Sunday, May 23, 2021


 April 29, 2021

 The first nine years of my life, during the 1950's, we lived in rural East Texas, near Redwater, a bump in the road on Highway 67 fifteen miles west of Texarkana. Cow pastures, creeks, and thick forests filled with wildlife defined the geography. We had electricity and butane gas, but no running water.

In my earliest memory of my mother, I was standing on the back porch steps watching her draw water from the well, filling a bucket, and carrying it back to our house, her body tilted sideways from the weight. She would fill a dipper with the cool fresh water, hold it up to me to drink, then take her drink, sighing with pleasure. Even in the blistering summer heat, Perrier couldn't compare to the Texas spring water from our well.

No running water meant no indoor plumbing, no showers, and learning how to use the outhouse, a tiny wooden shack positioned over a pit to catch bodily waste. A chamber pot next to the bed would be emptied and cleaned early each morning. My grandparents and their youngest four children lived nearby. My uncle Junior had not yet joined the U. S. Army. Patsy Ann and Alice were teens. Cherry was the youngest, and so close to my age, she and I were like Siamese twins.

Cherry was Memaw's youngest daughter, my aunt, fourteen months younger than I was. We grew up like big brother and baby sister rather than nephew and aunt. Memaw told me years later when she and Cherry came home from the hospital, I was fascinated by the baby, reaching out to touch her cheek. Memaw told me to say ''baby,'' but I couldn't pronounce it, saying ''bieby,'' instead. That's what I called Cherry growing up, ''Bieby,'' except when friends came over, then it was Cherry.

Every Saturday night, Memaw would heat pans of water, filling a galvanized metal wash tub on the back porch for the family baths, drawing more water from the well, heating it on the stove, then adding it to the cooling water in the washtub.

Looking back, the Saturday night baths must have begun in order from oldest to youngest, since my grandfather, Bebaw, the dirtiest, was always first, and Cherry and I were always last. By the time Memaw lifted us up and put us in the tub, the water was cool and milky white from the homemade lye soap. I loved the feel of that last pan of hot water pouring into the wash tub, heating the cool bath water.

Memaw would take her bath after everyone else. My lone surviving aunt, Alice Walker, recalled those Saturday night baths. When she became a teenager, she would draw and heat water for her own tub bath.

Saturday mornings Bebaw drove us to Texarkana for grocery shopping at the Piggly Wiggly, then exploring the ''dime stores,'' S. H. Kress, Newberry's, and other places, until Memaw gathered us up when it was time to go home. When Bebaw let them go with us, Alice and Pat would often take off to the Paramount movie theater, pay a dime each, and spend two hours or more in the air conditioning. She vividly remembers the excitement of ''The Greatest Show on Earth.''

Saturday afternoons my mother and Memaw gathered both families' dirty laundry to go to the wash house in Wake Village, another bump in the road in Bowie County. Mr. and Mrs. Roller owned the wash house. The Rollers spoke with an accent, Europeans, German or Dutch, I later presumed. They were cheerful, friendly people, strong, who would help my mother and Memaw with the wash. Not a ''laundromat,'' the wash house had old-fashioned upright tubs with attached pairs of rollers cranked by hand, to squeeze out the water.

Back home the damp laundry would be hung on outdoor clothes lines with wooden pins. Cherry and I loved running and chasing each other through the lanes formed from bedsheets and clothing. Nothing smelled cleaner than sheets dried in the sunny breezes.

Life moved on. 1958 was the worst year of my short life. The job market in East Texas dried up after the government military arms factories fell victim to a respite of peace. Daddy's older brother, Rufus Norman, Grandma Norman, and other kin were making new lives in Florida, in the Tampa area and in Dade City, where Mama and Daddy had met years before. We moved. I left all those important to me behind, sadly waving goodbye from the front porch, Bebaw crying like a baby.

Daddy got the only job he could find, a laborer at Booker and Company, wholesale hardware and building materials. Business was booming, and they were paying a dollar an hour, work all the hours you want unloading boxcars, no overtime. Daddy worked eighty hours in six days, off Sunday. Recover.

