Enter Without Knocking
Daniel Moore (1969)
[Casual racism left intact.]
Only one execution took place during my service at Fort Leavenworth. Five murderers were hanged at one time at the back of the 6th wing. They were not dropped through a trap door as in usual hangings, but jerked upward by a device which worked quite efficiently. (14-15)
Some of the boys in the printing office devised a scheme which almost worked. A topnotch engraver duplicated the Presidential Seal, and, somehow the boys secured some blue paper on which they printed a good replica of a Presidential pardon issued on medical grounds. Some of these, bearing the official War Department seal on the envelopes, were kited in among the commandant's unopened incoming mail. Two prisoners were already in the process of being dressed out to receive their freedom when a shakedown unearthed the Seal, hidden among the ceiling beams of the print shop. (15)
The Number 1 cell house . . . had been transplanted from the old Arizona Territorial Prison at Yuma. Number 4, at the southwest corner, faced a squat concrete building with a steel door and a few small, barred windows set high in the walls. This building contained the punishment cells, known as "the snakes." Here, fractious prisoners were confined in the dark, bare cells for various lengths of time not to exceed thirty consecutive days. Unheated, the cells were icy cold in winter and broiling hot in summer. (26)
Arizona did not gain statehood until 1912. During territorial days a prison was built on the banks of the Colorado River at Yuma. There, many early day outlaws, horse thieves, and bad men served out their time behind its adobe walls. Built on a bluff, its cells were hewn out of the solid caliche rock with only small pipe ventilators showing on top of the hill like black asparagus stalks. A wooden guard platform atop a water tower over the front gate was guarded by a Gatling gun. Surrounded by bare, dry desert in every direction, escape from the prison was almost impossible. The terrible heat of the summers, when a temperature of 120 degrees was not uncommon, earned it the name of the "Hell Hole of Yuma" among its inmates. (29)
The "Hell Hole" was abandoned in 1909 and the old prison record books were transferred to Florence when the new penitentiary was built. Many times I leafed through those musty old volumes, reading the record of crimes, sentences and attempts to escape made by its famous and infamous prisoners. A few who were transferred from Yuma to Florence were still there when I became a guard. (30)
An abundance of adobe soil and a large population of Mexicans among the inmates probably led to the erection of many adobe brick buildings on the prison grounds. Family houses for the warden, assistant warden, yard captain, engineer, auditor and several other officials were so constructed. Plastered inside and pebble dashed outside, they made very good houses indeed. (30,32)
Abolishment of the death penalty came at a very opportune time for several convicted murderers awaiting their date with the hangman on death row. One, with only hours left before his execution, escaped the noose to win parole some years later and become one of the leading citizens of Florence. For many years he and his Mexican wife operated the town's largest restaurant. (32)
Arizona's public institutions were under the jurisdiction of the political party in office at the time. The warden was usually appointed by the governor; his position often given as a political plum for the part he had played in support of his party during the election campaign. The warden then selected the officers under him in the same manner, down to and including the captains of both the yard and outside guards. Politics did not play such an important part in the selection of the remainder of the guard force except during the first month or two of a new administration. Once he had hired a guard to satisfy a political debt, the warden considered his obligation ended. If the man did his job well in all respects, he could feel fairly certain of remaining on the payroll throughout the administration's two-year term of office. If he did not measure up, the warden felt no compunction about firing him and hiring another guard in his place.
There was one exception to this practice. No new administration could take over the prison keys and start from scratch with an entirely new guard force. Old guards in key positions had to be retained at least long enough to teach the new, green men the ropes. And that took time. For instance, the very important guards who worked between the gates had to be able to recognize any trusty by sight as well as by number or run the risk of letting one prisoner go through wearing another's number. . . .
Prisoners are quick to find out the shortcomings of a captain and to use the knowledge to their own advantage. . . . A good captain has to be con wise, and he must also know a good deal about the many types of work his gangs are called upon to do. . . . A new administration without some of the old guards had two strikes against it and was in for a good deal of trouble, quick. After January 3rd, the date of change-over, prisoners were sure to try any trick they could devise to escape before the green guards learned the ropes. And quite often they succeeded.
When the party in power was defeated at the polls, the current prison administration, knowing that its members would soon be replaced, quite often made off with everything which wasn't impossible to move before the new administration arrived to check the supplies. Automobile tires, gasoline, clothing, ammunition, groceries and other items would mysteriously disappear between November and January 3rd. When a new administration took over it often found only a few old wornout trucks and cars for transportation and inventories in almost every department at bedrock. Financial reports were written mostly in red ink. The new legislature was sure to be asked for money appropriations to carry the prison through its first quarter.
Each warden was expected to operate the prison within his budget and to turn back into the general fund of the state as much money as he possibly could each year. Some did; but it is reasonable to assume that the general fund did not grow fat on what monies were turned back.
