“They’re not lies, if we know the truth.”
– J.P. Ricciardi – GM, Toronto Bluejays
A rare few men have ever successfully escaped from the
penitentiary, and zero in modern times. As air-tight as the
place may seem, it was not designed to keep small critters
out. The graveyard shift confronts rabbits and ground
squirrels on a daily basis. Many of them hang around the
yard during the day, with little fear of any human beings.
Ground squirrels are the source of tremendous entertainment
for the inmates. I do not see many of them caught, but
watching the inmates bait the ice-cream cups can pass the
time for yard staff as well.
The critters that got the upper management involved
were kittens. I guess a while back a mommy kitty gave
birth to a litter in a drainage ditch just outside the fence
on the free-side. Shortly after the weaning process, it was
not uncommon for the kittens to wander through the fence
and into the yard. Cats, like most animals, will travel more
frequently to places where they do not have to work hard for
sustenance. That is probably why, as a child, my cats always
hung out at the neighbor’s house.
Inmates, as a general rule, are not stupid. That is right,
they are not. In fact, many a research study has proven
that the intelligence quotient (IQ) of the average inmate far
exceeds that of the average correctional offi cer. The inmates
that were not part of the dog program (K-9 Pen-Pals) wanted
pets, among other things, so they enticed the kittens into
their world. On the outside, you might think, “Big deal.”
Kittens are not that much different than rabbits and ground
squirrels. I am not sure what the reasoning was behind it.
Perhaps upper management decided that the kittens would
be easier to tame and manage as pets if they allowed it to
happen. Perhaps they decided that kittens would cause fi ghts
and other confrontations on the yard that were not needed.
Perhaps, it was just one more way to take something away
from the inmates that was not covered in the ever-growing
rule book governing inmate behaviors.
Before management got involved however, some
interesting events occurred. Eventually, the kittens would
go to almost any inmate on the yard, but they would not let
staff come anywhere near them. I would like to tell you that
no inmate ever abused a kitten, but that was simply not the
case. One of the inmates was caught trying to fuck one of
the larger kittens, but apparently things were not working
out as intended. The majority of the staff was appalled,
while the remainder of us laughed our collective assess off.
Many of the inmates reprimanded the individual, claiming
that his behavior brought down the upper management to
Humane traps were set at night, and as the kittens were
collected, they were removed from the facility. They should
have kept the cats. It might have cut down on the inmate
Kindness to cats is never something I have strongly
believed in. My parents tell stories to my children about
how ornery I was as a child, and it usually leads to a time
when I destroyed a cat from a tree with a cinder block. If
they knew what really happened to Smokey, they would
never repeat the story.
You see, my older brother and some friends used to
smoke a lot of marijuana. They would sit around a clear
turn-table lid in a circle with a pile of McDonald’s straws,
Smokey the cat, trapped underneath the lid. They would
then connect straws, usually three in length, and then light
up. When they exhaled, they attempted to blow as much
smoke as possible under the lid. Smokey would claw the
shit out of the shag carpet beneath the lid while this was
occurring, but they did not seem to take notice. They would
exhale through their straws, which opened under the lid until
the cat would disappear in a cloud of reefer smoke. I am
not sure the cat minded so much after awhile, but it would
remain under the lid until it had ingested all of the smoke.
High as a kite, my brother or one of his friends would release
the cat, and it would bounce off the walls for awhile.
My parents are not fabricating a complete lie when they
claim that the cat’s demise was my fault. I did, in fact, drop
a cinder block on the cat’s head. My parents did not know
that it was a mercy killing. The stoned cat had wandered out
in front of a car, and was too stoned to die. I knew when it
recovered from the high, it would be in a great deal of pain.
All I could think of was to lure it out in the yard with some
cat food, under my perch in the tree. I guess cats get the
A normal person, with normal sensibilities would not
have such a repulsive reaction toward cats. If you knew
how much it bothered me to see them, you might begin
to understand. Hopefully, a glimpse of my prepubescent
background gives you some insight.
Each morning as I walk out of my adulthood house,
young farm cats would take turns getting in my way. It took
them an awfully long time to realize that this was a bad idea.
I have little regard for humanity, and even less for felinity. It
became a contest for me when they got underfoot. To my left
was the garage roof, about 12 feet high at the bottom and 15
to the peak. To my right was the cow tank/swimming pool,
considerably lower, above ground, but at a depth of three
feet. If the offending animal was on my left foot, the roof
became the landing zone, to the right, the cow tank. Neither
was a pleasant place to land, whether I missed or not.