Shootin' the Breeze

by "Bummer"

bummer @ abate

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October 2013

    BOO!   Ah, ‘tis the season for Halloween!

    And with that comes my traditional annual Halloween tale which may or may not be scary, or even have anything to do with motorcycling. Any opinions herein are entirely my own and do not reflect those of ABATE. Also, remember that this is not true except where noted. And now, before we get to the actual story, some of the TRUE facts....

  • Back in 1987, there were 67,000 inmates in the California state prison system. But by 2007 there were over 171,000. This means that the prison population there has almost tripled in just twenty years, and that’s just California folks! (If you’re interested, in the year 2012, 49,846 inmates resided here in Ohio’s penitentiaries.)
  • At the end of 2010, 2,266,832 inmates nationwide (that’s over 2 and 1/4 MILLION) were in local jails, county lock-ups, and state, and federal prisons. That’s more than 1 in every 100 adults in these United States. And today, the United States houses over 25% of the entire world’s prison population. So in fact, instead of being the “Land of the Free” we’ve become the “Land of the Incarcerated”. (Sorry, but the dates of these statistics bounce around a bit because they’re from different sources.)
  • Financially speaking, the cost to American taxpayers to house them, feed them, clothe them, and most expensively, to pay for their medical care, is over eighty BILLION dollars a year! Keeping all that in mind.......

        Toby Armstrong was a big bear of a man standing 6’ 7” and weighing 300 lbs. Being large meant that he could literally crush anyone he wanted to. But since he was very much aware of this, and since NOBODY ever messed with him, his demeanor had developed into that of a gentle giant with a kind soul and a big heart.

        All Toby ever wanted out of life was to ride his scoot, smoke a doobie every now and then, farm his land, and tend to the critters he and his mother had that were left from when his parents’ farm was one of the most productive in the county. His father had died of a heart attack on a tractor while plowing one hot summer day readying a field for winter wheat a few years ago, so it fell to Toby to take over. Toby was “born to the soil”, raised in the farm life, and taught from birth how to do it properly.

        At thirty two years old he decided that he needed a wife, and his mother (who Toby adored) told him time and again he should find one. In fact, he was thinking more and more about the prospects for one; specifically Sarah, the waitress down at Quaker Steak and Lube when all this shit happened (which probably ended those plans.)

        It all started when Toby enlarged his collection of two or three pot plants after his dad died. Instead of just the few he had growing hidden behind the barn; he planted a few more down near the creek. Not even wanting to get into any kind of a commercial enterprise, Toby’s plan was to grow just enough weed to stash away for himself and for the few friends he rode with....then not grow any more for a long while. Planting them outside instead of in a “hot-house” using a carefully monitored hydro-ponic system (special lights, temp control, plant food and supplements, etc.), his Ohio climate wouldn’t yield much anyway, and it wouldn’t even be that potent. But that was fine with him.

        Ever since our government’s ability to track down foreign and domestic terrorists has grown through the huge congressional funding of Homeland Security, one of the many tools that any state and local law enforcement agency can acquire at the drop of a hat, is the use of helicopters with drug seeking capabilities. And apparently, growing a few pot plants for personal use falls under the blanket term of “domestic terrorism”. So Toby and his poor old mother were awakened late one night by a swarm of body-armor clad, helmeted, state and federal authorities brandishing shotguns and automatic weapons. And since the law covers every stem, stalk and even root of the plants, the gross weight amount was enough that Toby was charged with a 5th degree felony.

        Now, a few months later, we find him in a federal prison serving a year’s time, the farm temporarily abandoned with all the animals and most of the equipment sold off for legal fees, and his mother sitting in a nursing home, the victim of a stroke suffered the night she was drug from her bed.

        One night in his cell, Toby lay wide awake wondering how all this came to be: How his own government (which he proudly served two tours for in Iraq as a reservist) could have just about ruined his life simply because he wanted to get high occasionally by growing his own instead of supporting organized crime like everyone else does.

        As he lay thinking, and his cellmate (a guy named Mike) snored, Toby had the distinct feeling that someone else was in the cell with them. When he opened his eyes and turned his head, his father calmly sat next to his bed on the toilet........