Mama always cooked and served breakfast by 5:30 in the morning, so Daddy could be at work by six. Fifteen miles to Booker. Daddy worked hard physical labor, and Mama's breakfasts fueled him and the family. Daddy grew up as a Georgia farm boy, and Mama's cooking reflected that, what he liked to eat. Two fried eggs, over easy, grits and butter, biscuits, syrup--''Grandma's Molasses,'' please, and slices of fried bacon. Sausage patties instead of bacon some mornings, or slices of fried ham. Sometimes she'd fix a bowl of ''thickening'' milk gravy for the hot biscuits. Hot coffee from a percolator. When Daddy sped off in the darkness to work, his belly was full.

For forty-five dollars a month, we rented a small two-bedroom white house on a hill next to an orange grove on Fowler Avenue near Highway 301 in Thonotosassa. We had running water, a bathroom, and a bathtub. We were moving up in the world. No washing machine, though. Mr. Wetherington, the owner, gave Daddy directions to the nearest ''wash house,'' as we continued to call it, a laundromat on Nebraska Avenue in Tampa, eight or ten miles away.

Sunday morning. The sound and smell of bacon frying woke me from a deep sleep. My brothers Dan and Tom were fast asleep. I sat at the table. Daddy was already eating. Mama put a full plate in front of me, scrambled eggs rather than fried. I hadn't progressed to fried eggs yet.

''You gotta work, Daddy?'' I asked.

We'd hardly seen him the past week, coming and going, breakfast and supper, go to bed early, leave early.

''Nah,'' he said. ''I'm going to the wash house. Wanna go?''


To go anywhere with my father was a treat.

Some of my fondest, earliest memories of my father in Texas were waiting out by the highway for Daddy to come home from work at Lone Star Ordnance Plant. I loved watching the red sun settle in the West. That meant that Daddy would be home soon. He'd park in the front yard, I'd run to his car door, he'd pick me up and carry me to the porch, where Mama would be waiting. I must have been around three years old. Mama was not yet pregnant with my brother, Dan.

Supper would be waiting.

Daddy always came home with a pocketful of quarters he'd won playing checkers against his coworkers during lunch at Lone Star. The Normans were mean checker players, and being the youngest son, he'd been tutored from his birth in the skills of checkers competition by his older brothers, sisters, and father.

After his father, Robert Franklin Norman, died of an aneurism at age fifty, it was hard times for Daddy's family. They had lived on a peanut farm in Moultrie, Georgia, for generations, but with his father gone they couldn't keep it up. There was no money coming in. His mother was sickly, there were two younger daughters, Thelma and Eloise, at home. The older children had families of their own, and his older brother Rufus took care of their mother.

World War Two was winding down. Daddy convinced his mother to sign the papers saying he was old enough to join the Army, and soon he went from Basic Training at Fort Benning to carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle (B.A.R.) in the Philippines.

Army pay for a Private was seventy dollars a month. Soldiers could sign an ''allotment'' and send part of their pay home to their families. Daddy sent his entire pay home each month. Years later my Uncle Rufus told me that money had fed their family.

All Daddy needed was a checkerboard and a quarter. When the other soldiers drew their pay, Daddy borrowed his first quarter from a friend, pulled out his checkerboard, and proceeded to fill his pockets with quarters. Years later, in Texas, he'd take one quarter to work at Lone Star, play checkers during his lunch hour, and come home with another pocketful of quarters. After supper Daddy would drive us to the general store on the highway to Dallas and buy us nickel cups of ice cream we'd eat with little wooden spoons.

Years later, after he made promotions from laborer at Booker, to assistant foreman, to foreman, to warehouse manager, he gave up the checkerboard. It would have been unseemly to take his workers' hard-earned money. He always kept a supply of quarters handy for the Sunday morning trip to the wash house, though.

