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4 p.m. Count 

Yankton Federal Prison Camp 


Supervisor of Education Maureen Steffen 

2008 National Endowment for the Arts 
Writer-in-Residence, Editor Jim Reese 

Copy Editor S. Marielle Frigge 

Cover Art Juan A. Zuniga 

Layout/Design Shane Miner / Jim Reese 

Copyright © 2008 by the Yankton Federal Prison Camp 

All poems, prose and artwork are used with permission 
by the authors, and they retain all rights to their work 

published herein. 

Except for brief quotations in reviews, no part of this work 

may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any 

means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying 

and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval 

system, without the prior written permission of the 

copyright owner unless such copying is expressly permitted 

by federal copyright law. 

4 p.m. Count is made possible by a generous grant by 
the National Endowment for the Arts. The Department 

of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Washington, 

DC (hereinafter referred to as "BOP") enters into this 

agreement with the National Endowment for the Arts 

(Hereinafter referred to as the "Endowment") to provide 

a Writer-in-Residence program in the Federal Prison 

System, under the authority of Section 5 (o) of the National 

Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, 

as amended [20 U.S.C. 954 (o)] and Section 601 of the 

Economy Act of 1932(31 U.S.C. 1535). 

Yankton Federal Prison Camp 

P.O. Box 680 

Yankton, SD 57078 


Foreword 7 

S. Cynthia Binder 
Introduction 9 

Jim Reese 
4 P.M. Count 11 

Group poem 
Be a Man 14 

Isaac Searcy 
Arkansawing for Asparagus 15 

Jason E. Davis 
The Squirels' Nest 16 

Scott Kirk 
To the Yankton Writing and Publishing Class 18 

Neil Harrison 
Momma's Holiday 22 

Mario G. Covington 
"Dat Der" Rope 25 

Ryan Nordstrom 
Neumyer Trailer Park Shoot Out 26 

Justin Brooks 
Direction for Isaiah, Jordan and Tazsanay 33 

Michael Jackson 
Wrecked 35 

Todd Bowlin 
Indian Creek Road 36 

Dane Yirkovsky 
"Scrapbook Letters from Daddy. . ." 49 

"Scrapbook Letters from Daddy. . ." 50 

"Scrapbook Letters from Daddy..." 51 

Joe Cavallaro III 
Letter to Inmates, Yankton Federal Prison Camp 
Memorial Day, May 26, 2008 52 

Linda M. Hasselstrom 
Salvation in a Bottle: Doom Malt Liquor 55 

Justin Bollig 

4 p.m. Count Page 3 

5 Nights in Vegas 

Night Golfing, Brothels, Gambling, Romance 63 

Lee Dagostini 
Phylogeny 77 

Fermin Venzor 
Truck'n 79 

Jason E. Davis 
The Great Hunters 80 

Isaac Searcy 

"C,o H 15 N " 

The Power of Methamphetamine 91 

Joe Cavallaro III 
The Beet Scene 92 

Justin Brooks 
Glen's Cave 97 

Josh Hurst 
Letter from Bill Kloefkorn 100 

Chicken Noodle Soup 111 

Hung Dao 
Bridgeman Street 116 

Brandon W. Buster 
From Freedom to Crimson and Blue 121 

Todd Bowlin 
I Ain't No Yeller Chicken 126 

Isaac Searcy 
Art Class Overview 128 

Dane Yirkovsky, et al. 
*Katelyn Jo Belieu* 133 

February 21, 2008 - May 14, 2008 
White Baby Kinda Baboon 135 

Dane Yirkovsky 
Grandpa Ross 137 

Brandon W. Buster 
"My Confidant..." 144 

"My Friend..." 
"My Teddy Bear..." 

Joe Cavallaro III 

Page 4 4 p.m. Count 

Blank Pages In Prison 148 

Michael 'Mac' Clennon 
Count Time. Count Time. 151 

Michael Jackson 
Dear Jim and Students 152 

Greg Kosmicki 
The Light 153 

Mario G. Covington 
$&%@ Love 155 

Hung Dao 
Something I Wrote For My Daughter 158 

In County When I First Got Locked Up 

Jason E. Davis 
Unknown Sentinel 159 

Joshua Harvey 
Behind These Walls 166 

Michael 'Mac' Clennon 
Don't Pass Me By 170 

Michael 'Mac' Clennon 
Trapped On A Parking Lot 171 

Scott Kirk 
Fearful Mind 172 

Juan Zuniga 
To the Students in Dr. Jim Reese's Writing & Publishing 
Class, Federal Prison Camp, Yankton, SD 175 

Lee Ann Roripaugh 
Real 178 

Todd Bowlin 
Father and Son 179 

Hung Dao 
The Stand-off 181 

Mario G. Covington 
Thoughts from an Imprisoned Father 182 

Mario G. Covington 
Through the Viewfinder... 183 

Joe Cavallaro III 
Relapsing with a Photo 184 

Michael 'Mac' Clennon 

4 p.m. Count Page 5 

Christinas in Prison... One More Time 185 

Joe Cavallaro III 
A Brief Reunion 187 

Scott Kirk 
A New Beginning 188 

Scott Kirk 
My Mya 189 

Isaac Searcy 
Dear Dr. Jim, Joe, Juan, Josh, Hung, Mario, Lee, 
Jason, Brandon, Ryan, Justin, Isaac, Fermin, Dane, and 
Michael, et al. 190 

David Lee 
Unexpected Snow 195 

Ryan Nordstrom 
"This is it" 196 

Joe Cavallaro III 

Page 6 4 p.m. Count 


This year marks the 20 th year of our AA Degree that 
Mount Marty College offers to the prisoners at Yankton 
Federal Prison Camp. Our beginnings were modest. We 
knew our goals were good ones that could only benefit the 
prisoners. Then we suffered through the loss of the Pell 
Grant money in the middle of the 1990's, but somehow 
we stayed with the mission of what we wanted to do. 
This educational partnership with the Federal Bureau of 
Prisons has gone beyond what we could have imagined. 
For this cooperation in such a vital and restorative process, 
I am grateful beyond words. Both the educational and 
administrative prison staff and our teaching personnel have 
watched with awe as the prisoners responded so well to the 
opportunity to do college work. 

We had to keep in mind that these men have lots of 
baggage that is carried along as they do their courses. They 
all carry within them the pain of how deeply they have hurt 
and humiliated their parents and families, the destructive 
choices they made, the fear for their futures, of finding 
a job, and rebuilding relationships with loved ones. As 
time went on, they realize slowly that they are rebuilding 
something deep within them that had been crushed, beaten 
down, defeated. It was something that had died within 
them. This they slowly regain. We call it self-esteem, but 
my experience tells me that needs a better and stronger 
word to describe it. It is a place somewhere in the center 
of themselves that was once innocent, decent, sacred, holy. 
Slowly they feel that returning. To a person, somewhere in 
their studying, they all speak or write about the restoration 
of what was once good within them. A rejuvenation of 
that inward sense of wholeness and integrity is gradually 
built up. Because of that, they rediscover a confidence 
and courage that assure them of that future job, those 
reestablished relationships, the strength for good choices. 

The publishing of this book is another landmark of 
4 p.m. Count Page 7 

what a strong educational process can do. Herein we find 
all the heart, soul, and mind of good men who worked hard 
in response to their inner resources. The inner workings of 
these men have seen troubled and very painful times. They 
recognize the power of that suffering and thus offer us the 
wisdom that comes from that very suffering. 

Personally I am very proud of what they have 
done for this book. My everyday prayer for them is that 
goodness and kindness will follow them all the days of 
their lives. 

Sister Cynthia Binder 

Associate Professor of Humanities 

Mount Marty College 

Yankton, South Dakota 

June 2008 

Page 8 4 p.m. Count 


Yesterday we put the table of contents of this 
journal together in prison. Today I'm sitting in my of- 
fice, looking at the group photo of all the authors you will 
find is this inaugural publication of 4 P.M. Count — Yank- 
ton Federal Prison Camp's creative writing journal. The 
pride on the guys' faces tells me a lot. If we'd taken this 
photo six months ago, we would have all looked like deer 
in headlights — me probably more so than the rest. I had a 
plan, and I can honestly tell you we've accomplished all of 
the things I hoped to — what I envisioned these guys could 

I didn't know a lot about where I was going to be 
working every Tuesday for the next eight months. I knew 
the Yankton Federal Prison Camp was the only Federal 
Prison in the nation without a barbed-wire fence. I knew 
there weren't any second chances given to inmates. I had 
heard most of the men there were incarcerated for drug- 
related or white-collar crimes. What I learned was that 
inmates at YFPC could obtain an Associate Degree from 
Mount Marty College in business or horticulture if they had 
graduated from high school or obtained their GED while in 

When I came to the camp I was immediately im- 
pressed — the place is immaculate. Beautiful flowers and 
landscape — the men take pride in making the place look 
as good as possible — it is their home away from home for 
now. I was still hesitant though, because I was entering 
into a world I wasn't quite sure about — which in turn made 
my teaching all the more rewarding. From the beginning I 
told the guys I wasn't interested in their past — rather, I was 
interested in their future and the goals they had for them- 
selves and, most importantly, for their writing. 

During our first three-hour session one of the guys 
asked me what the difference between poems and prose 
was. I threw out my plan and realized we had to start at the 
beginning. From there I established a crash course in writ- 

4 p.m. Count Page 9 

ing — realizing I had some very talented students from the 
get-go and some students that were eager to learn. What a 
rewarding environment that is. Students that want to learn. 
I knew they would show up for class each week and to my 
surprise they not only were there, but they had their home- 
work done and stories and poems ready to workshop. As 
a teacher, I was truly moved by the eagerness — their raw 
nerve and inimitable voices. 

As in any workshop setting, constructive criticism is 
tough to implement. These men, their teacher included, are 
competitive. On some occasions we all disagreed — which 
in turn made my teaching (I hope) and their work (I know), 
better. I'd be lying to you if I told you I wasn't intimi- 
dated at times, but that's par for the course. What all of 
us learned was that each week we could walk away from 
workshop and think about our discussions, our criticisms, 
our suggestions and take 'em or leave 'em. 

The funding from the NEA allowed me to invite 
other writers from throughout the country to join us so that 
the students could get a wide array of opinions and ideas on 
craft. These award- winning writers helped workshop and 
wrote response letters back to us, which you will find in 
this journal. 

This journal you are holding in your hands is 
proof that a weekly writing and publishing class can un- 
lock a world of potential — one that can provide the tools 
for personal growth and prosperity. Programs like these, 
funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, give these 
guys hope — give them something to share with family and 
friends and make them richer for the show. I do hope such 
programs continue throughout the country. 

Jim Reese 
Yankton, SD 
August, 2008 

Page 10 4 p.m. Count 

4 P.M. Count 

Group poem 

Lights on. 

Doors open. 

Stand up it's count time. 

Hats and headphones off. 

I reminisce of my mother preparing 

to go grocery shopping. Looking in the fridge 

Her list in hand, We need eggs, milk, bacon.... 

Time to make sure all the cattle are accounted for. 
Where are we going to go? 

Red light flash — stand up fast. 
Count by number — no time to slumber. 

Recount! Bed book count ...Listen for your name and 
respond with your number. Say nothing but your 
registered number. Nothing else! 

Hundreds of thousands of Federal Inmates being counted 
across the nation. 

4 P.M. Count one more time — one less count — 
one less day. 

A daily reminder of humility. Here, we are all just 
a number. 

Coffee time. 

Another day is put behind us — time to relax — 
time to unwind. 

It's almost mail call. Will I be lucky today? Has someone 
4 p.m. Count Page 1 1 

thought about me? Who's first? A-H? S-Z? Man, this crap 
is getting old. 

What is so hard about counting? Really how hard can it 

I'm trying to watch this game! 

Nap time. 

A cool — too fresh — slap in the face. 

Get this over so I can go to chow. 

Fifty-six! Fifty-seven! 

I got fifty-six. 

Recount. This time stand where we can see you! 

Page 12 4 p.m. Count 


4 p.m. Count Page 13 

Be a Man 

Isaac Searcy 

A cow s horns can become dangerous not only to humans, 
but to other cows. They can get their horns hung up in a 
gate, or even inadvertently poke another cows eye out. 
Because of this, their horns need to be removed when the 
cattle are young and the horns very small. One method 
used to remove the horns is to burn them off. It is the least 
expensive and also, least time consuming — something dairy 
farmers have little of. The tool used to remove the horns is 
shaped like a curling iron used by women to curl their hair. 
The iron is electric and heats up to a red-hot temperature. 
After a young calf is secured in a head-gate — equipment 
that secures the calf's head and will not allow the calf to 
move — the iron is pressed over the horn and held for a 
full twenty seconds, burning out the source of the horn s 
growth, the root. 

When the eyes of them black and white calves roll back 
until I can see the white in them, I cringe, and it hurts in 
the spot where a man don't let no one else see. Grandpa 
says we have to de-horn the calves or their horns will be 
a nuisance, and I can understand that. He says we have to 
burn 'em off because it cost too much to do surgery, and I 
can understand that, too. But I don't understand the pain 
in my chest, twisting my insides up when that searing hot 
iron touches the calf's horn and she bawls and bellers and 
it strikes a chord deep down inside me. Grandpa presses 
down with the iron and the muscles and veins of his scarred 
and leathered forearms ripple. He looks right into my eyes 
through the smoke of burnt horn and flesh billowing up 
around us, and his face says what his lips won't. "Be a man 
Isaac. This is business." 

Page 14 4 p.m. Count 

Arkansawing for Asparagus 

Jason E. Davis 

Dad and Bubba Bean 

sitting on the hood of the 86'Chevy Caprice 

moving at a snail's pace 

down the gravel road 

searching for wild asparagus. 

Stopping to reload on more Bud Lights 

waving to Sheriff Kline as he 

drives by, nods and looks the other way. 

4 p.m. Count Page 15 

The Squirels' Nest 

Scott Kirk 

A cozy corner hangout, checkered black-and-white floor 


A digital CD jukebox blaring Hank Williams Jr. 

The smell of stale empty beer cans. 

Foosball players hollering, as the ball slams into the hole. 

Suntanned farmers belly up to the bar. 
Harley Davidson motorcycles coming and going, living to 

The family collie, racing in and out of the patio door. 
A beautiful bartender serving drinks from behind an oak- 
topped bar 

The ringing of an old cash register, as a round of Quervo is 


Pool balls breaking, as the cue ball falls into the hole. 

Cooler doors sliding open, sliding closed. 

Bell ringing on the door, as patrons enter and exit. 

Cheer and excitement of customers, as the alcohol takes 


My mother and step-father playing host to the regulars. 

The beeping of the dartboard, as a dart is thrown, a game is 


A warm breeze blowing, while hanging out on the deck. 

Daydreaming about memorable times, here, at Shirley's 
Squirels' Nest. 

Now, the windows are broken, no neon lights to be found. 
The doors boarded up, while the deck sags to the ground 
The parking lot covered in knee-high weeds — a ghost town. 

The cracked sign hangs askew, threatening to fall. 
Inside, all billiard games, long ago removed. 

Page 16 4 p.m. Count 

The cool-looking tile, now brown and water stained. 
Old trash, broken glass covering the floor. 

All in the past, never to exist again. 

Sad country music, playing only in my head. 

All reduced to rubble — 

four paved lanes lie in its wake. 

4 p.m. Count 

Page 17 

25 February 2008 

To the Yankton Writing and Publishing Class 

Thanks for the letters; it's good to hear from you guys. And 
thanks for your thoughts and appreciation for the time we 
spent together in your class on the 12 th . It was a pleasure 
to meet you all and spend some time talking about writing, 
and I really enjoyed the chance to read a few things there. 
You guys are a great audience. 

I noted several letters referring to our talk about dreams 
and the subconscious, and I think that's an important area 
for writers to explore. Creative writing takes a person 
into an imaginative state that seems to me very similar to 
the state of dreaming. The only difference I see is that the 
imagination often seems more under conscious control, but 
that's not always true. Sometimes a writer gets so caught 
up in a story that when he finishes it, it's like waking up 
from a dream — he can't remember what he just wrote — 
like when you wake from a dream you know you had but 
you can't recall. Other dreams are unforgettable and worth 
exploring in writing. I'd be interested in seeing yours, 

Some people believe dreams and writing come from 
the same place in the subconscious. And I think that's 
probably true, but only when the writing can somehow 
bypass the tight control of the conscious ego. It's like the 
ego just wants to tell what it already knows, because it fears 
the unknown. And so the ego tries to censor anything new 
and different that tries to rise from the subconscious and 
enter the writing, because the ego doesn't already have a 
comfortable understanding of it. But the things the ego is 
so intent on censoring are the very things the subconscious 
wants to explore, the new creations that can lift a story out 
of the ego's old comfortable but boring ruts. 

So in that sense, Ryan, I often have an idea about how to 
Page 18 4 p.m. Count 

begin a story, or maybe an idea about ending it, but I don't 
outline it too tightly, because I want the story to take me 
wherever it wants to go instead of me holding it back. If I 
let the story lead me past the ego and into the subconscious, 
the story can teach me things I don't already consciously 
know. It's like the letters you guys sent. They bring up 
things I haven't consciously thought about before. Instead 
of saying, "I don't know," if I let my mind go and at least 
try to answer, I begin to learn things I wasn't consciously 
aware of before. They might not be the most accurate 
answers for anyone else, but they tell me how I see things 
right now. My answers might change as I continue to learn 
in the future, but right now they're what I believe. So your 
letters offer me the opportunity to find out what I think 
about these things right now, and give me the opportunity 
to learn some things I don't already consciously know. And 
that's what education is really all about. So I thank you 
guys for challenging me with your questions, giving me an 
opportunity to learn some things here. 

It's often one of the most difficult things about writing — 
finding a way to get past the fearful censorship of the ego. 
But I think it's important, because as the subconscious 
opens new avenues for creation in writing, it also seems 
to open new avenues for learning in the writer. And I 
think we need to discover those subconscious parts of our 
stories and of ourselves in order to become the writers and 
human beings we're capable of becoming. So I guess for 
me, Joshua, writing is an attempt to find understanding and 
purpose in life, and reading is another way of attempting 
that. And Mario, I guess that's how I view writing, as 
an attempt to create something meaningful, though the 
meaning may vary with the person. We really can't control 
the meaning others might find in what we create. I think 
that whether we're writing or reading, when we're working 
with words it's like holding up a mirror that shows us some 
of the deeper parts of ourselves. And if we're learning and 
growing, we're changing, and what we see in the mirror 

4 p.m. Count Page 19 

is bound to change too. Some of those old Bible stories I 
read years ago mean very different things to me today. The 
same words, but deeper meanings. 

You bring up a good question, Justin, about how to describe 
a character or a place while writing about an event. I'd 
say, try to tie it in naturally somehow instead of separating 
it from the rest of the story in a paragraph of its own. 
Describe a bit of the character while he/she is performing 
some action in a scene, or describe a bit of the setting while 
some action or another is taking place in it. Just work to tie 
it in as naturally as you can. 

About details, Brandon, I'd say they should always seem a 
necessary part of the story or poem, something important to 
the scene you're creating. A certain amount of background 
always seems necessary to create a setting for whatever 
scene you're presenting. And I like your idea, Isaac, of 
trying to keep things fun for the reader and for yourself, 
and I'm glad to hear you're giving poetry a shot. It sounds 
like you're putting together a collection, Michael, and 
revision is always ongoing. I'd say the next step is to get 
some practice at presenting your poems aloud in the class 
and try to line up a reading where you can present your 
work, maybe at a local library or bookstore when you get 

I really liked the place names you mentioned in your letter, 
Jason: Ketchum Bridge and Skunk River. It sounds like a 
great place to write about. When you finish Man and His 
Symbols, Lee, you might want to check out some of Joseph 
Campbell's writings about myth; one I remember is titled 
The Hero With a Thousand Faces. And you're right about 
the creativity in dreams, Joe; see what kind of writing ideas 
they can give you. 

I feel fortunate to have been able to share a class with 
you guys, Juan. It sounds like you've got a lot to write 

Page 20 4 p.m. Count 

about you and your brother growing up together. And I'm 
glad you enjoyed the poems, Josh. Scott, thanks for the 
kind words. And Hung, I appreciate your thoughts on my 
reading there. I really enjoyed visiting and working with 
you guys, and the letters you wrote got me to thinking, 
which got me to learning. So my thanks to all of you as 
well. And I hope something in this letter is helpful for 
each of you in some way. For me, whether I'm reading 
or writing, it's like holding up a mirror. Words bring up 
thoughts from my subconscious, and show me something 
about myself. 

Jim, thanks for the invitation. I really enjoyed the visit and 
hope it was helpful for the class. You've got a great group 
there. Maybe we can get together again some time. 

Thanks again to all you guys. And best of luck in the class 
and in the future. 

You all take care, 

Neil Harrison 

4 p.m. Count Page 21 

Momma's Holiday 

Mario G. Covington 

"Boy, cut those onions smaller than that!" That's 
what momma would say as she prepared Thanksgiving 
dinner. "Hurry up, there's still bell peppers and cabbage 
to be cut." Yep, that was me and momma's holiday act. 
Every holiday she cooked, I was the prep cook. I didn't 
enjoy getting up at five-thirty in the morning, cutting 
onions; crying like someone who has just won the lottery, 
but I enjoyed watching momma prepare holiday meals, 
and I learned to appreciate this time that mom and I spent 
together because this was a time that I didn't have to share 
momma with anyone. 

Momma is a buxom woman from the South, 
Memphis, Tennessee, and she stands about five feet, six 
inches tall. She has a chestnut complexion, and when she 
smiles she lights up the whole room. But she also has a 
frown that will chase the sun behind the clouds. Overall, 
momma is a beautiful, caring, and loving woman who cares 
for her family. 

I'm the oldest boy of four children — two boys 
and two girls. I've been helping momma in the kitchen 
since I was eight years old. I once asked her, "Why isn't 
Rachel — my oldest sister — required to help in the kitchen?" 
She said, "Son, your sister doesn't have a clue about 
cutting vegetables." This made me feel good, knowing 
that momma chose me to be her dicer. It's now been three 
years since I've been helping momma in the kitchen and 
I've gotten pretty good at cutting and dicing fruits and 

It's a tradition in my family that every head of 
a household host a holiday at their homes. This isn't 
something that was voted on; it's just something that 
my family has inherited over the years. I think it was 
unconsciously started by my grandmother. At the beginning 
of the year four aunts and an uncle would choose his or 

Page 22 4 p.m. Count 

her holiday. I had a fairly large family: momma had four 
children, my aunts had seven children between them, and 
my uncle had two children. So there were thirteen children 
and eleven grown-ups, which included grandma and her 
two brothers and their wives. 

This particular year momma chose Thanksgiving 
as her holiday. She always became agitated when it was 
her time to host, maybe because she wanted everything to 
be perfect. And since I was her helper, I was the one that 
received most of the agitation. Everything I did was too 
slow, or not good enough, but I survived. When the family 
arrived, everything was to momma's liking, and I could tell 
because momma would light up the room with that electric 

Momma had the table packed with food and she 
wouldn't relax until everything was done to her liking. 
She would say, "Son, one day it will be your turn to serve 
dinner for the family." I said, "Momma, I can't do this. 
Look at all of this food you made; I can't even cook!" 
Momma said, with that mesmerizing smile, "Sure you 
can, and you will. I've been up since three in the morning 
preparing dinner for the family. I made candied yams, 
macaroni and cheese, cabbage, green beans, greens, potato 
salad, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, gravy with chicken 
gizzards in it, ham, turkey and dressing, and chitterlings." 
Momma made everything from scratch. She would keep 
the leftover corn bread in the freezer for at least a year, 
and then she would make dressing out of it to go with the 
turkey. Boy was it delicious! The dressing was my favorite 
food that momma made for the holiday. I remember looking 
at momma with a sense a pride, joy, and admiration, like 
looking at someone who had saved a person's life. I was 
brought out of my thoughts by momma's haughty voice. 
She said, "For dessert I made a chocolate cake, a coconut 
cake, eight sweet potato pies, six lemon meringue pies, two 
banana puddings, and two peach cobblers." All of these 
pastries were made from scratch as well. 

Momma said that down South is where the real 

4 p.m. Count Page 23 

cooks come from. Out of all of her desserts, momma's 
chocolate cake was my favorite. I received one of these 
tasty chocolate cakes every birthday, and I wasn't required 
to share it with anyone! The lemon meringue pies were the 
family favorites. Momma couldn't make enough of these 
pies; it was always the first dessert to disappear. She would 
always say to me, "Put one of those pies away until the 
family leaves." I always said when I got older I would put 
these pies on the market, that's how good they were. 

After the family finished eating, we would all 
spread our wings: my uncles would be watching the 
Cowboys football game, us kids would be playing Atari, 
or some board game, and momma and the rest of the 
grown-ups would be dancing to music by the O'Jays, or the 
Temptations. That was the great thing about momma; she 
loved to see her family happy. She loved to have her family 
together, happy, and having fun. 

When the holiday was over, my sister and I were 
left with the challenge of cleaning the kitchen. Most of the 
family members took leftovers home so there wasn't much 
food left. But that's okay, we'll do the same thing at Uncle 
Lewis' house for Christmas, and me, well I can't wait until 
next year for "Momma's Holiday!" 

Page 24 4 p.m. Count 

"Dat Der" Rope 

Ryan Nordstrom 

When I was nine, my dad and I went to my grandpa's farm 
as we had done for as long as I could remember. In front 
of his house he had converted some old 500-gallon water 
tanks to hold his baby calves. He always liked to keep an 
extra special eye on them. That day he said one of 'em was 
getting too big so we had to take her down to the farm. He 
handed me the rope and said, "Whatever you do boy, don't 
let go of dat rope." I held on tight to that rope; my pride 
for my grandpa's respect clamped my fingers tighter than a 
rusted pickle jar. Grandpa and dad walked behind, I turned 
my head, a shit eating grin spread across my face, shining, 
at their glowing approval. The loud beller announced the 
sudden shift in my world as the calf spooked. Its muscular 
legs pumped like the pistons in a diesel truck, mine 
straighter than a first time skier slaloming across the gravel 
road until I tumbled, face forward, dragged across the 
gravel, pulled behind the jack hammering hooves, ignorant, 
to the shouts of "Boy, let go, let go of the rope!" echoing 
from the duet of running feet behind me. My fingers 
slipped, the rope scraped along my soft city hands until the 
last thread was beyond my grasp. Tears flowed as the calf 
ran on. Grandpa and dad approached, questioned if I was 
all right, but all I could do was cry because I had let go of 
dat der rope. 

4 p.m. Count Page 25 

Neumyer Trailer Park Shoot Out 

Justin Brooks 

My brother and I banded together like only brothers 
could this one hot, summer day in Oklahoma. Josh and I 
were trailer park raised in Yukon, Oklahoma. We look a lot 
alike, even to this day, except Josh has always been a few 
inches shorter than I: brown hair, blue eyes, scrawny like 
our dad but have our mother's good looks. Our birthdays 
are only 363 days apart, Josh being younger, so we have 
had our share of knock-down-drag-outs, but he is my best 

We lived in a three bedroom trailer that was brand- 
spanking-new, and we were lot number one out of three- 
hundred. We sure thought we were something. Mom and 
Dad had recently switched our rooms because we had too 
much stuff. Our room was the master bedroom and bath 
with a walk-in closet, stand-up shower stall, and a bathtub 
that I could still lie down in. This trailer was actually a little 
piece of heaven in mobile home terms. Josh and I did have 
separate beds but had to share everything else like toys, 
clothes, and friends; mainly Josh would wear my clothes, 
and I would beat him up for it, even though they didn't fit 
me any more. 

Willy was a boy that lived on our end of the trailer 
park. He was either staying the night with us, or we with 
him. We were very afraid of Willy's mom, Almeda. She 
is kind of a big woman but very pretty with her dark 
complexion and long black hair. Every kid in the park 
knew she was the toughest mom around. During the hot 
Oklahoma summers, Almeda went barefoot everywhere. I 
remember one summer, Willy, Josh, and I cracked an egg 
on the pavement, and it actually started cooking. While we 
were spell-bound by the frying egg, Almeda walked up and 
said, "What are you boys doin'?" She was standing on that 
pavement without any shoes on, and it didn't even bother 

Page 26 4 p.m. Count 

Willy, Josh, and I were all such good friends 
because of Oklahoma Sooner football and the 80's rock 
bands we listened to. When the other park kids were blaring 
Michael Jackson, we were head-banging to the likes of 
Quiet Riot and Motley Crue. Our hero was Brian Bosworth 
before the whole steroid scandal at Oklahoma University. 
All three of us even sported the Bosworth mullet with 
shaved lines on the side of our heads; we wore cut-off jean 
shorts and those crazy half shirts all summer long. We were 
truly different from the other kids. 

Josh and I were paid an allowance by our folks 
every week; we had to do chores like take out the trash, 
rake and mow the yard, and clean our room. I would always 
blow my money on candy and such, but Josh always saved 
his money. When Josh was nine, this blonde, over-weight 
lady named Carol that lived down the street sold him a 
Daisy pump action pellet gun. She was having some kind 
of yard sale when Josh walked up and inquired about the 
gun. Carol said, "Young man, you can't buy that unless I 
speak to your parents." 

Josh replied, "Ma'am, my dad is home right now. 
You can call him if you wanna." 

Carol called the number Josh gave her, and Willy 
answered the phone in his deepest voice, "Hello?" 

Carol replied, "I have your son over here at my 
trailer tryin' to by a gun. Is that okay?" 

Willy says, "You mean Joshua? Yeah, sure. We 
already talked about it." That was all she needed and she 
sold it to Josh. He was soon on his way back with the Daisy 
pump action pellet gun. 

Josh, Willy, and I didn't have one clue about pellet 
guns. We just thought you pumped it up, pointed it, and 
shot, which is true, but we didn't have any pellets. There 
was no way we could ask our parents to get some; we 
weren't even supposed to have it in the first place. All we 
did with it was pump it up and shoot the air at ant hills and 
other bugs. 

All of the kids in the trailer park knew that we 

4 p.m. Count Page 27 

had this pellet gun. One kid, Howard — we called him 
Howeird — was absolutely fascinated with it. We didn't 
really like him very much, but he was always trying to fit 
into our tightly knit group. I didn't like him because he 
lived on the other side of the trailer park, wore glasses, and 
didn't even like rock and roll; just typical kid stuff. 

It was really hot one afternoon, so Josh and I were 
hanging out in our room. Mom and Dad were at work, so 
Josh and I were the only ones home, and Willy came by. He 
was our only friend that was allowed over without our folks 
being home. Willy started shooting the pellet gun at the 
various action figures that littered our room. He must have 
shot it twenty times before Howeird came walking into the 
room. Howeird said, "What are y'all doin'?" 

Josh and I were playing Atari, Motley Crue was 
screaming "I'm a live wire," and Willy pointed the gun at 
Howeird and said, "Say good night, Howeird." 

Howeird was still standing at the door when Willy 
pulled the trigger, and Howeird 's hands immediately flew 
up to his forehead. He said, "I'm hit! You shot me!" 

