I want to tell you a story. That’s what writers do, right?
This story is about a man who had a band and traveled the Southwest playing music. He’d grown up poor and discovered at a young age that he had a talent for writing and playing music. By the time he was out of high school, he’d formed his first band and played rodeos and fairs.
The life of a road musician is often long and rocky. And, although he loved writing and performing music, he found himself caught on a merry go round – lots of booze, drugs and women.
After twenty years, he wanted off. He was burnt out and sullen. He’d blown two marriages and had four kids to support.
Maybe it was inevitable that he would be tempted by so-called easy money.
And this is where I met him.
In less than a year, from the time I met him, he was arrested and convicted on two counts of armed bank robbery.
He’d never believed he could be found guilty of a crime he hadn’t committed. And, although he had been an accessory to the robberies, he’d never gone inside a bank with a gun and robbed it. But, because he wouldn’t rat out the men who’d done it, he got the full sentence.
Now, I’m telling you this story for a reason. There is a point to it.
You can well imagine that by the time he arrived at Leavenworth Penitentiary with 25 year federal sentence and another 50 years from the State of Texas, to run consecutively, he was angry, bitter and rebellious. He never thought he’d see freedom again in his lifetime.
He often said that he believed he’d reached a point in his life where he didn’t care about anything anymore. But, when the steel doors started closing behind him, locking him in the depths of the prison, he truly understood the meaning of caring. He left family, a lifetime of music and regional stardom, and he left children. He found that he cared more than he ever dreamed possible.
He had a decision to make.
It took him about three years to finally realize that he wasn’t going to change prison and prison wasn’t going to change him.
He learned that all he could control were his thoughts and actions. He couldn’t control his environment or other people.
And that’s when he made a life-altering decision.
He made up his mind to be, think and do positive things, to become a worthwhile human being. He learned that the best way to serve his time was by staying busy. He’d always been a writer and somewhat of an artist, but he discovered, among other things about himself, that he had true artistic talent.
He buried himself in words, paintings and any other art form he had access to. He taught himself to do Indian Beadwork. He learned to make jewelry, paint with oils and watercolors, but his true passion lay in pen-and-ink drawings.
He compiled a complete book of poetry and art. He wrote hundreds of songs, short stories and even wrote a screenplay. He learned to make and fire ceramics and tool leather.
He advocated for and after many years of asking, was given permission to build a recording studio inside Leavenworth. He had a burning desire to get songs to the outside world. To my knowledge, it was the only fully operational studio inside any federal prison.
The day he made the choice to think, be and do positive changed him forever.
So, that my friends is the point of the story.
You can’t control your environment or those around you. You only have control over yourself – your thoughts, your words, your actions.
I wrote this man’s story in my four books. It starts in the Texas honky-tonks with Flowers and Stone. Then, moves forward to the prison years, with The Convict and the Rose. He did finally get released from prison after serving fifteen years. Home At Last tells that part of the story. Then the last book in the series, ‘Til Death Do Us Part ends the journey with the man’s passing in 2009.
The poetry and art book, Discovery, is filled with pieces of his heart and soul as well as some of his amazing pen-and-ink drawings.
I encourage you to read the story and let it inspire you to make a better life for yourself. Sometimes it is helpful to see how someone else did it.
My goal is to get a copy of The Convict and the Rose and Discovery into every prison library in the country. It is a lofty goal, but one I believe in.
Remember the old Indian saying: “There are two wolves at war within you – one positive and one negative. Which one will win? The one you feed.”
Thank you for listening to my story today.
Think about your talents. How can you make your today better? It’s all up to you.
Do you have any questions or comments?