The Marine and the Convict
Sometimes just a whack in the head is all that's needed to straighten you out.
In the news, we see that the Sheriff of Bristol County, Massachusetts has offered - perhaps with tongue slightly in cheek - to have his inmates work on Trump's wall. If you're doing "county time" in Massachusetts, you're likely just a two-bit hood with a light sentence for a petty crime, so the proposal is probably prohibitive on logistical grounds alone. Too bad, because Massachusetts has (or at least had when I grew up) an excellent agricultural work program for inmates, both at the county farms and for more serious felons at state. My father, A WWII Marine with a degree in agriculture, was for a time an adviser at a state pen.

One day he was supervising a group of hard-cases sent out to hoe rows of corn. Time came for everyone to get back on the flatbed and head in. One inmate, we'll call him Joe, didn't heed Mr. B's call and kept hoeing, saying he was "gonna finish his goddamn row."

"Now listen, you little ****. Get your ******* *** back on that truck," the old Marine whispered in his ear, turning and heading back towards the truck; fully expecting to be followed.

"Lookout Mr. B!!!!" more than one voice yelled from the truck. Dad turned, just in time to see an uplifted hoe headed for his noggin.

Marines are trained to fight with empty rifles if that's what it takes, and they train for this with the infamous pugil sticks. So as that hoe came down he grabbed it at points of leverage, jammed one end into the prisoner's gut, and brought the other end across his head, laying him out cold.

"What happened to Joe, here?" Dad asked the other prisoners.

"Must've fainted and hit his head on a rock...." one suggested.

"Sounds about right to me...." another offered.

They weren't concocting this story for my father's sake, but for Joe's. A record of such an assault on a supervisor would have destroyed what was left of his life. Joe, ever grateful for my father not turning him in, became a model prisoner and my father's best worker. He got out on parole, and though he didn't follow up with him, Dad always liked to think that as a free man, Joe could finish his row now - anytime he sees fit.
Posted January 5 2017 by David Churchill Barrow
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David Churchill Barrow is an attorney and historian who was raised as a Massachusetts "Swamp Yankee," but now resides with his wife MaryLu near Tampa, Florida.