We started laughing because we thought he was just 
joking around. He sure made it look real, and I was fairly 
impressed. After the moment passed when things stop being 
funny, he was still slightly bent over holding his head. 
When Howeird pulled his hands away, they were covered 
in blood. There was so much blood. Willy, Josh, and I said 
a few choice words in unison which young boys should not 
be saying. Apparently there had been a pellet stuck in the 
chamber the entire time. 

Willy and I rushed Howeird to the bathroom 
sink for a closer inspection while Josh hid the Daisy pump 
action pellet gun in our super-secret-hiding-spot (the 
bottom of our toy box). Willy wetted a washcloth and wiped 
Howeird 's blood away from the wound. I was starting to 
come up with some kind of plan to tell our parents: he got 
beat up, fell out of a tree, something! This plan fell apart 
after inspecting the wound. The pellet must have turned 
side-ways in mid-air when it hit Howeird and left a perfect, 

Page 28 4 p.m. Count 

hour glass cut right between his eyes. It was such a great 
shot that I secretly wanted to give Willy a high-five. 

After we got the bleeding to stop, Willy put two 
small band-aids in the shape of an "X" on Howeird's head. 
Josh said, "You've gotta go home, Howeird, and you can't 
tell your folks you were here. I don't know what you will 
tell 'em, but you weren't here." Poor Howeird got kicked 
out of our house, having to walk to the other end of the 
trailer park, carrying his skateboard and pushing his bike. 
He wanted to call his mom for a ride, but we wouldn't let 

Mom had put this off-white, shag throw rug in 
front of the vanity in our bathroom. That is exactly where 
Howeird was standing and there was quite a bit of blood on 
it. Willy, Josh, and I started pouring shampoo, toothpaste, 
Comet, pretty much whatever cleaning agent we could 
find on the blood stains and started scrubbing, but they 
would not come out. We were only ten years old, including 
Howeird, except Josh was nine, but we were more worried 
about Mom finding out than the well-being of Howeird. I 
ended up taking the rug down the street and throwing it into 
someone's dumpster. 

On my way back to the trailer, Mom pulled up and 
said, "Hop in honey." My mind started reeling as I climbed 
into the car. Hopefully Josh and Willy were ready for my 
mom to be there. I was about to start freaking out. 

Mom pulled up to the trailer, and we got out of the 
car. I could see Carol digging in her dumpster to see what I 
had thrown in there. Boy was she in for a shocker. It didn't 
even enter my little mind that she would be down to talk to 

Every day when Mom got home from work, she 
would give Josh and me a hug and ask about our day at 
school. She went straight to our room to talk to Josh and 
noticed the rug was gone. She asked, "What happened to 
that rug?" 

I, being the genius that I am, said, "What rug, Ma?" 

She replied, "The bathroom rug?" 

4 p.m. Count Page 29 

Off of the top of my head, without any kind of 
rehearsal, I told her, "I'm sorry Ma, but I spilt Kool-Aid on 
it and throwed it out." 

She said, "Well, go and get it out of the trash, and I 
will get the stain out." 

Willy, Josh, and I were near fainting when there was 
a knock at the front door, and Mom went to answer it. A 
few seconds later, Mom yelled, "Boys! Get out here. Now!" 

We didn't know what to do and moved down the 
hall like a slow moving pack of wild dogs looking for the 
dog catcher. I wanted to yell RUN! We could almost make 
out the conversation between Mom and Carol, and she was 
showing Mom the rug and saying, "This looks like blood, 

Mom asked me, "Justin, do you want to tell me 
what really happened?" 

I couldn't speak! Josh saved me by coming up with 
the best lie I have ever heard. He said, "Howeird and I were 
boxing, with the gloves on, and I bloodied his nose. We 
didn't want to get into trouble." 

Halfway through Josh's wonderful moment, Willy 
nudged me which made me realize Howeird and his mom 
had just stepped up on the front porch. 

Howeird still had his crude band-aids on, and his 
mom looked furious. She was a heavy-set woman that 
always wore a bright yellow T-shirt. Her short, curly brown 
hair and huge glasses let people know she was a force to be 
reckoned with. Her face was beet red with anger, and the 
first words out of her mouth were, "Karen, did you know 
my boy's Tergic to lead? What kind of ship are you sailin' 
down here?" She said it in the most accented Oklahoma 
drawl a person could ever have. Carol quietly put the rug 
down and left. 

Mom was still clueless as to what was really going 
on, but Howeird 's mom sure filled her in. Howeird told his 
mom everything! I couldn't believe it. Boy, was he going 
to get it at the bus stop in the morning. Howeird and his 
mom finally left after Mom assured her that the pellets were 

Page 30 4 p.m. Count 

not lead (even though she did not know for sure), and she 
would handle it from here. 

After Mom closed the door, she said, "Get that B.B. 
gun. Now!" 

Without even thinking, I replied, "What B.B. gun, 
Ma?" Apparently that is the wrong thing to say to any 
mom, especially after some kid just got shot between the 

Mom has always been very understanding when 
Josh and I would get into trouble, which happened a lot. I 
think she even laughed, behind closed doors, at some of our 
antics and outlandish childish lies. This time, she freaked 
out. She said, "I SAID! Where. . .Is. . .The. . .B.B. . .Gun. . .?" 

I didn't want to say anything because I knew I 
would only say another lie. Luckily, Josh spoke up and 
said, "I'll go and get it, Ma." 

While Josh was getting the pellet gun, Mom called 
Willy's mom. When Mom got off of the phone, it seemed 
like only seconds passed before Almeda walked through 
the front door. She gave us that disappointed look that all 
mothers have and said, "You boys are not allowed to hang 
out with each other for a week. The only time you can see 
each other is at the bus stop and in school." She meant it 

Mom asked, "Where did you boys get that B.B. 

I wanted to explain to her that it wasn't just some 
ordinary B.B. gun, it was a .177 caliber, 400 feet per 
second, Daisy-pump-action-pellet-gun; this was the cream 
of the crop when it come to little boys and pellet guns, but 
I didn't think it would be wise to school my mother at this 
particular moment. 

Willy was the first to speak up, "I talked Carol into 
selling it to Josh." Then Josh and Willy told Mom and 
Almeda everything. Remarkably, things didn't turn out 
that bad for us. Mom and Almeda decided to take the pellet 
gun, ground us for a month, and they marched us down to 
Carol's trailer to tell her what we had done. I was shocked 

4 p.m. Count Page 3 1 

because this was the era that boys got the belt for being 
bad, but we didn't get one spanking. I guess being honest 
isn't such a bad gig after all. 

Page 32 4 p.m. Count 

Direction for Isaiah, Jordan and Tazsanay 

Michael Jackson 

You are my children and above all things 

I will do for you what I will do for no other, even if it takes 


The years of hard work to provide for my family 
involve blood, sweat, and tears with no guarantees. 

We must go through life where there is one guarantee. 
Whoever is born and has breath will one day be deceased. 

Pray that there are no traps to eliminate me from 


Hopefully I will travel further than those who were on this 

quest before me. 

People change like the weather. 

My love for you never changes — it's unconditional. 

I will appreciate and protect you whether you're good or 
bad, wrong or right — 
this is my plight. 

I've learned many things from those who were before me — 
hope, determination and patience come in handy. 

I give to you what I can if you ever become lost in your 


This will help you through the trials and tribulations you 

will be facing. 

These words I express come from the heart. 

The time will come when you will move on and we will be 


4 p.m. Count Page 33 

Keep in mind the times you and I have spent together 
along with what you can do to become prosperous and 

Respect, love and trust yourself to the best of your ability, 
Trust in God first, before man or anything. 

Page 34 4 p.m. Count 


Todd Bowlin 

Wretched life. 
Unfair death. 

He was taken from the seemingly ironclad jaws of life, 
into the murky indefinite waters of demise. 
That cool June night in 1986, on his bike, 
wrecked by an old pickup truck with Iowa plates, 
driven by a man driven by inebriation. 

Shiny new red Harley Davidson on Kansas Highway 32- 

Pretty long-blonde-haired woman on the backseat — 

Two families, one without a mother, one without a father- 

A future life-long drunk from Iowa 

got away with his life, but wrecked away his sanity. 

Replaying foggy glimpses of memory 

that remain embossed on his conscience from that chilly 


they drive him toward his bottle of slow death. 

Unfair life. 
Wretched death. 

4 p.m. Count Page 35 

Indian Creek Road 

Dane Yirkovsky 

I was on my way to an old train depot I located on 
a map at the local library. It had been abandoned for many 
years and I thought it might hold some old treasures, such 
as coins, jewelry, or any type of artifact. I started out early 
that Saturday morning wearing my favorite faded blue- 
jeans and Grateful Dead shirt, topping off my attire with 
my one and only lucky green fishing cap. The temperature 
was in the mid-seventies with a slight breeze out of the 
west and the sun already peeking over the hills. 

Cruising down the highway, enjoying the 
peacefulness of being alone on the road, I had my elbow 
leaning out the window and my coffee cup sitting on the 
dash, its steam causing the windshield to fog up. Joni 
Mitchell was in the CD player singing about being Stardust 
on the road to the garden. 

from the sunshine. 
The polished chrome wheels captured the sun's rays and 
reflected them like a precious jewel. Black leather diamond 
tuck interior made the truck even more beautiful. It sported 
a high performance 327 out of a Corvette, coupled with a 
Chevy drive train. 

Harry, my stepfather, who considers himself a 
perfectionist, had restored this truck and loaned it to me on 
this particular day Harry bears a passion for golfing and 
restoring old trucks. Being a Chevy man like myself, you 
couldn't help but envy other late models such as the one I 
was in. 

On the seat and floorboard next to me was my 
White's Spectrum XLT metal detector along with my back 

Page 36 4 p.m. Count 

pack carrying the tools needed to dig up any treasures I 
might discover. I'm hoping today to turn up a 1909-S VDB 
wheat penny or a 1937-D threelegged buffalo nickel. In 
fine to very fine condition, either of these would be of great 
value and a big prize to any collection. 

Hunting for lost treasures is a real passion of mine 
and a break from drawing portraits or painting. I really 
love grabbing my equipment and heading out to wrestle 
with God's country. Getting so involved in prospecting, I 
would have a tendency to lose track of time and usually 
end up camping out or getting a motel room, not wanting to 
travel back at such a late hour. Knowing my track record, I 
was always prepared by keeping a tent, lantern, and other 
necessities in my possession. 

I love the excitement of the Spectrum tones dinging 
when combing the six-inch coil across something metal. 
The needle on the view window indicates the type of metal 
discovered. Digging it up to see exactly what it is can be 
very exciting. It's not uncommon to dig up lots of old 
wheat pennies, jewelry, or even old toys. 

Three miles out of Marion, Iowa, traveling north 
on Highway 13,1 came up over a hill. I saw the pond 
approaching on my right side, a place I visited many times 
as a youth. Across the highway from the pond, a quarter- 
mile down the gravel road is where I lived when I was nine 
years old. Fields were tall with corn, but I was still able to 
see the rooftops of the three old barns and the house we 
once occupied. 

Deciding I wanted to have a look around for old 
times' sake, I made a quick detour; I had all day to hunt. 
Taking a left off the highway, I turned onto Indian Creek 
Road. Slowly, I rolled down the road kicking up very little 
dust and gravel, not wanting to chip the paint job. As the 
cornfield inched by, I could see the stalks heavy with dew 
glistening in the sun. The old white farmhouse and faded 
red barns began to come into focus. Arriving, I turned in to 
the dirt driveway and parked. 

Getting out of the truck, I leaned up against the 

4 p.m. Count Page 37 

front fender and, crossing my legs, I started examining 
the ruins of an old forgotten past. Rolling down my 
shirt sleeve, I pulled out a pack of Marlboro menthol 
cigarettes, tapping the pack against my hand to draw one 
out. Reaching into my pants pocket, I pulled out my black 
Bic lighter and struck the flint wheel twice before it took. 
I cupped my hand around the flame to shelter it from the 
slight breeze. As I drew a long drag from the cigarette and 
blew out the smoke, I began to remember a place where 
questions ran deep. 

The old two-story house still had some remnants 
of old paint chipped and curled, exposing the grains of 
the bleached natural wood. The eaves and spouts were 
rusting and barely hanging on. The roof over the porch 
was sagging and the deck severely warped. Many of 
the windows had been broken out; a couple of the black 
shutters were loosely hanging crooked. Bushes under the 
front living room window had grown wild and mother's 
flower beds had long ago been invaded by weeds. 

While I was observing the surroundings, Pepper 
came running from around the 
corner of the house. He jumped up 
on his back paws and placed his 
front ones on my chest. I flicked my 
cigarette off to the side and knelt 
down to pet him and scratch behind 
his ears. We were both so excited to see each other, like 
old long lost friends. Pepper was a black and white Border 
collie with a touch of brown on his chest. He loves to be at 
your heels, either trying to trip you with his paws or nip at 
you to get your attention to play. 

I decided I would get my Spectrum XLT out and 
have a look around the old farm before traveling on to my 
original destination. Prior to taking out the detector and 
equipment for the hunt, I wanted to look inside the old 
ruins of the house. 

Crossing the brown lawn, I carefully stepped onto 
the low slanting porch, afraid that I might fall through; I 

Page 38 4 p.m. Count 

reached for the screen door that no longer had any paint 
or screen left in it. As I pulled on the flimsy door, it broke 
from its top hinge and twisted to the point of breaking. I 
was able to catch it before the whole door came loose. I 
then opened the old hand-carved oak door, surprised it was 
not locked. It made a loud screeching noise that echoed 
through the house. 

Stepping across the threshold, entering into my 
past, I felt a sense of longing. I began feeling like I was 
being possessed and now being stalked by that entity. Later 
I realized that this entity was me, or someone I once was. 

The house smelt very musty and moldy. My eyes 
began to focus on the contents inside. The yellow and green 
floral wallpaper was peeling. Cobwebs were hanging from 
the light cover and in the corners of the room. On the wall 
hung the wooden fork and spoon that were used on our 
backsides whenever we got out of line. Mom's little helping 
hand, as she used to warn us. 

The wooden floorboards had a good covering of 
dust; you could see tracks from rodents that had no doubt 
come to occupy the place as their residence. 

Looking to the right through the entryway, I could 
see the old black cast iron potbelly stove in the corner of 
the kitchen. I began to remember the night we had brought 
down a couple of mattresses from our beds. It was a cold 
night and we slept there on the floor. The only heat we had 
that night was from the old stove fueled by propane being 
pumped in from the tank out back of the house. We could 
afford to fill the tank only once a month, so in the winter 
we had to save what we could. I remember that night so 

We were playing this game where we would lie in opposite 
directions with our feet at each other's head, write letters or 
words with our fingers on the bottoms of our feet and we'd 
have to guess what was written. The memory of this gave 
me a longing for those days. I guess it was the closeness 
of our family at a time when all we had was each other. 
Coming from a family of seven children, my mom and dad 

4 p.m. Count Page 39 

did their best to provide, but poverty was present. 

Dad was always busy, but in his free time would sit 
in his Lazy Boy recliner with his Old Milwaukee beer and 
Winston cigarettes watching re-runs of Laurel and Hardy. 
Most of the time mom was the one to help with our chores 
and spend time being adventurous with us kids. She was 
our Mrs. Robinson, buzzing on her caffeine fix of Pepsi. 
Glancing to my left, I saw the stairs that led to our 
% bedrooms. Walking over to them, I carefully 

applied weight, testing them on my way up, 
afraid they might give way. They screeched 
M and cracked, echoing through the house. 
™^ Slowly, I reached the top; turning to my left 
was the bedroom I had shared with two of my brothers. 
Stepping inside, I saw an old portable record player on 
which I used to play the Beatles and Stones. Beside it was a 
Gibson acoustic guitar that belonged to my brother Kenny. 
It had seen its better days and suffered from overuse. I 
closed my eyes and the old guitar started to play an old 
country tune, reminding me of an old game we used to play. 
Kenny would strum a few chords while we would all try to 
guess what the tune was. Most of the time it was the same 
song, either from George Strait or Hank Williams Sr., he 
would play while trying to master his talent. 

I noticed on the other side of the room my brother 
Darren's red cowboy hat hanging on the post of one of the 

bunk beds, its white trim 
and string still hanging 
down with the little bead 
you would slide up to 
fasten tightly to your head. Hanging with the hat there 
was a holster that once carried two pistols. Darren had 
them hanging there at night for security while he slept. 
The pistols were the only things my brother kept on him 
while playing Cowboy and Indians. He wouldn't have been 
caught dead without them and probably packed the pistols 
when we moved. 

Page 40 4 p.m. Count 

Looking out the broken window next to the bed, I 
could see dead insect carcasses in the sill. Staring across 
the rows of corn, I could see the rusty iron bridge stretching 
over Indian Creek where we used to play and run along 
the tree line. Mom was always telling us to go find a tree 
to climb when she wanted us out of her hair, so that was 
where we headed off to. From atop a big oak, I could see 
for miles. 

I began to envision the day my mother walked into 
the house from shopping; she bought my brother Dave 
and me a Remington .22 rifle. We had been pestering her 
for over a year for this gun. A smile cracked my face and I 
ran up and gave her a hug like no other. The pestering had 
instantly started again until she took us out to shoot it. The 
following weekend, our mother took us down the tree line 
to do some shooting. That was the day I shot my very first 
gun and a rabbit. I felt like I had achieved adulthood. 

* * * 

I decided to go outside and have a look around and 
as I was leaving the bedroom I stopped and looked into 
the closet. I had carved "Dane-n- Jenny" inside of a heart 
hidden on the top shelf and wondered if it was still there. 
Jenny was a blonde haired, blue-eyed girl that lived down 
the road about a mile and we would sneak off to meet at 
the pond. One particular night we were both sitting on 
the wooden dock with our silhouette reflections from the 
moonlight mirroring off the ripples of water as I leaned 
over to kiss her. She was the first girl I had ever kissed. 
Being so in love with her (so I thought at the time), when 

4 p.m. Count Page 41 

we moved I was sick and heartbroken for what seemed like 

* * * 

Leaving the bedroom, I stopped to look into my 
sister's old room. I noticed an old doll that belonged to my 
oldest sister Cori lying on the floor. It was missing an arm 
and one eye was open staring somewhere above and far 
away, its long eyelashes covered with dust. Noticing it had 
had its hair cut in different layers, I instantly remembered 
the day this occurred. That day, I walked in on Cori cutting 
her hair as well as the doll's. I took the scissors away from 
her and left them both with unfinished hair cuts. Leaving 
the doll untouched, not wanting to disturb it, I wondered if 
it was waiting for me to leave so she could close her other 
eye and continue to be at peace. 

* * * 

Reaching the bottom of the stairs and heading to 
the back door through the kitchen, I began to smell what 
seemed to be German chocolate cake. It was a birthday 
favorite of mine; one that mom and grandma would always 
bake together. They always baked two cakes because I 
shared a birthday with my brother Dave who was a year 
younger than 1. 1 didn't care much for having to share a 
birthday; it kept me from getting more presents. I know 
my brother shared this same feeling because we had fought 
about it many times. 

The best part about a birthday at our house is that 
it was celebrated with a big party. Grandma would show 
up in her big white Cadillac with something you always 
needed. I loved to go visit her place. She was never without 
some kind of sweets and always baking desserts, one of my 
favorites being her sugar cookies smothered with frosting 

Page 42 4 p.m. Count 

and colored sprinkles. 

Grandma had a grey tabby cat named Tippy, but I 
named him Terrible Tippy, the cat about which every dog 
has nightmares. I didn't care much for Terrible Tippy and I 
guess he didn't care too much for me either because he was 
constantly scratching or biting me. Grandma also had some 
pet fish, my favorite being a red-tailed shark. The fish were 
seemingly attracted to me as I would find their food and 
severely over- feed them. 

Sneaking off to my Uncle Gary's bedroom was 
a world of its own. He was always building something. 
He had war planes hanging from the ceiling, army tanks, 
trucks, and men set up like a battleground. He even had 
an electric train set up in the midst of the room, equipped 
with a community of buildings, houses, and people. The 
roadways were surrounded with forests and automobiles. 
I would imagine getting lost in the world he had created. 
Waiting for him to come home and bring it all to life for me 
was even more spectacular. 

* * * 

Crossing over the threshold onto the back porch, 
there was an Old Milwaukee beer can, one that no doubt 
belonged to my father who died in 1976. Noticing it was 
the old pull tab style and solid tin, I just kicked it out of my 
path and found my way out to the backyard. In the distance, 
I could hear birds singing and saw pigeons flying around 
the barns. 

I noticed right away that Pepper was 
lying next to the swing set, still standing in its ; 

original position; one swing was attached by I 

a rusty chain screeching as it swayed in the 
breeze. My sister Marcia used to sit in that 
swing for hours singing and talking to Pepper 
along with her imaginary friends. Mom had to 
bribe her with candy or some kind of treat to 
get Marcia to go out to play. She would never 
leave mom's side and still clings to her today. 

4 p.m. Count Page 43 

I can see her there now, a sucker in her mouth, 
wearing her yellow sundress and long brown hair flowing 
behind her as she glided in the swing, carrying on her 
conversation paying me no attention. 

Next to her swing was a big worn out tractor tire 
full of sand, a place where her twin brother Marvin would 
play. He enjoyed building a big city with roadways he 
could travel about with his Hot Wheels. He carried out 
glasses of water with him to make rivers and lakes and used 
the mud to help construct bridges while building his world. 
Walking over and looking down into the sand tire, I 
noticed a shining object. Upon inspection, I realized it was 
one of Marvin's Hot Wheels. 

He surely must 
have misplaced it because 
to this day he still has a 
huge collection of them and 
Matchboxes collected over the 
years. I reached down digging it out of the sand and after 
dusting it off, I put it in my pocket. Seeing it was in good 
shape, I couldn't wait to surprise Marvin when I got home. 
As I was bent over, Pepper began licking my face. 
Before I was able to get to my feet, he leaped up placing his 
front paws on my shoulder, knocking me off balance. As I 
fell backwards, he was able to get the advantage he needed 
to continue to soak my face with drool and his tongue was 
finding its way to my ear. 

Gaining my position and getting to my feet, I 

noticed a BMX bicycle 
leaning beside the water 
meter attached to the house. 
Most of its original black 
paint had disappeared. The 
handle grips and pads were 
still there, but the tires were 
flat and weather rotted. Rust 
had visibly taken over the rims and chain. The bike had 

Page 44 4 p.m. Count 

belonged to my brother David and at one time it was the 
fastest around. He has many trophies to support this claim. 

I proceeded to the barns to have a look around. 
Pepper and I headed off like best of friends. On the way, I 
stopped to have a look at the old black 1963 Fury Plymouth 
two-door hard top. It was sitting on blocks buried in a mess 
of weeds. Seeing that rust had won this battle, I stuck my 
finger through a hole in the door just below the side mirror. 
Wiping the dust off the driver's side window, I noticed how 
the interior had deteriorated and mice had taken over. There 
were cans and bottles lying on the floorboard. Opening the 
door with some effort, the hinges came to life squeaking 
and grinding. 

Reaching down to pick up a piece of yellow faded 
paper, I realized it was a gas receipt from 1972. Unfolding 
it in amazement, I saw the price for gas was 53 cents a 
gallon at the Deep Rock filling station where my father 
worked. Looking through the glove box and finding a 
slinky, green stamps, cigarette coupons and a map, I closed 
the door to let the mice resume their residence. 

This took me back to the day my father let me drive 

for the very first time. I 
was in the driver's seat 
controlling the wheel, 
while he was right beside 
me managing the gas 
and brake pedals. I could 
smell the stale smoke of Winston cigarettes and the Old 
Milwaukee beer coming from his breath as he coached me 
along. I remember thinking I was the luckiest kid in the 
world as we cruised down Indian Creek Road, wishing my 
friends could have seen me man-handling the old Mopar. 
At one point, my father started to accelerate at my request; 
I had never concentrated any harder than I did that day, 
feeling as if I was going 100 mph, in actuality probably 
peaking at 30 to 40 mph. Every once in a while he would 
grab hold of the steering wheel to keep us from going into 
the ditch as we approached a corner. This was truly one of 

4 p.m. Count Page 45 

the greatest moments in my life. 

* * * 

Heading back towards the barn with Pepper running 
ahead, leading me somewhere in particular, I followed 
him obediently. He was leading me to the barn where all 
of us kids played hideout in the hayloft. I could see where 
the door of the barn had fallen off and was now resting up 
against the side of it. The red paint had faded to an orange 
and flaked miserably. 

As we approached the barn and stepped inside, 
there was just enough light beaming through the doorway 
to make it visible. The gaps in the side of the walls had 
light streaming through them, giving the appearance of 
Jacobs's ladder. It smelt of stale, moldy hay and pigeon 
droppings, very much like it did back in our playing days. 
Hanging from the rafters was the block and tackle with an 
old frayed rope that once held us kids as we jumped off the 
loft and swung until we decided to let go and land in the 
hay below. Instantly, I could hear the echoes of laughter 
and joy that engulfed our playtime. It rang so clear, as the 
barn was now playing a recording of time past. 

I climbed up the ladder to the hayloft to see if the 
fort that my brother Kenny and I made was still intact. We 
had hidden it so that it was undetectable by merely looking 
in its direction. You had to climb over the bales and crawl 
back to the corner and lower yourself down into a big open 
cavity to reach it. I was a little skeptical to do this, afraid 
that maybe some creature had decided to move in, not 
wanting to startle it. I made sure to make as much noise as 
possible while making my way to the fort. After carefully 
maneuvering, I made it to where the fort was supposed to 
be. Locating the opening, I found it was still there. Looking 
into the darkness of the fort, I decided not to crawl inside 
because the only light I had was my Bic and I figured that 
wouldn't be a good idea. 

Climbing back down from the loft, I noticed some 
old traps hanging on the wall. I walked over and started to 
mess with them and figured they would never be usable 

Page 46 4 p.m. Count 

again without some much needed TLC. I remember using 
them a lot to catch opossum and raccoon or whatever else 
wandered into them. I never trapped to eat; I just enjoyed 
catching things, but I never let my parents know what I was 
up to. 

I once trapped a young opossum and, feeling 
sorry for it, I saved its life and decided to keep it for a pet, 
unbeknownst to my parents. We had an old silo in which 
the mortar and bricks started falling away, so my family 
used it to store old pieces of lumber and metal. I figured 
this was a good place to keep my new pet opossum. I 
would have to wear these big old gloves to handle him and 
to protect my skin from his random biting. 

My relatives came to visit one weekend and when I 
showed it to my cousin she ran inside and told my parents. 
My uncle came outside to see the opossum and it started 
hissing. I wasn't scared because I was used to his behavior. 
As I started to put on my gloves and pick him up, my uncle 
told us to go back in the house. After our relatives left, I 
went to see my pet and it was nowhere to be found. Later, I 
learned that my uncle had taken a 2x4 and killed it. 

* * * 

Walking out of the barn, I noticed it starting to 
get cloudy. Looking at my watch, I realized I had been 
walking around the homestead for two hours. In order to 
resume my original journey, I figured I should probably 
get going. I took out another cigarette and lit it up before 
making it back to the truck. Something scared up a couple 
of pheasants in the cornfield next to me. At first, I thought 
it may have been me, but when I began looking for Pepper, 
he was nowhere to be found. I started calling for him, 
looking in all directions and he still hadn't come. Stopping 
for a short time, taking a drag from my smoke, I gave a 
couple more calls for Pepper. I wondered where he had run 
off to. By the time I reached the truck Pepper still hadn't 
surfaced. I was feeling like my escort had been a ghost and 
I was his honored guest. Without being able to say goodbye 
to my host, I climbed into the truck just as the sky broke 

4 p.m. Count Page 47 

into a thunderous rain. 

* * * 

Driving away looking back in the rearview mirror, 
I began thinking that I was walking around with another 
person inside of me and was left with only tears of a child 
who has grown and lost his dreams in the blink of an eye. 
I would never be able to discover any treasure with greater 
value than the one I uprooted those last two hours. 

Page 48 

4 p.m. Count 

"Scrapbook Letters from Daddy..." 

My little princess, 

It wasn 't until after I entered this prison system that I 
became aware that I was your father The lifestyle and 
behavior I took part in left nothing for certain. During my 
first year away from home, incarcerated within these walls, 
I was blessed with the news of my paternal bond with you. 
The miracles that God allows to transpire through even 
the roughest of times are to be thankful for, and I am most 

Abby Lyn, you are my youngest daughter and I smile 
every time I think about you. Such a tiny little baby 
girl with a heart of gold, you seem to be so forgiving 
and understanding. I suppose that s natural for you, 
as you know love from all directions in your life. Your 
grandparents have kept you safe, and in the home you 
should have, while mommy and I regain control of the 
insanity we inflicted on ourselves through our addiction. 

I'll spend years in the confines of this place, trying to 
make the necessary improvements that will grant me a 
place in your life. It was because I surrendered to the 
power of my addiction that I fell so far away from you. 
Before you are able to fully understand all of this, I will 
return to your life, and provide many precious moments for 
both of us. 

Expressing love to you has been possible through frequent 
visits here at the prison, as Grandma has made this 
possible. Your mommy has reinforced the fact that "Daddy 
Joe" is coming home someday, and this makes you smile. 
Funny as it may seem, you began calling me Daddy Joe as 
soon as you knew my first name, and it kind of stuck. 

Let me assure you that I love you so very much, and 
you have my heart, young lady. The life that we will know 
together is approaching soon, and to be honest, I can 't 
wait. This experience away from you has certainly made 
me aware of my mistakes, and given me direction towards a 
better future, so long as you are in it. 

I love you little lady. See you soon. "Daddy " 
4 p.m. Count Page 49 

"Scrapbook Letters from Daddy" 

My little man, 

As my third child, and my only son, you have given my 
world the well-rounded effect that was needed. Your great- 
grandfather, grandfather, and I have carried the name 
given to you, which is a tradition you may continue, when 
you have a son. 

Joey IV, I pray that you re-install integrity to the name 
I defamed, by breaking the law and coming to prison. My 
mistakes are many, and I'm focused on living them down. 
My release date is in sight and with the lessons I've learned 
through this time away from you, I plan on living a bright 
future that includes both of us. 

Your grandparents have rescued you from foster care, 
after your mother and I so carelessly lost you. Thank God 
for the miracle of family love which has kept you home, 
where you belong. Your mother s parents have been your 
guardian angels. 

Your smiling face brings warmth to my heart every time 
I'm allowed to see you during a visit here at the prison. 
It installs faith in our future and the value of these times 
couldn 't be measured. I see myself in your existence, and 
this I cherish. 

I love you, little man, and I can 't wait to have the 
opportunity to share our lives together. The Good Lord has 
reasons for what takes place during the journey of life, and 
we must remain faithful to this. We all are such a small 
part of the big picture. 

My future is you! See you soon. "Love, Daddy" 

Page 50 4 p.m. Count 

"Scrapbook Letters from Daddy..." 

My most precious baby girl, 

There are so many things I want to tell you, about how 
lucky I feel to be your daddy, and almost every time I try, 
I lose my way. Oh, it s not because there isn 't much to say, 
more so just the opposite. 

