Posted by parhad on July 01, 2001 at 11:38:50:
Sometimes you can't stop yourself. You know somewhere in your head that you should, but the fierce determination that got you going in the first place wont let you
quit. You continue past the point where anything positive could be gained just because you don't want to be a "quiter", or you can't admit defeat...or you crave more
We returned to Seattle... butter never tasted so good. We hadn't had vegetables or fruit or eggs or butter in six weeks. It was good to see how we all ran to the
produce section the first time we could. The checker at the market asked if we were raising rabbits. The Group Home we lived at, the neighborhood, the city, the
people were so depressing after the smell of pine, the woodsmoke, the stars at night instead of city lights, absolute silence where now all semed so crass and noisy.
But this was city life and before I knew it the boys were out getting high and I was at the emergency ward holding a pan while some kid threw up his guts cause he'd
taken something he thought was something else. These guys were so desperate they'd take bella donna (rat poison) cause it did make you "high" in some sense of the
word. Cigarettes, dope, meth...all of them are a form of food poisoning is all.
Someone just "had" to steal car and they all just had to whiz around town before getting caught, and I was back in court explaining to a judge why the kid wouldn't
benefit at all from being tossed in prison for a year, only to come back out worse than he went in. The judges and the entire system knew perfectly well they had
nothing to offer these kids. Back then they were just willing to release them onto the rest of the community more often than they are now. But they still get out at
some point. They still come back at us more pissed off, more sophisticated in crime, less interested in their own welfare as they've never seen anybody else take an
interest in it.
Either shoot the damn kid the first time or do something completely different. It makes no sense to take a kid already desperate enough to attack you...lock him up
and have him abused for another year...let him out only to have him attack you the harder and so on. It's as if the judges and all the good people hate themselves,
their own families and communities by sending kids away to become professional criminals with a real grudge and then releasing them again to practice and take it
out on them.
Two of the boys turned 18 that summer. One of them got a job with the city repairing upholstery on city busses.(he later married and I think started his own
upholstery business. He was the one "success" but he never should have been sent to prison in the first place). The other boy was in and out of trouble and entered
the adult system...just as he'd joked about on the island. Another one took off on his own...ran to another state with a friend and was killed in a car crash.
I had no illusions about a six week camp changing much for these kids in any permanent way. The accumulated horrors and neglect they'd suffered wasn't going to
be changed so easily. This wasn't a film. Besides the State didn't give me any easy cases. I decided that if I continued doing this kind of work, it would have to be
back at an island. I couldn't fight off or ward off an entire culture as well. Getting a kid to take some responsibilty was hard enough...the State didn't help any by
requiring that the water tempertaure at my home be a certain temperature or my meals be adequately nourishing. Those were not the kind of "benefits" or protections
these kids needed. What they needed was someone willing to go into their own private hell and help them fight back out. It would have to be another island.
I went to the State Juvenile Prison and selected three kids, one of whom had been on the first island but had been arrested and sent to prison for something or other
the first week we returned. There wasn't time to get any more as I was in a hurry to get back. Bob would bring three more later. We landed back on the island in
December..,.I'd neglected to preparre for the coming of winter and it does get cold out there. There was snow on the ground when the boat dropped us off. Luckily
we found a deserted cabin and cleaned it out for a base camp. It rained and snowed so that finding firewood and cooking were that much harder. Gone was the
pleasant summer camp...this was work.
After a week the three boys ran off. They took some food and disappeared. I set off after them but after a couple of days radioed to be picked up...had a radio this
time. Back in the city I learned the boys had broken into an abandoned cabin, taken a hunting rifle and had killed some cattle on the island. Apparently there were
some summer fishing cabins along the shore we'd never known about and they were raiding them all. The two kids who were new had seemed pretty desperate
characters whom I hadn't had the chance to get to know. I felt responsible for getting them out and then losing them in a place where they were now armed and
might harm someone.(two of them eventually wound up in Arizona where they shot a man in cold blood after robbing him...the man lived and they were sent to
prison for 15 years).
Bob told me the Sherrif's Department in that region was getting ready to send a SWAT team to the island. You have to understand that most cops live to shoot
someone. All that training, all the hours on a firing range, all the movies they saw, all that dedication isn't supposed to be wasted on writing tickets. I went up there
myself and convinced them to let me go back and make a thorough search by myself. They agreed to give me 48 hours and tried to press an assortment of weapons
on me which I refused. As likely as not I would have shot myself or prompted them to have a shoot out with me. No thanks.
