now.” He moves on to where and to what I don’t even want to know.
I have 7 hours until my bus leaves. This is not freedom; this is a war zone and for me it’s fortunate that I don’t look like prey. My first contact with anyone in the free world was a dope fiend trying to drag me back into the same hell of his world. This is not going to be easy. While I’m sitting there, one of the bus station security cops walks by looking for people blatantly using narcotics.
I asked him if there was any way possible to make a phone call. He took out his phone and handed it to me. When I told him I didn’t know how to use the phone, he probably saw the anxiety and apprehension I was going through. He says, “You just got out of prison didn’t you?” Then he made the call for me to the only lifeline I have. I needed to call Sings; she has been my rock through these changes, always supported my want to be a better man. On the phone, Sings listened and helped me deal with the moment. Afterward, the cop and I chat a little more and he asks if I’m going to be okay. I’m grateful for his kindness.
Leave it to say that the rest of the trip was uneventful though it was filled with many people, fellow travelers. Each and every one of them, I’m sure with their own story, their own feelings and family, maybe on their way to those that love them. As I sat in that bus looking out at the sky, the darkness, into nothing, I said to myself, “Walks, this is not going to be what you have; there won’t be darkness in your future, there won’t be bad in your future. There will only be you in the future you make for yourself with the help of those who love you and care. This is who I am! This is who I will be! I’m Walks On The Grass. I am a Creek-Seminole warrior and I will never surrender.
I travelled across this country in that bus, finally got to Memphis. Transferred buses, more of the same, people going here and there. Finally got to St Louis. Amazing that in a city the size of St Louis the place was empty and just miserable. Short delay, then on to Springfield, Illinois, only a couple hours away. The bus arrived with only 17 minutes to spare in the window I was given, otherwise I’d be arrested for attempt to escape and taken to the county jail – back into the mouth of the beast that I had just been expelled from.
My cab arrived at the halfway house with just 4 minutes left between me and violating the halfway house expectations. The halfway house is to be my point of entry into what will be freedom. I understand that I’m still not free now. I also understand there will be things I have to do that will be uncomfortable. For me nothing can be as uncomfortable as the way you feel when you have no one and you’re unsure of those of your family who love you or say they love you. You know you’ve been so wrong in the things you’ve done or said in your past but this is now, not the past. I am more than my past. I have apologized and I will not make more apologies.
I will only move on in the right way and the only way I wish to proceed. From this point on I am Walks On The Grass. I am a Seminole-Creek warrior and I will never surrender. I hope your days go well and I will continue to pray for each and every one I care about in my dawn prayers, eagle feather in hand. The difference is from now on I will pray standing outside watching the sun rise as I sing, knowing I am truly blessed just as I am. For strength, I cry out to my Creator for I believe all men deserve second chances.
Editor’s note: This is the next book in the saga of Walks’ LONG ROAD HOME which documents his spiritual journey including, ALONG THE WAY more accounts of his years in prison and LIGHT IN THE DISTANCE, the last months of his mental and emotional journey, preparing him to STEP INTO THE LIGHT.