What you 've done by entering this world has made me 
the man I've always wanted to be. You might ask yourself 
"What does this mean, " and in time you will know as you 
grow older and realize the relationship you and I share. 

Since your arrival to your mother and me, the pendulum 
of life has swung in such a way that I'm not familiar with. 
One thing for sure, it's in the right direction, and the quality 
parents that you need will be most apparent in your life. 

I want you to know this Taylor Made: you have given me 
reason to belong to the very life I live, and I know as time 
goes on this will present itself. If there were something I 
could say to let you know my deepest feelings, and only use 
one word, it would be "thanks " for being my daughter I 

You have entered my life at a time that was put aside "just 
for you " by God Himself as He knows when this would 
be correct. During my younger years, I don 't think that I 
could 've possibly been the father to you that I plan to be 
now, so I'm thankful. 

Your mother is a beautiful person, and your creation 
makes us the most fortunate parents ever, as we have been 
truly blessed. 

Ill be home soon. You are my world! 

I Love You Taylor. "Daddy" 

4 p.m. Count Page 5 1 

Letter to Inmates, Yankton Federal Prison 
Camp, Memorial Day, May 26, 2008 

Good morning. 

It's cloudy, raining lightly, and I'm thinking about the 
soldiers I've known, and being grateful to them for being 
willing to die for the kind of freedom this country has 
always offered. I just read your letters for the second 
time, and thought about the time we spent together. I'm 
impressed at how many of you wrote, and how literate 
and well-organized your letters are: this ability to express 
yourself in a letter, clearly and concisely, will be a definite 
asset when you are back out here competing for jobs. 

I'm also happy to know that you appreciated my visiting 
class, and the things I had to say. I find it strange to think 
that anything I say might help anyone, when I think about 
how I've fumbled along living my life. 

You could probably tell I was nervous, in spite of Dr. 
Reese's encouragement, and you all helped me relax by 
the way you received me. I've worked in several different 
types of prisons, for different lengths of time, and have 
several times been involved in situations that were difficult 
for everyone involved, so I was a little twitchy at first. 
Seeing how polite and attentive you guys were was very 
reassuring. Thank you for making me feel comfortable. 

And you're right: I thought long and hard about what might 
be practical advice for you, both as writers and as men 
incarcerated. I didn't want to just trot in from the outside 
world and blather on. I haven't been in jail except as a 
visitor, but I think the experience is like giving birth or 
having your best friend die: unless it's happened to you, 
you don't know what it's like. 

Or, as Woody Guthrie put it, "You can't write a song about 
Page 52 4 p.m. Count 

a whorehouse unless you been in one." 

I did ask Dr. Reese about you, and spent time trying to 
figure out what would be most useful to you, so I'm glad 
you understood that. I didn't want to say the same things 
to you as I said to a bunch of college kids who have barely 
started to live. 

Not all of you will become writers in the sense of being 
published; not all of you want to be. But I hope all of 
you will keep writing as a way of helping yourself to 
understand what's happening in your life, and a way 
of remembering the things that are important in order 
to improve it as you continue to live it. Don't just use 
writing to remember mistakes so you can avoid them, but 
recall the times when things went better than you thought, 
people who were good to you, things you have seen that 
encouraged you. You wouldn't believe you could forget 
some of the most dramatic things that happen, but you 
will. It's easy to remember the bad: I can remember almost 
every detail of the night my husband died. But I have to 
work at remembering his kindness, his courage, what he 
did and said when he was defeated. And even if you don't 
understand something now, you may understand it later 
if you've written it down. I've done a lot more writing 
that is for myself alone than I've done for publication. I 
enjoy writing, enjoy trying to convey an idea to someone 
to whom it's new or strange- but a lot of my writing is 
trying to figure out what I think about something that has 
happened to me, or to figure out how to keep living after, 
for example, my husband died. That's the important part: 
figuring out how to keep on living, enjoying life, being kind 
to other people, not blowing up in futile anger. 

Writing helps me figure out what to do about injustice: 
sometimes you can't do anything. But sometimes, writing 
about the problem helps me understand what I can do to fix 
it, even if it's just voting, or writing a letter to the editor to 

4 p.m. Count Page 53 

say what I believe. 

My best wishes to all of you, and I hope writing will help 
you pass the time until you are free, as well as helping you 
improve your lives. 

Linda M. Hasselstrom 

Page 54 4 p.m. Count 

Salvation in a Bottle: Doom Malt Liquor 

Justin Bollig 

With a click and barely audible hiss, the lighter in 
Jacob Isakson's hand jumped to life, shooting out a small, 
intensely hot flame. The small blue flame easily lit the 
large Cuban cigar perched between his lips as he slowly 
worked it back and forth across the tip. 

As Jacob puffed away, savoring every sweet 
inhalation from the cigar, thick white aromatic clouds 
billowed out surrounding his head. He couldn't help but 
think back to what the sales person at the smoke shop had 
told him. 

"Mr. Isakson, believe me when I say, you will love 
these; not only are they rolled from only the choicest leaves 
in all of Cuba, but it is claimed that they are rolled up on 
the thighs of beautiful young Cuban women," the young 
clerk said with a devilish wink and a snicker. 

Jacob had laughed along with the eager sales person 
and had bought the cigars because they were expensive, 
not because he believed his sales pitch. But now as he 
settled back into his plush, leather sofa and was indulgently 
puffing away on one, he swore he could taste the sweet 
flesh of the young woman each time he put it to his lips. 

Setting the tasty Cuban down in the crystal ashtray 
on the marble-topped coffee table, Jacob picked up a copy 
of the newspaper to see what lay inside. After only briefly 
reading the financial news, Jacob folded it carefully and 
with a contented grin placed the paper back on the table 
next to the ashtray and resumed smoking his cigar. 

"Another Hostile Takeover By M.O.D. Inc.," 
one headline had read, while another pondered, "Where 
will M.O.D. Inc. Business Blitzkrieg End?" Yet another 
headline screamed, "Financial Analysts Worried about 
Financial Fallout Locally!" The articles all told stories so 
familiar to Jacob that not only could he have quoted the 
lines from each without reading them, he most definitely 

4 p.m. Count Page 55 

could recognize the names of the whiny reporters who had 
written each if he was told a few lines from them first. 

Jacob took pride in the fact that he did his job 
exceptionally well. He didn't necessarily love his job 
at M.O.D. Inc. as head liquidator of the companies and 
corporations they acquired. What he loved was the power 
and comforts that came with the job, regardless of the fact 
that people said they were financial predators who singled 
out smaller businesses. He loved buying them and then 
breaking them apart, making as much profit as possible 
with little or no concern for the people hurt in the process. 
Jacob believed these claims to be greatly exaggerated and 
probably spread by their competitors to sully their public 

"All simply the cost of doing the business in this 
modern age," he had told himself on many an occasion. 
And even if there was any truthfulness to the claims, Jacob 
really didn't give a damn. He sat on his plush Italian 
leather sofa in the middle of his sprawling five thousand 
dollar a month apartment, puffing away on a cigar that 
tasted so good it had to be a sin, and knew that it was all 
worth it at any cost. 

At the moment that Jacob was at his most smug 
and self-content, a faint chill crept into his body. A small 
shiver ran up and down his spine and patches of goose-flesh 
broke out all over his arms. The coldness that was barely 
noticeable seconds before seemed to be taking root in his 
very bones. Since it was mid- August and his apartment 
was climate controlled, Jacob found the sudden chill 
disconcerting and hoped he wasn't getting sick. 

With a brief shudder, Jacob put down his cigar and 
got up from the couch, walking over to the bar to pour 
himself a brandy. He dearly hoped that a simple drink 
would chase away the chill that was now spreading rapidly 
within him with each passing moment. The rich amber 
liquid flowed from the cut crystal decanter with quiet 
sounds as Jacob poured himself three fingers' worth. Now 
feeling more than just a little cold and shaking noticeably, 

Page 56 4 p.m. Count 

Jacob set down the decanter and picked up his snifter full of 
brandy before walking back to the couch and sitting down. 

Throwing his head back and taking two massive 
swallows, Jacob downed the brandy he had only moments 
before poured, then sat there coughing and choking on the 
vapors. Jacob waited desperately for the liquid's warm 
rush to surge up through his body's core to relieve him 
from the cold that now wracked him so unmercifully. For 
one blissful moment the warmth that he had craved washed 
over him, blotting out the cold. 

But with a rapidness that was so overwhelming it 
scared Jacob to death, the cold came rushing back stronger 
than before. He got up, barely able to move because his 
muscles were cramping from the cold, shooting bolts of 
pain all through his body with each step. 

Finally, making his way to the thermostat, Jacob's 
heart dropped. He felt as if the thermostat was mocking 
him, with its comfortable reading of sixty-eight degrees, 
while he stood there feeling like a side of beef in a meat 
locker. The cold and fear so completely blotted out Jacob's 
senses that he couldn't think of what to do next. Call for 
help was the only idea that popped into his head. Jacob 
wasn't able to do much more than knock the phone from 
its cradle and ineffectively poke his cramping and shaking 
fingers at the buttons once he reached it. Releasing a wail 
so full of desperation and pain that it could have curdled 
the blood, Jacob fell quaking to the floor. 

The wail was still passing over his lips as Jacob 
awoke with a start from the recurring dream that had once 
again quickly become a nightmare. Being awake was not 
an escape for poor Jacob at all. Along with still being 
mind-shatteringly cold and wracked with pain, he was once 
again anchored to the true hell that was his life. 

Rising slightly to his knees in the confines of the 
packing crate he now called home, Jacob began sifting 
through the fast food wrappers, empty cans, and other filth 
that littered the floor around him. As in his dream, he still 
desperately craved succor from the cold. But now that 

4 p.m. Count Page 57 

desire was viciously coupled with a need to escape from the 
awfulness of his surroundings. These days that relief was 
best found in the all-numbing completeness of a bottle. 

To his dismay all he could find were bottles that 
were as empty as he felt inside. With a harsh utterance that 
was barely understandable due to the loud chattering of his 
teeth, Jacob gave up his fruitless search. In his mind he 
cried, "God, help me please, make this suffering stop!" He 
then proceeded to scramble out of the rear flap of his crate. 

Once out of his hobo condominium, Jacob became 
suddenly aware of a fifty-five gallon drum that someone 
had started a fire in. The dancing flames from inside the 
barrel beckoned to Jacob like a siren's song promising him 
relief from the bitter cold if he would only come a little 
closer. Shuffling over as fast as his cramping limbs would 
take him, Jacob began luxuriating in the waves of heat 
radiating off the barrel's open top. 

Once the worst of his shakes from the cold had 
resided and he could focus on his surroundings, Jacob 
noticed a man standing close by also enjoying the barrel's 
heat. He didn't remember the man being there a moment 
ago when he first saw the barrel, but, then again, as cold 
and miserable as he had been, Jacob could understand how 
he had missed the stranger. 

The man was attired similarly as Jacob was, 
mismatched thrift store clothing and other apparel all torn 
and caked in grime. Yet, unless Jacob's eyes were deceiving 
him, the man's skin, hair, and nails were immaculately 
clean and even seemed to be shining faintly in the fire's 
glow. Maybe it was the damned hallucinations from the 
lack of alcohol starting up again. He really wasn't sure; all 
he knew was that he needed to get himself a drink, and fast. 

"Evening friend, cold enough for you?" asked the 
stranger. There was a glimmer in his eyes that made them 
twinkle ever so slightly. He then smiled boldly with a 
mouth full of perfectly straight and amazingly white teeth. 

The smile looked to Jacob like a freakish 
combination of a game show host and great white shark. 

Page 58 4 p.m. Count 

The twinkling glimmer in the man's eyes was the same 
kind Jacob often saw in the eyes of the wackos who 
came around claiming they could talk to God. Given the 
strangeness of the man before him and his present lack of 
booze, Jacob was sure that he was most probably imagining 
him. But just in case he wasn't, he blurted out a mumbled 
reply while unconsciously cringing from him. 

"Tell you what makes me forget about the cold on a 
night like this," replied the man, ignoring Jacob's obvious 
discomfort and weak response to his greeting. "A nice 
bottle, yes indeedy, that's the ticket on a night like this," 
said the man, instantly grabbing Jacob's full attention. The 
man then reached down on the ground next to him and 
plucked a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag that Jacob 
was positive wasn't there before. The stranger took a long 
pull off the bottle and, smiling that disquieting smile of his, 
offered it to Jacob. 

"God please," Jacob prayed as he reached out to 
grasp the bottle. He hoped his hand would actually grasp 
it and not pass through, proving all this to be nothing more 
than an elaborate hallucination. Jacob almost cried when 
his fingers clasped the bottle, and he greedily put it to his 
lips, taking several huge swallows. Immediately Jacob felt 
the warmth of the booze flow through his insides followed 
by a strange sense of calmness. It seemed to be washing 
over him, growing stronger like the cold had done in his 
recent dream. 

When Jacob finally came around from his rapture, 
he noticed the man seemed to have disappeared. For a 
moment, he once again thought maybe the man had been a 
hallucination, but the bottle in his hands and the wonderful 
sensations coursing through his body said otherwise. "Oh 
well, more for me," Jacob said, surprised that his teeth 
were no longer chattering and he could now speak clearly. 
Basking in his good fortune of being both warm and having 
the potential of getting mind-numbingly drunk, Jacob took 
another pull from the bottle. He was once again rewarded 
with another swell of heat and a sense of well-being. 

4 p.m. Count Page 59 

With a sense of blissfulness so foreign to him these 
days spreading all through his mind, Jacob allowed his 
thoughts to drift back to how he had come to be in this 
place living the way he was. It had all started one day when 
he was sitting there on his couch, smoking that wonderful 
cigar: happy and completely smug. At the moment, 
when the cold usually started to creep into his body in his 
nightmare, the phone had in reality rung. 

"Jacob, oh Christ man, turn on your T. V. to CNN," 
blurted out his co-worker, Bret, before he even had a 
chance to say hello. "You won't believe what's happening, 
it's horrible. What will we do?" Bret frantically spewed 
into the phone, not giving Jacob a chance to respond. 
Bret quickly said, "Damn, Jacob, I got to call some other 
people," and hung up the phone, never giving Jacob a 
chance to utter a single word. 

After hanging up the phone again, Jacob grabbed 
the remote off the table and turned his huge flat screen on, 
flipping the channel to CNN. As the anchor person relayed 
the breaking news to the viewing public with her trademark 
chipperness a single word escaped Jacob's lips: "Shit!" 

Apparently the I.R.S and the F.B.I had been 
investigating certain persons in and associated with Martin, 
Oberholtz, and Dietrich Inc. for creative bookkeeping and 
other nefarious activities. None of which Jacob had any 
clue about, but he was sure would affect him anyway. It 
was at that point when Jacob had gotten up and poured 
himself the first of what would become many strong drinks. 

Once the smoke had cleared and the perpetrators 
had all been hauled off to prison, M.O.D Inc. was still 
around, albeit in a highly weakened and vulnerable state. 
It didn't take long for the proverbial sharks to start circling 
once the blood was in the water and the feeding frenzy 
commenced with abandon. The company that had once 
purchased and so uncaringly torn apart others was itself 
purchased, torn to pieces, and sold off. 

And to Jacob, the greatest irony of all was when 
the once proud head liquidator was himself liquidated. 

Page 60 4 p.m. Count 

No new companies wanted anybody remotely associated 
with M.O.D, regardless if they had anything to do with the 
scandal, so Jacob was out of work. He turned to the booze 
to cope with it all, putting the final nail in the coffin of 
having any career at all. 

Snapping back from that distant past, Jacob took 
another long drink off the bottle, hoping it would begin to 
blot out his thoughts and suddenly unhappy feelings the 
same way it had erased the cold. In fact, after he finished 
taking his drink, Jacob noticed that he was sweating and 
seemed to be getting hotter by the minute. "What the hell 
is in this stuff?" Jacob asked himself. 

Pulling down the brown paper bag that was 
wrapped around the bottle, Jacob revealed the bright red 
label that read in shiny silver lettering, "Doom malt liquor." 
Jacob looked on in disbelief as he started to read the small 
print on the back of the label. 

"Made with the waters from the River Styx, tears 
from the souls in the sixth ring of hell, and the concentrated 
pain and sorrow of those you hurt in your life." Jacob 
thought it had to be one of those new gimmicky drinks 
they were always coming out with these days: Black Death 
Vodka, Tarantula Tequila and the hundred other weird 
names he had heard. Or, at least that was what he hoped as 
he tilted the bottle back, taking another drink. 

Polishing the bottle off finally, Jacob threw it into 
the barrel with disgust. Aside from making him feel so hot 
that he was starting to become uncomfortable, the booze 
hadn't made him the slightest bit drunk. In fact, he seemed 
to be thinking more clearly and feeling more vividly than 
he had in years which really terrified him, since all he 
could think about was his painful past. Tearing off several 
layers of clothing in an effort to cool down and having little 
success, Jacob looked up to see the stranger standing back 
in front of him smiling. With the heat still building stronger 
and stronger inside of him, Jacob cried at the man, "What 
have you done to me, what the hell is happening?" 

Still smiling that perfect little smile of his, the man 

4 p.m. Count Page 61 

replied, "Why, God has given you what you wanted. You 
begged him to make your entire suffering stop and this is 
the way that it is going happen," calmly stated the stranger. 
Jacob swore he heard a slight ring of enjoyment in the 
voice. "You will be purified by fire and I will take your soul 
to heaven," yelled the man, tilting back his head, laughing 

As the heat once again reasserted itself upon his 
conscience, Jacob opened his mouth to scream but no 
sound came out. Instead a bright plume of flame and 
smoke shot from his mouth, terrifying Jacob out of his 
mind. The pain was unbearable and more intense than 
anything he had ever felt in his worst nightmares or waking 
hours and that was the way he supposed it was meant to be. 
Jacob's flesh began to burn and flake off his body, dropping 
him to his knees. Right before his eyes popped and melted 
down his face, Jacob saw the last and most beautiful thing 
he would ever see in his life. 

As Jacob watched, the clothing of the stranger who 
had promised salvation through pain ripped apart and a 
large pair of wings burst from his back. "Come now, it 
is our time to go," said the angel as he stepped forward, 
slamming his hand into Jacob's chest, pulling out his still 
burning soul. With his task now completed, the angel gave 
several powerful flaps of his wings, propelling himself 
skyward towards heaven. 

Page 62 4 p.m. Count 

5 Nights in Vegas 

Night golfing, Brothels, Gambling, Romance 

Lee Dagostini 

I took a moment to gather my senses. I just got 
off the plane and was standing in the Las Vegas airport 
terminal; I could hardly believe I was really here. I had 
heard all manners of stories of excitement, pleasure, 
adventure, and fun-a place where anything is possible: 
A hedonistic paradise. It was now time to find out if the 
stories were true. 

Day 1 While playing blackjack at the Las Vegas 
Hilton I stumbled onto a little known secret. I was sitting 
on my behind playing blackjack for six hours and was 
getting restless to do something that required movement. 
For some reason I said out loud, "I sure wish I could play a 
round of golf right now." An elderly, bald, heavy-set player 
whose breasts were so big that he would need a C-cup bra 
to hold them in place, quickly said, "Why don't you do 
it then. There is a course ten minutes away from here." I 
looked at him like he was insane, for it was midnight and 
pitch black outside. From the expression on my face, he 
figured I thought he was full of it or drunk. So, he quickly 
continued, "It is a nine hole, lighted course with a driving 
range; it is the only one in town." 

I had never heard of night golfing. It did not seem 
possible. I still did not believe him. I proceeded to stare 
into space with a puzzled look on my face. I was trying 
to ascertain if it was possible. Then, suddenly, the dealer 
(Mark) snapped me out of my trance by stating in a firm 
voice that the man was correct. That was all I needed to 
hear. I immediately thanked Mark and the old man and 
abruptly bolted from the table to get my golf clubs. I hailed 
a cab and was there in fifteen minutes. The place was a 
sight to behold. There were a couple dozen stadium lights 
lining the par thirty-six nine-hole course. A large section of 

4 p.m. Count Page 63 

North Vegas was lit up like a stadium. 

For the most part, it was the same as playing in 
the daytime, with a few exceptions. I thought it would 
be hard to see the flight of the ball. I figured I would lose 
several balls. That was not the case. Strangely, it was 
easier to follow the flight of the ball because the lighting 
was constant and evenly disseminated. However, depth 
perception was poor. I could not gauge the distance or 
trajectory to my intended target with much accuracy. Often, 
I would hit a good shot only to find that when I got to the 
ball it was too far or short. I found this annoying. The most 
noticeable difference was looking up into the sky to see the 
moon and stars instead of the sun and clouds. I never got 
used to that. It did not seem right! 

Day 2 I had just got through taking a brutal beating 
at the gaming tables and was feeling especially down and 
dejected. I needed a quick fix, some pleasure, something to 
cheer me up. After contemplating my options, I figured I 
had five choices: Get a massage with a happy ending, pick 
up the phone and custom order an escort, go to a singles bar 
(meat market), pick up a hooker in the lounge, or go to a 
legalized brothel on the edge of town. I took the easy, legal, 
and unique route-I went to the brothel. 

When I arrived I was a bit nervous; I did not know 
what to expect. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the 
outside of the building looked dumpy and unattended. As I 
walked through the door, the first thing I saw was about ten 
women gathered around in what appeared to be a lounge 
area. This relaxed me even more. Then I was greeted by an 
old, overweight, gruesome looking woman who escorted 
me to a small, isolated office in the back of the building 
(she was so creepy that if I had not just seen the ten women 
in the lounge, I would have bolted out the door and run for 
my life). 

We talked business for ten minutes. There was an 
amazing amount of paperwork to read and fill out. I was 
surprised they did not hand me a 1099. There was one 

Page 64 4 p.m. Count 

disturbing waiver. It exempted them from any liability if I 
later claimed to have contracted any disease from my visit. 
After the business was completed, we got to the good part: 
picking a girl and the amount of time I would have to be 
with her. 

The price range for the women was based on age. 
Not surprisingly, the younger women cost the most and 
the older women cost the least. I chose a thirty-year-old 
woman. I had never been with a woman who was older 
than I so I was excited about the prospect. I had three to 
choose from. I was handed a book that had several different 
pictures of the three women: One Asian, one Swedish, and 
one Latin. Some of the pictures were quite revealing. I 
definitely knew what I was going to get! I chose the woman 
of Asian descent; her name was Candy. 

Finally, it was time to pick the amount of time I 
wanted to spend with Candy. I chose thirty minutes. It 
seemed like a comfortable amount of time. The business 
was done. 

I was escorted to a room. I opened the door to find a 
smiling, bright-eyed Candy sitting on a couch. The lighting 
was dim, and there were no windows. The room was clean. 
Off to the left I spotted a dumpy bathroom with a shower. 
The furnishings and decor were similar to that of a seedy 
motel or a low end motel chain. 

As she was introducing herself, she quickly got 
up and walked toward me. We extended pleasantries for 
a few minutes and then it was time to begin. She was 
almost through taking off her clothes (exposing a nice, 
shapely body that was far more inviting than the pictures 
suggested), when she stated that she makes virtually all her 
money on tips. She looked directly into my eyes and, in a 
soft, sexy voice, said that she would go beyond the normal 
activities and pleasantries if I would be willing to tip her. 
I was no idiot. I was so worked up with anticipation that I 
screamed "Yes" instantly. 

Thirty-five minutes later I emerged from the room 
with a huge smile on my face. I felt good again, even 

4 p.m. Count Page 65 

though it just dawned on me that I had parted with more 
money (two hundred dollars plus a two-hundred-dollar 
tip) to alleviate my depression than I lost to get depressed 
in the first place. I had no regrets. I was feeling great. I 
accomplished what I had set out to do: I no longer cared 
that I was thoroughly thrashed at the gaming tables for 
hours on end just before I arrived. My adrenaline was 
flowing. I was ready for more excitement. 

Day 3 I was hanging around the gaming area in 
the MGM Grand Hotel Casino when I felt the urge to try 
my luck at blackjack. I reached into my pocket to discover 
that I had around three hundred dollars. I quickly found 
an open seat at a three-dollar minimum table (the lowest 
in the casino). The table was occupied by six players. At 
first glance, I quickly and rudely cataloged each player. It 
was a varied group: one old, one young, one wholesome, 
one strange, one beautiful, and one obnoxious. I sat in the 
middle spot directly facing the dealer. None of us players 
could have predicted the wild, unexpected, and exciting 
turn of events that would soon transpire. 

After playing for an uneventful twenty minutes, 
a new dealer, Jane, was assigned to our table. Jane was a 
lively, middle-aged woman with a bubbly personality. She 
stood five feet seven inches tall; had short, curly hair, big, 
beautiful, white teeth and a pretty smile. Jane appeared 
happy to be joining us. 

Meanwhile, I found myself being entertained by 
Joe, Marcy and Elisabeth. Joe had a distinct southern accent 
and an overbearing, obnoxious personality (he could not 
keep his mouth shut). I can safely say Joe had issues that 
a lifetime of regular therapy could not correct. He wore a 
huge cowboy hat, smoked a cheap cigar, and was slamming 
down drinks as fast as they arrived. Marcy was an anorexic, 
frail, grey-haired elderly lady who had virtually no muscle 
tone; she looked like a skeleton with skin. She would 
regularly make strange faces and gestures, like popping her 
eyes out of their sockets when she was anxious or smacking 

Page 66 4 p.m. Count 

her lips which made an annoying, repetitive, slurping 
sound. At all times she had a lit cigarette in her hand which 
hovered over an ashtray. Strangely, the cigarettes rarely 
reached her lips. She was my favorite. Elizabeth was a 
pleasant, middle-class, middle-aged housewife who was 
just happy to be in Vegas. She was polite, friendly, and a 
little reserved. Her presence added a bit of normalcy for 

Jane was also a friendly dealer. For the first fifteen 
minutes at the table she gave out more chips (money) than 
she was taking in. This enabled us to gather some chips 
and start to feel positive about winning. Most of us were 
starting to slightly increase our bets. The group was coming 
to life. 

Soon afterward, to our surprise and delight, Jane 
completely fell apart. For the most part, she either busted 
or ended up with a weak hand (seventeen or eighteen). This 
trend continued for quite some time. As we accumulated an 
abundance of chips, we significantly increased the size of 
our bets from the three- to five-dollar bets that we generally 
were betting when we started playing, to consistently 
betting twenty-five to one hundred dollars a hand. 
Eventually, we had what seemed to be an endless supply of 
chips in front of us. We felt invincible. I was having a blast. 

The casino was taking a beating, the bosses were 
pissed off, and a crowd had gathered behind us. Glancing 
around the table, I roughly calculated that there were eight 
thousand dollars in chips for the good guys (us). I had 
about fifteen hundred. The pit boss (in charge of all the 
games in his area) and the floor man (assigned to watch 
about eight games in the pit boss's section) were hovering 
over Jane's shoulder staring intently at the table and her. 
Jane was clearly not enjoying this. Her smile disappeared, 
she suddenly became mute, and her hands were shaking. 
She was acting as if someone were holding a gun to her 
head. Adding to the allure of the situation, a group of 
spectators, fifteen or so, were crowding the table straining 
their necks to get a better look at what was happening. 

4 p.m. Count Page 67 

In the distance, we saw a lone dealer walking our 
way. This was extremely unusual. Usually, several dealers 
appear at once at assigned intervals to relieve fellow 
dealers. It soon occurred to us that the casino was bringing 
in their ace in the hole-a house dealer. (To be classified 
as a house dealer one must consistently and mercilessly 
relieve the customers of their money.) We knew Jane was 
going to get pulled. However, realizing that if Jane started 
to deal another hand she would have to finish it, we quickly 
but neatly stacked a pile of chips into our betting circle 
in the hopes that Jane would start to deal. It worked. Jane 
turned over a card before Mr. Death arrived. The last hand 
was in progress. Joe bet around eight hundred dollars, 
Marcy five, Elizabeth two, and me six. 

What a monster of a hand it was. Everyone's eyes 
were glued to Jane's left hand as she turned the cards face 
up. Elizabeth's hand was completed first; she had a twenty 
(two face cards). A great hand; she was in heaven. I was 
next. I was forced to stare in total disgust at the sixteen 
Jane had just dealt me; sixteen is the worst hand I could 
possibly have gotten. I started to feel nauseous and ill. 
Marcy had a garbage hand also: She had thirteen. She 
showed her displeasure by sucking in her face through her 
cheek bones and gums which caused her lips to pucker up, 
while attempting to pop her eyes out of their sockets; she 
looked like a fish. Joe was cursed or blessed, depending 
on how the cards would eventually fall with a total of ten 
(he was virtually forced to double down). Soon he would 
have sixteen hundred dollars in neutral territory. For the 
first time since I met him, he was speechless. Now for the 
moment of truth-Jane slowly turned over her card: seven 
of hearts. Not bad, but not good either. Statistically, Jane 
should have a ten card under the seven to total seventeen. 
This would not be considered a good hand, but it would 
beat mine. 

It was time to play our hands. Elizabeth signaled 
to Jane that she did not need a hit. I had a big decision to 
make. Logic dictated that I should have taken a hit with 

Page 68 4 p.m. Count 

sixteen versus a seven (one should always take a hit in this 
situation). However, I did not have a big enough set of balls 
to ask for a card (at the moment, they felt like they had 
shrunk to the size of a grain of sand). I could not stomach 
the sight of a bust card being turned over and Jane scooping 
my money away. I was a coward. I signaled to stay pat. 
Marcy, with her pathetic thirteen, signaled for a card-she 
had bigger gonads than I (even though biologically 
she was barred from having a set). Jane turned over a 
six of diamonds (nineteen). Marcy's fish face instantly 
transformed into a happy, glowing crazy old lady face. Joe 
eagerly pushed the chips necessary to match his original 
bet into the betting circle which signaled to the dealer that 
he wanted to double down (take one card). Jane was not 
kind-it was a four of clubs. Joe slammed his hat to the 
ground and yelled at the top of his lungs, "God damn it." 
All seemed bleak for Joe and me, but the hand was not over 

It was time for Jane to reveal her hole card. Tension 
filled the air. There was a moment of silence. Jane turned 
over a nine of clubs (sixteen): Garbage. Thank God! Loud 
and obvious displays of relief resonated all around, except 
for, of course, the casino staff. Mr. Death, the pit boss, and 
the floor man were livid. What a pathetic scene that was. 
One would have thought that it was their personal money at 

The next card would either bring us extreme 
jubilation or an overflow of despair and despondency. 
I could not bring myself to watch. I turned my body to 
the left and stared in the direction of the ceiling. I was 
physically ill. My insides were turning, my pulse was 
racing, and I felt nauseous and weak. I thought to myself, 
"What is going on? I am winning. Why do I feel like I 
am having a nervous breakdown?" Suddenly, the crowd 
erupted. Jane must have turned over her card. They were 
clapping, hollering, and laughing; one would have thought 
they had just won the lottery. Jane must have busted. I had 
to look now. What a sight it was. Jane had a seven turned 

4 p.m. Count Page 69 

over. I won! We won! It was over. All the tension that had 
built up inside of me was gone. It was replaced by joy, 
relief, and satisfaction. 