Three cops,, bristling with weapons you just KNEW they were itching to use, took me back to the island on some super speedboat they'd just bought for chasing
dope smugglers. The thing flew. I was dropped off back at our original landing spot and spent two days nervously climbing all over that island, in a constant rain. I
always wondered how you sleep soaking wet through and through, I mean squishing every time you turned in your soaking wet sleeping bag. You didn't. And luging
around a wet sleeping bag was interesting work. On the last day I was on the beach and met some fishermen with rifles who were also out looking for the boys. We
looked out at the choppy waves and they said if the boys had gone out there in the boat they'd found was missing, they were crab bait by now.
I radioed the cops and they picked me up some hours later. Back in Seattle I learned one of the boys had raped a girl and was loose still. She knew him but it was
simple and brutal rape. I felt about as shitty as a person could. All my ideas and efforts over three years were going up in smoke. I'd always said the prison system
was worse than useless...yet I was responsible for a string of crimes all by myself. That's too simplistic but I felt that way.
There is some justice in this world, and a whole lot of irony because I saw the very kid who'd committed the rape a few days later walking some blocks from our
home. I cornered him against a fence...said I'd pound him myself then and there if he fought...hoisted him onto my back like a sack of potatoes and walked him the
two blocks to the juvenile court building. They all knew me there from my days with the Public Defender's Office. It must have been sweet revenge to find me
bringing in a kid myself...as if admiting defeat.
I had a major argument with the lead attorney in the Defender's office when he was assigned to this kid and wound up doing the usual..."it must have been the girls
fault" defense. By now I was a raving conservative...justice be damned, legal gurantees to hell...I KNEW that kid...I KNEW he was scum...I KNEW he needed to
be locked up....OR...sent back to another island! I just wasn't ready, didn't have the resources, to be sure I could get him far enough away so he wouldn't get out
again. He was convicted and sent back up to the prison. I dearly would have loved to have gotten him out on a deserted island, but it was not to be.
Now I decided I'd picked the wrong island...apparently there were cabins and boats around. It turned out that the three kids had hitched a ride off the island with
some fishermen who'd put in to avoid a storm. They called the police when they reached shore but the boys were long gone by then. I found an attorney who
represented an old couple who'd inherited an island. There are several in the Straits of San Juan Da Fuca. They believed there was a fresh water stream on it and
nothing else. I got their permission to use it and went back with six new kids. That was my biggest mistake. I had no time to form a relationship with these kids, as I'd
had with the first ones. We were all strangers and going to a deserted island with a strange bearded man to be stranded for an indefinite time seemed more like the
beginning of a bad slasher movie than anything else.
We arrived at the starting off point too late to take a boat that day. By now it was January and the seas get rough and treacherous out there. Angel island was even
further off the coast, really out at sea. We stayed at a motel and like a dummy I allowed three of the boys to "go out". They never returned. In the morning me and
three black kids sixteen and seventeen were taken by a charter boat to Angel Island in a driving rain. There was only one sandy beach area where it was safe to
approach, so while the cruiser trawled back and forth we were put into a Boston Whaler (has a flat shallow front for runing onto beaches with) and dropped off
along with our soaking gear.
The first night we huddled together under a tarp...no fire, some canned food cold. Rain stopped the next morning and I went back into the woods to set up my own
camp. The three kids milled around together, whispering this and that. I ignored them, told them it got dark early and they'd better make some provision for the night.
They began bantering with me for being so stupid as to strand myself with them...that the three of them were going to jump me, take the radio and get off the island
and get gone.
Sometimes you don't know what you're going to do till you get there. One of the things I used to do at the Group Home was throw an axe. They used to have lots of
fairs around Seattle, after all there was a large lumber industry up there, and old fashioned axe tricks were usually turned into contests at the fairs. I'd watched some
old salts toss axes at poles and things and it was neat how they could hit a target at fifty feet or more. I'd set up a pole in the back yard and used to toss a three
quarter axe till I got good at it.
The boys were standing next to a huge Cypress tree taunting me. I had my axe in hand and decided to ptactice with it. There was another tree 90 degrres away from
them and I threw the axe repeatedly at it. I was measuring the distance, how many spins the axe would make before sinking into the trunk. I figured I could say I
took them at their word..they came for me and I protected myself...if something went wrong that is. My word against theirs still worked.
After each toss I'd walk up retrieve the axe, pace back, turn and throw again. The last time I wheeled towards them and let it fly...thank goodness I hit the tree
between two of them...close enough to end the discussion. They said nothing...one of them muttered..."crazy motherfucker!" But they stopped their "jive" talk and
got to work.
