These days of confinement to avoid the COVID virus remind me of jail stories. McDonald County has always been a little casual about keeping alleged criminals away from normal society. The original jail was simple, a large hole dug in the earth. The cover must have been somewhat lacking in security as at least one jailbreak occurred. In 1909 a sturdy stone jail was constructed, but it was not always a deterrent to keep prisoners in place.
Tale #1: A slight young man grew tired of jail and decided to leave. A trusty learned of his plan and reported them to the sheriff. That night the prisoner carefully removed all his clothes and tossed them outside. He then covered his body with grease and worked his way through the bars.
As he dropped to the ground, he heard a gruff voice behind him saying, “Are you thinking about going somewhere, son?” Needless to say, he spent the rest of his allotted time in the pokey.
Tale #2: While in the county many years ago, a visitor was a few miles out of town calling on a relative. As they stood in the yard to say goodbyes, a beat-up old station wagon blew past. The driver honked in greeting. “Who was that? The visitor asked. The response was a little surprising.
“Well, it is a little complicated. He is a prisoner in the jail.”
“What! It seems he isn’t there at the moment.”
“Um, he committed a white-collar crime that normally would require an extended stay in the State Prison in Jefferson City, but local authorities decided since he has only one lung, it would be detrimental to his health to go there, so he is serving his sentence locally.”
“What is he doing driving in the country?”
“He gets a little anxious from the noise in town, (“How noisy can a village of 700 people be?”) so he goes for a drive to calm his nerves. It does no harm and he always returns promptly.”
Tale # 3: This one is personal. While attending classes at the University of Arkansas, I drove home one evening and parked the car in front of my house. Leaving the keys in the car, as usual, I started across the street to see my parents (small towns always have nearby relatives). Three young men came along. I didn’t know them, but greeted them anyway. “Nice evening,” I said.
“Nice evening,” one replied and we went on our separate ways.
In a few minutes, we heard a helicopter flyover. My parents had a police scanner (as most people in McDonald County seem to do.) We quickly learned that the “nice” young men had broken out of jail. I suppose that had I acted fearful, the results might have been different. Nevertheless, my dad was so upset at the thought of me being kidnapped we had to give him a Valium.
The escapees were at large for a while, but soon were returned to their new temporary home.
We can only hope that our own incarcerations end as well.
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