CHAPTER THIRTEEN

- Prison! -



Just after Dorothy moved to Harrison, Arkansas, with James and Ellen she found a job as a waitress in a local restaurant. She also found an apartment to share with a girl who worked where she did. Ellen would have been happy about it except that Dorothy’s new friend was an ex-convict. Ellen tried to reason with her about being close friends with someone who has a criminal record, but Dorothy became angry and defended her roommate.

The following spring, Dorothy was in trouble with the law. Ellen didn't find out about Dorothy being in jail until the next day when she went to work. James worked on the opposite side of town from Ellen, so he drove her to her job and kept the car.
 


"Ellen, I was sure sorry to hear about what happened to Dorothy," a fellow employee, whispered in sympathy.

"What do you mean?" Ellen felt her heart do a flip-flop.

"You mean you don't know! Oh, Ellen, I'm sorry to be the one to tell you. But..., I thought you knew."

"Knew what?" Ellen spoke sharply.

"That Dorothy was picked up last night on a drug charge. I heard it on the news."

"Thanks for telling me," Ellen fought back her tears. "I've got to go. Can you cover for me?"

"Sure, go ahead," she answered and gave Ellen a soft, supportive pat on her shoulder. Ellen started to call James, but thought better of it. She knew he would start cursing and blame her, so she decided to find out what had happened without him.

She hired a taxicab to take her to the county jail. When Ellen walked into the sheriff's office, a deputy at the desk glanced up at her. He then chose to ignore her. Ellen knocked on his desk to get attention.

"Pardon me, but can you tell me if you're holding my daughter here? Her name is Dorothy Caywood," Ellen tried to command respect.

"Just a minute," he was abrupt, and continued to read newspaper.

"Sir! I need to know if my daughter is here," Ellen was firm.

"Yeah," the deputy looked at her again, "she's here."

"May I see her?" Ellen asked.

"Look, Lady, visiting hours are on Sundays. Today's Tuesday, all day long," he turned back to his paper.

"What's going on?" The voice came from behind Ellen. She turned around and looked into the kind eyes of the local Sheriff.

"My daughter was picked up yesterday and I want to see her," Ellen replied. "But this man here told me I couldn't."

"Well, you can," he said with a hard look at his deputy. "Give me the keys, Bill."

"Sure, I'm sorry Sheriff. I was just trying to keep the rules" replied the deputy as he reached into a drawer and took out a chain of keys. "Here you are."

"Follow me, Ma'am," the sheriff was courteous as he escorted Ellen up a flight of stairs. "She's in here," he said, as he unlocked a steel door. The door opened into a large room with two separate cells. The first cell was empty, but Ellen saw Dorothy lying on a bunk in the second one.

"Dorothy, your mother's here to see you." The sheriff unlocked her jail door and stepped back for Ellen to enter. Dorothy sat up on the side of her bed, but wouldn't look at Ellen.

"I'll be back later, Mrs. Caywood. If you need me just call out, I'll hear you."

"Thank you," Ellen answered as he closed the door. Ellen sat beside Dorothy and put her arm around her shoulders. Dorothy kept looking at the floor. Ellen's heart filled with pain, but she tried not to cry.

"Dorothy," she spoke gently, her voice echoing in the quiet confinement, "will you tell me what this is all about?" Dorothy shook her head.

Ellen tried again. "I need to know what happened so I can help you. Look up here and talk to me, Honey." Dorothy wouldn't answer, and she kept her head downcast.

Ellen tried another approach. "Dorothy, no matter what you've done, I love you. I'll help you if I can, but you need to talk to me."

"Mother," Dorothy looked up through tear-filled eyes. "I really don't know what's going on. I was picked up last night, just after I got off work. They told me it has to do with a drug investigation. I guess they think I know more than I do. But I don't expect you to believe me because I'm such a bad person. Anyway, I guess I'm fulfilling Dad's great expectations of me."

"Did you tell them you're innocent?"