Mama had sorted all our laundry into four loads, heaped in a metal wash tub. Daddy hefted the tub into the car trunk, and we were gone. West on Fowler Avenue several miles to Nebraska Avenue, south on Nebraska a few miles to the Comfort Motor Court, overnight space rentals for campers, motor homes and trailers. The ''washateria,'' as some called it, was next to the vehicle entrance, a large room with one wall lined with washing machines and another with dryers. Open daily, six a.m.

That first Sunday, a man was unlocking the front door as we drove up. Daddy liked being first. The man held the door open as Daddy carried in the tub and bundles of wash. Introductions were made. They shook hands. Daddy put bundles of laundry and Tide into four washers, inserted quarters, and sat down in a chair next to me.

The man, John Krapil, spoke with a strong German accent, ''Austrian,'' he would say, not German. He hated Germans. Over time, the next ten years or so that Daddy did our laundry every Sunday morning, we learned a lot about Mr. Krapil. He had fled Austria with the clothes on his back after the Nazis confiscated his ski resort in the Alps during World War II. He came to America, chose Tampa for a new start, and opened his motor court and laundromat. He had a chrome metal device attached to his belt that held quarters, dimes, and nickels. He would make change for those customers with only paper money. Daddy always brought his own change.

Mr. Krapil was some years older than my father, perhaps fifty or so. He liked to talk, and Daddy was a good listener. He had a red Coca Cola machine that dispensed those small glass bottles of Cokes for a dime, ice cold. Soda in glass bottles is long gone now, we live in Plastic World.

After he'd talked for awhile, mostly about the beauties and wonders of Austria, he'd say, ''Ah, I've worked up a thirst. Won't you join me?'' He would click three dimes out of his change device, insert them in the Coke machine, push the handle three times, and pop the caps off with the metal opener attached to the machine. He would pass sodas to Daddy and me, hold his out like a salute, take a big swig, and say a satisfied, ''Ah!'' Those drinks were cold!

One Sunday Daddy tried to reciprocate, to buy the sodas, but Mr. Krapil was adamant. ''You're my guests and friends. You're in my house. It is my pleasure.''

Daddy didn't take charity. He was a prideful man. But we drank Mr. Krapil's sodas every week, like a ritual. Daddy told me once, ''John was once a wealthy man. He lost everything but his life. Now he has fought back. He's not a rich man any more, but it gives him pleasure to drink sodas with us. If he came to our house we would drink iced tea with him.''

''Is he coming to our house, Daddy?''


''Why not?''

He looked at me and smiled. ''I don't like company, except family.''

Years later, after I'd gotten the grocery store bagboy job in Temple Terrace and stopped going to the wash house with Daddy, I was surprised to see John Krapil in the checkout lane. He was delighted to see me. He hadn't seen me for awhile. He lived in Temple Terrace, which was another great surprise to me. He told me where he lived and invited me to stop by anytime. I never did, but I drove by his house out of curiosity. He had a large, sprawling house on an oak-shaded lot. He was rich after all. Those quarters added up.

Daddy still went to the wash house early Sunday morning — that was 1967 — we didn't move to the North Grovewood house with a washer and dryer until 1969.

Daddy only washed our clothes. He didn't spend scarce money on dryers. We'd get home early, and Mama would hang the wet wash on the clotheslines to dry before getting us ready for Sunday School and church. She'd drive her three boys to West Thonotosassa Baptist Church in Thonotosassa. It was years later when I discovered there was an East Thonotosassa on the other side of the lake.

We'd get home by noon and find Daddy conked out, snoring on the couch. Mama would have prepared most of the Sunday dinner already, and soon we'd eat the best meal of the week: fried chicken, or pork chops, or pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, fried okra in season, other vegetables, corn bread, and iced tea.

We'd often watch the wrestling matches on TV, then Daddy would load us in the car for a fast ride to Dade City, about thirty-three miles north on 301, to visit Grandma Norman and Rufus. Daddy's younger sister, Thelma, her husband, Johnny Davis, and their children, Donna and Danny, lived on the way, and we'd stop in to say hello before proceeding to Grandma's.

