November 27, 2016

I recently witnessed a no-holds-barred negotiation whereby a holiday chicken quarter was offered on the open market to the highest bidder. It was a high stakes bidding process that included leverage, arbitrage, options, and futures contracts. One temporary high bid had to be retracted when financing commitments fell through. The deal was ultimately closed when the winning bidder exchanged one mozzarella cheese bar previously purchased from the commissary spot market for the November chicken future with a Veterans Day delivery date.

Cell phones are strictly prohibited here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. Visitors are instructed to leave theirs in the car. If that rule is consistently broken, an inmate could lose his visiting privileges. A few weeks ago, one of our inmates was caught with a cell phone in his possession. When confronted by a corrections officer, he started running. He was caught quickly hiding in bushes about 300 yards from the housing unit and removed from the camp to...

November 23, 2016

The great Irish poet Michael Longley says, "poetry is useless, but it's also powerful." This, for Walton, Ryan, and Jesus, who have always been in the same fraternity, from me. And for me, too, as I lamely attempt to say thanks for the ultimate treasure, the gift of eternally abiding love. Happy Thanksgiving from Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp.

When the news came that day,
My heart left my body.
The piercing screams, my own grief,
As my knees bore my weight.
But when I called that name,
He was silent.

When the news came that day,
Mary's fatherless son,
Who passed up power for love,
Had nothing to say.
Since there were no answers,
He sat with me.

When the news came that day,
I didn't need a god,
And religion was no help.
I challenged and cursed him,
But he stayed by my side,
Holding my hand.

When the news came that day,
Unbearable sorrow,
Transformed to our shared sorrow,
Becoming bearable.
As he never let go,
Crying with me.

November 18, 2016

One has to be a little crazy to jump out of an airplane for fun. If any proof was needed, I've done it twice. The first experience was when I was a college freshman in 1972. On that occasion, I jumped with a static line which was a cable attached from the plane to my ripcord that automatically opened the parachute. The second time was 30 years later, and I did it right--exiting the plane at 12,000 feet and free falling until the altimeter indicated it was time to pull open. The parachute was so controllable, I was able to land within 20 feet of the target.

The feeling of weightless free fall, with only the sound of the rushing wind, was exhilarating. Once the chute opened, I had no sense of falling. It was as if I was silently flying, sometimes ascending instead of descending. But none of this would have happened had I not stepped out onto the landing wheel of an in-flight single engine airplane and grasped the wing strut. At that moment, my mind screamed at me "You're a complete idiot!...

November 14, 2016

I'm thinking it may be time for another inmate book report from Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp.

Don Miguel Ruiz was raised in rural Mexico in the Toltec tradition, but he then attended medical school and became a surgeon. A near death experience caused him to re-explore the mysteries of the 2500-year-old Toltec wisdom, and after much study, he became a nagual (Shaman).

In 1997, he wrote The Four Agreements, his first book based on Toltec wisdom. I read the book in the early 2000s and thought it was so good, I gave a copy of it to my daughter, inadvertently guaranteeing that she would never read it. I have to admit this book would have been life changing, had I taken it to heart--one of many missed opportunities. With that in mind, I re-read it recently here when another inmate loaned me his copy. It's a quick but powerful read.

The four agreements, which are based on Ruiz's ancestral wisdom, are as follows:

1. Be impeccable with your word. Don't speak against yourself or others but instead...

November 10, 2016

There are 17 religious affiliations recognized at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, but not mine. I'm an unapologetic Recovering Baptist. To understand what that means, let's take a shallow dive into those words.

Most people have a mental picture, good or bad, of a Baptist. Historically Baptists are doctrinally "non-credal" which means we have no written creed but the Bible, which is inspired but not necessarily inerrant. Baptists believe we are all innately competent to approach God directly, without a priest or intermediary. These doctrines are called "Priesthood of the Believer" and "Soul Competence."  Baptists believe in the trinity, which perceives God as "the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."  I'll describe that later when I understand it. Don't hold your breath. Baptists practice believer's baptism, as opposed to infant, and immersion is almost always the preferred method. They also embrace the philosophical idea of the separation of church and state, but differ widely as to church go...

November 6, 2016

As I walked to work on a dark morning in late October, I noticed a very light fog in the glow of the street lights. After I had settled into my palatial office and then walked through the maintenance shop to see the sunrise, our supervisor came through and told us all to return to the housing unit as there was a "fog count."  Apparently inmates escape when there is fog, just like Andy Dufresne escaped from Shawshank Prison in a thunderstorm. Now granted, we have no fences here and I could simply walk out anytime, if I had someplace to go.

We all walked back to the housing unit for our "fog count" with the morning sun warming up a clear blue sky. To my dismay, the law library was closed. I slowly remembered that it was Tuesday, which is the day the education supervisor comes to the camp and makes sure anything and everything remotely related to education is locked. With that option gone, the last place I wanted to go was back to my bunk where there would be 7 people within 3 feet of me,...

November 2, 2016

On October 14, 1965, I was showing my Black Angus heifer Calamity Jane at the Ouachita Valley Fair. I remember that day not because she won the show (she was a real looker), but because that afternoon I wandered over to the Exhibit Building and happened upon a TV broadcasting game 7 of the World Series. 

That day Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers faced Jim Kaat of the Minnesota Twins. They had met in game 2, won by the Twins, with Kaat pitching a complete game shutout, and again in game 5, won by the Dodgers, as Koufax pitched his own complete game shutout. Koufax was my favorite player. A devout Jew, he had refused to pitch game 1 of the series which fell on Yom Kippur. Even a 12 year old Baptist boy like me admired that his faith trumped baseball, even the World Series. 

It was a day I will never forget, as both pitchers worked on only 2 days rest. Kaat was effective for 4 innings, but Koufax was masterful, striking out 13 en route to his 2nd complete game shutout in 3 days, as t...

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones