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Inside Job – Stillwater Prison & the Day Before Yesterday (A Shannon O’Day Story)
(Stillwater State Prison) 1961-63
Part one of two
Dana Stanley, born September 27, 1942, met Edward Morrill born August 28, 1930, while working as a teacher’s aide in the Dakota County school system…
Forward: Shannon O’Day was the cause Edward Morrill had been sentence to five-years in prison for his affair with a minor, Dana Stanley, during the fall of 1958, and it was now December, 1961. He had served a little over two years, with good behavior, he was to get out in another year 1963, September, and was going up for a board hearing and hopefully be placed on parole, thus, at this point and time he had a parole hearing come September of 1962, one year from this date, and he had told his roommate, he was going to kill the person who put him in this prison when he got out, and the person he told (kidding or not), was Otis Wilde Mather’s third cousin, and when his name came up, Shannon O’Day, Oscar Lewis Charleston, had written Otis, to visit him, saying it was urgent. And he did just that, and gave Otis the information of his roommate, inmate friend, and Otis, gave Oscar enough chewing tobacco to last him the year out. But now something needed to be done to stop this potential hazard in the making.
And Otis’ plan was two fold. Get him a new sentence, another five or ten years, or do him in. Whichever one was favorable, under whatever circumstances prevailed, in accordance to the time period; and the less people that knew, the better off, to include Shannon O’Day himself.
“Youall do me this here favor cousin Oscar Lewis and I’ll give Youall $200-dollars for you time. Ef-in that be okay with your conscious, and it dont go against your nerve,” said Otis Wilde Mather at the Stillwater State Prison, in Minnesota, during his visit with his third cousin, Oscar Lewis Charleston.
They both looked at one another, and Otis pulled out two-hundred dollars, “Ef-in I takes the money the guard here, I mean, the po-lice man, he a-goin’ to take it away anyhow, I wish I could buy a-whore, but there aint any here, we’all men here and we can do what women cant I reckon…so give da money to some poor sucker,” he said.
“Waht!” said Otis, “Youall sure you wants to do that?”
“How you mean, wants to do that? Jest finds someone who aint got a cent and give them two-hundred dollars worth of those cent’s, all right cousin?”
“We’ll,” said Otis, “ef-in that makes you feel a little better, how about that white girl, Dana Stanley, Morrill got her a baby, and she a-liven on her own in some shack on the levee in that there shanty town down by the Mississippi River, below the cliffs, in St. Paul?”
“Well, I’d like to see a color folk git da money, but poor white is fine I reckon. Waht do he do to her?” Asked Oscar.
“He done treated her like a whore and she waz only fifteen at dhe time, and turned sixteen, then he gits a heart to confess, and gits mad cause Shannon O’Day, he gits the Judge to put him away for five years. Oh I suppose she did her flatiron, but she as poor as a mouse with no cheese. So I’d say if anyone deserves that-there two-hundred dollars, its Dana.”
A woman started screaming in the visiting area, some inmate was running around trying to open up his fly, and everyone started looking, and his wife tried to settle him down, and by the time the guards got him, settled him down he had his britches half off wanted to do whatever he could do with his wife, right there and then, and his wife’s hands were over her face embarrassed, just shook her head. And a guard said loud and clear, “We got to cut visiting time short today folks-all right everybody leave please.”
Otis, hushed up, as the guard pulled the man’s britches back up around his butt, and zipped up his front. The guard said to the inmate,
“You’ll be walking a tightrope for along time Henry!”
Otis was done talking anyhow, and when he reached the last steps to leave the prison, hearing the heavy metal doors, steel bar doors, clang, and catch the lock, and click as if death itself, burped, close behind him, he took in a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Then he unfolded the money he was about to give Oscar, and put it into a separated department in his billfold. It was that very afternoon Otis visited Dana, and gave her the money on behalf of Oscar. “Do me a favor,” Otis, told her, “Write him a thank-you letter, ef’in that aint too much.”
She brought a beer to her little kitchen table, and opened it for Otis, “All Right,” she remarked, “just give me his full name and how to sent it to the prison, and I’ll do as you ask.”
Oscar had told his roommate, Edward Morrill, who slept on the top bunk bed, “Every inmate has a right to try and escape, the guards expect it. And I got life, or twenty-years in this cell, fifteen more to go if- I keep my behavior well. Then I am free, jest like that, free. But I aint got fifteen years in me left, I’m forty-eight now, I expect I be dead by then. And I reckon every guard has a right to shoot anyone who tries to leave this prison without the proper paperwork. I need your help, cuz my fate is doom, I aint goin’ to run out of her, Im goin’ to walk.”
Morrill didn’t know of course he was being set up, and that he should have known all along he was being set up, because he didn’t need to help anyone, he was not getting a promissory note for anything but trouble, but he said, “What is it you’re asking me to do?” So he even asked before he had to, what Oscar wanted him to do. Oscar had made sure he owed him a favor, a few black friends were going to blackjack him, threatened to slash his head with whatever they had if they couldn’t find a blackjack, and rape him. And Oscar put a scare into those fellows, and Edward was grateful. On the other had, Edward had wished he didn’t even know as much already as he did. In fact, if it was left to him, he would have likened to have been locked up in solitary until Oscar was over his escape theory.
“Don’t brag; just tell me how you expect to do it? I guess I’m under a small bond to you, I want to do what I got to do and wash my hands of you.” Morrill asked, and remarked.
“You don’t need to worry any,” Oscar said.
“What?” he said. “Why would you say that?”
“I said you don’t need to worry, nobody got anything against you and all I want you to do is go into the laundry room, pick up a bag of laundry, from Marcus, my friend in there, and bring it to me in the men’s room, during visiting time Saturday, its got women’s cloths in it, and my sister is going to visit me, and I’ll dress up like her, and she’ll say she lost her ID, and I’ll walk out of the place dressed like a female before her.”
“Yes,” he said, “but you’re going to be one ugly female.” And they both laughed.
Two Days Later
The Warden called Edward Morrill to his office. “Sit on down,” he told him, “listen up” he said, clearing his throat, and then stated (his voice sotto-voce, and curious): “What in the heck did you do it for? We all thought you were of sound mind. That’s what your records say anyway, and that’s what you told us.”
“That’s right,” Edward said.
“Didn’t you know it wouldn’t work?” the Warden asked.
Edward got up, wanting to leave, and the Warden said, “Wait, didn’t you realize you’d never get away with it?”
“Oscar told me he wanted to escape, but when I brought the bag of cloths into the bathroom, and came out, he was gone, and his sister was gone, and I was standing there by my lonesome.” The Warden looked at him; he looked thin and frail.
“Oscar doesn’t have a sister, he ought not to have fooled you but he hasn’t anything to lose, and when I talked to him, he denied he had anything to do with the women’s clothing in that bag, the guard saw you bring it into the bathroom. You would have got out in just another year, and I warned you to keep your nose clean, not to help three-time losers.”
“He never had to do that to me,” said Edward.
“Well he did it, and you’re going to get another five-years added onto your original sentence, so forget about getting out early, you’ve got until 1968. That’s right Edward Morrill, the champion of champion dummies. And I’ve given you a private cell all to yourself. Some folks just never learn.”
“I thought I only had one enemy, Shannon O’Day, I guess I now got two,” said Edward.
He, Edward Morrill was different now, as if his youth was going to be warn out before he got out of prison, over a statement he had forgot he even made. Immolated youth and hope had set into Dana Stanley likewise. The leather-toughness that he once had was now physical exhaustion; he had robbed the innocence of a young girl, and set a burning fire to his youthful years. Years would pass; those very same years that he was suppose to have been free. Had Edward had a better lawyer, he might have done better, he had forgot, secrets are no longer secrets once told. That was now. And now he belonged to the State of Minnesota, the Government.