That was it; we were all through. None of us wanted 
any piece of the new house dealer who was sent by the 
greedy, evil casino bosses to take back what they perceived 
as "their" money. Before Jane left, we tossed several 
chips in the middle of the table to show our appreciation. 
Between the chips that we were betting for her all along 
and what we had just tossed her way, she must have 
accumulated, in a locked box to her right, over a thousand 
dollars in chips. As happy and grateful as Jane was to have 
gathered that much loot, she was a thousand times happier 
to get the hell out of there! All Mr. Death could do was 
convert our chips to larger denominations and watch us 
walk away. The mighty house dealer was reduced to being 
a clean-up boy. That was a beautiful sight to behold. 

After the convergence of the chips was done, there 
was no need for any of us to hang around. Elizabeth, who 
appeared to be in shock, gave her husband a long, loving 
hug. She was still not sure if it was a dream or really 
happening. Tears of joy and astonishment ran down her 
cheeks. The scene was moving. They casually walked arm 
and arm toward the cashier's cage. Marcy, too, started 
to walk away. She grabbed her huge purse (the size of 
a canyon suitcase) and her cane and slowly meandered 
toward the exit doors. She never made it. Halfway there, 
she plopped her purse and cane beside a slot machine and 
was getting situated to have a go at a one-armed bandit. Joe 
felt important now; he decided to hang around the area so 
he could brag and tell stories to anyone who would listen. 
He was in heaven. The bullshit that came out of his mouth 
could have filled a house. 

I found myself staring at four pink five-hundred-dollar 
chips and a few black one-hundred-dollar chips that were 
safely nestled in the palm of my hand. I had never in my 
wildest dreams thought that I could get so lucky. It was as 
if the stars all lined up in just the right spot to allow for 

Page 70 4 p.m. Count 

this magical turn of events to take place. I am grateful that 
I was a part of it-it was an exhilarating, entertaining, and 
profitable experience. 

Day 4 While I was sitting around the pool soaking in the 
eighty- six degree sun on a windy, clear day, I stumbled 
across my next adventure. I was scanning through several 
tourist brochures when I came across an advertisement 
that was to my liking. I was going to take an ultra-light 
plane ride. There are several types of ultra-lights. The one 
the brochure displayed was ridiculously small and was 
an open-air model (no material covering the occupants or 
much of anything). 

As I was nearing the small, isolated airport in the 
heart of ranch land at the base of the mountains about 
twenty miles west of Vegas, I spotted, from my rental car, 
an ultra-light cruising around overhead. My adrenaline 
started to flow. I could hardly wait to get up there. My right 
foot turned to lead, and, before I knew it, I had arrived. 

When I arrived, the ultra-light was landing. The 
landing was frightening to watch. I saw a little, skinny, 
scraggly-bearded man clutching his right hand on the 
joystick (the control that steers the plane). The plane was 
landing on a bumpy, beaten, pitted, dirt path that was being 
used as a runway. As the plane approached it appeared to 
me that there was an engine, wings, tail-fin, double seat 
and three pathetically small wheels-nothing else. Nothing 
holding it together-just parts. It was coming in fast; it did 
not look safe. The plane hit the runway. As the pilot was 

4 p.m. Count Page 71 

attempting to compensate for the rough stretch in front of 
him, it occurred to me that it must feel like an amusement 
park ride. He would hit a bump and the plane would react. 
It would bounce off the ground, hit the ground, tip left, 
right, rock back and forth. In various combinations, this 
pattern continued until the plane was almost at a stop. I was 
surprised it did not crash. 

I was not sure I wanted to do this anymore-it 
looked dangerous. However, after talking to my pilot Earl, 
who just happened to be the pilot of the ultra-light that 
I just watched land, and asking him several questions, I 
decided to give it a go. 

The take-off was reasonably smooth. I was 
surprised. I barely felt the impact of the rugged terrain of 
the so-called runway. Before long, we were off the ground. 
We were climbing at a slow, even rate. I felt surprisingly 
relaxed. After a few minutes of climbing, Earl halted 
the ascent and leveled off the plane. We were cruising at 
around forty mph but it felt like we were not moving at 
all. I could feel gusts of wind swirling and cutting around 
the plane, yet the plane held steady. After a few minutes 
of cruising, I felt comfortable. I was taking in the sights. I 
was enjoying being alive. Earl must have sensed this, so he 
asked if I wanted to man the joystick. I quickly said yes. 
He gave me quick, concise instructions. Soon afterwards, 
my left hand was controlling the plane. It felt strange. 
No sooner did I take the helm than a huge gust of wind 
attempted to blow the plane sideways, but, to my surprise, 
a slight nudge of the joystick halted the wind. All remained 
steady. I maintained a steady ride for a few minutes when 
I felt the urge to do more than "hold" the joystick. I asked 
Earl if I could do something more with the controls. As he 
was pointing to his left, he said, "Do you see that barn over 
there?" "Yes," I replied. He continued, "Let's take a closer 

I slowly and cautiously started to turn the plane in 
the direction of the barn (better safe than sorry). It took 
awhile to get a feel for the joystick. Eventually, I tricked 

Page 72 4 p.m. Count 

the plane into heading in the direction of the barn. I said to 
myself, "That was easy." Then it dawned on me that it was 
time to start the descent to the barn. I was not confident 
about that. I figured if I messed it up we would nosedive, 
lose control, and crash. But with some coaching from Earl 
and Earl's hand ready to replace mine on the joystick if 
something went wrong, I apprehensively started the descent 
toward the barn. It appeared that we were picking up speed 
at an alarming rate as we got closer to the ground, but 
in reality we maintained the same speed. Thank God for 
that! It was cool. I was proud of myself. The descent was 
accelerating and fun-I felt powerful. I leveled off the plane 
one-hundred yards above the top of the barn. We continued 
to fly at the same altitude for awhile until I asked Earl to 
return us to the high, scenic altitude that we were cruising 
at before, for that is the place I wanted to be. 

After returning to a high cruising altitude, I wanted 
to take in the whole experience. No more fooling around. I 
decided to let go of all my inhabitations and expectations. 

Soon afterward, I realized that the view was 
magnificent and that I was experiencing something special. 
As time went by, I could feel myself getting lost in the 
endless sky, becoming an insignificant object in the vast 
open air-a feeling of being at peace with myself and being 
removed from reality. I felt free! No worries, no stress, no 
responsibilities: Nirvana. This is the feeling I was hoping to 
achieve. This is why I was here. 

Day 5 My trip was almost at an end. I had one evening 
left before I needed to head to the airport to catch my 
1 :00 a.m. flight, so I planned a simple evening. I would 
first play, what is generally considered the most exciting 
game in the casino, craps. Then I would go to the buffet 
and gorge myself on the multitude of sweets, meats, and 
whatever else caught my eye, and, with whatever time I had 
left, drive around Vegas to take in the sights. I am eternally 
grateful that my evening did not go as planned. 

I started the evening at the craps table in the Landmark 
Hotel Casino. I had no sooner gotten myself situated in 

4 p.m. Count Page 73 

a nice spot standing next to one of the base dealers when 
two young women approached the table. One woman 
reminded me of a Barbie doll and the other of a plane Jane 
(I later discovered that Barbie's real name was Margo and 
Jane's real name was Susan). They must have just come 
in from lounging by the pool because Margo had sandals 
on and was wearing a skimpy two-piece bikini. Susan was 
wearing tennis shorts and a short-sleeved tee shirt. Margo 
had bleached-blond hair that hung down to her shoulders, a 
magnificently golden tanned body, and smelt intoxicating. 
When the women got to the table Margo leaned over to 
display her huge, healthy, shapely chest (scantly covered by 
her bikini top that over 90% of her breasts were exposed) 
and in a childlike manner and voice stated that they had 
never played craps before and asked if anyone would be 
willing to teach them. The game came to a screeching halt. 
The craps game was now an afterthought to the employees 
assigned to run it. Male players, dealers, and supervisors 
were all vying for Margo 's attention. They were also 
waiting, hoping, praying that Margo would make a sudden 
move so her breasts would have an opportunity to break 
free from their restraints so they could be viewed by all in 
their full glory. 

With all of the attention given to Margo, Susan was 
abandoned and left to fend for herself. Partially because 
I felt sorry for her and partially because I was impressed 
that she maintained a happy face and demeanor throughout 
her friend's display, I offered to show her how to play. She 
looked me directly in the eyes as she was pondering her 
answer. After a few seconds of contemplation, she said, 

As she was walking to join me, I took the opportunity 
to take a more detailed look at her. Susan's appearance was 
nothing like that of her friend Margo. It was uneventful. 
She did nothing with her hair (straight, basic cut), wore 
awkward-looking glasses, had no distinctly womanly scent, 
and her tan line was patchy and red. Her body was not 
shapely; she was a four foot, eleven inch twig. 

Page 74 4 p.m. Count 

Susan and I were playing for a couple of hours and had 
our share of drinks. We were getting extremely comfortable 
being around and talking to one another. Eventually our 
conversation turned to our experiences in Vegas. I started 
first. I told her about the ultra-light ride, night golfing, 
winning at blackjack, and a few more things I thought she 
would find interesting. She listened intently. Susan was 
starting to come out of her shell. She was getting excited 
listening to me describe my adventures. She asked all 
manner of questions. Since Susan was so receptive to my 
stories, I decided to tell her about my visit to the brothel. 
Susan was amazed and happy that I shared that experience 
with her. She found my experience to be interesting. 

At this point Susan felt totally comfortable around me 
and eagerly started to share her adventures in Vegas. She 
enthusiastically went on to explain that she had gone on 
a four-hour ATV tour the day before, a helicopter tour of 
the city and the Grand Canyon, and a bungee dive off the 
top of a forty-story building. Wow! I never would have 
thought that of her. But there was more. After sharing 
some boring stories about her shopping adventures, she 
completely caught me off guard. She started to share a 
personal, intimate experience that she had: Susan received a 
professional massage with a happy ending. As she put it, "I 
received the massage from a tall, strong, handsome, Latino 
hunk named Miguel." 

After a few minutes of explaining the experience, it 
was becoming obvious that she was no longer just simply 
explaining it. She had begun to relive the experience. 
She was gazing into space, her eyes were glistening, and 
she was oblivious to the world around her-she was in 
a trance. Susan soon started vividly reliving (out loud) 
specific moments from her experience, "His strong, warm, 
oil-drenched hands firmly gripped my right thigh, then 
slid forcefully up and down and around penetrating deep 
into my flesh as I squirmed inside anticipating where he 
would turn his attention next." After a few minutes of this, 
Susan snapped out of the trance and soon realized what 

4 p.m. Count Page 75 

she had said and how she had acted. Clearly embarrassed, 
she quickly but gently placed her head on my chest and 
wrapped her arms around me. I was in shock. What was 
happening? Why did she lose it like that? Was she insane? 
Did she forget to take her medication? 

After the initial shock wore off, I figured out what had 
happened. Susan was so introverted, conservative, and 
unworldly that all the experiences of this trip overwhelmed 
her: an emotional overload. In our earlier conversations, 
Susan mentioned that she had led a sheltered, uneventful 
life; she was never asked to a dance in high school, had 
limited experience dating, had low self esteem, was teased 
by classmates regarding her appearance, and did nothing 
out of the ordinary. 

It soon dawned on me that Susan and I were much alike 
in our desire to experience life on our trip. We were here to 
live, let loose, have fun, gather life experiences, and grow 
as individuals. Both of us were doing things in Vegas that 
we would probably not do back home. We were living 
for the moment, to escape the routine of our normal, duty- 
laden, responsible, and patterned lives. 

I spent the remainder of the evening in Susan's hotel 
room. The clock was ticking. I was determined to make 
the next two hours the most memorable, exhilarating, and 
meaningful memories Susan would have of her adventure. 

It was time to leave for the airport. As I was about 
to enter the elevator, it was time to say goodbye. There 
was not much to say. We had mentally, physically, and 
emotionally said good-bye to each other over the last 
two hours. The elevator door opened. We embraced one 
last time. As the door was closing, we gave each other a 
friendly wave and smile. When the door closed, for all 
intents and purposes, my Vegas adventure had come to an 

I would be hard-pressed to remember what I had for 
lunch last Tuesday or what I did on any given weekend a 
year ago; yet, I remember vividly and fondly the events of 
my vacation some twenty-five years ago. 

Page 76 4 p.m. Count 


Fermin Venzor 

History or course of the development and evolution of a race or 
genetically related group of organisms. 

-Webster s Third New International Dictionary- 


„ - & '*"' '"■■■ ' ,x ^*mik. * ** ** >l> , 

We cannot hope Phylogeny will explain the morphology of 

- W.P. Kent- 

My body lies motionless there, interred under six feet of 
earth. It formed for nine months in the womb, destroyed in 
a minute or two. If people can see me no more, my name 
will erase from their minds, the projects I started to do, 
forever will come to a pause. 

Some chores I left halfway complete, most hopes and 
dreams never achieved, I took them with me to the grave, 
forever locked up in my head. 

My mind is discovering new worlds, so strange, I'm just 
floating out here. I think I'm appointed a guide, who 
knows, I might be on my own. What language do I have to 

4 p.m. Count Page 77 

speak? Who tells me which cloak I must wear? 

When is it my turn to go see "The One" we must all answer 


Enigmas and questions abound, can anyone give me a clue? 
Is this place as real as it seems? Perhaps I'm just having a 

My soul knows such places exist, it feels right at home with 
this crowd. The beings that pass by my side, they all seem 
so bright and advanced. Some don't look like humans at 
all, I wonder what planet they're from? 
I'm thinking, is that how we'll look when we have evolved 
once again? 

I sit here and doubt fills my mind. Is this the next phase in 
my life? Will I still develop some more? Or is it the end of 
the road? 

Adios, I must leave you for now, they're telling me my turn 
is up. I'll try to discover the truth, and vow to enlighten 
you some, but just in case we can't touch base, they 
promise, you will get your chance. 

Amazing! It's out of this world! No words can describe 
what I'm seeing! 

Page 78 4 p.m. Count 

Truck' n 

Jason E. Davis 

Out for weeks at a time 

home for about the same. 

Going from the Port of Miami to 

Camp Pendleton, Brownsville, Edmonton. 

Accident up ahead 

Driving from sunup to sundown 

is the way it's got to be. 

Hauling everything from Army tanks to 

cotton pickers, that's how I live my life. 

Bear sitting at mile marker 218 

Getting up on top of the load 
and spreading the tarp as far as it will go. 
I have to be careful, watch where I step 
no room for mistakes with miles to travel. 

Coast is clear, 
hammer down 

I love my time on the road 
but I am really needed at home. 
The worst part of this all 
is kissing the wife goodbye. 

4 p.m. Count Page 79 

The Great Hunters 

Isaac Searcy 

It was opening day of the Missouri deer hunting 
season and I'd hardly slept all night. I woke up at 4:30 
a.m. My older brother, Zeb, was already up. Samson, my 
younger brother, was still snoring, so I went over and gave 
him a brotherly punch on the shoulder. "Hey knucklehead, 
get up!" I said to him. Instantly, he was wide awake, 
bug-eyed and looking like he had slept less than anyone. I 
remember my first deer hunt; I probably acted the same, but 
this was my third hunt and Samson's first. At last, he was 
twelve years old and could go deer hunting. 

The last couple of years had been hard on the little 
guy; heck, they were tough on me too. Dad, Zeb, and I 
would pile into Dad's white '79 Toyota pickup and head 
to Missouri to go deer hunting. I hated leaving Samson 
behind. My brothers and I did everything together: chores, 
hunt, fish, ride bikes, play video games, fight, smoke 
cigarettes, I mean everything! So to watch him stand there 
with Mom underneath the basketball hoop in our driveway 
and wave, holding back tears, doing his best to act like a 
man at ten and eleven years old, was tough on me, as well. 
He wanted to come along, and I knew the feeling. I too had 
to stay back in Iowa with Mom while Zeb went on his first 
two deer hunts. 

This time, however, we were all together. Our 
grandparents lived in northwest Missouri and owned about 
a thousand acres of land; quite a bit of it was brush, timber, 
and forest. My dad had hunted the area his whole life and 
started us boys out doing the same. 

We needed to be in our stands by daylight, but it 
was tradition for Grandma to fix us breakfast. We sat down 
at the kitchen table and started eating. The television on the 
counter was turned to the morning news, but was on mute. 
Every time our spoons scraped the bowls we ate out of or 
the chairs we sat in creaked, we'd look at the culprit and 

Page 80 4 p.m. Count 

frown. I don't know what they were thinking, but I thought, 
"Dang, can't you guys be quiet! They can probably hear 
us," thinking about the deer out in the forest, as if they 
could hear through walls and from miles away. Even 
Grandma was affected by our anxiety. She treaded lightly 
across the kitchen linoleum, being sure to pick up her navy 
blue house slippers with each step, turning the water faucet 
on low as she rinsed dishes, and quietly shutting cabinet 

I was young and so were my brothers: twelve, 
fourteen, and sixteen. That had a little bit to do with why 
we were acting the way we were, but not everything. 
Someone once told me that deer hunting has the power 
to come over people and possess them, to make them do 
things they wouldn't normally do. I suppose this was one 
of those times. As for Grandma and Grandpa, I reckon they 
sensed we had a mild case of buck fever coming on, so they 
just fueled the fire by playing along. 

After a bowl of hot oatmeal at a quiet kitchen table, 
we prepared to leave, bundling up in our winter clothes. 
Grandpa made sure we had our orange vests and hats on. 
He had been the recipient of a terrible hunting accident 
many years before while out quail hunting with friends. He 
felt lucky to still have his legs and always preached hunter 
safety to us boys. 

Finally we were out the door. Grandma quietly 
called us back to throw a couple hand warmers in our 
pockets. Then they both whispered, "Good luck." 

Each of us climbed up on one of Grandpa's Honda 
Big Red three-wheelers, guns lying across our laps. We 
hunted with high-power rifles; I hunted with a .243 and 
both Zeb and Samson hunted with a .308. Samson sure 
did look awkward over on his three-wheeler. He wasn't a 
very big kid, about 5' 2" with finger-length shaggy brown 
hair, big eyes and an even bigger smile. That three-wheeler 
dwarfed him but he sure knew how to ride one. We grew up 
riding them, blazing trails through every acre of Grandpa's 
land, acting like new-age Lewis and Clark explorers. 

4 p.m. Count Page 81 

As we fired the engines to life, I cringed at the 
loud beat of their exhaust. Here we were trying to be all 
quiet and sneaky, only to send earth-thumping sound 
waves across the pre-dawn sky. Zeb quickly wheeled away 
heading south. He had about a mile ride across a tilled 
cornfield to get to his stand. Samson and I went the other 
direction, our headlights cutting through the darkness. It 
was about a two mile ride to my deer stand and Samson's 
was about a mile north of mine. Heading down Grandma 
and Grandpa's long lane, side by side, I looked over at 
Sam. He had a grin on his face that expressed pure glee, 
and eyes that looked like headlights themselves. He was 
excited, no question about it. 

We pulled out on the blacktop and sped up to about 
thirty miles per hour, tires humming their symphony on the 
asphalt, and then turned onto an old dirt road. I didn't have 
far to go and wheeled into a vacant farm house my family 
calls Cecil Brown's. Grandpa owned the property. No one 
had lived there for years, but I suppose some guy by the 
name of Cecil used to. It was a medium-sized white house 
and an ordinary passer-by probably would have thought 
someone lived there. Grandma kept it that way, lawn 
mowed and neat. A small shanty was out back and two 
great big maples towered over the house in the front yard. 
I parked underneath those trees, relieved to shut off the 
obnoxious motor. I could still hear Samson heading down 
the dirt road to his stand, playing the throttle like it was a 
musical instrument. Silently, I cursed him for disturbing the 
peace, (knowing there was nothing he could do about it), 
yet thinking to myself, why don't you just scream at the top 
of your lungs, "READY OR NOT, HERE WE COME!" 

I could barely see through the darkness, but I knew 
the area. Setting off for my deer stand, I crossed Cecil's 
yard and entered a forty-acre hayfield I had to walk across. 
In the distance I heard Samson kill the engine and now it 
was silent, almost scary silent. The crunch of dead grass 
and clover under my feet slowed my pace down to a tip- 
toe. During the day I wouldn't have thought twice about 

Page 82 4 p.m. Count 

crossing an open field alone, but in the dark, well, I just 
froze up. My head was on a swivel and I truly felt like I 
was being watched. What was that? I heard something and 
stopped. Listening intently, training my ears to every sound 
of the night, I quickly scanned my brain for what could be 
out there: deer, dog, a loose cow. I thought to myself, What 
if it was another hunter? What if I'm being hunted? My 
heart was beating like a bongo drum and a cold chill went 
through my core. Not even the gun in my hands could calm 
the storm of apprehension blowing over my body. I nearly 
turned and ran, then thought, Run? You can 't run nimrod. 
Suddenly I felt stupid tip-toeing around like a child. My 
clenched nerves released their grip on my legs and I started 
off for my stand. 

All of a sudden, "whoosh," a covey of quail took 
flight from right under my feet. "Eegh!" I heard myself 
scream as I danced the dance of the startled and hit the 
ground like a fallen tree, rifle tight to my chest. My heart 
was in my throat as I realized what had just happened. 
I swear I could hear those quail laughing their little tail 
feathers off as they flew for cover. "Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, 
we got him didn't we; he was so scared; I bet he crapped 
his pants!" Feeling like the fool I must have looked like, I 
took off walking with a confident stride that belied the way 
I truly felt. 

Finally, I got to my stand and quickly climbed 
up the tree. The sun's rays were beginning to peek over 
the horizon and my eyes adjusted to the early pink and 
orange light. I was perched in a massive oak and my deer 
stand looked more like a club-house for kids than a stand 
to hunt out of. Dad had made it a few years prior with 2 
X 4 lumber. It had a four- foot square floor and a built-in 
seat, with the trunk of the tree to lean back on. Braces had 
been built in on my left, right, and in front of me to use as 
gun rests. I sat in my tree, snuggled in the deep corner of 
the hayfield I had just walked across, forest covering my 
backside, left and right, and hayfield all out in front of me. 
Deer liked to come out in the hayfield to graze on grass and 

4 p.m. Count Page 83 

clover. One of the many trails they used to enter the field 
ran right underneath my stand. 

After an hour of scanning my surroundings, my 
mind began to drift. I sat there staring at the names carved 
in the giant oak I was perched in. Everyone who had used 
this stand before me had left their mark: Dad, brother Zeb, 
cousins Jimmy, Jay, and Josh. I pulled out my buck knife 
and began carving the name of the greatest hunter of them 
all. Putting the final touches on my name, I looked up. 
Holy shit! There s deer in front of me. Where 'd they come 
from? The thrill of the hunt was coursing through my veins 
as I looked them over. One, two, three, four deer were 
standing right there, three does and a little button-buck. I 
had told myself that this year I was going to get a trophy 
buck, not just any buck, a big one. I sat there for a time 
marveling at the beauty of the four deer, wondering where 
their leader was. Before long, they drifted away. 

I went back to daydreaming, thinking about how 
exciting, yet calming deer hunting was. One minute I'm on 
the edge of my seat, palms sweating, and teeth chattering; 
ten minutes later I'm relaxing, just enjoying the morning. 
And boy was it ever a beautiful morning. The last couple of 
years had been uncharacteristically cold for the area. Not 
that year though; the sun was shining at fifty degrees and 
the wind was barely blowing. I was just sitting there when 
suddenly. . . 

"Whack, whack, whack, sh, wham, sh, sh!" 
Something behind me was running through the forest floor, 
straight at me. I came out of my stupor and sat straight up, 
back rigid, and thought, Whatever it is, its coming swiftly 
It has to be the trophy buck, coming to look for his three 
does. Get ready daydreamer. Act fast; you '11 have to shoot 
him on the run. There he is! 

"What the hell!" I said out loud, as three turkeys 
came running past. I couldn't believe it. I sat there 
hating the red-headed little ostriches as they tore across 
the hayfield on some unknown mission. The thought of 
blowing their heads off actually crossed my mind, but I 

Page 84 4 p.m. Count 

thought of what I did two years before while deer hunting 
and decided against it. I slipped back into the dreamy state 
thinking about that incident as the turkeys headed into the 
timber on the far side of the hayfield. 

My first year deer hunting started out as a total 
disaster. It was unbelievably cold on opening day, so Dad 
parked his truck about a half-mile from my stand and then 
he walked three times as far to his own. He said if I got 
cold to go warm up in the truck because he left the keys 
in it. Well, sure enough, after only a couple hours I was 
freezing and went and warmed up my toes in the truck and 
got jacked up on Dad's coffee. On my way back to my 
stand a little squirrel came along, jumped up on a clump 
of dirt protruding from the snow and started chirping at 
me from about ten yards away. I don't know why, but I 
suppose because I was young and dumb, and just wanted 
to shoot something, or maybe I can blame it on all Dad's 
coffee I drank in the truck, but for whatever reason, I shot 
it. Two feet of pure-white snow covered the ground and that 
squirrel painted a pretty gruesome picture all over the top 
of a fifteen foot circle. As my shot echoed through the land, 
I quickly thought about what I had just done. I couldn't 
believe I had acted so impulsively. I got down on my 
hands and knees and cleaned up the area as best as I could, 
covering the crimson canvas with fresher, whiter snow. 
Then I took off for my stand. 

It wasn't long before I noticed Dad walking up, all 
six feet, one inch of him, short brown beard and hat that 
says, "The Buck Stops Here!" He wanted to know if I had 
shot a deer. "Yeah," I lied, "I shot at one, but missed." Dad 
responded, "Well where was he at? I got better trackin' eyes 
than you and I'll spot the blood if there is any." I lied again 
and said, "He was right over there," pointing a finger across 
the hayfield at some timber about fifty yards away. 

I felt bad and wanted to tell him what had really 
happened, but knew he would be pissed, and quite frankly, 
I was petrified thinking he would stick his size twelve 
Timberland up my ass if he knew the truth. Dad couldn't 

4 p.m. Count Page 85 

find any deer tracks, let alone any tracks with a blood trail 
behind them. Finally he called off the search. I think he 
began to wonder if I didn't just shoot at an imaginary deer 
by the way he was looking at me and questioning my story. 
It was getting close to lunchtime, so we headed back to the 

As we got close to the spot where I had the run-in 
with the squirrel I picked up the pace, hoping Dad wouldn't 
notice the spot in the snow where it looked like someone 
had been making snow angels. Being the way Dad is, he 
doesn't miss anything and he didn't that morning either. He 
slowed up when he saw the snow angels and walked over 
to the spot. "This is strange," he said, as he started kicking 
around in the snow. I stood there willing him with my 
mind to stop investigating. Then he saw something in the 
snow and kicked it out with the toe of his boot. It was the 
squirrel's tail. 

"What in the. . ." He looked at me and said in his 
deep authoritative voice, "Did you shoot a damn squirrel 
this morning!" Knowing my lies could cover my backside 
no longer, I owned up to it and received one hell of an ass- 

Coming back to the present and thinking about the 
turkeys, I decided it was a good thing I didn't make that 
mistake twice. 

I pictured the look on Dad's, Zeb's, Samson's, and 
my grandparents' faces when I came back to the house 
with my Missouri record trophy buck. They 're gonna be so 
jealous. Yep, they sure are. 

"Boom!" a shot rang out in the distance and brought 
me out of my trance. Wow, that was close. It must have 
been Samson, I thought to myself. He was only a mile 
away, so either one of us could clearly hear the other if one 
fired a gun. I was happy for him because he had been so 
stoked for this hunt. He and I shared a bedroom and every 
night for the last two months he had talked himself to sleep 
asking about deer hunting. "What's the furthest you've 
ever shot a deer from? Have you ever seen one as big as 

Page 86 4 p.m. Count 

the one Zeb got his first year? What's the best deer hunting 
rifle, a .243 or a .308?" I must have answered a thousand 
questions, or at least I tried to. 

"Boom! Boom! Boom!" three more shots were 
fired. Now I was starting to wonder what in the heck was 
going on because that was surely Samson again. I climbed 
down the tree and started walking to the three-wheeler, 
trying to figure out why he would need to shoot four times. 
Heck, the clip only held four bullets. Surely he didn't 
shoot more than one deer. Then I started thinking he may 
have killed my trophy buck and would get the honor I was 
dreaming of. 

"Boom! Boom!" again shots rang out. Now I was 
off and running, holding my hat on with one hand and 
the rifle in my other, picking my boots up high so they 
wouldn't snag in the grass and clover. "Boom! Boom!" 
again the crack of the rifle sounded. 

My jealousy turned to fear as I ran to Cecil 
Brown's. I was out of breath, heart bursting, thinking he 
had to be in a gun fight over there. I jumped on the three- 
wheeler and raced like Dale Jr. down the old dirt road, 
dodging pot holes, hitting some, splashing mud and water 
all over myself. 

Arriving at his deer stand, I jumped off screaming 
his name. "Sam! Samson!" His stand was empty and I was 
just about to start freaking out when he yelled, "Isaac, over 
here. I got one." I ran into the timber following his voice. 
Finding him, I said through each gasp of breath, "What the 
hell happened? I heard you empty two clips." 
"Yep," he said, like it was an ordinary way of hunting deer. 
Then he looked me up and down and said, "Jees, what 
happened? You look like you fell in the creek." 

"Never mind me, why'd you shoot so many dang 
times?" I demanded. Samson responded with that big smile 
of his, "Hey, don't get your camouflage all in a bunch. I'll 
tell ya what happened. A buck came across the clearing 
on a trot. Bang! I put one in him," he reenacted the scene 
with the gun at his shoulder. "He staggered from the shot, 

4 p.m. Count Page 87 

but then was off like a banshee." Samson slowly started 
walking, presumably to where the deer was. I followed. 
He started in with the tale again. "I took off after him. He 
stopped and stared back at me from about fifty yards out; I 
put three more in him. Staggering like a drunk, he started 
running again. Can you believe that bro? Four shots and he 
still wouldn't go down!" 

I started to calm down as he's telling me this; all I 
could think of is how Dad always told us boys not to chase 
a deer after you shoot one. "He'll just run further." Clearly 
Samson had a bad case of buck fever. 

"I chased him over this way and put four more 
in him. That's when he dropped," he said, standing there 
looking proud. Wow, are you all right little buddy? I 
thought to myself. Instead, I said, "Okay, well, let's get 
the deer and drag him out." We headed in that direction. 
Samson led the way, chest out, a man now that he had 
killed a deer. 

I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive to find out 
just how big Samson's buck was. I mean, what if he killed 
my trophy, my Missouri record. He'd get all the accolades 
and I'd be left with what? Nothing! I started to picture it, all 
the family sitting around talking about the big bucks they 
had shot and Dad looking over at me saying, "Hey Isaac, 
tell 'em about the time you shot that squirrel." 

Walking up to the dead deer, I was relieved to 
see its small rack, but also felt queasy. I had never seen 
a blood-red deer before. If I didn't know better I'd have 
thought he killed it with a machete. Its hair was matted this 
way and that, looking like a newborn calf after its mother 
licks off the afterbirth. 

