Thursday, September 30, 2010

Consequences: Time in Jail with Grampa

One summer morning, I remember that my dad (Grampa Milo) took me down to the Albany County Jail in Laramie on Grand Avenue when I was about 9 and could understand. 

It started as an interesting field trip--and ended in a life lesson I have never forgotten.

We toured the jail (located on the top floor of the county building with big windows allowing folks from the street to see who was in the cells) and ended up outside solitary confinement. 

I remember to this day the silver painted crude 3/8ths inch steel door with a three inch hole and a sliding cover.  Gently, Dad invited me to step inside.  It was clean but completely black.  With the permission of the Sheriff, he slowly closed the door and threw the bolt lock--and through the hole in the door he quietly said, "I want you to know that if you ever get picked up and taken to jail, I will visit you.  I will pray with you, but I won't bail you out."

I wasn't in trouble. I wasn't upset and I don't remember being scared.  It was a mind sticking adventure. In the following fifty plus years, that unique experience was unforgettable  I found out later that a railroad friend of his had bailed his son out of jail again and again for petty theft, then little burglaries then bigger and bigger crimes.  This visit to the jail for me was Dad's pretty effective effort to put a stop to any temptation to steal in my young life. So far, it's worked.

I've taken both my sons into a cell and sat with them when a little car suddenly went missing from a store shelf and showed up in a little pocket when we got home.  It's been a "scared straight" lesson we've gently administered across the generations.   A little kindly, tough love.

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