I made a nice bed out of pine branches, set up my tube tent, placed a lantern on the pole and got into my bag to read David Copperfield. An hour later I heard one
of them come crashing through the dense trees calling my name over and over. He didn't have a flashlight and I could hear him coming, guided by my own light,
crashing into trees and branches as he ran. "Fraid"..OW! shit...I say FRAID...ow, god damn...Fraid!! shit, jesus man...!!!
He said they'd been smoking some weed standing out on a small cliff when one of them had tumbled over. They couldn't see where he was just heard him moaning.
We ran back to the spot where the other boy was peering over the edge into nothing. It was pitch black. I shone my light and there was Michael, laying on his back,
one leg twisted under him kind of strange. He didn't move, just moaned. It was about a twenty foot drop down a smooth cliff wall. You could just slide about half
way before you'd have to let go and jump. Luckily he'd fallen onto a tiny bit of sand...a little to either side and he would have landed on rocks...big ones.
I slid down to where he was, nearly landing on top of him. I cut open his jeans but his leg didn't seem cut or broken. With him yelling his head off I straightened his
leg and it seemed okay. I shouted up for the other two to drop down a branch I could use to make a splint. A minute later a pine tree came thundering down over
us. I cursed them for being so stoned AND stupid, broke off a branch and tied it to his leg.
By now a howling gale had swept over us. The weather out there is very changeable...I heard people talk abut how it would go from glassy calm to towering waves
in minutes. The wind was blowing so hard Michael and I had to yell at each other. I was about to climb back up when I realized there was no way to do it. The rock
wall was smooth and then I noticed seaweed along the wall. I got a sick feeling in my stomach that the tide, which was coming in fast, covered the beach where we
were pretty far up the wall. There was no way I could drag him up the wall, and I couldn't carry him over the rocks around either...too slippery and he was still
yelling from the pain. I couldn't make the other two hear me very well, and they had no idea of what to get from where, they just stared us, eyes big as saucers, over
the edge of the cliff. I could have made it around the rocks, but I wasn't going to leave Michael there.
The tide was moving up rapidly, driven by the winds I suppose. I had to drag Michael away from it and the next time I moved him my own back was against the cliff
and the tide was at his heels. I finally made them understand I needed my radio, which was back at my tent. I threw the flashlight up and they disappeared. They had
their own lights but had no idea where they were. It began to rain now and we just huddled on the sand. I had Michael's head in my lap and leaned over him to block
the rain. I think he was crying. A while later and they were back, dropping the radio on us. The tide was beginning to crowd us a little when I radioed for help. I had
call letters and all that, like they have in the movies but I was beyond that. Crisp and clear I sent my own Mayday out there..."Get Me The Fuck OFF This Island!
Captain Buzz, are you there? Get Me OFF this FUCKING Island!!! NOW!!"
After a few minutes like this a small surprised call came out asking who I was and was I in trouble? " You COULD say that I yelled back". The wind and rain made
it hard to hear anything. This guy had been sitting by his radio in some far away place. I got him to call Anacortes and look for a Charter Service...I gave the name.
A half hour later I heard the calm voice of Buzz over the radio...I told him what was going on...said we were either going to drown in an hour or so or get smashed
against the rocks and THEN drown.
He said he'd be right out. I didn't find out till later what a risk he took. It must have been two in the morning by then. There are countless water logged and partly
submerged trees floating around out there. They get away from the barges herding down to the lumber mills. These logs can float for years, just wet enough to sink a
foot or two beneath the surface. During the day the captain always steers from the wheelhouse atop so they can keep an eye out for these sunken logs. If you hit one
at any good speed, it can sheer off the entire bottom of the hull and you sink before knowing what hit you. At night you just don't venture out, especially in a storm
like that one cause the water is so wild it presents its own problems on top of which you can't see the logs even with strong searchlights.
He rushed out to us anyway with a man to help out.
By the time I saw the powerful searchlights scanning back and forth, Michael and were laying sideways against the cliff with no more room to spare. Each wave
crashed on the outer rocks and dribbled and surged towards us. The sound was getting really unnerving too. Michael's eyes were wide with terror...I don't think he
blinked once in three hours.
There was a cove by where the sandy beach where we'd landed was. It was about 100 yards away from where we were now. Buzz trawled back and forth keeping
the motor going otherwise he'd have been smashed against the rocks himself. The Boston Whaler came to the beach and his partner came struggling around the bend
over the rocks and seaweed carrying a stretcher. We eased Michael into it and carried him oh so carefully over the rocks, over the seaweed, drenched in spray and
sometimes having no choice but to step into the water. It took a while but we made it to the beach and found the other two waiting for us.