"No, I didn't," Dorothy's expression became hard, and she spewed out her words, "They're all a bunch of smart-aleck cops, and I've been lying to them. I've had them looking for dope in the weirdest places. It's a laugh, really. They're so dumb, they'd believe anything I told them. Except...," she took a deep breath, "...that I'm innocent."

"Oh, Dorothy, why do you hurt yourself like this? I'll never understand you. If you've made a fool of them, and if they find out, you will be in trouble."

"Mother, the thing is, I'm already in trouble. More trouble than you can imagine. They really believe that I've been selling dope, and that I have underground connections. Someone implicated me in something that I know nothing about, and I think I know who."

"I’ll hire a lawyer for you. We’ll get this straightened out."

"No, Mother, don’t waste your money. I’ll get out of this by myself."

"Not by running these cops on wild-goose chases, you won't!"

"Don't worry, Mother. I'll be fine, really."

"Well, I've got to go. Your dad will be getting out for lunch break and he's expecting me to go eat with him."

After Ellen left, the deputy sheriff came in on pretense of questioning Dorothy. He tried to bribe her to sleep with him, but she refused. He was putting pressure on her when the sheriff entered with her lunch tray. Dorothy should have told him about his deputy, but she thought he wouldn't believe her. She didn't eat much of her lunch. She was scared, but too prideful to let anyone know. She believed her roommate was the person who had implicated her, but she couldn't prove it. When the sheriff returned for her lunch tray, she asked if he would tell who her accuser was.

"No, Dorothy, I can't tell you. What I want you to understand is that we’re not after you, we’re after your supplier. If you'll cooperate, you won't be here long. Now, why don't you just sign a confession, and be a help to us?"

"Why should I sign a confession that will send me straight to prison? Do I look that stupid?"

"I'm telling you, it's going to be harder on you if you don't. Look, we know for a fact that you're guilty, so don't think you're going to get off. By not cooperating, you're just assuring yourself of a longer prison term. I'm sure you'll get out of this, ...if you help us nail the supplier."

"I don't know any supplier. And, just how could you know for a fact that I'm guilty?"

"Because we have a witness who will verify that you sold dope in her cafe."

"So that's who turned me in! That’s pretty sorry of her to do me this way. She’s just jealous of me over the attention her boyfriend has been giving me."

"Well, that's your story. She says you're guilty and she's willing to take the witness stand to prove it. Now, you think about what I've told you and let me know what you decide."

After the sheriff left, Dorothy decided she had better try to work with them. But, she didn't know how she was going to get around the "cooperation" of helping find a supplier. She decided she would cross that bridge when she had to. James refused to visit Dorothy, and he believed her guilty of the charges that were in the paper. Ellen tried to soften the hurt of Dorothy being rejected.

"Honey, you've got to realize that the only reason he believes you're guilty is because of your rebellious attitudes in the past. He's really embarrassed about your being in jail and it hurts him to have to admit he has a daughter involved in narcotics. He still loves you, Dorothy, he's just severely disappointed about what has happened."

"Yeah, well, it's easy to say you love someone. How do you prove it? If he really loved me, he would be here, guilty or not. Now, wouldn't he?"

"Oh, Dorothy, you're hard on a person. You do the same thing your dad does. If someone doesn't live up to your expectations, you turn away from them. Isn't that right?"

"That's not true," Dorothy started crying. "Do you really think I could be the type of parent who would turn away from my own flesh and blood?"

"No, of course not. I'm just trying to get you to understand your dad, so you can forgive him."

"Sure, I'll forgive him. When hell freezes over! Please, Mother, leave me alone for today. I don't want to argue with you over something that neither one of us can help."

"All right, I'll go. We're going home tonight and it will be next week before I see you. If you need me, have the sheriff call our neighbor, okay?"

"Thanks, Mother. See you next week."

That night, as she lay on her bunk Dorothy thought about her dad. She decided that if he were so embarrassed about her being in jail, then he would suffer even more if she went to prison on a narcotics charge.

The next day she signed a confession and told the sheriff that she wanted to cooperate. They asked her about a doctor who had recently committed suicide. Thinking perhaps the doctor had to be guilty of some narcotics involvement, and believing it couldn't hurt him now that he was dead, Dorothy signed a statement that he was her supplier. She was sure she would be released, but much to her amazement she was in court within days of her signed confession. James refused to go to court. Ellen hated to go alone, but she knew how grieved Dorothy would be if she wasn't there.

The day of the trial, Ellen received a letter from Kelly. "Ellen, right now I know you're thinking that this is more than flesh and blood can endure, but you can, and you must. You're probably blaming yourself, but Dorothy is old enough to make her own decisions. She knew she shouldn't have even associated with that rough crowd she ran with. She made this decision and she must accept the consequence of it. This is a tragic blow, but it's not a forever thing. She will rise above it. I have faith in her goodness, and so do you. Put this behind you and look to the future. James will soon get over it; he can't blame you forever. I'm sure he feels just as guilty. Answer my letter soon, Ellen, so I can know you are all right. I'm also sending Dorothy a letter of encouragement. Your forever friend, Kelly"

The lawyer James and Ellen hired saw Dorothy just outside the courtroom. He advised her to plead guilty and ask for mercy.

Dorothy stood at the defendant’s table virtually alone, because her so-called lawyer wasn't going to help her. The judge read the charges and asked Dorothy how she pleaded. She followed the lawyer’s advice and plead guilty. The judge then asked Dorothy to rise for sentencing. She slowly pushed her chair back, and placing a hand on the back of her chair for support, she stood straight and looked at the judge.

She was sentenced to three years in the Arkansas State Penitentiary for Women. Ellen saw Dorothy falter, then straighten, as the judge gave the bailiff orders for when she should be incarcerated. The judge's grave words pierced Ellen's heart, plunging her into deep shock. Nauseated, she bowed her head and closed her eyes. Kelly's words came to Ellen's mind, "This tragic blow is not a forever thing,".

Ellen didn't see Dorothy taken out of the courtroom. When she knew she could control her emotions, she stood and walked outside. She went straight home and told James of the sentencing. James said he couldn't stand to live anywhere near where anyone knew about Dorothy. They sold their farm and moved to Reydon, Oklahoma, where he found a job with a construction company.

Dorothy's first night in prison was frightening for her. On the army cot, she lay on her back and stared at the ceiling. The pain of despair caused a flood of tears to flow down the side of her face and into her hair. "Why?" she whispered, more in sorrow than anger. "Why do I screw up everything I do? I've really messed up my life this time. What a fool I am. Now, what's to become of me?"

She wondered what had happened to those years when she was young, with tomorrows full of promise and dreams that seemed achievable? Why did the sunlit days of innocence have to die? All those golden days of youth were now only a dim memory, and Dorothy wept bitter tears for the losing of them.

A hand softly touched her shoulder and she turned to see who it was. Close to her bed was another army cot, occupied by a young girl with light-brown curls. She smiled faintly, and her deep-blue eyes were full of pity. Putting a finger to her mouth, she motioned Dorothy to be quiet. She pointed toward a nearby table where a woman in a blue-grey uniform sat. The small, cherub-looking girl mouthed the word trouble, and Dorothy knew what she meant.

The slender young woman reading by a dim light at the table was a trustee night-guard. Her duty was to write down the name of anyone who made a disturbance. Dorothy lifted her head and looked around at the rows of beds, full of sleeping, troubled women.

The room was a huge, rectangular dorm, about the size of a basketball gymnasium. At the east-end of the dorm were two barred and locked doors that opened out into a small storage area. The prison matron had put Dorothy's shoes in the storage area to air out. She told Dorothy she would have her shoes back in a week. Meanwhile, she had to wear the slippers issued her.

Along both sides of the long dormitory were barred windows that peered out into a high-fenced, dismal-looking prison yard. Dorothy soon learned that women prisoners spent rare amounts of time outside.

Near the end of the building, on the north side of the sleeping and living dorm, were two more locked and barred doors that opened into an almost square dining area. In the dining room were two rectangular tables with benches that could seat up to thirty prisoners.

Dorothy would come to know that dining area well, because troublemakers were sent to work in the kitchen. Just past the doors that opened into the dining area was a small barred window. It opened into the prison matron's office that also served as her sleeping quarters.

There were two matrons, one worked nights and the other worked days. A light was on in the office and Dorothy wondered why the matron was still awake.

At Dorothy's end of the dorm, on the west side, was a large bathroom. Inside the bathroom, behind a three-quarter-high tiled wall, were several open showers. Earlier in the evening, two prison trustees were ordered to take Dorothy into the bathroom and make sure she took a shower with special soap. The day matron, Mrs. Stout, issued an order for Dorothy's prison clothes to be given her. The trustees weren't allowed to talk with her and told her to shut up when she asked a question.

Next to the bathroom was a long narrow storage room where her suitcase had been put. Beside the storage room, and still on the west side, were more barred and locked doors that opened into a large sewing room. She was told that prison uniforms were made there.

Turning toward her angelic-looking friend, Dorothy nodded and smiled. The girl grinned, then closed her eyes to sleep. Dorothy was sure the girl couldn't be over fourteen years old.

The next day, Dorothy was told her little friend was sixteen and had been in prison for two years. The girl had been married by age thirteen, and she was with her husband during a hold up where an innocent by stander was killed, both received a life sentence.

Dorothy, unlike most prisoners, never adjusted to prison life. She knew she was innocent, and she rebelled against any form of discipline. Because of their defiant attitudes, Dorothy, and a handful of other ungovernable women were picked as examples of retributive justice intended for all prisoners.

Right away, Dorothy was asked to hem her uniforms. After hand sewing the skirting, she laid them on the Dorm table for inspection. The matron threw the uniforms back on Dorothy's bed and told her to hem them again, but this time she wanted no thread showing.

Because of her rebellious attitude, Dorothy had already been assigned to the kitchen. She labored from five in the morning until seven at night in the prison kitchen. Scullery work required long, hard hours and Dorothy knew it would take another week to hem the two uniforms. She didn't try to conceal her anger as she ripped out the old hems, but she did try to hide the thread as she put in new ones.

Once again, she laid out the uniforms for inspection, and once again, the matron threw them back on her bed for redoing. By this time, Dorothy was in tears every night, refinishing the hems. And this time they were accepted.

Dorothy became convinced that the prison officials wanted to break her spirit, but they never succeeded. Her determined attitude did gain her the respect of fellow inmates and that encouraged her to survive.

She made a few close friends with women who were serving life sentences. They helped motivate her defiance of the system, and stood with her when she was punished She did the same for them.

Dorothy soon learned about how much better off she was as a white woman in prison than as a black woman. The black women were put into a separate dorm. They weren't allowed to speak or eat with the white women. They didn't even have a dining room. They were served a certain portion of food on a tin plate, with only a spoon for an eating utensil.

She hadn't been working in the kitchen long when two black women got into a fight in their dorm. At first, Dorothy didn't think much about the commotion she heard coming from the black women's dorm. But, suddenly, the kitchen trustee yelled at her to close the black women's door and lock it. She quickly did as she was told, then went back to washing dishes. Soon, the trustee and prison matron opened the black women's door and stepped inside.

The fighting was over, but several of the inmates had been injured. The fight had been a bloody battle, with stolen, sharpened spoons for weapons.

The next morning, as Dorothy began washing the breakfast dishes, another prison official entered the black women's dorm. He ushered in a huge, black man carrying what looked like a tightly rolled-up whip. The trustee saw Dorothy staring after the mountainous, black man and told her to mind her own business. Dorothy shrugged her shoulders and turned back to her work.

Unexpectedly, the sounds of a whip striking flesh shattered the noise of the usual kitchen chores. Everyone in the scullery stopped working. Each one listened as a whip seemed to cut through skin, and pitiful cries became a soft moan.