Good management plays a leading role in the success of any business, and mismanagement either by design or inexperience often leads to failure. Operation of a prison, like any other business, depends for success on the man at the top. Not much could be expected from a politically appointed warden who had never even seen a prison before walking into his office and, prior to actually taking over the job, had not the faintest idea of what his many duties were to be. . . . I maintain that such public institutions should be entirely divorced from politics for the good of the taxpayer, the personnel and the prisoners themselves. (33-5)
Without guard supervision in the cell houses at night, homosexuality was widespread. Locked in a cell with sexually deprived, hardened criminals, a young man was often the victim of assaults repeatedly night after night. Threats of reprisal often kept his lips sealed, for he knew that the code of the underworld meant death to squealers.
One day a lady legislator making a tour of the prison to gather first hand information on conditions, was shown the four-bunk cells in Number 1.
"Oh, how perfectly lovely that the men have each other for company, to keep them from being lonely at night!" she exclaimed.
Her guide, Captain Hunt of the outside guards, enlightened her in plain language on how very lovely it was when a blanket was held over a boy's head to smother his cries while his cell mates used him, against his will, to satiate their own passions. She couldn't get out of the place fast enough; but through her efforts in the legislature, appropriations were forthcoming to build one more cell house the following year.
Regardless of shakedowns, the yard was full of dope and brew. Concoctions of grain, yeast, raisins, and fruit were hidden away in gallon cans smuggled out of the cannery to ferment just long enough to create the amount of alcohol necessary to get drunk on. Marijuana was almost as easy to buy in the yard as tobacco. Various types of dope in pill formknown in prison parlance as "bennies," "yellowjackets" and "goof balls"were on the yard market any day, for a price. (36, 38)
Previous administrations had allowed some of the old, long-term, inside trusties to build little shacks at various places in the yard. These were still there, made of scrap lumber, tin cans and cardboard. Each was a potential hiding place for dope or contraband, though seldom was anything found in them during a shakedown. One such shack had been built by a stir-crazy old Mexican who was doing a life sentence for a murder committed at Claypool, Arizona. Old Camacho had dug up the hard earth of the yard to make himself a tiny garden beside his shack. There he planted a few hills of corn and a few rows of chili peppers and beans. These he carefully tended, carrying water for them in a bucket. All day he would sit by his garden, playing sad Mexican songs on an old guitar or trying to read from a first grade primer drawn out of the library. He would laboriously read aloud:
"The dog chased the cat." Then he would ponder awhile and say, "Bad son-of-a-beechie dog, why you chase the poor cat? The cat do nothing for you." (40)
Although the state finances were in the red and guards' salaries paid in scrip, there was no dearth of money in the yard. Moneymaking activities in legitimate fields were plentiful. . . . There was seemingly no end to the work in arts and crafts which flourished there. (40)
Apart from the many honest endeavors among the inmates, there was also money to be made in the rackets. It seemed that almost every prisoner in or out of the yard had a racket going for him, large or small, and often some of the five to six hundred visitors who toured the yard every weekend were the victims. . . .
The prison studio was the first stop. Here the convict in charge gave a short lecture, explaining the procedure of fingerprinting and photographing newly arrived prisoners. A rack of post card pictures of men who had been executed, either by hanging or in the gas chamber, was shown prominently: each card for sale at ten cents. (41)
On visitors' day pitchmen were encountered at every stop around the yard, offering everything from wooden toys to treasure maps of hidden loot, buried on the outside, which those serving life sentences would never be able to dig up themselves. It was futile for a guard to warn a buyer that he was being suckered; he would buy anyhow. (42)
On certain days tobacco was issued in the yard. For smokers, a cheap, trashy sack tobacco named Hummingbird was the issue. It was so unpopular with the inmates that ten sacks could be purchased in the yard for a dime. One of the yard rackets was to partly fill a Bull Durham sack with the despised Hummingbird, then ask a new guard for a smoke of his Durham. The next time the guard rolled himself a cigarette he would find that he had the Hummingbird and the convict his Durham. The con had made the switch when he returned the guard's sack. (43)
I watched many a transaction in dope take place on the yard in broad daylight. . . .
From the wall tower telephone I rang the yard office and reported the transactions to the yard captain.
"Yeah, I know about it," he told me. "We'll catch 'em in the act one of these days."