Dade City was a gathering point for the Normans. Any of Daddy's brothers and sisters were liable to be there on any particular Sunday. Daddy would always come after Sunday dinner was put away. Country people always fed any guests who showed up during a meal, no matter how little they had, and always shared everything. I remember one lean Sunday Mama had cooked five pork chops for the meal. An unexpected visitor came to the door just as we sat down for Sunday dinner. A place was made for him. Mama put her pork chop on the visitor's plate. When he objected, she told him she wasn't very hungry.

Daddy would never invite us to anyone's house near mealtime. It was just common courtesy, not to burden family in the same financial struggles we were in, although I recall a memorable exception one Sunday.

Daddy's older sister, Frankie Lee, and her husband, Ed Hatchell, had arrived at Grandma's towing Ed's fishing boat. Aunt Frankie Lee was several years older than her baby brother, Gene, and had always doted on him. They came to spend a week fishing the area lakes. Uncle Ed tried to get Daddy to take off work to go fishing with him, but Daddy couldn't miss work.

''All right,''' Uncle Ed said, ''Let's go right now. There's plenty of light left, and if we're lucky, we'll have a fish fry.''

On that Sunday afternoon at Grandma Norman's house a long time ago fishing was on the agenda. Rufus directed us to an out-of-the-way lake that few people knew about. There were four of us, Rufus, Uncle Ed Hatchell, Daddy and me. Uncle Ed had enough fishing tackle, rods and reels, for all of us.

I already knew how to fish. I must have been no more than four years old when Daddy took me fishing in Texas the first time. We went to a small lake a few miles from our house. He had a bait-casting rod, it was called, and showed me how to swing the rod back, then forward, flinging the lure far out in the water. Theoretically.

First, I learned the definition of backlash. A backlash results when the fisherman flings the lure too hard, the reel spins too fast, and yards of fishing line spin and spool off the reel like a rat's nest. After several frustrating attempts, I got the hang of it, and learned to fish.

As a child, though, I liked Bebaw's low-tech approach. First, he'd go to Robert Smith's house. A hunchback, Robert Smith terrified me, although years later my aunt, Alice Walker, told me he was a nice man. Robert Smith grew and harvested bamboo cane fishing poles, and you'd think Bebaw was buying a car or a horse the way he examined the cane fishing poles before deciding on three for himself, Memaw, and me. Attach a fishing line to the tip, a hook, lead sinker, and cork to the end of the line, dig a can full of earthworms from the garden, and let the party begin. Most all fish love earthworms, and we rarely struck out.

There were no earthworms available that sunny afternoon in Dade City. No matter. Uncle Ed had a tackle box full of lures guaranteed to fool the smartest of fish. There was a houseful of women and children counting on us to provide a fish fry.

Uncle Ed caught the first fish, and I caught the last. He told me, ''We're not leaving till you catch a fish.'' I'd hooked several — that lake was a fish paradise — but somehow each one shook loose. Finally I landed a nice one, and we headed for home.

Rufus had made the biggest steel frying pan I'd ever seen. I wished I had watched him make it. He said he'd made it expressly for family fish fries, and that day was the test. It passed, wonderfully. Rufus did the fish frying, and Grandma made the hushpuppies. We sat at tables outside, and someone went to the store for a bag of ice for the tea.

There was plenty of food left over. I'm sure Jesus would have loved Grandma's hush puppies as much as we did, if he'd had them instead of loaves that day he fed the multitudes.

Rufus knew every body of water in the surrounding counties. This was the late 1950's, and Florida alligator hunting was still legal. Rufus could build anything, and he built an airboat in his backyard, ordered an air-cooled airplane engine from Piper Aircraft in Dallas, and hunted gators with it at night after work. When we first moved back to Florida, Daddy had no money, and Rufus offered to take Daddy with him gator hunting. They could make a week's pay in one night collecting alligator skins and selling the meat. Daddy was skeptical, but he had a family to feed. Okay.

Rufus had a powerful spotlight he'd shine along the lake or river bank, looking for reflecting gator eyes. Rufus operated the airboat while Daddy shined the spotlight.