At first he was embarrassed, at what he did, but held some pride, respect for himself, because he hadn’t gotten caught at it, and had willingly brought his crime to the attention of the authorities, but he had forgiven himself, but now it had become a kind of reflection of someone’s amusement: someone beyond those steel bars, and his guilt, along with that other person’s unforgiving guilt he wanted to plant into him, who was trying to make his guilt into shame, someone beyond Oscar to have tricked him, now he felt foolish, and that old guilt came back and had turned into deep shame, hurt and anger.
And now knowing Edward was in for a number of years, more years, Dana didn’t feel like waiting, and she didn’t want to learn how to wait any longer, waiting and listening, and learning what was going on in the prison, and her child getting older. And so she had gone back to her people, her home with her mother and father, and started dating a gentlemen fellow from Stillwater Township, and she went back to Sunday school. And when Edward would get out in 1968, Shannon O’Day, who was old now, would be dead then, he died in 1967. He, Edward had learned the hard way, justice wasn’t for every man and woman alive, it was for the best and richest, and champions of the world. The best the others could do was hope for a chance at it, but not to expect it. America was no different when it came to money, if a man wanted to blot you out, it was a matter of ‘how much.’ Somehow Edward knew, but didn’t say: he talked too much.
Upon the suicide death of Mr. Edward Morrill, in 1966, on the prison wall in his cell, next to his bed, he wrote the following poem:
The Mind’s Prison Cell
By Edward Morrill
In my prison cell
An evil knight was born
In a hate sea-roaming
This devil’s noble
Unsheathed his sword,
For my sire of old
Once a star
In the heavens…!
And said I, I to my sire
Of old, trapped on land
Slave to the whims
Of this cell in prison…!
Life slowly suffocating
I’ll give my soul
To become a selkie
To have power of men
Or a merman or sea spirit
Of various forms, thus…
I shall cast off my skins
And come ashore
As a seal, to a selkie
And with time
Child of longing,
Chosen of an imp
Shall kill the human
That put me forth
Into this lasting prison,
And return with my soul
For his keeping!
5-30-2009; No: 2614
The Day before Yesterday
((A Shannon O’Day Story) (1916/1966))
Part Two of Two
(In a Guesthouse, France, 1916) “What?” The waitress said in German.
“I said where the French compound is? It’s getting late.”
It was near twilight, he was looking for his battalion, had left The Village of Douaumont, left it the day before yesterday, the battle of Verdun was over, a three-hundred day battle, and he was left to die, but he didn’t die, and as he had asked, and the waitress had said: there was some kind of ammo dump at the edge of the woods, several miles away, and so he went in that direction she had pointed out, stepped over trenches, and a few dead bodies still in them, dead men’s faces eaten by rats, others with other deformities, he walked by a corn storage shed (reminded him of Minnesota), and then saw a military compound surrounded with barbwire. He headed to the main gate, “Halt,” a French Sergeant commanded. A shooter on the tower looking down with a pointed rifle barrow,
“Let’s see your ID soldier?” he said.
Shannon O’Day pulled it out of his back pocket, and looked strangely at the man.
“Why you staring at me soldier?” asked the sergeant.
“No reason,” he said, but was staring because the sergeant’s nose didn’t have bone in it, and when you looked at him, you could see right up his nostrils, like a pig.
“Your battalion, or company isn’t here, they went onto Paris for leave.” Said the sergeant; then he pulled his revolver out, and ordered him against the guard shack’s wall, “You look like a spy?” he questioned Shannon, in French.
“Do I talk like one?” asked Shannon, “I’m an American in the French Army, and was wounded and lost, and now I’m healed and still lost. I need a drink of water-please.”
“No,” said the sergeant. “Just who and what are you doing here, coming out of nowhere? Maybe you’re a deserter, not lost but simply done hiding since the battle is now over and want to go home like a hero?”