Samson plopped down beside it and held up the 
head by the antlers. "Nice one ain't it," he said. It was a 
small six point, each antler no bigger than a man's hand and 
I thought, not really, but said, "yeah," not wanting to hurt 
the man's feelings. 

Now we needed to get the deer to the three-wheeler. 
We were a couple of corn-fed, Iowa farm boys that grew 

Page 88 4 p.m. Count 

up slinging hay bales and buckets of corn around, but 
dragging that deer the length of two and a half football 
fields, through brush and trees, wasn't the easiest thing to 
accomplish. Each of us grabbed a side of the antlers and 
started pulling, hips and heads low, butts out, just like my 
football coach taught me to push a sled. 

After fifty yards, we puckered out. Samson plopped 
back on the ground and leaned up against his scarlet deer, 
trying to catch his breath and said, "Damn, there has gotta 
be a better way to do this." I was huffing and puffing too 
when I thought of the answer. "Hey, why don't we just gut 
the deer out now? That'll get rid of at least thirty or forty 

"All right, good idea. You ever done it before?" he 
questioned. "Sure I've done it. I've killed two deer, haven't 
I?" The truth of the matter was that I had never gutted a 
deer by myself. Dad showed me how in previous years, but 
I wasn't going to admit that. After all, I was the big brother, 
and the expert. 

We rolled the deer over on his back to start surgery, 
and I tried to remember what Dad had previously told me, 
but no words of advice were coming to mind, so I just 
started in like I knew what I was doing. I did remember 
Dad making one long slit and then pulling all the gory guts 
out with one pull, clean as could be, making it seem easy. 
My procedure didn't quite go like that. Samson ended 
up on his hands and knees, head and shoulders inside the 
carcass, butt sticking up in the air, retrieving entrails. By 
the time we were finished, I was amazed that we could 
possibly butcher that deer any more than it already was. 
Sam didn't look much better. In fact, with all the blood he 
managed to get on himself he looked like the deer just gave 
birth to him. 

Finally we got the deer to the three-wheelers and 
barely managed to get the dang thing up on the back end. 
Then we headed for the house. 

As we rode up the lane, the loud thump of the three- 
wheeler's exhaust trumpeted our victorious return. We 

4 p.m. Count Page 89 

pulled up to the house as Grandpa and Grandma came out 
smiling, camera in hand. Their proud faces slowly turned 
to astonishment, first looking at Sam, then to me, finally 
to the deer, then at each other. I looked down at my mud- 
splattered self, then over at Sam and his identical twin, the 
bloody deer; I opened my mouth to explain but Grandpa 
cut me off. He turned to Sam and said with his old Missouri 
drawl, "Boy what happened? That deer redder than a dick 
on a dog! Your dang finger get stuck on the trigger or 
what?" Samson had not stopped grinning since the moment 
we pulled up to the house and his happiness and pride were 
just too evident. I hopped off the three-wheeler and went 
over, slapped him on the back, pointed at the deer and said, 
"Grandpa, that deer must have been the toughest deer to 
ever cross your land. If it hadn't been for Samson's precise 
accuracy, he'd of had to shoot it at least eight more times." 

Page 90 4 p.m. Count 

"C 10 H 15 N" 

The Power of Methamphetamine 

Joe Cavallaro III 

Is it possible for the demon of addiction to 
ever find residence in your precious existence? 
Your beautiful life is so innocent now. ... 
Childhood dreams and playful laughter and 
eyes so trusting only your mommy and I can see. 

You were born under the influence of a substance 
you know nothing about, and I fear the demon will prevail. 
As I watch you grow, I can only hope that your choices 
steer you from the places I found myself. 

Will you ever turn your back on the ones that love you 

and dance with death? 

Allowing the beast to live and dwell in you and all that you 


Breaking the chains of my own addiction has awakened me 

to the possibilities 

of your uncharted future, and I wonder. ... 

The power of God will be the 

only victory possible 

For any of us who surrender to 

this satanic power. 

Stay strong, my child.... 

4 p.m. Count Page 91 

The Beet Scene 

Justin Brooks 

My grandma was famous for her beets, and 
everyone in the family ate them for holiday meals. She 
would never let anyone know her cooking secrets, but I do 
know that she used a lot of brown sugar. One time, when I 
was older, I asked her about her famous beets and she said, 
"I put love into all of my recipes." 

Grandma was a red-headed woman, who was 
named after her Aunt Zelpha Jean. She was like most 
red-heads - sharp, intelligent, and feisty. She never had a 
problem with back-handing anyone who got out of line, 
especially when it came to the use of poor table manners. 
Her house rules were always obeyed without question, even 
having the kids set the table for holiday meals. 

Every year Mom and Dad would take us kids from 
Oklahoma City to Grandma's house in Heizer. Heizer is a 
small unincorporated town in central Kansas just north of 
Great Bend. The town might have three hundred residents 
but not a single paved road. 

Grandma's house was a five-bedroom, two-story 
white house that sat on half a block. It was framed with 
tall maples and juniper hedges. The house was actually 
passed down to her by her parents, my great-grandparents. 
They had lived there for nearly thirty years before my 
grandmother moved in. 

It was usually a madhouse at Grandma's during the 
holidays. She would slave away at the meal, so it would 
be finished before the relatives arrived. It was a lot of fun 
getting reacquainted with cousins that I had not seen for a 
whole year. We would run through the house until Grandma 
would order us outside. For some reason, we always ended 
up fighting with each other and having to be separated. 

I will never forget my dear great-great Aunt Zelpha 
Jean. Everyone called her Aunt Jim for short because her 
father wanted a boy but never got one, so he just started 

Page 92 4 p.m. Count 

calling her Jim. She was a registered nurse when she was 
younger, but she lost her only child, John, to polio and 
never stepped another foot into a doctor's office or hospital 
again. She lived well into her eighties but was never quite 
the same after her tragic loss. This particular Thanksgiving, 
she was in her mid-seventies, and we were all delighted 
to see her. At her side, as always, was her husband, Uncle 
Earl. They looked like any other older couple. She was 
short with white hair; he was average height and bald. 
Every time I saw them, they had on these polyester suits. 
Aunt Jim's was always pink with a white blouse. Uncle 
Earl would wear a brown polyester, flannel-looking sports 
coat, with flat brown slacks and a tan, button-down dress 
shirt. Their clothing looked like the stuff from a thrift shop. 
Not that they shopped there, I just think that they hadn't 
bought any new clothes since the 1950's. 

I must have been around ten years old, and 
Grandma told me to put out the little place cards on the 
table. Yes, she even had assigned seating. She also said, 
"Justin, you get to sit at the grown-up table this year." I was 
astonished at her remark! 

My cousins were not even impressed with my 
graduation. I tried to make them jealous by saying, "I'm 
a grown-up now. Y'all ain't cause y'all still have to sit at 
the kiddy table." None of my egging on worked. What did 
they know? They were just little kids that had to sit at that 
crummy blue card table with the folding chairs. 

The grown-up table sat about twenty and looked 
prestigious to me. At every place, there were two forks, 
two spoons, a butter knife, a plate, a cloth napkin, and two 
drinking glasses. The kids never got to drink out of two 
glasses in one day, much less in one meal. 

After everyone was seated, we started passing the 
food around. There were turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, 
mashed potatoes, brown gravy, green beans, carrots, olives, 
and my grandma's famous beets. Aunt Jim was sitting on 
my left and Grandma on my right. As the dishes came my 
way, I helped Aunt Jim with loading up her plate. I felt like 

4 p.m. Count Page 93 

I was truly living up to the "grown-up" role because our 
plates were piled to the breaking points. 

Before anyone could eat, it was time for a moment 
of silence followed by one of my Uncle Mike's prayers. 
Mike is my mom's tall, lanky, bald brother and is always 
making jokes and jacking around, so it is hard to take him 
seriously. Every time he spoke to the family, it seemed like 
it was off the seat of his pants. His prayers were usually 
something like this: "Well Father, thank you for all of 
this food we are about to eat. . .Urn. . .God, please let those 
Dallas Cowboys win today. . .Urn. . .You know, we have all 
come from a great distance to be here today. . .so thanks 
for getting us here safely. . .Urn. . .Please protect us in the 
future. Amen!" I remember thinking that I will lead prayer 
one of these days and do a much better job. We finally 
started eating after everyone thanked Mike for saying the 

Aunt Jim dug into her pile of food like she had 
never eaten a day in her life. I still firmly believe if she 
would have had a shovel, she would have used it. She had 
already eaten half of everything on her plate, including the 
beets. The whole table was stunned into silence. Grandma 
was the first to come out of the trance and say, "Jim, you 
sure are hungry." 

As Aunt Jim was shoveling another fork full of 
beets into her mouth, she replied, "Zelpha, this is the . . .." 

That was all Jim managed to say because she started 
choking. This time the whole table was staring in horror, 
especially me! There were a few comments like, "Aunt 
Jim are you all right?" I thought to myself, how is she 
going to answer you? SHE IS CHOKING, PEOPLE! The 
words, "Somebody help her!" were about to come out of 
my mouth until she did the most remarkable thing I had 
ever seen. She let out this burp like someone does that has 
swallowed too much water at the swimming pool. Along 
with this burp, not only did the contents of her mouth come 
out, but everything she had already eaten as well. She was 
very lady-like about it because not one drop landed on my 

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grandma's linen table cloth. It all landed back on her plate. 

I have always had a weak stomach when it comes 
to matters like this and usually get sick after watching 
someone else get sick. I silently said to myself, "Don't 
look. What ever you do, DON'T LOOK!" I couldn't help 
myself. My eyes were drawn to it like a tracker beam. The 
plate was nothing more than a pile of mush and red swirls. 

After I was able to pull my golf ball-sized eyes 
away, I noticed that everyone at the table was still eating. 
Surely they had seen what I had just witnessed. No one was 
even looking to the corner of the table where Jim and I sat. 

I remember looking at the top of my Uncle John's 
bald head, and I actually caught him sneaking a peek at the 
disaster zone across from him. Then he just shoved another 
fork full of food into his mouth. I thought, if being able to 
eat, after watching someone get sick at the dinner table, 
meant you were a "grown-up," I wanted to go back to the 
kiddy table. 

The most amazing part was when dear old Aunt 
Jim picked her fork up and was preparing to dive back in. 
Luckily, Grandma stepped in and said, "Oh, Aunt Jim! 
Here, I'll fix you a new plate." 

"Zelpha, I'm just fine. Now you sit down and enjoy 
your dinner, and I'll just eat this." Aunt Jim said. 

I think Jim was very embarrassed about her 
predicament, and everyone was able to pick up on that 
by acting as if nothing had happened. Honestly, they 
were all waiting for the scene to unfold in front of them. 
Aunt Jim and Grandma were both very bull-headed. I still 
cannot believe that there was actually a little bit of a tug- 
o-war over the plate of gruel. Thankfully Grandma was 
the stronger of the two and wrestled the plate out of Jim's 
grasp. I almost let out a gasp of relief over Grandma's 

Since we were at Grandma's house, with her rules, 
everyone was expected to ask her to be excused from the 
table. I had to wait for her to come back. Worst of all, 
sometimes she would say, "You may not be excused from 

4 p.m. Count Page 95 

the table. You can sit here so everyone can enjoy your 
company." Then she would give you that grandmotherly- 
loving-smile of hers. I really tried to finish eating, but I 
could not get past the geyser, like Old Faithful, that came 
out of Aunt Jim's mouth. 

When Grandma was done fixing Jim a new plate, 
she sat back down and actually started eating again. 
Everyone was eating! I just knew if I asked to be excused, I 
would be told, "Finish your plate, honey." 

I felt like screaming, I just can't do it, Grandma! 
I just can't! She must have sensed my discomfort and 
leaned over to whisper in my ear, "You may be excused 
from the table, Justin." I almost cheered with delight as 
I was leaving the room. I left my full plate of food at the 
kitchen sink and went outside to play fetch with Ted, my 
grandma's chocolate lab. The rest of the day was spent 
with my cousins asking me questions about the events that 
transpired at the "grown-up" table. 

At the end of the day, with all of the relatives 
gone, the "beet scene" (that's what the family calls it now) 
was brought up while I was watching television with my 
grandma, parents, brother, and sister. Apparently, Aunt Jim 
wanted to help Grandma and Mom with the kitchen work. 
Mom said Jim was absolutely bewildered with all of the 
food left on people's plates. She said things like, "Look 
at this plate Zelpha! Why didn't people eat their holiday 
meal? I'll never understand these young people." 

At the next Thanksgiving Day gathering, Aunt Jim 
must have been trying to make some kind of new tradition 
or something because it happened again. Grandma quit 
making beets for the holidays after this episode. I guess the 
moral of the story could be: Don't try to talk and eat my 
grandma's famous beets at the same time. Ever! 

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Glen's Cave 

Josh Hurst 

An old man named Glen Pinkerton told me a story 
of a cave that was nestled deep in the Ozark Mountains of 
southern Missouri. Glen was an old native of the Ozarks. If 
I ever met a real hillbilly it was him. He owned an ancient 
cedar sawmill that he had made a living off of for forty 
years. All the years I knew him, I never saw him wear a 
pair of shoes. His feet were completely black and covered 
with sticky cedar sap, evidence of the many years of his 
trade. I don't know if Glen owned only one pair of clothes 
or if he just had a bunch of the same outfit. The only 
clothes I ever saw him wear were these blue overalls. He 
didn't even bother with wearing a shirt underneath. To top 
off the outfit he wore an old brown leather hat. 

I met him when I was about five years old and every 
time I saw him he had a story to tell. He told me about 
noodling for catfish on the old White River and claimed 
one particular catfish of about thirty pounds nearly took his 
life in no more than six and a half feet of water. He said, 
"You wouldn't believe how strong one of dem cats is till 
one latches on to your arm an goes to rollin'. It don't take 
you long spinnen round like that before you can't tell the 
difference from up and down. That old cat had me worried 
for a few, if my breath wouldn't have lasted longer than 
his fight, I wouldn't be here to tell you 'bout it." I believed 
every word too because he had the scars on his arms to 
prove it. 

During and shortly after the great depression he said 
he made ends meet by trapping furs with dead fall traps. 
As he told me of the dead fall traps he walked me through 
the woods and it didn't take long until we came to a rocky 
cedar glade where he flipped a big flat glade rock up on 
one end. While still holding one end of the moss-covered 
rock he reached into his pocket and pulled out three 
delicately carved wooden sticks and demonstrated how to 

4 p.m. Count Page 97 

set the primitive trap. He even bought me a youth model 
Remington .22 rifle when I was six years old and taught 
me how to hunt and live off the land. But of all the stories 
and lessons I learned, I wanted to hear more about this 
mysterious cave. 

He told me all about it, but said "You're too young 
to climb off in a cave yet, boy." He claimed he used to go 
so deep into it that he would come out under the White 
River. He said, "At one time I was gonna open'er up to 
da public, but she was too far outta da way for anyone to 
come." He even claimed to have poured a concrete slab 
over the sink hole and made a doorway entrance. I learned 
the directions to the cave after hours of persuasion. He 
had told me to walk up old dry holler until I found a pond 
and then head up the hill from there. He said, "When you 
reach the top of the hill, take a left on the old logging road 
and stay on it until you find a huge red oak tree with three 
trunks. Then head over the hill towards cedar creek. Make 
sure you walk straight or you'll miss her and watch where 
you're walkin' or you'll just fall plum off in it." He had 
promised to take me and show me his secret cave when I 
got older, but he never got the chance. Glen passed away 
when I was nine years old. 

Over the years I missed Glen's old stories. I 
wondered if there really was a cave up there on the side 
of that hill. One day, ten years later, my curiosity got the 
better of me and I grabbed a maglight, batteries, rope and 
water and set out to investigate this legend once and for 
all. I soon learned he was right about one thing: it was 
sure out of the way. I followed his instructions and when I 
found an ancient oak with three trunks I began to wonder if 
it was more than just a legend. When I went down the hill 
I didn't expect to find anything at all, but I almost found 
it the hard way. I came one step from falling right in it. I 
sat at the top edge of the sink hole and looked down at a 
rather eerie looking doorway at the bottom of the hole. The 
doorway was covered in moss and had a small tree growing 
up beside it. After I sat there and thought about old Glen 

Page 98 4 p.m. Count 

Pinkerton and how long it would have taken him to pack 
that much concrete this far back in these hollers I decided I 
better have a look. 

I took out my rope and tied it off to the nearest 
sturdy tree and began to work my way toward the moss- 
covered door way. When I got to the doorway and tied 
myself off I took out my flashlight and decided to have a 
look inside this cave that I had waited over ten years just to 
see if it existed. As soon as my light came on I knew why 
Glen had told me I needed to wait until I got older before 
he would show me. There was a hole about ten feet around 
that went straight down at least fifteen feet. This dropoff 
did not stop me; I pressed on into the cavern. 

Once I reached the bottom, I took in all that was 
around me. The floor of the cave where I stood was a 
crimson clay bottom sprinkled with black, which I soon 
discovered was bat guano. I heard dripping sounds up 
ahead of me; as I followed the sound my flashlight soon 
illuminated the beautiful stalactites reaching for the bottom 
and the stalagmites protruding from the floor. It is truly 
amazing how dripping water enriched with minerals can 
create such breathtaking formations. I continued to explore 
this beautiful cave for hours that day and many days since 
then, but to this day I have never found the end. 

I solved the mystery of this long-forgotten cave and 
every time I go there I remember my old hillbilly friend 
Glen Pinkerton. I will never forget old Glen. He was a man 
from an era long gone, but never forgotten. 

4 p.m. Count Page 99 

Letter from Bill Kloefkorn 

April 1,2008 

Hello Jim, 

I have been trying to recover from a bout with bronchitis, 
and at the moment I think I am going to win on points. But 
the bout gave me time to read and consider the comments 
your students addressed to me, and now I feel well enough 
to respond. 

First: I thank all of those who took the time to write and to 
type the comments. I very much appreciate their directness, 
their honesty, their clarity. It is especially gratifying to learn 
that they are enjoying the class, and that some of them are 
beginning to enjoy not only the reading of poetry, but the 
writing of it as well. For me, the two — the reading and the 
writing — go hand-in-hand. If I am in a writing slump, I put 
down the pen and take up the book — a collection of poems, 
say, that I have never read, or maybe one that I have read 
several times but want to return to. Or maybe I browse a 
periodical that arrives in the mail (I subscribe to only three 
or four). And sooner or later I come across a poem that hits 
me in the gut no less than in the neocortex. Here is the most 
recent example, a poem by Linda Pastan in the Spring issue 
of the Virginia Quarterly Review. 


I remember when my body 
was a friend, 

when sleep like a good dog 
came when summoned. 

The door to the future 
had not started to shut, 

Page 100 4 p.m. Count 

and lying on my back 
between cold sheets 

did not feel 
like a rehearsal. 

Now what light is left 
comes up — a stain in the east, 

and sleep, reluctant 
as a busy doctor, 

gives me a little 
of its time. 

Now, in my head, I am working on a poem that, should it 
happen, will owe its birth to Linda Pastan's poem. And as 
I continue to think about my own poem, I know that I can 
return to "Insomnia" for further encouragement. I'm not 
sure what it is about the reading of others' work that so 
frequently sets off a spark. One possibility is that a word or 
a phrase or a figure of speech hits home. "The door to the 
future" that opens the third stanza is so appropriately trite; 
it reminds me of the motto that my senior class adopted: 
"With the ropes of the past we will ring the bells of the 
future." Ah, such high hopes! But what happens when the 
ropes break? Anyway, the mind reacts to words and lines 
and metaphors in curious ways, and a rough draft of a 
poem begins to pester the imagination. Another possibility 
is that the poem reminds the reader that restlessness is a 
common concern, that we are fallible creatures who suffer 
from one thing or another, and one way to cope is to write 
about the ailment with dignity and forthrightness, giving 
the subject a treatment free of whimpering and whining 
and self-pity. I have insomnia, the poet says, but by Christ I 
yet can manage to wrangle some early-morning sleep, can 
have it visit me — like the overburdened physician — for a 
few minutes or hours. I can't cure my insomnia, perhaps, 

4 p.m. Count Page 101 

but I can handle a metaphor with grace and freshness. Well, 
I read such a poem and it encourages me to confront my 
own challenges as gracefully and as freshly as I possibly 
can. Reading the work of others, then, is a major type of 

I also want to thank those who did not send a response but 
perhaps thought about it. I am grateful for the intention as 
well as the deed. 

Now here are some more specific responses. 
Joe Cavallaro: These sentences stood out: "I've never 
thought too highly about my own abilities to write. But as 
I progress through this, my confidence is building. I would 
have to give thanks to Dr. Reese, and the guest speakers 
I've met in class...." Yes. indeed. And while you are at it. 
Joe, give thanks to yourself for having the insight to realize 
that your confidence is growing. Your comments make it 
obvious that you can write. So do it. 

Juan Zuniga: The Nebraska State Poet is an 
honorary designation — no pay from the state, and no 
demands. I like that. I am therefore free to continue to do 
what I did before I was appointed — namely, write as well 
as I can. and represent writing respectfully and with vigor, 
whether I am talking to a class of fourth-graders at Pershing 
Elementary in Lincoln, a clutch of graduate students at 
Bumfuck University in New Jersey (I made that up), or an 
attentive group of writers and artists at a Federal Prison 
Camp in Yankton. South Dakota. And it pleases me that 
you too think that irony is "one of the great wonders." The 
fattest man in my little hometown earned the nickname of 
"Slivers. " Small-town irony. Slivers thought it amusing, 
and forgave us for being so amazingly clever. And. yes, 
Jesus did own a dog. A pit bull. Its name was Rover. 

Hung Dao: Hey, I like what you said about 
substituting a good habit for a bad one — that is, my 
dropping the bottle and in its place picking up the pen. And 
you are correct when you say that it isn't the age of the 

Page 102 4 p.m. Count 

writer that matters; it's the writing itself. I absolutely agree. 
I have written poems with third-grade students that were 
much better than many of the poems written by geezers in 
elderhostel workshops. Write whatever seems right to you. 
I am glad that you remembered this advice. Don't forget it. 

Justin Brooks: "Can you give me any little hints 
on being able to understand poems more?" Good question. 
Hint #1: Don't be discouraged if a given poem doesn't 
connect. Give it a chance, then another, then maybe one 
more. Then move on to something else. There is more than 
one type offish in this vast and impenetrable sea. Hint 
#2: Read and talk about a tough poem with someone who 
likewise has some difficulty understanding poems. Read 
it to him. Have him read it to you. Mull it over together. 
Maybe he can help you into an understanding of the 
poem; maybe you can do the same for him. If this doesn't 
work, shrug your shoulders and move on. As I said earlier, 
there is more than one type offish. ... Hint #3: Seek out 
a wide variety of poems — long ones, short ones, poems 
for children, poems about dogs, poems about love, poems 
that rhyme, poems that do not rhyme, poems that have 
been around for a long time, poems that are contemporary, 
and so on. Google some poems by Dave Etter. And Hint 
#4: Don't feel that "understanding" a poem is the same as 
solving a poem. A good poem suggests more than it spells 
out. And what it suggests to you might be quite different 
than what it suggests to someone else. Okay? 

Todd Bowlin: You wrote, "Your poetry showed me 
a poetry I could understand." Excellent. Several of you said 
this, and each time I hear or read it I am pleased. Poetry 
does not have to be scholarly or difficult to be thought- 
provoking. Robert Frost's poems, many of them, are very 
understandable, yet they invite us to think about the ways 
in which the poems connect with our own lives. Have Jim 
Reese read you "After Apple Picking," for example. Better 
yet: Have him Xerox a copy for each of you, then the next 
day talk about the extent to which the poem makes sense. 
And, yes, we Kansas boys must stick together, whether we 

4 p.m. Count Page 103 

hail from a village or a city! 

Ryan Nordstrom: Ah, revision! How Many? 
How many, that is, for a short story or a piece of non- 
fiction — since those are the genres you are most interested 
in. Well, I do a lot of revising, both as I move along and 
later, after I finish a rough draft. But "reasonably clean" 
doesn't satisfy. It's like saying, "Well, I have this vehicle 
in excellent shape, except for the carburetor." Nope. Better 
keep tinkering with that carburetor if it takes until Hell 
freezes over to get it precisely adjusted. I know this can 
be frustrating. You just have to be tenacious and a trifle 
bullheaded. I like to give the draft a cooling-off period, 
maybe half a dozen of them. Put it aside. Shoot some pool. 
Take a hike. Sing the opening songs of five of your favorite 
songs. Record the first names of the girls in your high 
school graduating class. Then return to the rough draft. 
I know it is easier to offer this advice than to put it into 
practice. But the story's eventual existence depends upon 
you endurance. And good luck! 

Isaac Searcy: You posed a very basic question: 
"How exactly do you go about starting your poems?" I 
can't do justice to this question without writing a book, but 
I can maybe give you one specific example. I begin many 
of my poems by reacting to something that has fired my 
imagination, something that provokes me into thought, 
something that I believe needs to be further sustained or 
denied or quibbled with or whatever. 

Yes, I told one of your classmates earlier, Jesus did 
own a dog. The question, as I noted in class, was posed by 
Snoopy, but Charlie Brown didn't respond. So the question 
hung in the final frame of the comic like a challenge. Okay, 
then, I'll challenge it and say in my opening lines "Of 
course he owned a dog. Wasn't he, / after all, / human? Or 
was he less human than / divine, too divine, that is, / to 
stoop to the level of picking fleas / from the lopsided ears 
/ of rover?" And where might I go from there? Damned if 
I know. But somewhere. I'd go somewhere. Maybe this: 
"Of course he owned a dog. / Never mind that no dog is 

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mentioned / in the Scriptures, so many words having been 
/ devoted to the higher achievements — water / walked on, 
Lazarus resurrected, / fish and bread multiplied / enough 
for the multitude, / water into wine." You write, hoping for 
momentum. You read what you have written. You read it 
again. Something clicks. You write some more. "Yes, yes, 
I know: He hobnobbed / with the poor, but foresaw / that, 
for all our efforts, / the poor would be always / with us. He 
must therefore / have known that man's best friend / would 
be, for those legions of needy / wretches, a necessary if not 
holy / consolation, must therefore have displayed / his own 
canine companion, a description of which / must have been 
deleted / by scholars who viewed the lower animal / as the 
lower animal. Saying this, I herewith /join a long if not 
honorable line / of extrapolators. Give unto us a break, the 
poor / must have said, and Jesus, Rover / at his feet like the 
faithful friend / his master's father breathed the breath of 
life / into, must have told his faithful friend / to demonstrate 
what it means to be obedient, / to roll over, that is / when 
commanded, and play dead." That's it, maybe. Then you 
fine-tune. But the poem, whether good or ill, is the result of 
a reaction to something that ignited the imagination. I know 
this is a long-winded example, but it's nonetheless shorter 
than a full-blown book. I hope it helps. 

Fermin Venzor: I might have mentioned, in class, 
that my younger brother taught at PPCC for many years 
(GO AARDVARKS), and he might have been there 
when you graduated. You ask why I didn't title any of the 
poems in Alvin Turner. Well, I tried titles, but they seemed 
awkward — because I want the book to suggest that Alvin 
is thinking about his life somewhat randomly (so in one 
poem he is in the distant past, then in the next poem he is 
in the present as his mind moves rather freely over time 
and space) — and titling the poems seemed to me to make 
the process unduly formal and rigid, as if he is deliberately 
titling his thoughts. So I simply numbered them, more or 
less for the convenience of the reader. But in other books I 
do have to wrestle with titles, as you say you wrestle with 

4 p.m. Count Page 105 

them also, and sometimes it is difficult to find one that 
truly fits. Two suggestions: 1) Don't settle on a title that 
explains things too explicitly; give the reader the privilege 
of doing some thinking for him or herself. And 2) Consider 
something simple, if it fits — maybe the date of the event the 
poem deals with, as for example "Early October" or "One 
Sunday Morning, 2001" or "Yankton, After a Heavy Rain," 
or "On Highway 14 Just South of Valentine." You get the 
point. There will always be those pesky poems that just 
don't want to be titled. Call the first of these "In Praise of 
the Poem that Refuses to be Named." 

Brandon Buster: I went into the Marine Corps 
shortly after I graduated from college. Then I taught high 
school for one year, after which I returned to college to 
complete a MA degree. I had a professor who encouraged 
me to write. I wanted to write the great American novel, 
but instead I wrote the not-so-great American novel — for 
my master's thesis — and fortunately it was not published. 
But I'm glad I wrote it. You can learn a lot, sometimes, 
by plunging in and finishing the project. And, yes, I know 
what you mean when you say that "some poems and prose 
pieces seem inundated with detail. ..." Too much, maybe, 
or at other times too little. I'd suggest including plenty 
of details, and then use your best judgment as you select 
this detail and reject another. Your being aware of this as a 
problem should give you an edge when it comes to solving 
the problem. And, no, this was not the first time I had been 
in a prison environment. I am not very thoroughly schooled 
in such environments, though I have conducted a couple 
of workshops in a penitentiary in Ohio, and I have taught 
some classes at the penitentiary here in Lincoln. Willie 
Otey, the last inmate to be executed in Nebraska, was one 
of my students. He wrote some good stuff. Thanks for your 
questions. I was impressed with the attentiveness of your 
class, and with the responses to what I was saying. 

Michael Clennon: Yes, indeed: A series of poems 
can provide an extended story, a story that somewhat 
resembles a novel, except that there are some rather 

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wide gaps that the reader is expected to use his or her 
imagination to fill. Alvin Turner is such a book, and I have 
half a dozen others that fit into this category. (Jim Reese 
has read all of them.) I am pleased that you returned to 
HuckFinn; it is a wonderful book. And I appreciate your 
comments about evaluating what you read and/or write. 
My suggestion: read and write thoughtfully, but don't strain 
too much to evaluate. And, finally, I hope you will continue 
to question things and look at subjects from a variety of 
angles. To consider several perspectives is one way to 
discover fresh and exciting outlooks — and these, in turn, 
can be reflected in your writing. 

Dane Yirkovsky: You are a genuinely talented artist. 
I'd swap half my acreage in Paradise for such talent. Now 
you might consider doing a book with some original prose 
or poetry to complement some original paintings. The book 
in which I wrote some poems to accompany paintings done 
by a Nebraska artist is titled Still Life Moving. I believe 
that Jim has a copy. Borrow it. Look it over. Then do one 
of your own. If you don't feel up to writing the prose or 
poems, collaborate with someone. Do it. And good luck! 

Lee Dagostini: You pose an interesting question: 
"Why do poets not write much prose and vice versa?" 
Many poets with whom I rub shoulders do write some 
prose, but not many of them are very successful. And the 
same goes for prose writers who attempt poetry. There are 
exceptions, of course. John Updike is a superior writer of 
both genres, but the list of such exceptions is not very long. 
Why? I don't know. William Faulkner, surely one of the 
finest novelists this country has known, tried his hand at 
poetry, and failed miserably. His poetry is in his prose. It 
seems that some imaginations are simply more expansive 
than others, that the prose imagination prefers, or demands, 
the extended hike over the ten-second sprint. I personally 
enjoy trying both approaches. I sometimes write a poem 
that satisfies me, as a poem, but would like to be more 
developed as a story. So I give it a shot. That's what we do, 
many of us. We give each genre an honest effort to see what 

4 p.m. Count Page 107 

happens. My high school basketball coach offered this bit 
of wisdom: "Never up, never in." You don't make a basket 
unless you put up a shot. Even then, you might not fluff the 
nylon. But what does the best shooter on the team do when 
he has missed a dozen consecutive attempts? He tries again. 

