My first experience with the so called justice system was when I was close to 12 years old. Two friends and I ran away from home expecting to end up in Florida where we could live off oranges and bananas and sleep on warm sunny beaches. The idea was to catch a train and ride all the way there, of course we had to ride bicycles 20 miles to get near a train. People did this sort of thing; we saw it on TV many times. It was winter and Florida seemed like a better idea than California, it was closer after all. We managed to get the bike ride out of the way by 3pm or so and found the freight yards. Oddly there was not a car waiting for us to jump into. By this time my two friends were not as motivated as they had been. So to keep things going I said we should walk the tracks till we found a box car. I knew which way was south and there had to be a train sooner or later and this would give a sense of purpose. It would also keep us from freezing to death. We walked about three hours when it got too much for my compatriots. They started talking about finding a house to get some food. Now I knew we could go for days without food, and we had water all around us, there was snow after all. This is where I found a difference between me and most other people, they put their self-interest above other people’s rights, if I cannot justify ideologically with my ethics I won’t do it, I may be able to justify a lot but I do have a line I won’t cross, it seems to me that most people put self-interest in front of equality, the golden rule. I don’t know why or how it happened but I am not wired that way. I have a strong belief in justice that has always been with me. So when we finally crossed a road they decided to follow the road and not the tracks, I could not persuade them different but I did try. It was not long before we found an isolated house with no car in drive and no lights on, they decided they would go in and get some food. I also tried to persuade them against this action, to no avail. So I continued to walk and they went toward house. About a half hour later a police car came up behind me and they were in back seat.
The woman who lived in house had come home shortly after they went in, they had grabbed a bag of cookies and a jar of spaghetti sauce and ran out the back into the woods and sat there till the police came. We were processed and had to go to court, I plead innocent as that is how I see it to this day. When I was on the stand testifying I told the truth and did not leave anything out, I even offered reasons why I was running away. I told the judge that my father was a drunk and sexually abused my sisters. This did not move anyone. They found me guilty of breaking and entering and gave me probation.
My second contact with the justice system was a cold rainy day about a year later. I had ridden my bike about 30 miles to see a girl who had shown interest in me. She was a niece of a farmer I worked for. I did not know exactly where she lived but I was sure if I got to her town I could find her. I got to her town in Oxford in good time it was still early afternoon. I found a phone booth in front of a car dealer and tried to call her, but there was no answer. Well I figured if I waited I would get through. So here I am soaked through in pouring rain and standing for a hour in front of a phone booth occasionally making a call. A police car pulls up and two officers get out and start asking me questions. I am not doing anything wrong so I tell them the truth. They do not believe me and are convinced I am planning on stealing a car. Now at this time I had no idea how to steal a car, later I would find out how easy it was, but here and now I did not have a clue. So they take me to the station and after some time call my parents and I get a ride home, never getting to see my friend. I never convinced anyone I was not trying to steal a car.
The third interaction with justice was when someone broke into the cottage my father rented to some college guys, I had cut my hand and arm up breaking the windshield of a car my father had bought me, because I had the cuts these guys accused me of breaking into their house, apparently someone convinced them not to press charges, but I don’t think anyone believed I did not do it.
The fourth time comes when I was in a argument with my father, I was around 14 and he said do this and I said no. there was more to it but I don’t remember the words. Next thing I know there is a police car in drive way and Fran Whitney is taking me for a ride. We go about a mile up the road when he stops the car and starts telling me how I am wrong and I should always do what I’m told and how much trouble I will be in if I don’t change, ECT, ECT. I try to be reasonable and explain calmly my side and he gets belligerent and starts yelling, so I shut up and listen and he takes me home. I was scared and now have a good idea that there is no justice to be had, at least not around Massachusetts.