He didn't even send a man out to check, so I suspected that he might be in on the traffic. (43)
Unlike Leavenworth, this prison did not issue a copy of written rules to the convicts. Fish were expected either to learn the do's and don'ts from other cons or the hard way, by experience. And quite often it was the hard way because, if a fish did not ante up money or favors, the old cons would give him a bum steer which might land him in the snakes for ten days, in solitary on bread and water for a simple violation he had had no intention of committing. (44)
Operating funds were so low that guards were paid in scrip. This scrip could be cashed in several stores in Florence or the nearby town of Coolidgebut only at a 10 percent discount. (48)
The farmers who lived at the two farms were supposed to keep a check on their trusties at night, but seldom looked in on them between the hours of 9 p.m. and daylight the next morning. During that time any runaways could get such a start that they could easily catch a freight train at Coolidge and be far away before ever being missed. (48)
Runaways became so frequent that the newspapers of Phoenix and Tucson began running a daily box score on the number of convicts who escaped each night. This finally infuriated the warden so much that he refused to give reporters any information at all. The result was that the newspapers began to shade their articles to read as though the prison was a country club where prisoners, armed to the teeth, were climbing over the walls to freedom every day, to harass the countryside with robbery, rape and murder. (48)
I trailed my man to Queen Creek, a water tower and a couple of abandoned shacks on the narrow gauge railroad. (50)
For several years before I came to Florence, the few dogs the prison owned and used for trailing escapees were cared for by trusty brothers John and Tom Powerboth doing life for killing three law officers who were members of a posse which, in February of 1918, had attempted to arrest them as draft evaders at their cabin in a remote canyon of the Galiuro Mountains. (53)
Many of the toughest characters inside the walls attended church, but not necessarily to get religion. Here they might make contact with a pusher to have a bindle of dope delivered to a certain spot at a designated time, or set up a tryst with one of the queans for a little quick loving in the showers or a broom closet. (58)
One day the farm superintendent said something to me about his trusties.
"Trusties, hell," I told him. "All you have is a bunch of riskies. They stay with you until they get the wrinkles out of their bellies and their muscles hard enough to trot the seven miles to Coolidge to catch a freight train. Then they are on their way."
The farm superintendent didn't care for my description of his boys, but he didn't have to chase them and I did, after he had lost them. (73)
It took them some time, but after two or three false starts they caught the faint scent from the trailsetter's feet and traced it across the desert to where he was treed. I had left instructions with my dog boy to meet us with my pickup at the "Chuck Wagon," a combination lunch counter and soft-drink roadside spot on the Florence Highway. It was Saturday night, and when we arrived a few couples were dancing on an open-air platform to the music of a juke box. (81)
One short, fat guard on Number 1 tower always used his rifle as a walking stick when he came out of the tower to stroll over to the gate and back. I took a good look at the weapon one day when he was off duty and found that a mud dauber wasp had built a nest in the barrel. It would probably have blown up if he had fired it. I ran a rod through it and cleaned it up before I left the tower. The muzzle was so worn down from being thumped on the concrete wall during the guard's strolls that it would most likely have shot around the corner better than straight ahead. (97)
Shortly after 9:00 o'clock one night, while the deputy warden, two other guards and I were playing cards in the guards' room, the night checker reported a trusty missing from the dairy. Ordinarily I would have been among those who went out to scour the roads and canal banks for tracks indicating which direction the escapee had taken on leaving the dairy, but this time the deputy warden asked me to accompany him on a quick run to Florence Junction. We had driven about ten of the seventeen miles when the car's headlights picked up our man hiking along the side of the road. As we neared him, he stopped and stuck out a thumb in the universal gesture of the hitchhiker. After we had pulled up beside him and stopped, I opened the rear door of the car for him. Even after he had climbed in, he still didn't recognize us.
"Where are you headed?" the deputy warden asked.
"Phoenix, if you are going that far," answered 11005. "I'd sure appreciate the ride."
About a quarter of a mile further along the road we found a place wide enough to turn around. Puzzled, our rider asked what the trouble was.
Don't you know us?" asked the deputy warden, switching on the dome light.
The con took a good look, then slumped down in the seat in disgust.
"Hell, I would hitch a ride with you guys," were the only words he uttered on the entire return trip. This just hadn't been his day. (98)
Just before Nelson was cuffed he started to take a half-step forward and bent over as though to reach for something on the ground. The loud click of my six shooter hammer coming to a cock stopped him in mid-stride.
"If you feel extra lucky just go ahead and reach for that shiv, Earl," I told him.
He gave me a long, hard look but did not move further until he and Geneck had been locked together. (102)
In prison jargon, a convict serving time for the crime of rape is known as a "rapo." (118)
My lecture ended, they hastily followed me out of the building, anxious to gain the sanctuary of the outside world once more, away from that grim little room upstairs and the reminder of how quickly and efficiently a human life could be terminated. Yet, a weekend or so later, some of the same people would be back to go through the routine again, impelled to return by some urge I never could understand. I saw many of the same faces among the visiting groups time after time during my years at the Arizona State Penitentiary. One elderly man exclaimed on peeking into the yard post office one day:
"I've been through here fourteen times, but this is the first time I have ever looked in this place!"