Scott Kirk: Your concern about the many 
complexities of certain poems is one that many others have 
voiced; it obviously is a very troublesome aspect. But don't 
let the complex (or more likely obscure) poem force you 
into an over-reaction; that is, don't let it compel you to 
make your own writing unduly simplistic. I frequently run 
into poems that leave me stone-cold, or dazed, or clueless. 
Maybe it's the poem, or the poet behind the poem trying, 
as you say, "to out-do the next poet." It happens. Or maybe 
I just don't have the wherewithal to understand what the 
hell is being said or suggested. I am totally no whiz-kid. 
I am not a certified academic. I am pretty much a country 
boy with manure still clinging to his loafers. So I brush off 
the poem and leave the manure where it is. I find poems 
that seem to have been written by hayseeds like me, and 
I read them and take whatever I can from them and try 
then to write poems that I believe others like me can make 
something of. I don't want to insult anyone's intelligence 
with a poem that preaches; but on the other hand I don't 
want to leave the reader standing alone in the darkness. 
Does that seem like a reasonable compromise? Write your 
poems in free verse or in conventional rhyme and meter 
(better yet, try both approaches), and rely upon your own 
sense of what is and what isn't understandable. You'll never 
be able to reach everyone, but those that you do manage to 
make contact with will appreciate that you and they are on 
the same frequency. 

Josh Hurst: One of your comments echoes those 
that Scott and two or three others offered: ".. .sometimes 
I have trouble understanding poetry when I read it, but I 
thank you for making yours clear to me." You are welcome. 
It is always good to hear that one's poems are being 
taken in, not tossed out because of vagueness or lofty and 

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obfuscated language. And you also said, "I liked how 
most of your poetry comes from people, places, situations 
that you have encountered throughout your life." Good. 
So I recommend that you too write about those people 
and places and events that were, and perhaps continue to 
be, special to you. You must have had some intriguing 
experiences growing up in the Ozarks. Don't sell any of 
them short. If they are significant to you, and you write 
about them clearly and freshly, they will be significant to 
many of your readers. "Anything looked at [written about] 
significantly will be significant," wrote critic and poet John 
Ciardi. I agree with him wholeheartedly. 

Jason Davis: Now here is a sentence from your 
letter that hit home: "I have written a few poems myself 
and I had a very good time writing them." Bravo! That's 
one helluva good reason for writing a poem — both process 
and product can give you a sense of accomplishment, a 
sense that you have created a type of order by putting 
words together, whether the poem is light or heavy, 
uplifting or deflating. And you ask how you might get 
a poem started, get it off the ground. I talked about this 
earlier when I attempted the poem that contends Jesus 
had a dog. Read this section again, then maybe in class 
you can talk about the approach, and about other possible 
approaches that no doubt will come to mind as the 
discussion moves along. 

Justin Bollig: I reckon I didn't start writing poems 
until I was thirty-seven because 1)1 lacked confidence, and 
2) I was content to let the well accumulate as much water 
as possible before depleting it. I started because I read a 
couple of contemporary poets I hadn't read before, and 
their poems connected, and I girded my loins and jumped 
into the fray. Young or old or somewhere in between, you 
start when you feel ready to start. The important thing is 
to respect the feeling; don't deny it or delay it. You write 
your first poem, and you revise it until you are satisfied 
with it, and then when you write another you discover that 
it is maybe just as tricky as the first one. And it remains that 

4 p.m. Count Page 109 

way. So you acknowledge this and keep at it. Don't let the 
bastards grind you down, whoever or whatever the bastards 
might be. It's your poem. You have the words to make the 
poem work. And if you can add to this a personal devotion 
to perseverance, you can surprise yourself. And others. And 
the effect can be downright gratifying. 

Mario Covington: Thank you for the following: 
". . .you gave me hope that it isn't too late to succeed in 
writing." This is a major, major realization, one that I trust 
you will keep in mind as you put the pen to the paper. 
You don't need to write an entire bookshelf of poems; you 
should be pleased and proud if you write half a dozen, or a 
dozen, or whatever. So write the poems and tell the stories 
and share them with your world, however extensive or non- 
extensive that world might be. And, again, I thank you for 
your forthright realization. 

Jim: I have not done sufficient justice to the comments and 
questions, but perhaps some of the observations will help. 
I hope so. You have an impressive group of students, and 
they are equally fortunate to have you as their professor. 


Bill Kloefkorn 

Page 110 4 p.m. Count 

Chicken Noodle Soup 

Hung Dao 

I was vacationing in the countryside of South 
Vietnam in 1997, and staying at my uncle's house about 
a half hour away from Vung Tau. Everybody in Vietnam 
gets up at six o' clock in the morning and takes a nap in 
the afternoon. Personally, I do not require an afternoon 
nap because this is when I am usually getting out of bed! I 
believe the reason for napping is the afternoon temperatures 
reaching triple digits, along with the stifling humidity. 

I was sitting on the front porch when Vinny pulled 
up on his little motorbike. His tall, undernourished, dark- 
skinned, toned frame dismounted the motorbike and came 
towards me. I noticed he was wearing a bright green polo 
t-shirt with some ripped-up blue jeans and was bare-footed, 
not wearing the customary slippers. 

Vinny was the son of a friend of my uncles. He was 
about my age or maybe a few years older, all of sixteen 
years old. When he showed up unexpectedly, my uncle 
told him to show me around the countryside. 
Vinny asked me, "Are you hungry?" I replied, "Yeah, what 
is there to eat?" "Chicken noodle soup!" 

I did not care what we were going to eat because I 
was starving. I ran in my room to grab some money and 
put my slippers on before hopping on the back of his little 
bike. We rode north on the main paved road for about ten 
minutes until we reached the jungle of Vietnam. The dirt 
road in Vietnam was not brown, but dark, a dirty red color. 

Within minutes, trees surrounded us. It reminded 
me of an argument we had a week prior. Vinny pointed 
out a group of trees and told me they were rubber trees. I 
laughed and stated there is no way those trees are made 
of rubber; they are real trees, made of wood. He then 
explained to me that the trees produce rubber, hence are 
called rubber trees. The rubber was actually sap from the 
trees and Vinny along with his mother collected rubber 

4 p.m. Count Page 111 

twice a day to earn a living. 

Each tree had a deep carving down the middle, 
running from top to bottom, and there was a small piece of 
metal inserted at the base of the tree (about a foot from the 
ground) for the sap to drain out and into a coconut bowl. 

As we were getting deeper into the jungle of rubber 
trees, the foliage created a canvas that crowded the sunlight 
because the trees and shrubs were very thick. Vinny shut 
off the engine and let the bike glide us to a stop. When the 
bike was at a complete stop, I hopped off. I thought he had 
to go urinate or something because there was no restaurant 
or any people in sight! 

I then asked him, "What are we doing here?" He 
said, "Catching a chicken for chicken noodle soup!" 

As I looked around, there were small families of 
chickens roaming around feeding. Vinny reached in his 
left pocket, pulled out a handful of rice grain and threw it 
on the ground about ten feet in front of him. I observed the 
flocks of chickens coming closer to feed. He then reached 
in his right pocket and pulled out a homemade V-shaped 
slingshot with a rubber band on it. 
He asked me, "Which one do you want?" 
I said, "The fat one right there," pointing to a severely 
overweight chicken waddling to the rice grain. 

It was about twenty feet away. I started to laugh 
a little as I watched Vinny position himself like a hunter 
holding a big shotgun, and I doubted he could hit a tree six 
feet in front of him, let alone a chicken over twenty feet 

Swoosh. "Blooocck-cllooocck. . ." 

The flock of chickens scattered away, but the big fat 
chicken lay on its side, unconscious. He told me to turn the 
bike around to get ready to head back to his house while he 
ran over and grabbed the chicken by its feet. 

When I got the bike turned around, I looked back; 
Vinny took his shirt off and wrapped it around the chicken's 
head and body leaving the feet exposed, so he could grip 
them. He hopped on the bike holding onto my shoulder 

Page 112 4 p.m. Count 

for support with one hand and holding the chicken with his 
other hand. Vinny yelled, "To my house!" 

As we were heading back, the chicken became 
conscious and started twitching. It started nipping at my 
back, as its head was placed right between my shoulder 
blades. I told Vinny to grab its head because it was making 
me nervous and I almost lost control of the bike. 

We arrived at Vinny's house ten minutes later; he 
handed me the chicken by its feet and hopped off before I 
could get the little motorbike to a complete stop. Vinny ran 
inside the house and came out with a butcher knife in one 
hand and a bowl in the other, explaining that he had to go 
check on the two boiling pots of water that he had started 
before he came to pick me up some twenty minutes ago. 

He then told me to bring the chicken over and 
made me hold it by its feet so he could cut its neck. As the 
chicken hung upside down, it was twitching while Vinny 
collected the draining blood into a bowl. After a minute or 
so, it stopped twitching and Vinny told me to keep draining 
the blood into the bowl as he ran into the kitchen to check 
on the boiling pots of water. 

I noticed that there was barely any blood coming 
out of the chicken's neck, so I decided to let go of it and lay 
it on the ground, assuming it was dead. As soon as I stood 
up, the chicken rose to its feet and started to walk around in 
circles with its head hanging on its neck, then collapsed. 

Vinny carried a pot of hot water out of the kitchen 
and placed on the ground. He grabbed the chicken by its 
feet, brought it over to the pot of water, and dipped the 
chicken head first in the pot. He let the chicken sit in the 
pot for a few minutes and pulled it back out. He then 
started plucking the feathers off the chicken, carefully 
trying not to get scalded by the steam. He told me to go 
into the kitchen and cut two onions in quarters while he 
finished plucking the chicken. 

As soon as I was done cutting the onions, he came 
in holding the dead and featherless chicken. He threw the 
chicken in the pot along with some sugar, salt, and msg. 

4 p.m. Count Page 113 

He told me to throw the chopped onions in the pot while he 
went outside to get the bowl of chicken blood. When he 
returned, he dumped the bowl of blood into the boiling pot 
of chicken. He opened two packages of ramen noodles and 
put them into two separate bowls. Vinny yelled, "Let's get 
ready to eat!" I asked him, "Aren't you going to cook the 
noodles first?" He replied, "Don't worry." 

He grabbed the bowl of noodles, brought it over 
to the pot, and scooped two scoops of broth into the bowl 
and a few pieces of chicken. When he brought my bowl of 
chicken noodle soup, I just stared at the bowl of soup for 
about five minutes. It looked dirty, the broth was brown, 
and it smelled weird too. I tried to taste it and scalded the 
roof of my mouth; it was so hot the chicken was literally 
falling off the bone. 

He asked, "Is it good?" I said, "Yeah, but it's too hot to eat, 
I'll just let it cool down a little." 

I was nervous at first just looking at it because it 
was so filthy. I was thinking about the bird flu disease, at 
the same time remembering that I did not see Vinny wash 
the chicken before he tossed it into the pot. I doubt Vinny 
even washes his hands before or after doing anything! 

I tried to clear my head and concentrate on eating 
because I was so hungry. I was blowing my bowl to cool 
it down before tasting the broth with my spoon. It tasted 
good, even with all the dirt and some feathers floating in 
my bowl. I then used my chopsticks to pick up a piece of 
meat and started blowing to cool it down. As soon as it 
looked somewhat cool, I threw it in my mouth and started 
chewing away. At first, I did not know what to expect, but 
it tasted like sweet-filleted chicken breast in a soup. 

It was one of the best tasting chicken noodle soups, 
even though it looked foul and smelled very weird. Besides 
spitting out the bones and the loose feathers, I did not care; 
it was simply delicious. I took one bite after another; I 
even sipped all the broth from the bowl. Vinny made me 
two more bowls and ate two more bowls himself. He said, 
"You know why it was so good?" I replied, "No" and kept 

Page 114 4 p.m. Count 

on eating. He said, "Because it was free, that is why it was 
so delicious." 

4 p.m. Count Page 115 

Bridgeman Street 

Brandon W. Buster 

Grandma and Grandpa live in the last house on a 
quiet dead end street which ends abruptly at their driveway. 
The road itself is shy of a two lane and with cars parked on 
both sides; you almost have to grease the sides of a vehicle 
to get through. Fittingly, this is our place of refuge for the 
holidays. Since we have a huge family, cars are parked 
behind the house in a makeshift parking area that has 
developed over the years. The overflow extends clear up to 
the stop sign, bumper to bumper, lining both sides with tires 
resting on a portion of the sidewalks. I often wondered 
what the neighbors thought and could hear their expletives 
as they struggled to find parking space other than their own 
driveways. This gave the appearance of a block party and 
it usually wasn't too short of that. 

Inside the chaos was thriving. The men huddled 
around the TV watching any football game they could 
find and discussing in vivid detail their respective hunting 
seasons. This was a time when we could razz one another 
about missed shots, puny deer taken just to avoid getting 
skunked and who was caught sleeping in their stands. We 
all anticipated Uncle Steve's arrival with his freshly scored 
trophy buck. I swear, every year he showed up with a 
deer in the back of his truck. Personally, I think he slips 
down to the game farm just outside of town and bags his 
prize, but of course he will never divulge his sacred spot or 
allow anyone to go with him. I have heard him make the 
comment on several occasions that there sure are some fine 
looking racks down at Bob's. I am going to take a stab and 
say he was referring to Bob's Game Farm. When he finally 
shows up he reeks of doe piss and has on war paint like 
some scene out of the Rambo series gleaming from ear to 
ear. His hair is an unnatural three-tone reddish, brownish, 
orange color from a botched attempt at a dye job to cover 
the solid grey. "Got a beer?" He asks. "I sure the hell am 

Page 116 4 p.m. Count 

thirsty. I had to drag this monster quite a ways back to the 
truck all by myself. We've got to get these back straps cut 
out and thrown on the grill." He whips out a buck knife 
that would make Crocodile Dundee squirm and begins to 
hack out the straps. 

The women are sipping wine, discussing who 
is sleeping with whom, marriages and divorce, taking a 
page from an episode of Jenny Jones. Grandma sits there 
smiling and listening to all the gossip around her. To look 
at her, you would wonder what was on her mind: her 
white hair fluffy and those deep blue eyes shining like stars 
through her spectacles. I just think she was thankful to 
have everyone in her home and safe for the holidays. 

Most of the food was already prepared and brought 
to the big potluck. Everyone was known for something, 
either a dessert, deviled eggs, or Grandpa's ham and beans. 
The ham and beans were good, but they were known more 
for the toxic gas they left in our wake. Thankfully, it 
wouldn't kick in until later in the evening and the people 
still around were usually on their way to a good buzz so it 
became more of a sport than a nuisance. 

Dinner was usually a blur. With so many people 
in such tight quarters, it gave the appearance of a fend-for- 
yourself atmosphere. Grandma would holler, "Come and 
get it!" reminiscent of a cattle call as everybody stampeded 
to the kitchen and entered the serving line. Tables were 
lined up end-to-end with the main course, side dishes, and 
finally desserts. Bonanza would have been proud of the 
structure and the quantity of food. Chatter filled the air 
and the smell of food lined the inside of your nose. If you 
weren't hungry before getting in line, you would find a 
reason to eat something. With plates piled high, everyone 
returned back to their spot to begin shoveling down the 
grub. Just like high school cafeterias, we all had our little 
posse that we sat with. It was like an understood separation 
from the group and nobody ever mentioned it. To an 
outsider, it would have seemed very strange, but to us it's 
the way it was. 

4 p.m. Count Page 117 

The present opening was fairly orchestrated and 
to ease the length, we had a gift exchange. Back on 
Thanksgiving, we would draw names and iron out the 
details so that nobody was left out. We would always have 
the situation where there was now an ex something or other 
and his or her name would be methodically crossed off and 
the new person was added; part of life I guess. This was 
more for the kids than the adults, but we all liked to give 
each other a little something as well. The camcorder was 
rolling and paper started flying. The kids would hold up 
their presents and politely thank whomever it was that got 
them their gift. They would drag the toys into the basement 
and begin playing with their new gadgets, instantly 
becoming firemen, racecar drivers or teachers. For the 
adults, the fun was just beginning. 

We would do a thorough check on the alcohol status 
and make one last beer run before the stores were to close 
for the day. Luckily, Red kept his gas station open for this 
occasion. I would usually be the one to make the trip and 
every year when I arrived I was the only one in the station 
with Red closing right behind me. He would be sitting on 
an old armless stool watching a small black and white TV 
which had rabbit ears extending four feet into the air, laced 
with aluminum foil. He wore an old DX ball cap soiled 
with grease and dirt, a lined flannel shirt with the stuffing 
exposed around the elbows and a saggy pair of Rustlers. 
His grey beard hanging down about a foot from his chin, 
almost touching his protruding gut, made me think that 
with a shower and a manicure he would make a good Santa. 
I asked him, "Red, do you purposely wait for me every 
year?" He said, "Kid, it's like clockwork, now go on ahead 
and have a good time." "Merry Christmas Red," I would 
say and slip him an extra hundred — no wonder he waited 
for me. 

Back at the house the tables were cleared and the 
gambling was to begin. The front and back doors were 
hinged open to allow the air to flow, in part to reduce the 
temperature, but mainly to alleviate the stale remains of the 

Page 118 4 p.m. Count 

ham and beans. Grandpa had an old double-barrel wood 
burner in the basement with no thermostat and felt the need 
to keep it stoked and spewing out the heat. 

We would have one table for cards, euchre or pitch 
and another table for Jenga. The Jenga table was much 
more interesting and entertaining. Jenga is a game of 
patience and a steady hand. Rectangular pieces of wood 
are freely placed together in threes. The next section is 
placed on top rotated 90 degrees. The object is to withdraw 
one piece at a time and start a new section on the top. We 
would all put one dollar in the kitty and stand around the 
oval table. Drink in hand, one by one we would remove 
the wooden pieces and begin to build the tower of Babel. 
The last person to successfully complete a move would win 
the pot, while everybody else would have to take a shot 
of some liquor; the person who wrecked the tower took a 

Everyone stood almost motionless as each person 
took a turn. Eyes were focused on the tower looking for 
and anticipating the slightest wobble. Once the piece was 
placed on the top, you could feel the exhale and the drinks 
were raised as if in a successful cheer to the victor. In the 
background Grandma and Grandpa were nestled tightly 
on the piano bench giving us their best rendition of old 
favorites. Grandpa, being half in the bag, would be off- 
key but then again, we were all a little off-key in our own 
rights. He would blow into his harmonica and playfully 
cuss whichever grandchild had left him a slobbery surprise. 

Grandma, not one for much conversation, loved 
playing the piano and singing, her fingers stroking the 
keyboard like pistons in a well-oiled ten-cylinder engine. 
It always added such a special touch to the evening. The 
kids would slowly make their way up from the basement 
and pull on the pantleg of mom or dad indicating it was 
time to go. A few snores rang through the dining room as 
someone would be passed out on the couch not wanting to 
be disturbed. 

The night would come to a close and the busy dead 

4 p.m. Count Page 119 

end street would filter out and recede back into its original 
shape. The neighbors could give a sigh of relief and allow 
their lives to go back to normal. At the stop sign, before 
turning off Bridgeman, I would take one last glance over 
my shoulder. Seeing the smoke dissipate from the chimney, 
I would watch the little house on the end take a deep breath 
and then exhale, allowing itself to settle back into its 
customary existence. I smile and realize how thankful I am 
of my family and for the love that lines those interior walls. 

Page 120 4 p.m. Count 

From Freedom to Crimson and Blue 

Todd Bowlin 

Just what is a Jayhawk anyway? For many, a 
Jayhawk is the mascot for Kansas University (KU) and has 
been since 1886; it is a mythical bird that combines two 
birds — the blue jay, a noisy, quarrelsome thing known to 
rob other nests; and a sparrow hawk, a stealthy hunter. 1 Is 
there more to this large yellow-beaked bird with crimson 
and blue feathers, though? Is the Jayhawk more than 
just the centerpiece and inspiration to the "Rock Chalk 
Jayhawk" chant that sports fans across the nation know as 
the KU fight song? The term Jayhawk has existed for over 
150 years, and once inspired something that was much 
more profound and meaningful than just simply the mascot 
for KU. The Jayhawk once stood for a group of Kansans 
who fought to keep the state a slave-free state. 

I grew up thirty minutes east of Lawrence, 
Kansas — the home of the KU Jayhawks — in Kansas City, 
Kansas (KCK). KCK is located on the west side of the 
Missouri River, and everything on the west side of the 
river is known as "Jayhawk Country." Growing up I was 
taught that nothing on the east side of the Missouri river 
really matters anyway, because it is Missouri. In Jayhawk 
Country, one is raised to be a staunch supporter and fan 
of Kansas Jayhawk football and basketball — especially in 
my family — and ever since I can remember, the Missouri 
University Tigers were the KU Jayhawks' bitter rivals and, 
hence, my bitter rivals, as a Jayhawk fan. 

My earliest and most defining memory of my 
family's fan fanaticism was in 1988, and I was not even 
ten years of age. I remember my parents, uncles, aunts, and 
cousins all on the couch, staring at the television, giving it 

1 "Legend of the Jayhawk," under "Legend of the Jayhawk University 
of Kansas," (accessed April 29, 

4 p.m. Count Page 121 

their most avid attention. I knew something big was going 
on, and I, like any curious nine-year-old, did not want to 
be left out. I asked my father what the big deal was, and he 
explained to me that "our" Kansas Jayhawks had played 
their way into the National Championship game of the 
NCAA tournament. 

Years later, I would come to understand that the 
NCAA tournament is a playoff bracket of the sixty- four 
best college basketball teams in the nation, and that the 
teams are placed in a bracket according to their school's 
national ranking, with the highest-ranking teams playing 
against the lowest-ranking teams, until there is one national 
champion. That year, the Jayhawks' opponents were the 
Oklahoma Sooners, the Jayhawks' conference rivals. 

Throughout the game, I remember the excitement of 
everyone around me vividly, with everyone on the edge of 
his or her seat, eyes glued to the television, not wanting to 
miss a single dribble or shot of the basketball. By the end 
of the game when the Jayhawks were triumphant over the 
Sooners the whole room was so animated and boisterous 
that the knocked-over food and beers went unnoticed, as 
"Oh my God, did you see that, I can't believe it, we're 
national champs!" and pats on the back were passed 
around. Danny Manning and "The Miracles" had made 
their date with destiny, and that game sparked within me 
many years of Jayhawk pride and my own fan fanaticism — 
that is the year that I became a life-long fan. For years 
after that day, being a fan of my Kansas Jayhawks was all 
I was. Until recently, when I discovered what a Jayhawk 
originally symbolized. 

Through the years, many people outside of my 
home in Jayhawk Country have asked me "just what is 
a Jayhawk anyway?" Until recently, I had no answer for 
them. One curious day I looked up the word "Jayhawk" in 
Webster s Dictionary and it of course told of the mythical 
bird that had a home at the Kansas University as a mascot, 
and it said that "to jayhawk" is to make a predatory attack 

Page 122 4 p.m. Count 

on, or to raid. 2 The dictionary also gave another definition 
of something called a "jayhawker." It said that a jayhawker 
was a free-soil, abolitionist guerilla in Kansas during the 
border disputes of 1857-1859 with Missouri. 3 

These men, these "jayhawkers," were settlers 
from New England and members of bands of anti-slavery 
guerillas that raided and fought against the pro-slavery 
bands called "Border Ruffians" that were mostly from 
Missouri, before and during the Civil War. 4 It all started 
over the issue of slavery — newly settled Kansans did not 
want it and slave-owning Missourians did. A good seven 
years before the Civil War, the Kansas/Missouri Border 
War was in full swing, and both sides were heatedly 
exchanging violence over the issue of slavery, which gave 
way to the term "Bleeding Kansas." 5 In Jan. 29, 1861, the 
Free-Stater Jayhawks won out over the issue when Kansas 
was admitted into the Union as a Free State, 6 but later that 
same year in April, the Civil War started 7 and Kansas was 
once again consumed by the Border War — only now as a 
part of the Union. A regiment raised by Kansas Governor 
Charles Robinson called itself the "Independent Mounted 
Jayhawks" (later officially the First Kansas Cavalry and 
then the Seventh Kansas Regiment) 8 , and they continued 
the fight against the pro- slavery Border Ruffians. 

Many bloody battles were fought over the issue of 
slavery and many travesties were committed on both sides 

2 "jayhawk," Webster's II New Riverside Dictionary (Boston: Hough- 
ton Mifflin Co., 1994), 651. 

3 "jayhawker," Webster's II New Riverside Dictionary (Boston: 
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994), 651. 

4 "Bleeding Kansas," Wikipedia, 
Kansas (accessed APril 29, 2008). 

5 Ibid. 

6 "Timeline of Significant Events on the Missouri/Kansas Border 
1854-1865," under "Missouri/Kansas Border War" Network, http:// (accessed April 29, 2008). 

7 Ibid. 

8 "Legends." 

4 p.m. Count Page 123 

in the name of war. 

During this back-and-forth battle, a band of 400 
Border Ruffians on the morning of Aug. 21, 1863, 
went across the Missouri River the 30 miles, to 
Lawrence, KS, looking for blood. They looted the 
town and massacred 150 men and boys, dragging 
them into the streets, before they carried out their 
message of blood. 9 
This massacre and many like it — on both sides — had a 
residual and lasting effect on the Kansas/Missouri border 
that would be felt for generations. 

By the end of the Civil War in 1865, the word 
"Jayhawk" was associated with the spirit of camaraderie 
and the courageous fighting qualities that characterized 
the efforts to keep Kansas a free state. 10 So in 1890, when 
Kansas University's first football team was formed and 
they took the field, it seemed only natural that they call 
themselves the Jayhawkers. 11 Few colleges or universities 
today have such a meaningful symbol, one so deeply 
associated with the struggle of the people who founded 
them. 12 

Today, in this fan-frenzied world of sports, 
something has been lost, something important, that defined 
my ancestors and helped shape this great nation. Yes, a 
Jayhawk is more than just a fictitious bird or mascot; a 
Jayhawk is more than just a basketball or a football team. A 
Jayhawk is also a symbol of the ideals that Kansans fought 
and died for, the right of freedom for all, and the right to 
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These ideals are 
the same ideals that America herself was founded on. 

Twenty years after the Jayhawks won their National 
Championship in 1988, the school had its most successful 

9 "History of the Border War 1854-1865," under "Missouri/Kansas 
Border War Network," (accessed April 
29, 2008). 

10 "Legends." 

11 Ibid. 

12 Ibid. 

Page 124 4 p.m. Count 

season — as far as the sporting world goes — by the football 
team winning at the Orange Bowl and the basketball team 
winning its first National Championship since 1988. As I 
watched the victory celebrations of both teams and saw the 
large yellow-beaked, crimson- and blue-feathered mascot 
doing the "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" victory dance, I took 
quiet pride in the knowledge that, unbeknownst to most 
of the rest of the world, the symbol for freedom had once 
again prevailed victorious — just as it had over one hundred 
fifty years ago. I am still a fan of Kansas University 
athletics, only now I take more pride in what it stands for to 
be a Jayhawk. 

4 p.m. Count Page 125 

I Ain't No Yeller Chicken 

Isaac Searcy 

I was about ten years old and my big brother Zeb 
was about twelve when he shot a fox and it ran into a 
culvert to die. He peered in and I looked too, he shook his 
head, and I shook mine. "Ain't no way to get it out," I said. 
"It's too deep." So we got a long pole and tied a wire hook 
on the end and we hooked and pulled, but it was no use. 

Then Zeb looked at me and I knew that look, so 
I shook my head again and said, "Uh-Uh! Ain't no way 
I'm goin' in there." So he called me chicken and called 
me yeller and he must of knew what he was do in' cause it 
pissed me right off. 

"I ain't no yeller chicken," I said and got me a 
flashlight and a pocketknife and we tied a roll of wire to 
my foot and he said he'd pull me out if I got stuck. "I ain't 
no yeller chicken," I said as I got down on my hands and 
knees and crawled in that hole and the sides of the culvert 
were cramped and the air was thin and "I ain't no yeller 
chicken," I said. 

The batteries in my flashlight were weak and the 
wire on my foot was too tight and I was ten feet inside 
when suddenly, I saw it, the red furry fox and I didn't know 
if it was dead but the batteries in my flashlight were so 
I crawled up and stabbed in the dark with my red Swiss 
Army Knife and sure enough, it was dead, so I grabbed it 
by the tail and screamed, "Get me out! Pull!" Because I 
was scared. 

Page 126 4 p.m. Count 

4 p.m. Count Page 127 

Art Class Overview 

Dane Yirkovsky 

The following Pencil Portrait Drawings are 
created by students who have minimal or no prior 
drawing experience. The classes are taught by inmate 
Dane Yirkovsky with the Bureau of Prisons providing the 
necessary materials. The art class curriculum is based on a 
ten-week course, yielding five classes per year. A student 
receives twenty hours of credit and is given a certificate 
upon completion. 

During each class, students are to assist each other 
and are encouraged to participate in the future classes. 
Artwork is displayed around the institution and the 
class has become very successful in assisting inmates in 
discovering their talents and skills during their time at the 
Federal Prison Camp in Yankton, South Dakota. 

Page 128 4 p.m. Count 

Audriana by Julian Lopez 

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Page 129 

Lola by Tim Schwed 

Page 130 

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Jadyn Danielle by David Gulledge 

4 p.m. Count 

Page 131 

Km,w^o Jrtt. :;m 

by Michael Belieu 

Page 132 

4 p.m. Count 

*Katelyn Jo Belieu* 
February 21, 2008 - May 14, 2008 

In Loving Memory 

Baby Katelyn. . .you were a gift from God, and I'm 
so sorry we didn't share more together. The Good Lord 
has reasons for calling you home to Him so soon in your 
precious life and I'm afraid I don't understand. 

The news of your arrival was so joyous, and being 
your grandfather, a highlight of my life! The opportunity to 
know you, and hold you in my arms, didn't happen since 
I'm away right now, but I looked forward to it nonetheless. 

From what I can tell, God must have wanted some 
very special company to be by His side, when He received 
you into the kingdom of heaven. From the pain of losing 
you, this is the only comfort I can see, as I also will be able 
to know you when I enter those pearly gates. 

My faith in God is a crutch for me through all my 
trials, like so many others, but it doesn't stop the human 
side of me from asking "Why"? 

