I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  We have an old man here who is from Idaho.  He had been on parole back in the eighties and had tired of the restrictions on him so he absconded (left without permission) to Idaho.  He lived there for years with no issues.  Then when he applied for social security, they wouldn’t give him his benefits after a couple checks because of the warrant from Wisconsin.  Eventually, he found himself back in the WPS.  I might have told you about him previously.  If so, I apologize.  Anyway, he is almost universally liked here.  If you want sports betting tips, this is the guy to go to.  Thus, for our purposes, he is dubbed the “Gambler”, after the Kenny Rogers song.  The Gambler had one place though where he was not appreciated by all, especially Paul, and that was at the horseshoe pits.  Outside our units front door inside the track are 2 horseshoe pits and a volleyball sand pit.  While the basketball courts to the left are popular with the black guys, the horseshoe pits are popular with the white guys.  There are exceptions but generally that’s the way it is. As usual, with group activities, I stay on the sidelines and watch.  Paul and the Gambler would often get into heated arguments about how things got scored.  The Gambler and Paul are both stubborn people so that didn’t surprise me.  A few days ago, the Gambler came in from horseshoes complaining of a backache.  It didn’t surprise me.  Horseshoes is how he spends a lot of his day.  He laid down for awhile but was up soon thereafter asking the guards to contact Health Services.  The van came and got him soon thereafter.  The following day, word spread around the unit that the Gambler was dead.  Quite a few of us were shocked and saddened.  No one like the Gambler should die in prison, far from family and friends.  Naturally, my thoughts turned to myself as well, vowing I will never die in prison and hopefully not die alone.  A sympathy card that can be ordered off canteen was being distributed around the unit though I never saw it.  Strange enough, though no inmates had turned into vultures on his possessions like they have a habit of doing.  I thought perhaps conscience would stand in the way with these circumstances this time.  Also, I noticed the guards had left his bunk undisturbed, not coming to pack up his belongings.  But I try to mind my own business and just observe, my modus operandi.  Perhaps the guards didn’t come because they hadn’t gotten word to do so yet.  The following day, a new story began to circulate, that an inmate had started the rumor that the Gambler had died.  My first thought was to wonder why anyone would do such a thing. Then I remembered, for many here to do something like that wouldn’t be a stretch at all.  Consciences are like knives.  If you allow them to get dull, they are not as effective as they could be.  They both stay sharp with daily use and maintenance.  But sure enough, later that night, the Gambler appeared.  He, in fact, had had a scare with his heart and was no on Plavix.  I was happy to see him upright and mobile.  I do hope and pray he does get to join his family before his time really does come someday.  Nobody should die alone.

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