He could have seen as much by going to the post office in Coolidge where he lived. (124)
Polite, soft-spoken, a neat dresser, he had none of the appearances of a dangerous man; yet he was without a doubt the most dangerous man I have ever known. In a tight situation he always professed to be scared, yet the devil himself could not have made him turn a hair. Fear just was not in his makeup. As an example, this story was told me by an ex-sheriff of Gila County, who had been an eyewitness: Returning from a trip to Mammoth where they had served a subpoena on a witness for a forthcoming trial, he and Hugh stopped at the mining town of Ray. There they found a group of officers faced with a dilemma. A miner had gone berserk, killed one man, then holed up in a prospect tunnel at the edge of town, from where he threatened to shoot anyone who tried to arrest him. The officers had been trying without success to smoke him out of the tunnel. Learning the situation, Hugh asked why some of them didn't just go in and bring him out.
"Because we don't wish to commit suicide," was the answer. "Maybe you'd like to arrest him. We know he has an Army forty-five automatic with him, and he has already killed one man today."
Pulling his hat brim low to shade his eyes from the outside sun glare, Hugh entered the tunnel on the run. The miner shot first, nipping Hugh's sleeve. Hugh fired at the flash of the gun and it was all over. Coming to the adit of the tunnel, he announced:
"He's all yours, but he's too heavy for me to drag out."
He handed the miner's pistol to the officers and then, with the sheriff, resumed his trip back to Globe. (125-6)
One Sunday a baseball game was scheduled in the yard with a visiting team from a nearby town. The yard captain was watching from a vantage point where he could see around the corner of the Number 1 cell house toward the yard office. The kid, carrying a gallon can, eased into the crowd of convicts near him and, without warning, hurled the contents of the can (a mixture of lye and water) straight into his face. Rushed to the yard hospital where he received first aid, Pat Gibbons was in agony as the lye did its deadly work. His assailant was locked up immediately but would never cop out on the prisoner who had talked him into doing the job. Pat had never had occasion to snake him, so we knew someone else had masterminded the action.
Captain Hunt was appointed acting yard captain until Pat recovered enough to return to duty, but that day never came. Transferred to a Phoenix hospital, Pat lost the sight of one eye in a very short time and later that of the other. His face terribly scarred by the burns, he lay there, growing steadily weaker, his wife continually at his side, until at last he died. (132)
Old John was a pushover for rumors. Whenever he heard a new one he was quick to spread it without checking on its veracity. Knowing of that particular tendency as well as his stinginess, a couple of guards decided to have some fun at his expense. The fact that this was still wartime fitted in beautifully with their plan. Pretending to be quite upset by the news, they sought out the old man and told him:
"John, we just got the word that the government is in such dire need of funds to fight the war that Congress has declared that all monies over one thousand dollars not invested will revert to the government for the war effort. It won't affect either of us for we don't have that much money; but if we were you we would invest in land or something before they confiscate all but one thousand dollars of yours."
That bit of news hit John hard in his most vulnerable spot: his pocketbook. He was agitated all the rest of the day and early the next morning begged a ride to Coolidge with one of the guards who lived there. He went straight to a real estate agent and bought up several thousand dollars worth of lots in the town, some with houses on them. He was most unhappy when he found out later that the rumor had been false, and tried to no avail to back out of the deal with the agent. However, like many small towns throughout the country, Coolidge suddenly began to grow and prosper. Within a couple of years John found himself a wealthy man, his real estate holdings worth many times what he had paid for them. So, because of a trumped-up rumor, he was well able to retire from the guard, and did.
One evening long afterward, while having dinner at a Coolidge restaurant, I saw John at a table, wearing a diamond ring. A couple of local girls were batting their eyelashes at him from an adjoining table, trying to attract his attention. I guess he had the last laugh after all, for those two guards who had started the rumor as a joke and were the cause of his getting rich were still working for wages at the prison. (135-6)
Our first discovery was a prison blanket spread out under a tree, an array of plaster of Paris molds covering a large part of its surface; one to make dollars, eight imprints at a time; two for half dollars, twelve at a time; two quarter molds, fashioned to turn out twenty at once. There were even dime molds, also made to turn out twenty in a set. The molds were well made; heads on one side, tails on the other, with a small groove leading from the edges to each imprint through which to channel the molten metal after the head and tail halves of the molds had been bound together. Lead babbitt, some Mexican silver pesos, ground glass (used to give the coinage the authentic ring of silver), more silver nitrate and other ingredients were scattered about. (138)
At this time the prison had no full-time resident doctor, aside from two inmate doctors: one a Japanese, the other colored, both convicted and sentenced for abortion. Dr. Tom Steward, a Coolidge physician, had the state contract to treat the inmate population. (142)
A huge prisoner of war camp had been built just north of Florence and several thousand Italian POWs were confined there. To assist our war effort they were assigned to the job of picking cotton on the many farms nearby. None of them ever attempted to escape as they were quite happy to be out of the fighting in Europe and they received good treatment, good food to eat and comfortable barracks to sleep in. Three or four of our soldiers were often all that were needed to guard as many as three hundred Italians while they were working on the cotton farms. (145)
The pup loved his work, and on the trail his tail revolved like a windmill so we had named him "Twister." Once Twister caught up with his trail setter he had an odd habit of simply sitting down and looking away, never at the man he had been trailing. (147)
That pup was one of the best cold-blooded (mixed breed) dogs I ever followed until, one time while no one was around, a convict worker at the kennels tied him to a tree and beat him with a dog chain. From that moment on he turned vicious and developed a hatred of convicts which was to last him all his life. He still trailed as well as ever, but if he caught the man (or men) on the ground his eyes would glow with a red fire as he went to the attack, trying to tear them apart. When we worked him we had to keep up with him or risk having him tear the throats out of even the trail setters. (149)
Shortly after Christmas . . . the entire crew of a German submarine, interned in a camp at Papago Park near Phoenix, made its escape by tunneling out, then scattered in all directions in an attempt to reach Mexico. Several of the men were picked up and returned by law officers during the first few days after the escape, but many still remained at large.
Just south of the small settlement of Eleven Mile Corner a little farm girl, playing with her dog, came upon three of them, sleeping in a clump of tamarisk trees near her home. They ran off into some nearby sand hills before she could get home to tell her mother, who called the sheriff's office. (150)
About thirty-three miles southwest of Florence lies the little farming community of Eloy. When, in the late thirties, an abundance of water was found for irrigating, it had sprung from barren desert land into a thriving cotton-growing center within a few short years. Migrant workers who came for the cotton-picking season often stayed on for plowing, planting and chopping and also worked at the cotton gins which had sprung up to process and bale the crops. With these workers comprising a large part of the population, Eloy had simply grown without thought or design: a hodgepodge of stores, bars, a few substantial homes and hundreds of shacks and tent houses. It had soon earned the reputation of being the toughest town in Arizona. Its only representatives of law and order were a justice of the peace and one deputy sheriff. The latter earned his pay many times over, as scarcely a week passed without two or three murders, shootings or knifings. (164)
All of the Italian prisoners of war were being transferred to a camp in Idaho and the huge Florence camp was being made ready for an influx of German prisoners, soon to arrive. . . . When the stockade was full the gate was locked and the sorting began. The SS men (Storm Troopers) were shunted through a gate into a separate part of the stockade, while the ordinary German soldiers were left where they were. Once the sorting was over, the SS men, duffle bags on their shoulders, were let out into a fenced alley way, formed into columns of fours and marched off to their cantonments on the double. When they were out of the way the remaining soldiers were escorted off to a different part of the camp. This process was kept up until the entire train had been emptied.
The SS men were big, strong, husky-looking individuals, well trained and alert. The rest were totally different. Some were bent old men, some mere boys of fourteen or so. Some were lame, nearsighted and pretty poor specimens all around. Germany seemed to have scraped the bottom of the barrel for many of them.
Eventually eight thousand POWs were confined in the camp. Among them was a captain who was an excellent veterinarian. The camp commandant made his services free to me at any time and his skill saved several good dogs during the time he was there. (183-4)
Sheriff Boies had told me the day before that he had alerted Luke Air Force Base near Litchfield, and the commanding officer had promised to send out a flight of planes to scan the desert that morning. In a few moments here they camehundreds of them. As we rode down an open ridge we waved to the pilots, thinking they would see us and return to their base, but evidently none spotted us, for they continued to fly over. I learned later that there had been over four hundred of them. (185)
About eight miles from the prison a large check gate across the canal had forced the escapee to leave the water rather than portage around. Here we definitely found his tracks, leading off across the desert toward the town lights of Coolidge. Anne led us at a fast gait to the outskirts of town and directly to where he was hidden, waiting for a freight train. He was amazed that any dog had been able to follow him all that distance down the center of the stream. He told us that he had sunk his canoe at the head gate and left the canal, convinced that no dog could possibly have trailed him that far; but Old Anne had done it. She was a great trailer. (186)
A good many of those who got the idea of escaping from the prison never realized how hard it was to get away across the desert. One young trusty who ran away just after dark one night was an example. I followed his trail part of the night and, using the stars as a compass, realized after the first twelve miles or so that he was lost. His trail kept bearing to the left until he was headed back toward the prison. Just as the sun came up I found him, asleep in a cotton trailer in a field not more than a mile and a half east of the prison. He did not realize that he had made almost a complete circle until he heard the morning whistle blowing atop the yard power house. To say that he was thoroughly disgusted with himself would be an understatement. (191)
The Coolidge mayor and city fathers petitioned the warden to let us clean the trash and weeds from their little city. Ben Arnold, later to become a state senator from Pinal County, showed us where we were to begin the cleanup job, then left the rest to me. . . .
While we were busy at the cleanup job, Bum Beef Smith, our white truck driver, had little to do, and now and then would wander off by himself. One afternoon I left the gang at work and walked up the main street to look for him. He had set up shop on a wooden crate he had picked up somewhere, displaying a small array of prison made rings, bracelets and pins and was doing a land office business with the migrant cotton pickers and some Pima Indians. When he saw me, he hastily moved his stock from the crate into his pockets and pretended he was just resting.