You will be missed, young lady. 
I Love You! 
Papa Belieu 

4 p.m. Count Page 133 

by Dane Yirkovsky 

Page 134 

4 p.m. Count 

White Baby Kinda Baboon 

Dane Yirkovsky 

Sasquatch is the stuff of legends, but real hybrids 
are often the results of inter-species mating and are proven 
to exist. For example, at South Luangwa National Park 
in Zambia, Africa, it is found that when a Kinda baboon 
pairs with a Chacma or a Yellow baboon, their offspring is 
still a baboon - but it's considered a hybrid. Through DNA 
research, white baby baboons signify at least one of their 
ancestors belonged to a subspecies called Kinda. Kinda 
babies, whether purebred or mixed, are often born white 
unlike the usual baboon black color. It has been found that 
mixed ancestry is a common occurrence at the national 

For more information on this subject and the South 
Luangwa National Park, see the December 2007 issue of 
National Geographic. 

4 p.m. Count Page 135 


Grandpa Ross by Dane Yirkovsky 

Page 136 

4 p.m. Count 

Grandpa Ross 

Brandon W. Buster 

Receiving the call, I rushed to the VA 
to be by your side. Several minutes 
too late, your heart couldn't take 
anymore. The unfairness of 
life ever so present as the nurse 

held up a hand flailing five digits 

in slow motion, indicating our 

remaining time together. Through 

the glass, she returned to her normal duties. 

How could anything else have been more 

important? I talked, but got no response, 

wondering if you could hear me. My words not 

registering as reality reached up and slapped me 

across the face. I slowly released your hand 

musing over our better days, pondering 

my life without you. Remembering those fishing 


where all we seemed to catch was a good buzz. 

I vowed to look after Grandma; I knew you would 

want that. Exiting the room, I looked back as 

the nurse covered your face with a thin white 

sheet, denying me one final glance at the 

man I have tried so hard to emulate. 
* * * 

V05 slicked back his hair. 

A Camel non-filter stuck 

to his lower lip as his raspy voice 

slowly engaged in conversation 

out of the left corner of his mouth. 

4 p.m. Count Page 137 

The right side of his face paralyzed from 
a shock suffered while checking the 
wiring during an inspection early in 
his career. Pin-striped Key 
overalls were his standard wear — 
rolled up at the cuff in response 
to his short, skinny, pale legs. 
So often I can picture his tan, wrinkled 
face with his right eye forcefully closed 
his voice echoing with sarcasm; "Boy, 
what were you thinking? That's about the 
stupidest thing you've ever done!" 
Sadly enough, he was always right. 

Not a church-going man, but knew 
most every passage in the Holy Book. 
I can only hope now, his faith 
has allowed him to meet the 
Almighty and to watch over me. 

Page 138 4 p.m. Count 




Morgan by Al Lindsey 

4 p.m. Count Page 139 

Ethereal by Kerwin Miller 

Page 140 

4 p.m. Count 

/::!i«': : "«? : 


Marilyn Monroe by Roy Miller 

4 p.m. Count 

Page 141 

White-Bellied Sea Eagles by Dane Yirkovsky 

Page 142 

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Signature Blonde by Dane Yirkovsky 

4 p.m. Count 

Page 143 

"My Confidant..." 
"My Friend..." 
"My Teddy Bear..." 

Joe Cavallaro III 

Tomorrow is a big day, Mr. Bear. 

We're going to see daddy again at the jail. 

I feel like a slinky toy, because I can't sit still. 

I know we'll be awake for hours tonight talking about the 

fun we'll have on the trip tomorrow. 

Mommy says it may take all morning just to get there and 

we may stop for ice cream, if I'm good! 

Remember the fun we had last time? 

Want to read my book out loud? 

Maybe we should go see if mommy's still awake, 


Do you think I'm pretty, teddy bear? 

What if we don't wake up on time? 

Daddy will call if we're late because he told me he misses 


I miss him too! 

He's been away for so long, and needs some sugar hugs 

from me! 

That's the first thing I'm going to do when we get there! 

Yeah. . . I'm going to give my daddy some sugar hugs, and 

tell him I love him. . . 

Because I do! 

Are you crying? Don't cry on my dress! 

I'm getting sleepy already. . . 

Will you dream the same dreams that I do? 

Let's try to sleep, so tomorrow gets here quicker! 

See you in the morning! 

Good night Mr. Bear.... (Smile) 
Page 144 4 p.m. Count 


Girl with Teddy Bear by Dane Yirkovsky 

4 p.m. Count 

Page 145 

John Wayne by Dane Yirkovsky 

Page 146 

4 p.m. Count 

Hilary Swank by Dane Yirkovsky 

4 p.m. Count 

Page 147 

Blank Pages In Prison 

Michael 'Mac' Clennon 

Why do you stare at the blank page? 

Are you looking for a muse? 

Gazing off into nothing, 

thinking of that girl, 

who once smiled at you. 

Remembering the way she stretched her arms up, 

lifting her pink tank top just enough to expose 

her firm flat stomach. 

She looked your way, 

caught your eye, 

and smiled. 

Your heart races with primal lust, 

sweat dripping — the need for passion. 

If only you could find 

something to write about. 

Page 148 4 p.m. Count 

Jessica Alba by Dane Yirkovsky 

4 p.m. Count 

Page 149 

From the Inside Out 

Page 1 50 4 p.m. Count 

Count Time. Count Time. 

Michael Jackson 

As I gaze out my window looking at the pigeons fly by, 
my mind begins to wander into the sky. 

I sink deep into the clouds, feel light as a feather — 
going far away from the barbed wire, and my body that is 

There's a face I see, with green eyes and red lips that are 


It's Joni, my lady; she's come to put her arms around me. 

She gives me a kiss and walks out the visiting room door. 
My eyes begin to water as her tears hit the concrete floor. 

"Hold yourself together Michael; you can do this." 
Hugs and kisses everywhere as families are being 

I rush to the window to get a final glance 

of her blonde hair, pink shirt and blue jean pants. 

Blue.... jean.... pants 

Joni has me stuck in a trance. 

Her voice so sweet, a body girls envy, damn it man I miss 


Over the intercom I hear, "Count time. Count time." 

4 p.m. Count Page 151 

May 25, 2008 

Dear Jim and Students 

It was a great gift for me to read my poems, along with Ms. 
Roripaugh, to the students at the Correctional Center. 

I don't think that there is a whole lot that I can say that your 
students don't already know, from their own lives — each 
of us has his or her own experiences that can be brought to 
their work as writers. 

Maybe what I do know, what it is that I've learned from 
my thirty-five years of writing, is that writing out your life, 
or devoting the time to any art or craft, is one good way to 
help understand your life. 

Learning to write well, or to build a fine cabinet, or become 
a master electrician — to spend the time that it takes to 
master something else outside of yourself, probably boils 
down to this — you might come to better know yourself in 
doing the work. If each one of us knows himself or herself, 
we will in some sense be connected to all others, and this 
will make us more human. 

So, I applaud all of you who are working on becoming 
writers or poets or both, because in this way you are each 
helping to raise humankind itself to a higher level. 

Thank you for letting me into your lives for a while. 

Greg Kosmicki 

Page 152 4 p.m. Count 

The Light 

Mario G. Covington 

In the Bureau of Prisons, there are numerous count 
times. These are times when prisoners are counted in the 
physical form like a herd of cattle. The way the officers 
inform inmates that it's count time varies from prison to 
prison; when I was in Texas, they made an attempt over a 
muffled speaker by yelling, "Count time. " In other prisons, 
officers personally inform the inmates that it is count time 
by going from unit to unit. But in Yankton, they use a red 

When I see it, most of the time it annoys me, it makes me 
nervous. It's like watching the sun being chased away by 
the clouds — one then expects rain, or driving down a high- 
way at an abnormal speed only to slow down abruptly by 
the flashing lights of a patrol car. The red light is a threat. 

Range four stand up for count. 

It shines four times a day. I cannot escape it or shake it. 
I cannot help but notice it because I feel its presence. It's 
equal to a fire alarm being activated or a microwave when 
it reaches zero or a pressure cooker when it has reached two 
hundred and twelve degrees. The red light is a conscious 

Count time gentlemen. 

When I look up and see it, I try to think of something 
pleasant. I imagine taking little Mario and Latronis — my 
sons — to the park. They love the sun and what it has to of- 
fer: ice cream, swimming, swings and monkey bars. I think 
of taking Jasmine and Epiphany — my daughters — shopping 
and out to eat. They love spending time with me as I do 
with them. I think of pleasant thoughts of the world be- 

4 p.m. Count Page 153 

ing free mentally and spiritually, where we as a people can 
wander aimlessly at life as a bird does. I think of life with- 
out war, drugs, and death, where we can have peace, love, 
and eternal life as one under God. I think of Moses, and the 
children of Israel being protected and led by the cloud. 
The red light is the Alpha and Omega of my day. 

Lights on, stand up for count. 

Page 154 4 p.m. Count 

$&%@ Love 
by Hung Dao 

It is tragic to see a forty-year-old man cry as he 
hangs up the phone and walks away with his head down. 

(Ring. . . ring. . .ring...) You have a prepaid call, you will not 
be charged for this call, this call is from. ... An inmate at a 
Federal Prison; to decline this call hang up, to accept this 
call dial five now, if you wish to block all future calls of 
this nature dial seven now. 
"How are you doing baby, and how are the kids doing?" 

4 p.m. Count 

Page 155 

"I work three jobs! On Monday I get up at 5:30 a.m. to get 
the kids ready for day-care, drop them off by 6:00 a.m., 
and try to get to work by 6:30 a.m. I get off at 2:45 p.m. 
and then try to get to my second job by 3:30 p.m., during 
rush hour. Then I get off work at 1 1 :45 p.m. and rush to 
day-care to pick up the kids who are all tired and then try 
to get them in bed by 1 :00 a.m. Then I have to shower and 
cook something to eat and make lunch for work tomorrow. 
Finally, I get to try to get to bed by 2:00 a.m. and then 
start the cycle again at 5:30 a.m. the next morning. On the 
weekends, I work at a restaurant from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 
p.m. That means I have to get the kids to day-care by 8:00 
a.m. then pick them up at 10:00 p.m. 

"I'm exhausted, the kids are getting sick, the bills 
are going up, taxes are going up, gas prices are going up, 
and the mortgage is going up! I don't think I can handle 
this by myself much longer! 

"I need somebody to help me take care of the kids, 
stuff around the house, and especially with the bills! I 
need somebody that can help me right now! I don't want 
to leave you, but I don't have any options," she said in an 
exasperated voice and then, the line goes silent again. 

"I'm sorry babe, you know I want to be there for 
you, but I can't right now. I want to be there for our kids. I 

Page 1 56 4 p.m. Count 

want to be there to help around the house. I want to be there 
to pay all the bills. But mostly, I want to be there for you! 

"You always have an option. My credit is still 
good. Get another loan if you need the money or use my 
credit card to pay for the bill. I'll pay it back when I get 
out. Sell the cars with gas prices this high: I'll ride a bicycle 
when I get out. Sell the house; I don't need a thirty-eight- 
hundred square foot house if I don't have you. 

"So what option do you want? Is it money that you 
need? Or is it that you don't want to be with me anymore?" 
Click, the phone hangs up. 




I thought I was never going to be like one of those guys 
talking on the phone begging his wife not to leave him, 
until it happened to me. 

4 p.m. Count 

Page 157 

Something I Wrote For My Daughter 
In County When I First Got Locked Up 

Jason E. Davis 

Happy birthday little one 

eat some cake and have some fun. 

So as you turn four and I turn too 
please remember dad's love for you. 

I wish I could be there for you this year 
I hope to see you before your first beer. 

All kidding aside, I want you to know 

I wish things were different and didn't have to go. 

You are in my prayers day and night 
I love you Rylie K with all my might. 

So a big happy birthday to my little one 
eat some cake and have some fun. 

Page 158 4 p.m. Count 

Unknown Sentinel 

Joshua Harvey 


As he neared the ridge, the towers materialized. 
Like monuments to the gods, they reached, piercing the sky 
and reflecting the sun's rays. With every step, more detail 
emerged until finally as he reached the hilltop, Jake could 
see the taper of the monolithic towers widen until they 
coupled solidly with the fortress bellow; he had arrived, 
and it was magnificent. 

Standing atop the knoll, the fortress within his 
reach, Jake paused awestruck; a wave of vertigo washed 
over him. Beneath his feet, like a psychedelic daydream, 
the hill flowed into the valley below. Flowers of every 
color exploded, coalesced, and cascaded into the vast and 
fathomless moat that encapsulated the island compound. At 
the center of this, surrounded by battlements reaching fifty 
feet into the sky, the fortress stood unwavering, a direct 
descendant of the earth not built but created, an island of 
solidarity in a sea of chaos. 

Taking a breath to clear his head, Jake began his 
descent down the hill. The flowers and grass waved and 
seemed to part before him and close as he passed. He felt 
eyes upon him — not human eyes but the earth's. The feel- 
ing increased until he was sure that if he turned his head 
he would see the ground rising up behind him, like a wave 
building strength, preparing to devour him and return him 
to the elements from which he had come. 

He stepped out of the field and onto wet sand and 
pebbles. Approaching the edge of the moat, he halted. As 
his eyes settled on the water, and its residents began to con- 
geal into solid form, he realized that the dream had ended 
and the nightmare had begun. 

What he saw: monstrosities more grotesque than the 
strangest creatures in the deepest regions of earth's oceans, 
their huge jaws protruding with razor sharp teeth tear- 

4 p.m. Count Page 159 

ing, seething deformed bodies writhing, giant prehistoric 
masses gliding through the water, whip tails circling, and 
cold predatory eyes searching. This was not the end of his 
journey. . .it was the beginning of something different. 

Beep beep beep beep. . . 

.... The alarm cut through the veil of sleep. Conscious- 
ness grew to awareness, and with that, the realization that 
it was a dream, the dream. Again it had come, and again he 
had traveled further. However, it was over too soon; it was 
always too soon. The night never lasted long enough. The 
dream never finished. 

Enough, the inner dialogue, never far away, 
emerged like a drill sergeant. "The world waits for no man; 
get out of bed, maggot." Jake glanced at the clock to his 
right, stalling and thinking of an argument. He had none; 
life would go on and he was a part of it. 

The phone rang. Jake reached across the nightstand 
past the alarm clock and answered it. "Hello," he said. He 
knew who it was. "Jake, honey would you do me a favor," 
It was Sara. "What do you want," he replied. She sounded 
so chipper in the morning — he hated that. "O Jake, honey 
would you bring me something to eat. I was in such a hurry 
this morning I forgot, and I am sooo hungry." He wanted 
to ask what time she had gotten home last night. Instead, he 
asked, "What do you want?" 

"O nothing special. . . just. . .1 don't know, a burger or 
something. You decide." She knew what she wanted. He 
was not in the mood to argue. "I'll drop it off on my way 
to work." "Love you sweetie." 

Click. After briefly considering strangling himself 
with the phone cord, he hung up and rolled out of bed. 
Padding down the hall towards the shower, Jake noticed 
the lifeless pictures hanging on the walls, the drab white 
interior of his home, and the generic clutter of his life. 
Everything seemed sterile, like a canvas awaiting an artist's 
touch. He stopped at the closed bathroom door. He turned 
the handle, his mind cleared; routine taking hold, he en- 
Page 160 4 p.m. Count 


The shower was refreshing. His troubles seemed to 
float away with the steam. He imagined himself in that far 
away world. Showering was like dreaming; he could drift 
away and forget what was on the other side of the curtain. 
As he showered, he wished that he could be someone else. 
He wished that his life had meaning and direction. 

Jake rinsed and turned off the water. He reached out 
and pulled the curtain to the side. He stepped over the side 
of the bathtub and onto the cold tile floor. Reaching for a 
towel, Jake turned to face the mirror above the sink. 

Wrapping the towel around his waist Jake gazed 
at his steam-distorted reflection, studying it through the 
condensation congealed into drops as it cut through his vis- 
age distorting the image further yet reviling, slice by slice, 
more of his features. Who am I ? 

Elsewhere, above a giant blue globe, a glowing 
point of light waited as it had done for millennia. It never 
grew impatient. It observed the continents below, the sea, 
the blue atmosphere, and the curtains of clouds. It was 
aware of these things just as it was aware of the many 
worlds and possibilities that existed beyond this infini- 
tesimal point in the vast arena of the universe. It was also 
aware that two worlds where about to make contact and 
that it was to play a part in something extraordinary. 

Jake reached across to wipe the condensation from 
the mirror; the mirror rippled. Jake halted, startled for an 
instant then thought: get a grip, man, it's just the light play- 
ing tricks on you. He forced his hand forward. Reaching 
the mirror, his hand resisted almost imperceptibly before 
continuing forward. "What the..." his apprehensions 
increased, his hand crossed the membranous surface into 
another world. 

The time had come. The glowing form began its 
descent towards the planet below, falling slowly then ac- 
celerating; it entered the atmosphere, the clouds rushed by 
then broke. The earth began to achieve detail, growing in 
texture; hills and vales, rivers and streams emerged. Di- 

4 p.m. Count Page 161 

rectly below, the target became apparent as a great structure 
surrounded by a shimmering lake. The structure grew in 
detail revealing massive blocks and slabs of rock intricately 
formed into a majestic imposing structure. Closer still and 
finer details emerged; brick held together with aging mortar 
filled the view and suddenly the light decelerated and made 

Inside the fortress, the light descended further — at 
times through solid stone, at others through great open 
spaces. The levels passed, sounds and smells emerged 
nally an enormous room opened. The luminous presence 
stopped, again the silent observer; it watched as the scene 
played out below. 

Thousands of candles arranged in descending rows 
ran the length if the walls. Further in, two half circles of 
candles served to highlight the action. The players: one 
seated on a throne shrouded in darkness, the other suppli- 
cant and prone before him. The dialogue began. 
". . .they are attempting contact." 

Back in our world, Jake was having an interesting 
encounter with his medicine cabinet. "What the hell," Jake 
jerked his hand out of the once solid surface. Like a pool of 
water, the mirror rippled. His hand was wet and cool. He 
stumbled back, and slipped on the wet tile; his head con- 
tacted the towel rack; his eyes blurred, the room began to 
waver, blood trickled from the base of his skull. Looking 
out from unfocused eyes, as darkness filled his vision, Jake 
began to lose consciousness. 

Above the cavernous space, the glowing orb waited 
and watched. A voice exploded from the throne with the 
force of a natural disaster; the walls reverberated, and the 
air thickened. It commanded the creature kneeling at its feet 
to stand. The creature obeyed, slowly and deliberately as if 
it knew that this action might be its last. 

Again the voice flowed, deep and resonant yet less 
harsh, like a silky rich syrup filling the cavernous space. 
"You have done well, and you shall be rewarded." A hand 

Page 162 4 p.m. Count 

appeared from beneath the flowing black robe occupy- 
ing the magnificently constructed and grotesquely ornate 
throne. The hand uncoiled revealing long tapered fingers. 
They formed into a cup; mist began to swirl within its 
grasp. The mist solidified and cleared into a perfect crystal 
sphere. The hand rotated leisurely, and released the orb; it 
dropped slowly, as through water, to the floor with a solid 
ringing clink. The dark crystal rolled forward and pre- 
sented itself at the feet of the now standing creature. The 
creature twitched as if touched by an electric charge. The 
voice from the throne spoke: "Bring him to me." 

The creature bent, picked up the crystal sphere and 
raised it to shiny black eyes. The creature inspected the 
crystal slowly turning it over in its hands, gradually noting 
every detail. Satisfied, it placed the crystal into a fold in 
its robe. The creature bowed, was dismissed with a slight 
nod from the throne, and turned. With surprising speed, the 
creature dashed through the cathedral towards a tremendous 
iron door. 

The glowing presence descended from the ceiling 
and followed. 

Exiting the fortress, the creature entered a courtyard 
and approached a pool of water. It produced the orb from 
beneath its cloak and suspended it above the pool. The orb 
fell from its grasp. Without a splash, it broke the surface of 
the pool. A ripple flowed over the surface of the pool. After 
years uncounted, the portal reopened. 

* * * 

Peering through watery eyes Jake regained con- 
sciousness. He slowly climbed to wobbly legs; cobwebs 
clearing, he wondering what had happened. Noticing that 
he was still naked he began to dress. Slowly, dizzily, he 
attempted to step into his jeans and almost fell again. He 
thought that he had better sit down and he did. 

Sitting on the closed toilet, he pulled on his jeans 
and shirt. Still dazed but clearing he began to remember 
the vanity mirror; something was wrong with the mirror. 

4 p.m. Count Page 163 

As he began to stand, he noticed with alarm that that was 
not the only strange thing happening in his bathroom. The 
full-length mirror previously mounted to the bathroom door 
was gone. He stood staring at the hole where the mirror 
used to be and realized that it was still there, only. ... He 
read an article a while back that spoke of a company that 
had created a pigment that was the blackest color on earth; 
he wondered how it had gotten on his door. A crystal ball 
dropped out of the void and rolled to a stop at Jake's feet. 

Still dizzy and confused, now grasping for answers, 
Jake froze, mind racing, unable to decide on a course of ac- 
tion. Then, as if drawn by a force outside himself he began 
to stoop, hand reaching toward orb. A shimmering light 
burst from the blackened mirror and slammed into Jake's 
hand knocking it away from the orb. He screamed. 

On the other side of the glass, the creature knelt 
before the pool and languidly touched the surface of the 
newly opened portal. He had dreamed of this day; they 
all had. A new world opened to them, and he was to be 
the first messenger. How they would be surprised. Un- 
fortunately, first he had to deal with the human. The other 
side had been contacting him and now they were attempt- 
ing to bring him across. A feeble attempt to gain ground. 
He chuckled. Suddenly a flash of light streaked past him 
and dove into the pool. The creature sprang to its feet and 
shrieked a single word, "Sentinel!" before leaping into the 

Adrenalin pumping, Jake swung his arms spasti- 
cally at the flying shimmering ball of light. The sentinel 
could not yet communicate with Jake but it also could not 
allow him to surrender to the dark crystal. It dodged Jake's 
blows, effortlessly buzzing around his head like a horse 
fly around a hapless swimmer. Jake continued the attack, 
frenzied arms flailing and whipping through the air, body 
twisting, backs of legs contacting porcelain, falling.... 

Finally, his body reclining in the tub, arms spread, 
legs in the air with the glowing orb hovering peacefully five 
inches from his face, Jake's fear turned to anger. 

Page 164 4 p.m. Count 

Staring at Jake, the sentinel could sense his emo- 
tions. Anger was better than fear. Fear could paralyze and 
it weakened resistance to the crystal. Jake had to react 
quickly because he would soon to be faced with a choice. 

As he struggled to get out of the tub the light 
bounced in mid air, circled the room, hovered, and dis- 
appeared into the mirror over the sink. Jake sat back in 
shock. Suddenly, he noticed that directly across from him 
a gruesome arm, like a cross between a silverback and 
a beetle, had broken the surface of the blackened mirror 
mounted on the door. Jake's fear returned. He struggled to 
his feet, keeping his eyes riveted on the hideous birth. 

The creature struggled as if climbing up from an 
abyss, its arms reaching past the doorframe, veins and 
sinewy muscle visible beneath the dark mottled skin. Jake 
realized that he was trapped; he could not open the door 
and there were no windows in the room. A strange feeling 
began to rise up, threatening to take him into its embrace. 
Jake thought this must be how animals feel before the fatal 
blow. He wanted to close his eyes and sleep. A thought 
broke his reverie. He remembered his arm entering the 
mirror over the sink and the strange light doing the same. 
He did not know what was on the other side of that mir- 
ror but it couldn't be much worse than what was emerging 
from this one. Jake made a choice. 

Stepping onto the toilet bowl and across to the sink, 
Jake had the surreal feeling that this was the end of his life. 
He was correct and as he crossed into the world beyond, his 
new life began. 

4 p.m. Count Page 165 

Behind These Walls 

Michael 'Mac' Clennon 

Behind these walls 

is a bitter old man. 

Every day is the same. 

Survival relying on routine. 

He has been growing his beard 

since the day he came in. 

He will not shave 

until the day he leaves. 

An idle mind 

is his happiest time. 

Most of the time 

he's thinking of a cheating wife; kids 

he has not heard from in seven years. 

Five years have passed since his mother died 

that was the last time he's spoken on a phone. 

Everyone is in his way, 

everyone is to blame. 

Behind these walls 

is a scared boy 

Barely the age of eighteen. 

His mind races with questions 

fears of the unknown. 

Will his girlfriend write to him? 

Is she still his girl? 

How can he do five years? 

A whole lifetime to him. 

Here — he is surrounded — he is alone. 

Where are the friends he protected? 

He holds tears back each night 

until the other three are asleep; 

then lets them flow. 

Only to make himself more frightened. 

Page 166 4 p.m. Count 

Behind these walls 

is a family man. 

Doing a three piece for cheating his taxes. 

The voice of his five-year-old daughter 

still echoes in his head. 

"Are you gonna come home soon, daddy?" 

"No, sweetheart I'm not." 

He continues the phone call 

with a lump in his throat. 

He tells his son 

he wishes he could see the big game. 

"I love you," he tells his wife 

just as the timed phone call 

hangs up on him. 

She did not have time to respond, 

six days to think about that. 

He will call again next Sunday. 

Behind these walls 

is a street raised young man. 

A gangster — mean to the bone. 

A haunted aftertaste of childhood 

is the fuel for his fire. 

A weakness kept secret. 

Considering himself king of the streets, 

fronting problems by talking tough. 

Every day he plans payback 

on the rats that put him away. 

No plans to change, only to get even. 

Using each day of the next twelve years 

to develop the perfect revenge. 

Behind these walls 

four men share a cell. 

The four walls contain 

Bitterness, Fear, Guilt, and Anger. 

So many problems in such a small space. 

Each man looks at the other in disgust. 

4 p.m. Count Page 167 

Too busy wallowing in his own problems 

to help another — to help himself. 

Each one considers his sentence a lifetime. 

If they never open their eyes, 

and look for answers 

It might just be.... 

Page 168 4 p.m. Count 

Don't Pass Me By by Dane Yirkovsky 

4 p.m. Count 

Page 169 

Don't Pass Me By 

Michael 'Mac' Clennon 

How could I keep walking by 

when she's looking my way? 

Her forbidden innocence attracts me, 

our eyes meet. 



Her purity -class. 

The wild rebel she becomes. 


I don't want answered. 


the love she never knew existed; 

until her heart was broken. 

Her eyes searching 

for someone to pacify her pain. 

Longing to fly. 


grasping my heart. 

Lips that say, 

"Don't leave me; 

don't pass me by." 

Page 170 4 p.m. Count 

Trapped On A Parking Lot 

Scott Kirk 

It's called a compound 

this two-block radius, 

but if I were to explain it, 

I'd say I'm trapped on a parking lot. 

The view is always the same: 

green trees, bright flowers, tan khakis. 

"Inmates" always coming or going, 

the smell of compost from off in the distance. 

Correctional officers looming, 
resembling security in an airport. 
Getting pat- searched constantly, 
like I might be strapped to a bomb. 

Nothing holding me back; 

yet everything keeping me in. 

Passer-by's staring from their SUVs and Camrys, 

as if seeing a three-eyed circus freak crossing the street. 

I'm just a normal person like you, 

whose life took a turn for the worse. 

Now I'm just trying to bide my time, 

while being confined, trapped on this parking lot. 

4 p.m. Count Page 171 

Fearful Mind 

Juan Zuniga 

I would like to share this personal and fearful story 
that has been hunting me down ever since I started my 
incarceration. I believe that this whole thing kicked in when 
I was at Federal Medical Center in Rochester, MN. I was 
doing time with a good friend of mine at F.M.C. Rochester 
when I realized that this whole federal system is a small 
world, separate from the outside, because the things that 
happen within these walls — nobody knows about them. 

After spending time at the State Penitentiary, 
coming to a federal facility was not new to me. Prison 
life — stabbings, fights, and trying to stay alive — was all 
part of a mind game. In 2000, 1 arrived at this federal 
prison, so I had an idea of what goes on in the yard. I 
thought to myself this is it, another round of rough life for 
me. But this ride was going to be different; I could feel it, 
I could almost smell it in the air. I still remember my first 
day at F.M.C. Rochester. 

Upon arriving at this federal prison and walking 
across the compound to my assigned housing unit, I noticed 
a bunch of correctional officers running towards another 
unit where they house the unmanageable people. Right 
away my mind switched from being a regular guy to a more 
defensive manner. It is a natural instinct for inmates to act 
like this. I kept walking carefully to my newly assigned 
housing unit. The prison had trees, green grass, and a 
couple of benches for people to sit; it almost resembled 
a college campus to me. As I was walking to my unit, a 
couple of guys said "What's up" to me, and others just gave 
me that prison look to see how soft I was, but since I was 
not new to the system, I didn't pay too much attention to 

I met my friend "Rob" out in the yard; he was not 
old, but he looked old, probably because of his illness. He 

Page 172 4 p.m. Count 

had a couple of wrinkles in his face, but he couldn't be 
more than forty-five. Although he had problems walking 
around due to his sickness, we made it a daily routine to 
meet in the yard after count. Not only did he introduce me 
to the game of handball, but we also talked about family 
matters. He would tell me about the family he left behind, 
and I would just listen to his stories. After a few months 
the conversation with "Rob" became more personal. He 
would tell me how this time in prison destroyed everything 
he had: wife, kids, and just about everyone he left behind. 
I would tell him about my life too. One time he mentioned 
that he was really sick; I mean I knew he was ill, but I 
didn't know how serious it was until later when I learned 
that people who lived in this one unit are all pretty sick, and 
that is where my friend lived at that time. He also said that 
there was a pretty good chance that he would die in prison. 
I didn't know what to say to that other than to give him 
words of encouragement, just like he did for me when I met 
him out in the yard. 

It was weird; I had a feeling that this prison was 
going to be different right from the get-go. I have been 
in different counties and state facilities, but never in a 
federal prison let alone in a federal medical center. Life is 
depressing in this prison mainly because all the inmates are 
either sick or close to dying. I felt really bad after he had 
told me about his illness, and reality set in on me after this 
conversation. I was thinking to myself what I would do if 
I was in "Rob's" shoes. I was twenty-nine when I came to 
federal prison, and to this day I do not know what I would 
do in a similar situation. 

Doing time in F.M.C. Rochester was different from 
the other prisons. They house these inmates that are really 
crazy, and they have this floor that is called the "dead alley" 
for a reason. So imagine dealing with this every day where 
you see your friends one day, and they are gone the next; 
it's very depressing. 

My friend "Rob" died in prison, and I can only 
imagine the pain that his family has endured. This is my 

4 p.m. Count Page 173 

fear, dying in prison; knowing that I could be him at any 
given time and there is nothing I can do about it. I guess it 
is true what they say, "Only the strong survive"! 

Page 174 4 p.m. Count 

June 13, 2008 

To the Students in Dr. Jim Reese's Writing 
& Publishing Class, Federal Prison Camp, 
Yankton, SD 

First of all, thank you for the many kind words in your 
letters. Coming to read for you was a pleasure, and I 
enjoyed our subsequent discussion very much. I truly 
appreciated your attentiveness, engagement, and numerous 
well-considered questions. 