By this time I am starting to change my mind about law and it’s supposedly connection to justice. I had also changed my ideas about taking what I needed. I spent a great deal of energy trying to find a geographical cure for my woes. And this story is a continuation of that. I am around 15 and want out of this lunatic asylum, so I convince two friends that we can get to California if we take my father’s car. They agree and off we go, oddly enough we don’t run into any trouble till we decide to play in the desert in New Mexico. We are doing donuts in the sand when we bend a push rod in the 1967 Pontiac Catalina convertible, great car. We were often driving 90 miles an hour and never saw a cop, I miss the 60’s. We sucked gas out of cars along the way and avoided tolls. We had maybe 50 dollars for all three of us. As luck would have it we found a junk yard only a couple of miles away, in a place the next gas station could be a hundred miles. They had a compatible engine and if I took it out and replaced the pushrod myself with their tools I had enough money. So I rolled up my sleeves and dug in. I just finished the job when a state trooper pulled in on his rounds and asked who we were where we were going and let’s see license and registration. Now it had only taken us a day and a half to get here, we had planned on getting there as fast as possible so if my father reported it stolen we could get there without getting caught, We had driven strait nonstop. Well our story of him driving because I did not have a license yet, and my parents were moving to California, so they let us drive the car while they flew, just did not get it. So off to jail we go for a week with no charges and no communication from police or trustees or anyone else till we were taken to a plane in Texas to fly home. We were only customers in large two story jail house, the trustees fed us once a day but would not talk to us and we were separated so we had to yell to talk to each other. We had done a bad thing, but we were still human beings.
My next interlude is when I am just barely 16 in Ohio when I am hitch hiking through Columbus. I am on my way to California, I see a sign saying no hitch hiking in city limits so I ask the guy I’m ridding with if he is going through or stopping in city. He tells me he’s going all the way to other side so I say cool, he drops me off in downtown Columbus. What luck I have, so I get on entry ramp and stick out thumb, I did not want to be obvious on interstate. The first car up ramp is Columbus police; they cuff me and stuff me. It is Friday late afternoon and I end up staying in drunk tank all weekend. As it turns out there was a concert in town and the police had been harassed by a lot of people drunk and drugged up. Otherwise maybe I would have been able to talk to cops and gotten a break. I get dragged in front of judge Monday morning and cop gives his spiel about how much trouble teenagers had caused over the weekend and how it was my entire fault. I look at the judge and he is this huge black man and this is very intimidating to me as I have had no interaction with black people. I think he will surly through the book at me and I am so screwed. Well I tell my side that is very short and sweet. Surprise surprise he says 25 dollar fine suspended sentence and tells me to leave Columbus and don’t you dare stick your thumb out till you are outside city limits. I thanked him went outside walked to the interstate and stuck out my thumb. I was rather glad I did not have to work off the fine at 2 dollars a day. Off to see the wizard the wonderful wizard of oz.
the next time I ran into john law was when a few friends and I went to Hampton beach. We had a car but not much money so we were resting in car one night when rousted by the cops. There was a cloud of smoke that escaped when we opened door and after checking all our ids and papers the cop said give me your pot. I said what pot we don’t do that stuff, and he said if you give it up I don’t need to do paper work at the station and you can go home. I gave it to him and they had a good night and we did not.
By this time I had basically lost any respect for authority figures. I had started to form my opinions on human nature and the idea of power attracts only those who want power over others, as a definition of authority figures. Though I was still an optimist and had seen evidence that some people broke this rule and were in power to make a difference and do what was right. I also could see it was not the majority. I was losing faith in mankind generally. It is said that no man is a island but to be honest I had felt like one most of my life.
It was about this time that I quit high school because of a line I had drawn that I could not alow myself to cross. I had a teacher who required all students to bring a note book to class and take notes. I was not doing well in this class and took a long look at why and decided it was because I could not concentrate on the material presented and write legibly at the same time. If I wrote in notebook I could not read it when I got home and at the same time I could not listen well and understand the material if I was concentrating on dictation. So I stopped taking notes and the teacher told me I had to, so I explained why I could not and he told me I could not attend if I did not take notes. So I talked to the next guy up the ladder and he told me he was going to back the teacher, so I told him I quit, I had no choice. I was not going to waste my time following his rules if I could not learn that way. I regretted this soon but I am pig headed, it takes me a lot of thought to make a decision but once I have I cannot back down.
After bumming around all summer and realizing I needed to do something I joined the navy, they told me I had to pass the GED and sent me to Greenfield Community Collage to take the test. I did not study for it and passed it first try, about half of the test I guessed at without even reading the question, not because I felt lucky but because I knew I did not know the answers but thought I could see a pattern in the answers I did know. Either I was right or it was a set up and I was going to pass no matter what my score was, I will never know. Life and luck, tell me there is not a force in the universe and I will surely call you a liar.