''Gene, you can tell how big a gator is by how far apart its eyes are, one inch per foot. If you see two eyes six inches apart, that gator is six feet long,'' Rufus said. ''We don't touch six-footers. We want a twelve-footer.''

Twelve-footer? Daddy wasn't sure what he'd gotten himself into, but he trusted his older brother.

Finally Daddy spotted a massive alligator, its eyes easily twelve inches apart. Rufus eased the airboat toward the shore, then took a harpoon he'd made with three large steel prongs at the end of a heavy pole, like a giant frog gig, and waited until they were almost on top of the gator, blinded by the bright spotlight.

Rufus told Daddy, ''I'll spear the gator and pull its head into the boat.''

Into the boat?

''You take that hatchet and chop hard behind the gator's head,'' Rufus said. He pointed to a straightened-out wire clothes hanger. ''Chop down to the backbone, then run that wire down its spine. That will paralyze the gator. Got it?''

No, but Daddy did it anyway. He couldn't disappoint his brother, and he really needed the money.

That wasn't the only gator harvested that night, but none were as big as the first one. But it was Daddy's first and last gator hunt. Daddy asked Rufus, ''You have a shotgun. Why don't you just shoot the gators with the twelve gauge, get it over with quick, instead of pulling them into the boat with you?''

Rufus grinned at Daddy. ''It's more sporting my way. Give the gator a fighting chance.''

In years to come Daddy would repeat that story to family members.

''My brother's crazy,'' he would say. ''What sane person spears a thrashing twelve-foot alligator and hauls it into the boat with him? I wanted to jump out of that airboat, but I was afraid there would be more gators waiting for me in the water.''

Daddy never told those stories to nonfamily members.

Rufus actually did his part to protect alligators. He had a large shallow box of sand in the sun by his garage covering a couple dozen unhatched alligator eggs. He told us he'd happened upon a large gator nest that had been raided by an animal, probably a raccoon, the night before. Torn egg shells, perhaps a dozen, were scattered. Rufus figured the raccoon would return that night to finish off the gator eggs, so he dug up the remaining eggs and took them home to hatch.

Every year after gator season closed Rufus would sell that airboat and start on a new one. There was a waiting list for his airboats. People told him he should form an airboat factory and get rich. He wasn't interested. He liked his life the way it was.

Sundays came and went. Daddy went to the wash house early every Sunday morning, and I usually accompanied him. My parents were usually in bed asleep by nine p.m., and I would turn down the volume on our little TV, watching the weekend late shows. My favorite late night TV shows were ''The Twilight Zone'' and ''The Outer Limits.'' On Saturday nights they had the late monster movies, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, and Bela Lugosi starred as Frankenstein, the Wolfman, and Dracula. My favorite science fiction movie was ''The Day The Earth Stood Still'' starring Michael Rennie. What were those words the robot uttered?

I would sometimes doze off, then wake sometime later, the test pattern with the Indian chief on the TV, or if it was really late, ''snow'' filled the screen. I'd turn off the TV and tiptoe to bed.

A new preacher, Brother Hansen, made his rounds visiting throughout the area, encouraging folks to try out his church, Harney Baptist, a few miles south on 301. We went. Mama liked it. I liked it, too. Several of my classmates from Thonotosassa Elementary attended, and I liked Pam Harden, who was friendly with me. We were happy children. Pam had an older sister, Priscilla, and a little brother, Jamesy. No father. No one talked about it. Mama and Pam's mother became friends. We joined the church. Daddy didn't go. He'd rather sleep on his couch than sleep in a church pew, he said.

We missed a couple of Sundays, on vacation to Texas, and we were still unpacking the car when Brother Hansen drove up the hill in his old car. It was the first time Daddy had been home when the preacher visited, and Brother Hansen zeroed in on him. Daddy was polite, but didn't invite him in. Let a preacher in the door, he'd say, you can't get him to leave until you feed him. He'd just driven nonstop from Texarkana to Thonotosassa, a thousand miles in twenty hours, and all he wanted to do was unload the car and go to sleep for twelve hours. He didn't care to listen to a preacher on his only day of rest. Every now and then, perhaps once a year, Mama would convince him to go with us, but every time he swore it would be his last.