They rushed for the boat but had to get out while we positioned Michael in the front so his head and shoulders extended out over the bow like some old decoration
on a sailing ship. The assistant wanted to do it all in one run, said he didn't want to risk a second try so there was barely enough room for us all, especially as you
don't take such a shallow boat out into waters like these. We shoved off the beach, turned and climbed over waves I hope I may never see again and out to where
Buzz was trawling. We tied onto the back of his boat and the other kids scrambled aboard. Getting Michael out and up and over the side of the bigger boat was a
job in itself. There was a ledge at the back of the big boat you could stand on...you could if it wasn't a howling storm you were in. He'd had to cut his engines way
back and the waves were lifting him, and our little boat, out of sync to each other. The ledge was sometimes above water sometimes a couple of feet under...and all
was swirling and pounding and howling till you thought you'd seen your last night. The helper and I each grrabbed one end of the stretcher, put one foot on that
heaving leadge of the big boat, kept the other in the Whaler and lifted Micheal up. He screamed in my face.."I CAN'T SWIM!" I yelled back.."WHAT GOOD
WOULD IT DO IF YOU COULD!"
"Don't drop me man...of PLEASE don't drop me". He said it like a prayer over and over. The moment of truth came for all of us when we had to swing him out over
the abyss of churning water and propeller blades...you could see them every once in a while when a wave lifted the back end high out of the water. My legs were
like crazy pistons, each one going its own way, and then together sometimes as each surface I was standing on bucked and heaved to its own mad tune. We got him
there and the other two hauled him the rest of the way.
They had coffe on the greasy stove, everything smelled like deisel oil. I got some and went topside to thank Buzz. He was a born again though he was embarrased to
mention it. It was then he said "Thank the lord, not me", as he told me how dangerous the crossing had been and was yet to be. I decided to thank god for the storm,
and Buzz for getting us out of it.
We could go slower on the return and there was an abulance waiting for us when we got back. Michael had severely strained something or other and was on
crutches for a couple of weeks. The other two were arrested for something or other. One of them was a big hulking baby of a kid from Alabama who'd gotten drunk
one night and wound up in Seattle where he'd been tossed into jail, then graduated to prison for beating up one of the guards. I couldn't fault him for that and
eventually got him out again. I gave him a couple of hundred dollars and put him on a bus back to Alabam and his mother, who he missed very much. He was a good
kid at heart...I hope. Then I told the authorities he ran away.
You kind of had to do that with some kids. I met an Indian girl through one of the boys, who worked the streets. Her pimp was notorious, having thrown one his
girls off a bridge. She'd survived but had never brought charges against him. Let's say she was Mary. She was represented by one of our attorneys and bless this
good hearted white man...he was willing to meet with her pimp and warn him not to do anything like that to Mary. Another one of my boys, a black also, knew the
pimp and begged me to stop her lawyer from taliking to the guy... said the pimp was a madman and knew lots of ways to get at people. You have to remember that
drug money was fueling a lot of this stuff and killing people was just business. Mary knew enough to hurt this guy and it wouldn't have bothered him at all to dump
her somewhere. My kid said his brother knew the pimp and he would get him to tone things down.
Mary was on probation and had a worker keeping his eye on her. She wanted to go back to the reservation, to her drunken parents where she could disappear, said
she used to work at the school there and wanted to again. She was a sweet kid who'd run away to the big city and like many of them found a "friend" who turned her
into a whore and now wouldn't let her go. He'd already beaten her a couple of times, once since I knew her.
She didn't know what to do. She was afraid of being locked up..she was afraid of leaving the pimp...she never saw any money and besides she stayed so high most
of the time she couldn't think straight. I learned from another kid that she was about to be committed because she'd run away from the group home they'd put her in.
Back on the streets her pimp would find her again and she'd be stuck all over again, again.
The boy brought her to my place and I kept her a week while she sobered up. She was fine there but I couldn't keep her. The State had offered to give me a co-ed
license but I knew better than that. It wouldn't have been long before I'd have been accused by someone of something. I had a lot of detractors in high places who
would have liked nothing more than that kind of scandal.
Mary's only hope seemed to lie in escape. We bought her a bus ticket, gave her some cash and sent her back to the reservation. I'd like to think she did something
else with her life. It should come as no surprise to anyone that most girls in prison become the same sex objects they are anywhere else.