“About three weeks, I’ve been gone three weeks, maybe two, I lost count.”
“Can I be of any help Sergeant?” asked an officer as he walked by.
“No sir,” said the sergeant, “I’ve got it under control.”
“Just so you don’t shoot one of our own,” he uttered.
Then the sergeant shoved Shannon savagely out onto the thin platform, away from the wall, “Three weeks is a long time to be out there on your own soldier?” said the sergeant, “something smells fishy here!”
The shooter was still looking, halfway aiming his rifle incase he had to bring it back up to his shoulder in a hurry.
“I’m no trader, I was wounded, and some woman in that village called Douaumont put me back together!”
“That’s one big cock and bull story,” said the sergeant now in English.
From behind them you could hear the incoming whisper of engines in the air, and so Shannon crouched, looked up, the planes looked like two dark long winged ducks, dropping down quickly, the sky was gray and dim, and they were heading toward the ammo dump behind the guardhouse.
“Listen,” the sergeant said to Shannon, “…grabs the rifle in the guardhouse and shoot at the plane,” the sergeant was too far away, and the plane was now shooting its machine guns madly all around them, and the shooter in the tower could not get a good shot, and he had a roof over his head, and hid behind the tower’s wooden frame.
“The mad Germans are shooting everywhichway,” said the Sergeant.
Shannon now had his rifle in hand, a soldier came running up toward the sergeant, dived to the ground, side by side, “Don’t get in that soldier’s way with the rifle, let him shoot,” said the sergeant, “take the shot soldier,” yelled the sergeant.
The plane dived close overhead, Shannon watched the sky and the lightening tracers of the machine gun, and fired one bullet-a breeze fell on the face of Shannon, with the moon rising overhead, and then you could hear a crash. The second plane emptied its load over the darkness, and missed the main stockpile of shells.
“You know corporal,” said the Sergeant, “I realize you had a lot of pressure going into that shot, but next time, don’t wait so long.”
The stress of the day, and the day before yesterday, was too, too, mush, a certain amount of nausea befell Shannon. He had been anxious to find his battalion, his outfit, and here he found an ammo dump, with a sergeant calling him a spy, and German planes trying to shoot at him.
“Want to know my name, corporal?” asked the Sergeant.
“No, I just want a cot to sleep on.”
“Just call me Wes, I’ll have someone bring you to the ammo battery, and sorry I called you a spy. Looks like you had a concussion?” asked the sergeant.
“I guess I did,” there was a long pause, “can I go now sergeant?”
“Private, go on and take the corporal to the ammo battery, give him a bunk and some grub.”
“Yes,” sergeant, said the private, “This way Corporal” said the private to Shannon.
(1966) The Door
There was a knock on the door, Shannon tossed over to one side, heard a voice say, “Youall a-wake in there?” (A voice from the past.)
“I got some news fer you Shannon!”
Slowly Shannon found his feet, and pushed them over and onto the floor, then pulled him-self up to get up and out of bed
“Sounds like you Otis?”
“Yessum, it me all right, let me in.”
Shannon opened the door, “Otis Wilde Mather, what the heck are you doing in town, thought you were down in Ozark?”
“Jes’ thought I’d stop on by have a drink with Youall, and give you the good news, Edward Morrill, committed suicide in prison.”
“I guess I’m not all that sorry about that, and perhaps not all that surprised. How did you find out?”
“My third cousin done called me up and told me. He’s in fer life.”
“Hum…m, sounds a bit suspicious to me, like he was keeping an eye on him for you.”
“I heard you talking in your sleep, getting those damn nightmares again, or what Youall call them things-nowadays?”
“Nightmares is good enough Otis, just plain old nightmares, sit on down, I got us some good old corn whisky, if you got the time?”
“Yessum, jest like old times, that what I like ’bout yaw Shannon, you never change.”
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