The subject was off limits. I speculated in my head that Daddy had had a church-related traumatic experience or some conflict with a preacher in his youth, that caused him to avoid church, but Daddy never talked about it. When I got married in 1971 in the big Temple Terrace United Methodist Church, I was relieved when he stood next to my mother.

After Daddy died in 1985, I began regularly corresponding with my Aunt Frankie Lee Hatchell in North Carolina. She was the living expert on the Normans, along with her brother, Rufus, and I asked her about why Daddy didn't like preachers or churches.

She told me that nothing in his past indicated any preacher conflicts. Their father, my grandfather, besides raising peanuts and working at Swifts, was a local church leader, and all the Normans attended. Grandpa was a music teacher also, and sang with a gospel group. All the children were active in church-related functions.

We never solved the puzzle of why Daddy wouldn't go to church.

Thinking about those times reminded me of something that happened at the wash house one Sunday morning that I have never forgotten.

Daddy liked timing it so that we arrived at the wash house just as John unlocked the front door, first one inside. There were certain washers he preferred for some indiscernible reason, and if by chance someone got inside and beat him to his favorite washers, he'd wait until their loads had finished, then he would load his wash in the machines. That's just the way he was. He knew what he wanted without compromise.

One morning a young mother with three children under four years old staggered through the front door carrying a heavy load of laundry. We'd heard the bad muffler on the junker car she was driving before she parked beside our car in front of the wash house. She carried more threadbare wash inside, then brought the crying children in. On a folding table she lined up mostly dimes and nickels, then John came over, exchanging the small change into quarters. She separated the quarters to see how many machines she would need. We watched without staring, looking everywhere except at her, seeing everything. John left for his office in back.

Mr. Krapil had a vending machine for small boxes of detergent. It was obvious that the young woman didn't have the money for soap powder. She stood there, not knowing what to do.

Mama bought the big economy-sized boxes of Tide that usually lasted Daddy two or three weeks. The box sitting by the washtub was over half full. Daddy nudged me, looking at the box of Tide, and glancing toward the perplexed young woman. He didn't have to tell me. He would never approach her himself. I didn't want to do it, either, but I took the box of Tide to her. She turned and looked at me, saying nothing. I held out the box.

''We have plenty,'' I said, '' You're welcome to use what you need.''

She stared at me for a few moments. I stared back. She had a fading bruise on her left cheek. Even at ten years old, I knew what that meant. Perhaps Daddy had already seen the marks.

She glanced toward Daddy, nodded, and smiled at me, embarrassed, then took the box. ''Thanks.'' She filled a cup of detergent for each machine, then handed the box back to me.

''You're welcome,'' I said, and went back to sit down next to Daddy. The young woman changed the squalling baby's diaper.

Our wash was finished. Daddy emptied the clean clothes from the machines into the tub, piled high. We were ready to leave. Daddy pulled out the loose change from his khaki pants pocket, three or four dollars, and handed it to me, nodding. I took the change and stacked it next to the baby on the table. Daddy took out his old wallet and removed three wrinkled dollar bills, all the money he had. He handed them to me.

The woman was tending to the older child, her back to me. She hadn't noticed me the first time, but she sensed me behind her now as I put the quarters on top of the dollar bills. Daddy was already going out the door, carrying the heavy tub of wet laundry. I hurried after him.

We never talked about it, what happened that early Sunday morning at the wash house, but I thought about it. Had Daddy gone to church instead of the wash house that day, he couldn't have helped that poor woman and her children.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, I learned.

Years came and went. Daddy advanced at Booker. Warehouse manager in Tampa, then manager over branches in Fort Myers, Orlando, and Jacksonville. He oversaw the building and opening of a new branch in Miami. Company station wagon, raises, and bonuses. After years of scrimping and saving, we bought a house on North Grovewood Avenue in 1969. It had a utility room with a washer and dryer. Now Mama could wash a load of dirty clothes when she felt like it, not save them up all week.

Daddy never returned to the wash house.








