Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Dateline Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017
            Over 30 prisons in the South Florida area were evacuated over the past weekend, Sept. 7 – 11, 2017, in anticipation of Hurricane Irma’s landfall. The prison system is very skilled at moving crowds of people, and Florida Highway Patrol troopers escorted dozens of prison transport buses to safer prisons in North Florida. Here at Columbia Annex C.I., already filled to capacity with about 1600 men, we hunkered down, waiting out the high winds and rain. At least a couple hundred evacuees were housed at the main unit next door.
            Without law library access (every activity cancelled). and not wanting to squander the time opportunity, I  began work on a colored pencil drawing of my second-favorite flower, a giant sunflower.
            When I was a child in East Texas in the 1950’s, my grandmother, Memaw Walker, planted a vegetable garden every year. Along the fence she always planted a windbreak of sunflowers, and the huge yellow blooms fascinated me. In prison, over the past 39-plus years, I’ve had opportunities to plant my own flower and vegetable gardens at various prisons I found myself in. Sunflowers were almost always there, along with my favorite flowers, roses.
            At Tomoka C. I. in Daytona Beach, I grew my biggest sunflower, over twelve feet tall, with an 18-inch giant bloom. The prison administration heard about it, and made several treks to the compound to marvel at the mammoth flower, along with the four-foot long Chinese radish. When officials from Tallahassee visited, the warden would walk them down to show off the plantings, claiming bragging rights.
            Memaw would have been proud.
            On a family note, my wife, Libby, weathered the storm with limited inconvenience in Jacksonville. We spoke on the phone several times until Monday afternoon, Sept. 11th, when the phone lines belatedly failed. Before we were cut off, she did relay the news that our family in Tampa came out okay, although electricity is still off in spots [power was restored by Sept. 13]. My mother, Lucille Norman, lost her 100-year old hickory tree in her front yard, the old tree finally succumbing to Irma’s high winds. My Aunt Alice Walker and the rest of the Norman family were blessedly spared the worst of the storm’s fury. Prayers were answered.


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