I noticed in your letters that a number of you had questions, 
issues, and concerns about subject matter: whether your 
own stories, cultural backgrounds, etc. would be of interest 
to readers. These are definitely valid concerns that most 
writers deal with in one form or another. My advice is 
that while you want to select and frame the best possible 
materials/stories from your lives (if, indeed, you want 
to write from personal experience), it is probably futile 
to attempt to second-guess too much what will appeal 
most to a literary audience. Instead of worrying so much 
about whether your stories are of interest/appeal, perhaps 
concentrate on the skill and quality with which you tell/ 
write your story. Creative non-fiction writer Scott Russell 
Sanders wrote an entire book about limestone, and while 
I think most readers might say, if asked beforehand, that 
they were not particularly interested in limestone, the 
book was so well-written that it was absolutely riveting. 
Furthermore, some of you expressed concerns that your 
backgrounds and stories might be too strange or unfamiliar 
for literary audiences. Once again, these concerns are 
absolutely understandable ~ I have them myself ~ but 
I think that you need to set them aside, and simply tell 
the stories that you feel most compelled to write. I 
frequently tell my students that I think good literature 
often accomplishes two completely disparate goals: (1) 
opens a window into a completely unfamiliar experience 

4 p.m. Count Page 175 

or point of view, while (2) offering something within that 
unfamiliar experience or point of view that the reader 
can empathize with or relate to. Sometimes I think the 
most unfamiliar or unexpected points of view can be most 
effective particularly if there is something within that point 
of view that the reader can also connect with in some form 
or another. 

A number of you also had questions about creating sound 
and rhythm in poetry. My advice here is to always, always, 
always read your poetry out loud. Read your fiction out 
loud as well, because you want those sentences to be 
rhythmically sound and well-formed, too. Learn to listen 
to your work. Become more sensitive to individual words, 
to assonance and consonance, to line breaks. Let your ear 
become an important guide in your writing process. 

I was pleased while visiting that you asked about poets 
to read, and in case I forgot to mention it to you at the 
time, read as much as you can, and read as widely as you 
can. Perhaps this is one of the easiest and most significant 
ways to learn more about writing, and to teach yourself to 
become a better writer. 

Of course, the writing business is extremely difficult and 
competitive, and I hope our discussions in that regard didn't 
come across as too discouraging. I think it's very important 
that writers understand very clearly what challenges they 
are facing — particularly since most writers must figure 
out how they will support themselves financially while 
continuing to practice their art. But as one of my mentors, 
poet David Wojahn told me, practicing the art of writing 
under these numerous types of adversity is "ennobling." I 
would agree completely, and add that even in the absence 
of tangible fiscal rewards, the possibilities for intellectual, 
philosophical, spiritual, psychological, and artistic growth 
are invaluable rewards in and of themselves. Furthermore, 
on a more practical level, the facility in written and 

Page 176 4 p.m. Count 

verbal communication skills that arises from a sustained 
engagement with the writing life can be invaluable in any 
professional endeavor, I believe. And finally, your writing 
is something that is uniquely your own . . . something that 
can never be taken away from you. 

I wish you all the very best in your writing adventures, and 
in your lives! 



Lee Ann Roripaugh 

4 p.m. Count Page 177 


Todd Bowlin 

Love comes softly, 

love comes quick, 

love comes unexpectedly, 

and love can be slick. 

Love can give you happiness 

and love can make you ill, 

but love, in the end, 

isn't something 

you just feel. 

When you find who love is — 

make sure you show them 

you are real. 

Page 178 4 p.m. Count 

Father and Son 

Hung Dao 

Inmates were doing some yard work and overheard 
a father and son conversation while they were walking by 
the prison camp, gazing. 

SON: Dad, can we go to the park over there? 

FATHER: Son, that is not a park; it is a place where they 

send bad people. 

SON: Why is the grass always trimmed; the trees are neat 

and the flowers are beautiful? 

FATHER: Because the bad people cut the grass short, trim 

the trees, and plant the flowers. 

SON: They have a sandbox to play volleyball, a full 

basketball court, and even a track. 

FATHER: Son, if you want to play in the sand, I can take 

you to a park with a playground. 

SON: Wow, is that an obstacle course with wall and poles 

to climb? They have a monkey bar, pull up bar, dip bar, 

and they even have a horseshoe pit and a bocce court. 

FATHER: Son, you can do all that at the park, they have 

all that, plus a swing and a winding slide, but I do not think 

they have a horseshoe pit or a bocce court! 

SON: What is that building over there with the big bell and 


FATHER: That is a chapel for bad people to go to church. 

SON: What is that round building over there that looks like 

an umbrella? 

FATHER: That is a place for them to go eat. 

SON: What is that building over there that looks like a 

dome? Is that a softball field? 

FATHER: That is a gym for them to go work out and yes, 

that is a softball field next to it. 

SON: Wow, they even have their own Tonka tractor and 

backhoe to play with! 

FATHER: That is for them to move dirt and snow around or 

4 p.m. Count Page 179 

dig a hole for plumbing work. 

SON: What else do they do there? 

FATHER: They do electrical work, heating, ventilation, 

along with air-conditioning, and they even do landscape 


SON: What is landscape design? 

FATHER: It is designing an area with flowers, shrubs, and 

trees for it to look appealing. 

SON: Why do bad people get to live in such a nice place? 

FATHER: Yes, it looks like a nice place; however, I do not 

think you want to live there. 

SON: Do they have to pay a membership to live there? 

FATHER: No, they just have to break the law and the judge 

will send them there. 

SON: So, did those bad people hurt or murder anybody? 

FATHER: No, all those bad people committed a non- violent 

crime; that is a federal offense. 

SON: What is a federal offense? 

FATHER: An example would be if I destroyed a mailbox; it 

would be a federal offense because it is federal property. 

SON: How do you know so much about that place and bad 

people? Have you been there? 

FATHER: When you get older, you just know all this stuff. 

SON: Well, how do you know all this stuff if you have 

never been there? 

FATHER: Just stop. . . .Stop it right now! That is a prison, 

a place for bad people and you do not want to live there. 

Okay son.... 

SON: Sorry, I did not mean to get you upset, but it looks 

like such a nice place to live. I mean they have almost 

everything there, except for a swing and a winding slide! 

FATHER: Okay son. I have been there and it is not a place 

you want to live; take my word for it because I know from 


Page 180 4 p.m. Count 

The Stand-off 

Mario G. Covington 

During a dream, a distinguished man said to me, 
"Do you care?" I thought about this unusual question 
before I answered; then I said, "Yes, I care!" The man then 
replied, "What do you care about?" I said: "I care about 
water pollution, our soldiers in Iraq, poverty — I care about 
life. As I professed, the stranger's face slowly came into 
view. It was like reading the letters on the board at the 
doctor's office with one eye covered. Suddenly, I could no 
longer hear him talk, but I could feel his presence. I felt 
what he was saying. He really wanted to know what I cared 

"I care about bettering my life while in prison. I 
care about me. I care about the pain that I've caused so 
many people by selling drugs. I care about the four years of 
birthdays, holidays, school activities, that I have missed in 
my sons' lives. These four years I'll never get back. I can't 
refund them, nor can I make up for them. This time has 
passed away like a carnival that goes from town to town." 

Now that I think about it, did I really care, about 
my children, my family? Did I really care about the pain 
that I would cause everyone? Did I care about this missing 
void? The more I spoke, the stranger's face became 
familiar. I then realized that yes, I cared, but I didn't 
care enough! At that moment his face was so close to my 
face that I could've kissed him. I could smell the aura of 
pain, loneliness, drugs, alcohol, stupidity, and the prison 
toothpaste. I now saw him clearly in the mirror. 

4 p.m. Count Page 181 

Thoughts from an Imprisoned Father 

Mario G. Covington 

As I lie on this double bunk-bed, in this sixteen- 
man dorm room, where it's the size of a master bedroom, 
or if one breathes everyone smells your breath, I think of 
the past. I think of that warm June day, a day that has been 
forever engraved in my heart. Seeing all eight pounds, four 
ounces of you, when you were born, brought tears of joy to 
my eyes. 

I fall asleep thinking of the first steps you took; how 
mama stood you up and I called you to me; I said: "Come 
to daddy," and you wobbled to me like a drunken man, then 
you fell into my arms. Remembering this moment brings a 
smile to my heart. 

I began to think of your first day of school. Hearing 
your unstable, nervous voice, as you sniffled out the words: 
"I. . .don't. . .wanna. . .go!" I remember taking your hand, 
like I was rescuing a drowning man and I said: "It's going 
to be all right son, daddy's with you, always!" 

I then wake to the sounds of the intercom at six- 
thirty in the morning telling me that it's time for breakfast. 
I feel sad and gloomy because I don't get to see your face. 
I can't walk you to school, nor can I help you with your 
homework. Most importantly, I don't get to say, "I love 
you!" My soul feels empty like a pillow without feathers, 
or a balloon that has lost its air. 

Being away from you is a pain that is unbearable. 
But knowing that you, my son, are always with me — I 
can sustain through the negativity of this prison life. I can 
understand the pain of the other fathers that are missing 
their sons as I miss you. 

I can smile upon the late night counts that are done 
with a flashlight being shone in my face awakening me out 
of my dreams of you, because I am with you, and you are 
with me, "Always." 

Page 182 4 p.m. Count 

Through the Viewfinder... 

Joe Cavallaro III 

I see the opposites in behavior 

while taking pictures in the visiting room 

of this prison camp. 

The camera's viewfinder is a porthole to a side 

of you I don't recognize. 

Here, I see you around the ones you love. 

You're a different person than I 

know on the yard. . . . 


Your child in your arms, and your 
wife's tears on your khaki shirt — 
an unusual nervousness about you. 
A smile persists 
the hours you spend here. 
Moments of awkward silence 
avoided to bury the thought of 
going separate ways again. 

The visit ends and you sit there 

with a slack-jawed, glaze-eyed look of 

a satisfied junkie. 

What I saw through the viewfinder 

when I took your picture, 

I will not see on the yard. 

You transform again. 

4 p.m. Count Page 183 

Relapsing with a Photo 

Michael 'Mac' Clennon 

Digging through a box of old photos 

to fill the empty bulletin board resting over my bed. 

While flipping through the memories, 

I find a 20-year-old staring back at me. 

A Bud Light in my hand and glazed eyes. 

As my eyes meet the eyes in the picture, 

I suddenly experience the same euphoria. 

Lost in the flashback — I finally break free. 

I turn my head away — trails follow. 

I crutch my stance, overwhelmed with 

a sensation that has been long forgotten. 

I relapse. 

A deep breath calms my racing heart. 

Voices echo in my head, 

"Mushrooms make me yawn." 

Reality crashes upon me, 

I am an addict — I am still haunted. 

Page 184 4 p.m. Count 

Christmas in Prison... One More Time 

Joe Cavallaro III 

Three years down, one more to go, 

I was told it would be rough, so I'm letting you know. 

The first year was slow, it seemed like ten, 

my freedom was distant, I couldn't see when. 

Twelve months passed, and it still remained tough, 

as I counted the days, it was never enough. 

I felt so distant, so torn away, 

I needed to focus and find a new way. 

I began to get busy trying to make do, 
missing my family, my time with you. 
Reading books and improving my health, 
thoughts of a future with possible wealth. 

At twenty-four months, something came clear, 
the need to learn as my future grew near. 
I enrolled in college — a business degree, 
children to support — money needed from me. 

I'm making improvements and things will get better, 
I'll keep you posted with every letter. 
My love for you grows through all of this time, 
and with help from God, I'll live down this crime. 

Thirty-six months, I've counted them down, 
eighteen to go in this final round. 
Semester break is here and my mind is growing, 
its Christmas again, and outside it's snowing. 

One more time, I'm reminded inside, 
six more seasons to wrap up this ride. 
Just stay busy, do well in class, 
I will come home, this time will pass. 

4 p.m. Count Page 185 

The man I'll be when I return, 

the dignity and trust I'll earn. 

Cognitive thinking and the absence of crime, 

I'm almost there. . Just one more time. ... 

Merry Christmas 

Page 186 4 p.m. Count 


Scott Kirk 

Absolutely beautiful! Pat is tall and slender — 

more petite than I remember her. More than five years 

have passed since our last encounter. 

I'm sure the look of excitement tells the tale of how I've 

missed her. 

The scene is anything but uncomfortable. Her hazel-green 

eyes, tan stomach, soft pouty lips, the curves on her 5 '7" 

frame are stunning — breathtaking. 

Holding her, kissing her, is intoxicating — she makes my 

heart sing and ache. Emotions absolutely engulf me. 

Her thoughts about seeing me? If you knew her — she'd 

never tell. 

Overwhelming fear of her answers to the many questions I 


I dream of the future — our future. 

Can we work things out? Would she try? Could we try? 

Scottie wonders what will become of his mother and 

father's relationship. 

Only time can tell. I pray her love for me returns. 

4 p.m. Count Page 187 


Scott Kirk 

I picture everyone as they were: a newborn and a teenager. 

Nieces and nephews, no more than chest high. 

Everyone healthy, my Grandma still alive. 

My Dad active, not on his death-bed, emphysema 

threatening to take his life. 

Myself being a thirty-year-old, still a young adult. 

Instead I'm closer to forty, pushing middle age. 

My youngest turning six, while my oldest is of drinking 


Nieces and nephews have grown like weeds; 

still wondering about the uncle they never really knew. 

It's all coming to an end; a long road is what it has been. 

Looking forward to the reunion, and hoping it isn't 


I guess it's a chance at a new beginning; 

introducing the new man I've become; a college graduate, a 

mature adult. 

It's almost scary when I stop and think about it. 

But it's a challenge for myself, all the same. 

A chance to obtain my goals, fulfill my dreams. 

To make my family proud, to be the man I should be. 

Page 188 4 p.m. Count 


Isaac Searcy 

I've spent your first six years here in prison, away from 


But oh, how I've watched you grow, one picture at a time. 

When you were a babe, I never held you the way your 

mother is holding you here, 

her hand on your bottom, your head on her shoulder, 

looking at the camera, at me. 

In this picture you're older. I think you were three. 
You took a popsicle break from swimming. Your golden- 
blond hair is wet and stringy, 

your tongue dyed blue — blue like your eyes and your 
bathing suit. 

This one is my favorite. Grandma brought you to visit. 

You're five, not yet too old to sit on my lap like you are. 

We had a good time that day, playing, coloring, and telling 


Before you left I picked you up, hugged your body and 

kissed your face. 

Then I watched you leave. 

It hasn't been easy, being away from you. 

We haven't bonded the way father and daughter should 


We've bonded through pictures, and I know each and every 

one of them, 

perhaps, more than I know you. 

I only wish I could have held you, swam with you, left this 

place with you, and loved you, the way I've loved pictures, 

of you. 

4 p.m. Count Page 189 

Dear Dr. Jim, Joe, Juan, Josh, Hung, Mario, 
Lee, Jason, Brandon, Ryan, Justin, Isaac, 
Fermin, Dane, and Michael, et al. 

I was delighted with your letters. Thank you. You 
made my day and gave me the excuse to take a day off and 
think about your questions. I'll try to answer some of them, 
using my iron-clad-tentative logical formula of whim, 
caprice, and energy, lumping them into a squatch whenever 
I can. If I get overly professional, either ignore, indulge, or 
forgive me, por favor. 

Okay, my beginning remarks will be in reference 
to your comments or questions on the pig poems. First, 
however, I want to set the Porcine Canticles in time. I wrote 
those poems around 35 years ago. I was a young professor 
straight out of graduate school with a PhD in 1 7 th century 
British literature, having the beginning of a lifetime love 
affair with John Milton and Paradise Lost. I think those 
poems represent my alter ego: the person I was, the person 
I thought then I'd given up to become the person I thought I 
wanted to be. The voice, then, was a vestige of the past. 

Those poems are from the oral, bardic tradition: 
they are more designed to be heard than read. They have 
their roots in the most ancient of literary traditions, the 
narrative. The oldest extant poem we have — and it's one 
every one of us should read and re-read — is the Epic of 
Gilgamesh. It's around 8,000 years old, and it's narrative, 
i.e. story form. Narrative poetry, then, has been around over 
7,500 years longer than short stories or novels. I took two 
ancient poets as mentors: Aeschylus — the "Father of Greek 
Tragedy" — and Homer — the greatest oral poet who ever 
lived. Aeschylus invented, so we think, the "deuteroganist," 
or 2 nd actor. Prior to Aeschylus, drama was monologue: 
a single speaker (or reciter). Aeschylus gave us dialogue, 
i.e. literary participation. Homer gave us the oral epic, or 
tales of men and the gods written in the vernacular, i.e. 

Page 190 4 p.m. Count 

common speech. I followed the voice and narrative he 
developed in the Odyssey \ a tale of adventure, hyperbole 
(wild exaggeration) and grand lies and humor. The author 
of the Odyssey had spent a great deal of time on a pig farm 
(as I had in my boyhood) — pigs and swine are omnipresent 
in that tale. He knew his subject matter and what he was 
talking about. 

Item: for 35 years much attention has been given 
to the opening poem, "Loading a Boar." That poem is 
balanced by the following poem, "Behold," which is an 
allusion to Odysseus coming out of the sea with an oar over 
his shoulder, heading back to his farm, with its pigs. Here 
the "hero'Vprotagonist comes out of his shed into an ocean 
of heat waves with buckets of pig feed in his hands, going 
out to meet the day, singing, (canticles = songs) 

So, I chose an ancient, time honored format: the 
story-poem laced with character, action, hyperbole and 
humor, but instead of using Homer's dactylic hexameter 
or the iambic pentameter of tragedy (i.e. fixed, regular 
rhythms), I used the language and rhythm of my subject 
matter: the somewhat profane, open form vernacular, that I 
thought matched my agrarian setting. 

Many of you asked specifically about my lines 
and lack of punctuation. I wanted the poems to follow the 
rhythms of speech and physical work. Because I wanted 
dialogue rather than monologue, I sublimated my narrator 
to his friend/partner/alter-ego John. The poems take place 
as they work, play, and sometimes drink together. Item: 
during the writing of this book, I began a ten year process 
of quitting smoking and beginning long distance running. 
That process is reflected in the poem's lines. In the early 
poems, the lines are short — they're based on breath, and 
they reflect my lack of breath because I smoked heavily, 
(three packs a day, thanks to my hitch in the US Army). 
When I began running and cutting back, the lines grew 

4 p.m. Count Page 191 

longer — to the point that my editor had to make me re-line 
several of the poems or change the format of the book. So, 
what I'm trying to accomplish is the creation/re-creation of 
speech uttered in action. Listen to yourselves in dialogue 
while working or exercising: sentences don't break with 
commas, semi-colons or periods, they break with breath. 
That's what I wanted these lines to reflect. I also wanted 
the line breaks (and sometimes stanza breaks) to serve as 
punctuation. Key: my goal was the oral effect, or, creation 
of audience (i.e. reader) participation. By reading the 
poems aloud, they are brought to life. 

Okay, I've probably belabored the point, so I'll quit 
there — on that — for now, but will be happy to entertain 

Several of you asked about my seven year break 
from writing narrative work. At the risk of offending, I'll 
answer. Eight years ago it became obvious who the next 
U.S. President (and V.P.) would be. There are many of 
us — many, many, writers — who looked into the future 
with Samuel Tayor Coleridge's anticipation of "holy 
dread." I am an animist: I believe the earth is alive and 
holy. I do not believe the purpose of life is the making of 
money and accumulation of wealth. I rightly feared that 
the forthcoming administration would propagate the worst 
environmental (and economic) disaster in the history of 
our nation. I fell into depression and my stories — and my 
humor — left me. The muse who spoke to me insisted that I 
write poems and books expressing my sacred and spiritual 
views. That is what I attempted in So Quietly The Earth 
and my new manuscript Stone Wind Water. However, we're 
coming to the end of the nightmare. I look at these years 
the same way I read The Old Testament story of Joseph in 
Egypt: 7 years of plenty, 7 years of famine. I celebrate the 
end of famine by returning to joy: story, laughter, hope. 

Specific Questions: 

Page 192 4 p.m. Count 

John is/was a real man: John Sims from Yazoo City, 
Miss. All characters are based on reality — the human mind 
is incapable of imagining that which it has not directly or 
indirectly experienced. Most characters are amalgamations, 
i.e. patchwork quilts from people we've known, tossed 
together, stirred, and reworked. 

Advice for young writers: Never forget, reading is 
at least half the act of writing, and remember what Mark 
Twain said, "He who will not read good books has no 
advantage over he who reads no books." Then Write. Write 
as much as you can, as often as you can. Treat it like play: 
we'll kill ourselves for play, won't we? 
Here's my translation of a Chinese poem: 

Work Song 

The plan is the work 

The work is joy, play 

Wherein reside silence and song 

Side by side, lighting the way. 

Writing begets writing, and (the old cliche) practice makes 
perfect. I could go on on this topic for an hour. 

What did I mean by "I don't believe in a God who 
frowns?" Hung, some people need to believe in dragons 
and fearful gods. I don't like Confucius, I'm not at all 
concerned with judgment by divinity or afterlife — my 
concentration is on daily generous living: Buddha called it 
"joyful participation in a world of sorrow." My god loves 
joy and laughter. 

Yes, Brandon, I had an audience in mind when I 
wrote these poems (and strongly believe all writers should 
have an audience in mind when they write). I knew my 
audience would be small, as we are not a nation of poetry 
readers. I wanted to expand that audience by showing a few 
people that, yes, you, i.e. "they," too can read, understand, 

4 p.m. Count Page 193 

write, and maybe even like poetry. Poetry is my approach 
to the religion/way of life I've chosen. My goal was/is to 
leave the world I love a better place than it was when I 
came to it. If I can leave two readers or poets where before 
there was one, I have succeeded. 

Justin, we all try to write better as we go. We hope 
we learn and get better with each piece of writing we 
accomplish. But that can be a curse if we ask too much of 
ourselves. My advice is to set goals or standards that you 
are comfortable with. Don't try to write something "great." 
Instead, try to write something you like, that you can take 
pride in. Do that and you will progress naturally. The first 
8 (or 80 or 800) curve balls you tried to throw didn't move 
an inch. Then, one day, wow: it broke. By god, it broke. 
Writing works like that. Keep at it, you'll get better. Life as 
a whole goes a lot that way. 

Fermin, Copper Canyon Press got its name from 
the Bingham Copper mines outside Salt Lake City. Your 
Copper Canyon is far more beautiful. 

I'm out of paper and out of energy. But: would I 
come and read my poems for you? You betcha. I'd love to 
meet you guys. Take good care of yourselves. 

Your friend, 
David Lee 

Page 194 4 p.m. Count 

Unexpected Snow 

Ryan Nordstrom 

Its back is curved like a rattler poised to strike, but 
the baby squirrel isn't to be feared. It lies limp, dead, or 
maybe just playing opossum instead. In the jaws of the 
larger squirrel turned cannibal or dominant male that looks 
right and left to protect its catch as it tightly walks along 
the ledge. It can't be a taste for blood. The little fur ball 
must have been trying to escape — a sense of rebelliousness. 
Maybe the larger squirrel was a bad mother out scampering 
late that arrived home to find her little furry acorn miss- 
ing. She must have searched in vain to find him not too far 
away, stuck in a snow-covered lilac bush chattering out her 
name. She must have found him, taken him in her jaws, 
and scampered up the drain pipe towards the four-inch gap 
called home. 

Later that day, I found out I was wrong — a bad 
mother she's not. She labored all day; moving her four 
precious children one by one back to their birthing place. 
She jumped the gun — how could she have known? That on 
April 25th, two hours of sleet, five inches of unexpected 
snow with thirty-degree weather would have frozen them 
cold. She labored all day, not stopping to eat, clenching her 
dependents between her teeth, carrying them back to the 
front porch eave. A good mother — she was dedicated like 
no other. 

4 p.m. Count Page 195 

"This is it 55 

Joe Cavallaro III 

For so long, the days have 
progressed into years. 

A collection of weeks and months 
that have given and taken so. 

As the minutes tick away today, 
I'm anxious. 

Joys and fears intertwined so tightly; 
I can barely unravel. 

Many long term friendships will bridge today, 
and knowing some will matter not. 

Detaching myself from the reality I know 
and blissfully re-entering the society I was 
torn from so long ago. 

Obstacles to hurdle, 

time to make up, 

and changes to enforce. 

I got this! 

Today, after so long, I'm going back home. . . 


Page 196 4 p.m. Count 

^ rf 

Vlonys To \j| 
lievrjnTheOenuty of Their Drvams 

.J»^' ■■■■ 


Back Row: Lee Dagostini, Michael Jackson, 
Fermin Venzor, Juan Zuniga, Jason Davis, Justin Bollig, 
Mario Covington, Justin Brooks, Josh Harvey, 
Brandon Buster, Ryan Nordstrom 

Left Front: Hung Dao, Joe Cavallaro III, Josh Hurst 

Front Center: Isaac Searcy, Michael Clennon, 
Dane Yirkovsky 

Right Front: Scott Kirk, Todd Bowlin 

4 p.m. Count 

Page 197 

Justin Bollig is 30 years old and comes from a small town 
in western Kansas called Hays. He grew up in the Middle 
East, where Justin lived in such countries as Pakistan, 
Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Bahrain, and Kuwait. Justin has 
attended Fort Hays State University and Johnson County 
Community College. Justin plans on returning to school 
upon his release and being the best possible father that he 
can be to his 4-year-old son Dylan. 

Todd Bowlin was born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas. 
He is the father of two boys, Kavin and Cameron. Currently 
he is pursuing an Associate Degree in Business at Mount 
Marty College, in Yankton, South Dakota. 

Justin Brooks, Federal Inmate 18195-047, is not just 
another number. He has acquired an Associate of Science 
Degree in Horticulture from Mount Marty College in 
Yankton, South Dakota, and loves telling the stories of his 
adventuresome childhood. Justin is currently working on a 
few new stories that carry the same light-hearted tone. 

Brandon W. Buster was born and raised in Muscatine, 
Iowa, a small quaint town nestled on the Mississippi 
River. He graduated from the University of Iowa with B.S. 
degrees in Mathematics and Economics. Brandon returned 
to Muscatine after graduation and started an Insurance and 
Financial Services business. 

Joe Cavallaro III is serving an eighty-seven month sentence 
for Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine, and 
currently resides at the Federal Prison Camp in Yankton, 
South Dakota. Prior to his incarceration, he was active 
in the workforce as a member of the United Steelworkers 
of America. His foundry career continued for over 
seventeen years as a crane operator and truck driver. After 
entering the Bureau of Prisons, he enrolled in Mount 
Marty College to pursue an Associate of Arts in Business 
Degree. As a late bloomer in parenting, at the age of 37 

Page 198 4 p.m. Count 

the miracle of having children and obtaining strong family 
values has awakened his outlook towards the future. He 
states, "I'm convinced that my mistakes have created 
the avenues needed to improve my life." In addition to a 
successful future, he has plans of assembling a memoir for 

Michael 'Mac' Clennon is a 27-year-old representing 
Rochester, MN. He has an Associate of Science Degree 
in Horticulture from Mount Marty College. Upon release 
he plans to pursue his Bachelor's Degree while enjoying, 
appreciating, and loving life. Mac's writings are inspired 
by his environment, family, friends, nature, and life 
experiences. His greatest influences include: classic 
literature, film, and music, as well as his college instructors 
and peers. 

Mario G. Covington attends Mount Marty College where 
he's pursuing an Associate of Arts in Business. He's also 
pursuing a career in writing novels and poetry. He resides 
in Chicago, Illinois, with his six children. 

Hung Dao was born and raised in Stockton, California; 
he dropped out of high school at the age of seventeen and 
moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. He worked at Kawasaki 
Motors Manufacturing plant at night as a powder coating 
technician, and later worked at his auto/body mechanic 
shop during the day. Since his incarceration at FPC 
Yankton, he received his G.E.D. but his intuition keeps 
telling him that it was just the commencement of his 
essential education. Thanks to Mount Marty College he 
received Associate Degrees in Business and Accounting. 

Lee Dagostini loves Las Vegas. 

Jason E. Davis was born and raised in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. 
He has one daughter, Rylie K Davis. He is currently 
pursuing an Associate Degree in Business from Mount 

4 p.m. Count Page 199 

Marty College in Yankton, South Dakota. 

Joshua Harvey has an Associates of Arts in Business 
Administration from Mount Marty College, thanks to the 
support of his Grandmother Mary Tippit. 

Josh Hurst was born in Sacramento, California, but at the 
age of three he was moved into the rural Ozark Mountains 
of southwest Missouri. Josh is a proud father of three. He 
is an outdoor enthusiast and loves to spend as much of his 
spare time as possible in the great outdoors. Josh is currently 
enrolled in Mount Marty College where he is pursuing an 
Associate Degree in Business. 

Michael Jackson was born and raised in Los Angeles, 
California. His family is currently living in North Platte, 
Nebraska. He enjoys reading motivational and spiritual 
books in his spare time when he's not working in a 
warehouse or oil refinery as a boilermaker. 

Scott R. Kirk is 37 years old and was raised in Dubuque, 
Iowa. He is a father of three boys: 6, 10 and 21 years 
old. Scott received his Associate Degree in Business 
Administration from Mount Marty College in 2007, as 
well as a certificate in accounting, office management, 
and parenting. Scott hopes to earn his Bachelor's Degree 
in Social and Behavioral Science with the intention of 
pursuing a career working with juveniles in detention 
or group home settings; he hopes his lengthy past with 
the law will enable him to relate to and help kids that are 
straying down the wrong path in life. 

Ryan Nordstrom was born and raised in Fargo, North 
Dakota. He has received an Associate of Science in 
Horticulture Degree from Mount Marty College in Yankton, 
South Dakota. He enjoys writing and has started work on 
his memoir to be titled "The Mask of Death: A Story of an 

Page 200 4 p.m. Count 

Isaac Searcy was raised on a dairy farm outside of 
Callender, Iowa. He graduated from Mount Marty College, 
Yankton, S.D. with an Associate of Arts Degree in Business 
Administration and an Associate of Science Degree in 
Horticulture. Isaac often writes of his rural upbringing and 
personal experiences with the great outdoors. 

As a child Fermin Venzor lived south of the Rio Grande 
with his grandparents in La Paz, a small town in the heart 
of the Sierra Madre located in Chihuahua, Mexico. He 
later went to live with his mother in Juarez, across the 
border from El Paso, Texas. At the age of six he returned 
to the United States with his mother. He lives with his 
wife and three boys in Peyton, Colorado where he breeds 
thoroughbred and quarter horses for racing. He embraces 
the western heritage and vaquero way of life. He hopes 
to one day breed the fastest horses on earth and win both 
Triple Crowns (thoroughbred as well as quarter horse). This 
is his first published piece. 

Dane Yirkovsky was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, 
Iowa; he worked in the construction field as a drywall 
finisher after attending trade school. A change in career led 
him to working in Yellowstone National Park and various 
ski resorts as he traveled around the country. This way of 
life — being adventurous, fighting many battles and rescuing 
beauties — is what made him come alive. In the past seven 
years he's extended his journey using his talents in teaching 
Pencil Portrait Drawing classes. 

Juan A. Zuniga was born in the state of Texas and lived in a 
border town while growing up. He is pleased to say that he 
has been raised with two cultural backgrounds, American 
and Mexican, which he is very proud of. He is in love with 
art in general, especially drawing. He is thirty-eight years 
old and loves tattoos. 

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