"If you're going to compete with the local merchants you should have a city license first," I told him. "Now, go back to the truck and stay there!"
Bum Beef was a highly unsavory character, serving ten to fifteen years for rape on two little sisters, one fourteen and one nine, at Tucson some years before. His prime motive in carrying around a pocketful of junk jewelry was not the sale of any of it, but the chance it offered him to come in contact with young girls, enticed by the flashy baubles. He was an unscrupulous rapo who had to be continually kept in check, and I intended to keep a close watch on him. (195)
Eventually the trail led past some old abandoned lime ovens, then recrossed the Gila near the small mineral prospect of two old brothers. We reached their camp around noon, just as they were about to have their meal. Locally they were known as Hopeless and Soapless Smith. They invited us to dine with them but we declined with thanks, chiefly because they, their camp and the food were filthy with dirt, bugs and cockroaches. We did drink and fill our canteens at their well of cool water before going on. (197)
Popcorn and Peanuts were twin colored boys from Tucson. They had spent most of their teen years in the State Industrial School at Fort Grant. They had had no education to speak of and actually were more simple-minded than criminal. (207)
The wardens had been high in their praise of the hounds when they caught escaping prisoners, yet they often seemed to feel that the dogs were of no consequence and expendable. Many times I had been forced to argue long and hard to keep them from giving away my best dogs to anyone who asked for one. So far I had managed to keep the best of them, but only after some fast talking. After working as many as three years to train a choice pup to do his finest work, I could not agree to give him away to someone who merely wanted a pet. Often the new owner would keep him tied up for weeks at a time, then expect him to go on a long chasesoft, fat and out of conditionand do as well as he had for me. Then he would come back to Florence and complain that we had given him a dog which was no good! (214)
One afternoon several years before, two officers from northern Arizona had arrived with an old Navajo Indian medicine man who had been convicted of the theft of a white man's beef and sentenced to prison. He was one of the few old "long hairs" remaining and had lived a long way back in the wildest part of the vast reservation, much as his ancestors had before him. Through an interpreter he had explained to the court that the beef he had killed was only for use in making his medicine, therefore he had committed no crime. The court had decided otherwise, however, much to the puzzlement of the old medicine man. And now, here he was, in a totally alien environment, among strange white men who spoke a language of which he knew only a few words, and with no idea of what they intended to do with him. Fortunately, among the inmates were a couple of younger Navajos whom the warden called in to act as interpreters while he briefed the old one on the procedure of dressing in and of what would be expected of him during his sojourn at the prison.
The proud composure of the old Indian's fine, hawk-like face was broken only once when the yard captain told him through the interpreter that his hair must be cut off and his picture taken. He silently invited the captain to kill him by tearing open his faded cotton shirt to expose his bony old chest. Hill Hunt could be tough when necessary, but he was also very human, and that gesture struck a responsive chord in him. He had the interpreter tell the old man that they would only cut off a little of his hair and that he could close his eyes while his picture was being taken so the evil spirits would not recognize him. That seemed to mollify the old man considerably, but he was visibly nervous as the barber unwound the yards and yards of brown woolen string that bound his long hair into a bun at the back of his neck. All through the ordeal he sat with his eyes squeezed tight shut, and only opened them when the barber held up a mirror for him when the job was finished. He expressed his disfavor as he climbed out of the chair with two words: "Got-tam."
He was too old for work on the gang, so the captain let him putter around the yard on odd jobs. He felt no guilt for what he had done for, according to his beliefs, it was perfectly all right to kill anyone's calf when it was necessary to make medicine with some part of it. To him, all white men represented the unfair law that had caused him to be locked up and he called upon his own ancient gods and his medicine to work retribution, at least against those who had him in custody. First he called upon Big Fly and Corn Beetle, the messengers, to carry his plea to Father Coyote and Big Snake Man of the crooked snake people to intercede for him with Father Sun and Water Sprinkler not to let it rain again. Then, at the end of his incantations, he solemnly dug a hole in the hard packed earth of the yard and buried his moccasins, declaring that it would not rain again until we had set him free to return to his home on the reservation.
For two long, hot, dry summers great thunderheads built up on the horizon time after time, only to rain themselves out along the San Pedro River far to the east or dissipate into nothing, while Florence baked and sweltered through continual drought. At last, the parole board reviewed his case and decided to commute his sentence to time served. On the day his son came down from Dinnehotso to take him home, he dug up his moccasins, discarded the clumsy prison brogans he had been wearing, and stalked out without a backward glance.
Two days later a terrific rain came down upon Florence, creating a force of water of such magnitude that it broke across the two great canals and flooded the downtown area of stores and homes to a depth of more than two feet. (219-20)
Since politicians must depend on votes to get themselves elected to office and keep themselves there, they are always seeking new ways to strengthen their vote-getting power. Governor Sidney P. Osborn was no exception and he hit upon an idea which he thought might go over big with the large Mexican population of our statea population thus far rather neglected by other politicians. He issued a proclamation that for all official purposes all Arizona residents of Mexican extraction would be classified as Caucasian.