                    “Well, you’ve really screwed the pooch this time Tob.
            ‘Oh GREAT!’ he thought. ‘On top of everything else, now my DAD is back from the dead to bitch at me!’ Then he replied,
                “I know Pop, but it was just a few pot plants!”
                        “I told you to never mess with growing that shit. It isn’t worth the risk. Ya had too much to lose....and ya did. In MY day I mighta gotten away with a few plants, but the technology just puts ya at a real disadvantage now. That’s why I quit nursing a few myself. It ain’t worth it! Not unless you’re selling it. And ya weren’t, were you?
               “No! And how come you’re not asking me how Mom is?”
                    “I already visited her tonight. Man, that place sucks. You really messed things up Little Buddy.
                “..........How is she?”
                    “Frustrated and broken hearted. Nobody can understand a thing she says half the time. And they don’t seem to wanna work too hard to find out. So she sits by a window worrying about you. By the way; how are you? Ya gettin’ along okay in here?
            “Oh, I’m alright I guess. My cellmate is a good guy and the others don’t mess with me.”
                   “Just remember you might be big, but anyone can get killed by a plastic fork.
               “I know Dad.”

    His cellmate sleepily asked, “Did you say something?”
               “No Mike.... Go back to sleep.” And he did.

    After a moment, he turned to his father and quietly asked,
               “So, what’s it like?”
                “Being, uh...., you know.”
                   “Well, it’s sorta like watching a movie that jumps around a lot.
               “Whatcha mean?”
                    “One minute you’re here....and then the next minute, it’s another time and you’re someplace else.
                “Can you control it?”
                    “To some extent. But not who you can interact with. I’m only talking to you now because we’re blood. That seems to matter. When I visit your mother I can only sense what she feels and what she’s thinking about. She isn’t sure I’m there, but I think she feels my presence.
                “This is sooo heavy.” Toby said, more to himself than to his dad.

    “Are you talking to yourself?”
       “Go back to sleep Mike.” Then he whispered to his father
                “Can he hear or see you?”
                   “Like I said, no.
               “Well, watch out he doesn’t get up and piss all over ya.”
                   “I’d move.

    “Who the hell are you talking to?”
       “I’m just reading out loud Mike.”

                   “I’m outta here for now anyway.” sighed his dad. “I’ll be back.
    Then he slowly faded away leaving his son, his poor “Little Buddy” that isn’t so little anymore, wasting away a whole year of his life in his sorrow and regret.

        Anyone who has ever done any kind of time knows that many of the people behind bars deserve to be there......but many more really don’t. As well as wasting these people’s lives and whatever productivity society might have gained from their ability to contribute, as mentioned previously; the cost to taxpayers is staggering!! Our legal system, and the legislative system that directs it HAS to be re-tooled immediately. Urge your state and federal politicians to create and pass laws that at least reform the punishments to fit the crimes in “harmless” cases, instead of simply mandating heavy sentences.

        At a time when community service is SO needed, judges could rule that a non-violent crime can be punished by man-hours of service; white-collar criminals could suffer much heavier fines and confiscation of property; today’s technology allows home and workplace monitoring for all non-violent crime so that they’d be supporting themselves (and paying taxes); repeated drug and alcohol offenders might be rehabilitated through an inexpensive governmental program that would employ other former abusers without major cost (it’s the corporate rehabs that are so damned expensive!)

        And speaking of offenses, what exactly IS an offense?
       Here in Ohio, there’s much talk of the legal limit for intoxication to soon be lowered to the point where ANYONE walking out of a bar immediately after TWO drinks will be illegal. Of course this is going to further tax our courts and the penal system to the point where there might have to be many more expensive facilities and prisons built because of THAT! Our holding institutions are already full. But is that really working?

        In a society that has become so morally and ethically bankrupt that truly rotten a$$holes are looting the grave markers of our veterans, stealing batteries from parked school buses, and scavenging vacant (and even occupied) houses for metal to sell as scrap, we can’t continue to even function if we don’t get righteous about how we handle those of us who have simply made mistakes and bad decisions. Nor can we allow what might be a simple act of personal choice to be punished as a crime at a time when “true” crime is so damned obvious. Many of you probably know someone in jail for something ridiculous.

        I don’t even get high these days, but I feel the time has come to legalize marijuana and its cultivation for personal use. Pot doesn’t make drug-addicted criminals any more than an after-work cocktail makes an alcoholic. It just isn’t right to punish those who have not caused any wrong to others on the assumption that they might. It’s un-American.

        And of course I realize that drinking to extreme causes unsafe driving. Believe me, I know. I finally got it. But c’mon! We should either re-instate prohibition, or simply concentrate on the people who drive poorly on an individual level. THEY are the ones who are truly unsafe, and not some poor slob who stops to have a few beers, or a woman who has a glass of wine after dinner.

        Of course the only horrible thing about this Halloween “horror” story is that events like what happened to poor Toby are so common. Those of you who have read my stuff in the past know that I do NOT drink and drive, and that I do NOT smoke dope (and haven’t done either for a very LONG time). But I DO pay taxes and I’m not an idiot. Before anyone complains, realize once again that this is all solely my opinion, not ABATE’s.

                            Ride on!

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