 May 19, 2021

In the past couple of months, I've made several medical day trips to the Lake Butler — RMC prison hospital for tests and consultations with specialists. Four of those trips crammed me in a dog box van, with a mental hospital prisoner in the adjacent dog box, for his own safety. More on that later.

Neurologist Dr. Gama ordered an MRI of my brain in furtherance of my ''myasthenia gravis'' diagnosis. Good news — I still have one (brain), and it is fairly healthy. Bad news —I am getting old.

MRI conclusion: ''Changes of atrophy and residua of chronic small vessel ischemic change, mild, in the periventricular white matter, with concern for subtle periventricular nodularity as seen on the flair imaging. History states myasthenia gravis but would recommend clinical correlation especially if MS is a clinical consideration.

''No evidence of intracranial mass or enhancing lesion seen.''

The doctor said that the brain ''nodules'' are most likely inherited, and not a concern. Typical brain function for my age.

More concerns from the C.T. Scan. I've been complaining about a numbness and intermittent pain in my left abdomen for over a year, but the doctors have not been concerned. Here are the CT Scan results:

''The lungs are clear without evidence of consolidation, effusion, or pneumothorax. No suspicious pulmonary nodules are identified. Visualized large airways are clear. The pleura is unremarkable. Major vessels are unremarkable. The heart is within normal limits for size. Coronary artery calcifications are present. The mediastinum and bilateral hila are unremarkable except for right hilar calcified granulomas. Visualized bones and soft tissues are without acute abnormality.''

''A 3.0 cm left adrenal mass is partially imaged within the upper abdomen (series 4 image 113).''

''Conclusion: 1. No evidence of a thymoma or mediastinal mass/adenopathy.
2. Left adrenal mass measuring 3 cm, partially imaged within the upper abdomen.
3. Coronary artery disease.''

Could be worse. I have no idea what some of those terms mean.

On May 4, 2021, I was scheduled for a day trip to see the general surgeon, Dr. Baig, for evaluation of this left adrenal gland tumor. Three centimeters is slightly larger than an inch.

I was chained up and in the standard window van waiting to leave for RMC when my trip was cancelled. A mental patient had to go to a Jacksonville hospital, there was only one transport crew, so I got bumped — twice. Rescheduled.

On Tuesday, May 18, 2021, I went on my rescheduled trip in a dog van. There are two cramped compartments in the dog box van-- one for me, and one for a mental patient who had a writing pen penetrating his stomach (self-inflicted), with only a quarter inch protruding. Great. The mental patients are multiply chained like I am, except for Velcro mittens secured to their wrists to prevent them from doing damage to themselves.

News flash — the mittens don't work.

We hadn't gone far in the two-hour-plus trip when he began screaming at the guards, who could hear him fine through the steel security panels. He told them he had taken off the mittens, removed his handcuffs (he did), had a razor, was going to cut himself and paint the van red.

I talked to him, established rapport, got him talking, and thought I had talked him out of it when he said it didn't matter, he'd been planning this for some time.

There is no stopping a prison transport van, under any circumstances. The guards called ahead to Lake Butler, and an ''extraction team'' awaited our arrival. When he saw what was happening, all those huge guards ready to bum rush the dog box, he gave up peaceably. When I got out, I looked in the other side. He told the truth — he'd painted his dog box red.

I was done by nine a.m. Dr. Baig ordered more lab tests to check the adrenal function, then I will see him again. Surgery is possibly in my future, which I dread, for the interference with my current court case.

I had to wait all day for them to finish with the mental patient. I was back in my dorm by 5:30 p.m. They sent back the mental patient, too, pen still in his stomach. Exhausted and in pain from the hard ride in the dog box, I took a shower and went to sleep.


I'll let you know what happens. The ''authorities'' are still saying we are likely going to be transferred somewhere by June 1st. They plan to demolish all the buildings on the north end of the compound to build a hospital next to a sinkhole. My dorm, C Dorm, is the last one occupied. Sounds kinda dumb to me.

Thanks for hanging in there with me. I pray this nightmare will end within the next year. All the best.