A few mornings later an old Mexican, the local town drunk, made his way up to the prison to "put the bite" on his brother (a guard) for a few dollars. Collapsing next to me on one of the stone benches in front of the executive building, he began expounding on the new status the governor's proclamation had given him.
"I am no Mexican any more," he stated. "The governor says that I am a Cacoosian, or something like that. Anyway, whatever it is I am it. And it's good. Better than a damn Mexican any day."
A colored trusty who was standing by and listening to the conversation with interest, interjected his thoughts on the matter:
"Yeah, man," he chuckled. "If the governor gits elected again, we all gonna be Caucasians. Even me!" (220-1)
By noon we had trailed our man to a road leading to Kelvin. He had crossed it and was headed out into the desert. One of the prison trucks met us on the road with water and sandwiches, and while we ate and rested our horses the dogs crawled under the truck to seek shade. In our hurry to start out that morning no one had thought to bring food for the dogs, and the truck had brought none either. I threw one of my sandwiches to Twister, and the other guards divided their food with May and June. When I looked at Twister a few moments after having given him half my lunch, he gave me such a pitiful look of hunger that I tossed him what was left of my sandwich. This he swallowed in one gulp. As we were mounting our horses after the rest period, he rose to his feet and retrieved the first one I had given him. That foxy old hound had been lying on it all the time, pretending he had eaten it and was still hungry, knowing that one of us would feed him more. (221-2)
Poor Old Mac was finding the moral fiber of a number of his fellow men sadly lacking in the Catholic traditions of his own upbringing and experience, and this lack was to plague him all the days of his tenure as secretary of the Arizona State Penitentiary.
The crowning blow came one Sunday when a tipsy blonde whore came down from Phoenix to visit her pimp. Wishing to leave some money on the books for him, she asked Tom Bambrick whom to see and he sent her in to Old Mac. Feeling quite playful, she plumped and he sent her in to Old Mac. Feeling quite playful, she plumped herself down into Mac's lap, draped her arms lovingly around his neck and gave him a big smack on his bald head, leaving the brilliant imprint of her lipstick.
"Honey, would you give this money to Roy for me," she cooed, reaching into her blouse between her pouter-pigeon breasts and coming out with a wad of bills large enough to choke a goat.
Old Mac's face turned magenta as he sought to stand up and dislodge this latest insult to his sensibilities. But luck wasn't with him for, off balance, he, the lady and the chair capsized backwards onto the office floor amid a flurry of bills, flying skirts, shapely nylon-clad legs and a view of quite a bit of the young woman's anatomy.
Unfortunately, three or four grinning guards witnessed Old Mac's downfall, and his Irish dignity suffered another blow. He was so incensed by the whole thing that he threatened to resign his post on the spot and return to his little farm paper at Gilbert, and it took some fast talking on the part of Warden Lonnie Walters to get him to stay on with us. (225)
Our wedding was held at the Diamond W, with Hill Hunt as best man and Tommy Cathemer in attendance and we moved into the new house before the interior paint was fully dry. I had selected Hill's former house boy to work for us on a temporary basis. Barbecue Slim was a tall, lanky colored trusty who had operated several barbecue pits in Phoenix before he fell to Florence, and he was black as coal. Hill had jokingly dubbed him "Snowball"a name which he seemed to prefer to the one by which he was known on the outside. (227)
It was while we were there that five of the vaqueros arrived. With them they had a half breed of Mexican and Papago origin, whom they had forced to accompany them from his place below the border. Their spokesman told us that they had followed the renegade's tracks to this man's place the day before, but that he had at first denied even seeing him. They had gone on, but on their way back to the ranch had stopped again at his place, put a reata around his neck and pulled him off the ground a few times"we hang him a little," as they put ituntil he confessed that he had given some coffee and beans to the renegade. Now, they had brought him along to keep track of him.
"If you catch this renegade, what do you expect to do with him?" asked the customs officer.
"We take him back across the border, where we still have room for one or two more in a mine shaft," was the unsmiling reply. (229)
By sunup we were among the plowed fields and irrigated pastures between Florence and Coolidge, bearing southwest. I knew that these three escapees were young, strong men in the peak of condition and would be hard to overtake with the start they had on us. By early afternoon they had arced back and were heading toward the rugged Picacho Mountains. . . .
Just before dark the new guard came back with Lonnie, who was all for trying to follow the escapees up that steep mountainside in the dark. I tried to argue that it would be almost impossible for a horse to make that climb in daylight, much less at night; but Lonnie was convinced that it could be done. Taking May, June, and Queen with them, he and the guard began the climb. . . .
Later, working toward Tucson, we met Lonnie and the guard who had started climbing with him the night before, on a side road. There was no sign of my three dogs. When I asked where they were, the men told me that they had lost them on the mountain during the night. They had been able to climb only a little higher than where I had last seen them, and they claimed that the dogs had run off after cattle or something in the dark and they didn't know what had become of them.
Right there, I quit looking for the escapees and went back to hunt my dogs.
I found Queen and May, footsore and almost starved, near the north end of the mountain, but no trace of June. Returning to the prison, I put them in the kennels with instructions for their care and rest. That evening the warden and the rest of the guards came back, but without the escapees.
"Well, I'm glad we found our dogs anyway," Lonnie remarked, after learning that I had brought back two of my hounds.
I was pretty hot under the collar and could not resist reminding him that, though he and the guard had been the ones who had lost them in the first place, they had made no effort to try to find them again.
The next day one of the escapees was picked up by local officers near Gila Bend. I spent the entire day hunting my missing dog in the desert, but without success. On the third day I took my wife along with me to continue the search. . . .
As we came out on a little rise, my wife, who was walking ahead of me, suddenly stopped.
"That looks like a dog's head sticking up near those rocks," and she pointed.
It was. June was lying right beside the little rock monument I had built. It was the last place she and I had been together and she was waiting, with complete trust, for me to return. She was so weak that she could not get to her feet, starved and terribly dehydrated from the heat and lack of water, but she whined and licked my face when I picked her up and started to carry her back to the truck. I pried off one of the hub caps and filled it with water from our canteen, only letting her drink a little at a time until she had lapped up enough to keep her going for a while. She lay in my wife's lap all the way home, with only a faint wag of her slender tail to show that she was still alive. She wouldn't have been in another day.
It was a long time before June gained back her strength, but she did recover to go on many another trail. (235-6)
Just before we reached the southeast corner of the pasture, the dogs disappeared behind some clumps of shin oak brush and stopped baying. They had found her. I waved to the deputies to come on up to us and check everything out. There were three saddle horses standing in the corner of the fence, but no other tracks around that I could see. The woman was lying face down and she was dead.
After a quick survey, one deputy returned to his car and radioed in for the coroner to hurry out. No gun was visible, but we surmised that it was probably beneath the woman. In a very short time the coroner arrived with a couple of aides and appointed all of us members of his jury, then turned the body over, revealing the revolver underneath. Two chambers held fired cartridges, the others were still loaded. Examination showed that the victim had knelt down and fired once into her chest, the bullet passing clear through and out her back. Then she had cocked the revolver again and shot herself a second time, this time in the heart. Poor woman! She must have wanted to die awfully badly to have made the great effort that the second shot had entailed. The coroner had the body removed to town, while the deputy and I returned to the ranch house to notify the family.
Tragedies such as this one were (and are), of course, not uncommon, and this was certainly not the first person whom my dogs and I had found dead; but this particular type of death is always the most difficult for me to accept. My wife, who had remained with the family while I was out with the dogs, was visibly shaken by the whole episode. (240)
Generally, guards left the prisoners pretty much alone and to their own devices, only clamping down when a fight broke out or some other serious situation developed at night. For this and many other reasons, among the old cons who had served sentences in other prisons, the Arizona State Penitentiary was known as an easy place to pull time. Often I heard convicts who had been at Sugarland, Texas, under "Uncle Bud," or at The Walls in Huntsville, describe their life there. Many were deeply scarred from the whippings they had received with a harness tug for the least infraction of rules or for not being able to keep up with the pace setter during their work in the fields. No wonder they considered themselves well off at A. S. P. (246)
The wives, mothers, sisters and sweethearts of the convicts were the ones for whom I always had the greatest sympathy. Society seldom gives thought to the fact that these also serve time, and hard time at that. A few wives take advantage of a state law which permits them to divorce a convicted criminal, and they file the necessary papers soon after the gates close on their man. The majority, however, choose to wait and hope for the release of their loved ones. They are the ones who suffer.
The towns of Florence and Coolidge were always hosts to numbers of these women, who took whatever jobs they could get to be near their loved ones. They worked as nurses and aides in the county hospital, clerked in stores, cooked and waited table in restaurants. (247-8)
Many of the transient inmates with no homes and no relatives residing in Arizona were paroled out of state when their minimum sentences had been served. Among these, I recall several who never made it farther than the town of Florence and the nearest bar before being returned to the prison as parole violators, to serve out their maximum time.
Having been deprived of alcoholic beverages during all the years of their imprisonment, they headed straight for one of the local bars just as soon as they were delivered in Florence, to have a few drinks while waiting for the bus which was to start them on their journey out of state. Several ounces of whiskey absorbed in a short time by a system so long unused to alcohol were enough to befuddle their brains or affect their locomotion. Talking wildly or staggering down the street, they were in the custody of the town marshal in a matter of minutes; and back they came as parole violators, having made it no farther from the prison than the one mile between the gate and the town.
Who among us might not, under the same circumstances, have found ourselves in the same fix? I wonder. (248-9)