Dorothy was enraged, but she knew there was nothing she could do. She had never felt so helpless in her life and hate boiled inside her. When the kitchen trustee yelled at her to get busy, Dorothy took her frustrations out on the pots and pans.

Later, when the mountainous, black man came back through the kitchen, Dorothy gave him a look of pure hatred. Beads of perspiration ran down his face, and as he smiled at her obvious show of hostility, sweat ran down his cheek and into his mouth. Frightened at the look of pure, vulgar satisfaction on the black man's face, she quickly turned away.

She had seen that very same look on her granddad's face the day he had molested her. She became sick and her knees felt weak. She asked for permission to go to the bathroom, and the cold water she splashed on her face helped rid her of the feeling of sickness.

The following fifteen months of Dorothy's imprisonment emotionally drained Ellen. Every time Ellen visited the prison Dorothy would tell of men and women being abused and beaten by prison guards. The drug rings in the men’s dorms, fighting among inmates, and verbal abuse from prison officials was everyday occurrences. Ellen was shocked and frightened for Dorothy, and she watched her become hard and bitter.

During the time Dorothy was in prison, Patsy married a tall slender young man called G.W. They couldn't have children of their own, but several years later they adopted two brothers, Roger, and Ricky. Sadly, they soon discovered Roger to be severely autistic and had to put him in an institution. The tension and strain had a tragic effect on their marriage and they were divorced.

Later, Pat married Jim, and he was totally devoted to her. The god-like worship Patsy had held for Dorothy was transferred to this quiet, shy young man. After Ricky was grown, Jim and Pat adopted Jimmy; who became a source of pride and joy to them.

Just after Pat married, Peggy started dating a young man who worked with James. Ellen wasn't sure about him, because he seemed to have an eye for all the girls. Peggy sounded like a broken record because all she ever talked about was Fred. They soon married and he became a trustworthy husband and father. They had four children two boys, Freddie and Sidney, and two girls, Drue and Elizabeth. Ellen often visited with them, loving every minute of her stay. It was good for Ellen to see her sweet-natured Peggy happily married.

When Dorothy was paroled out of prison, she had a distrust of everyone, and appeared to even hate herself. She obviously didn't care if her emotional wounds healed, and Ellen feared for her sanity. James tried to reach out to her, but she remained cool and distant. She seemed grateful for James allowing her to come home, but his not having faith in her innocence marred their relationship.

When Dorothy met Doran, Ellen’s fears for her daughter were soon abated. Dorothy seemed to change overnight and she told Ellen that at last she had found a man she could love. The bitterness faded from Dorothy’s heart and her eyes lost the hard, sad look. She even started laughing again.

Doran and Dorothy were soon married, and they had six children of their own before adopting a seventh child.

After the girls were married, Ellen turned her attention to her youngest child. Wilfred Henry (called Junior all his young life), was now nicknamed Skip. Dorothy chose the nickname for him and it remained with him until his death in 1986. Skip was ornery, and full of mischief, but he loved Ellen and tried not to hurt her. When Skip turned seventeen he told Ellen he wanted to join the Navy.

"Skip, are you sure the Navy is what you want?" Ellen asked.

"It sure is, Mother," he answered with a big smile. "I'm proud to be following Dad and my older brothers into the Navy."

Ellen believed Skip was too young to be going into the service, and she hated to let him go. But he was determined, so she and James signed his enlistment papers.

The first Navy pictures he sent home made him look so grownup that it hurt Ellen. "My baby boy's really a man," she thought sadly as she put his picture in her album.

With all her children gone the house seemed quiet. Too quiet! James and Ellen were alone at last. Once, in her loneliness, Ellen thought back to the time she had promised to get to know God. She knew that this was a perfect time to carry out her pledge, but she just wasn't willing to reach out to Him yet.


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- SUDDENLY CHAPTERS INDEX -


[ Introduction ] [ Chapter One ]

[ Chapter Two ] [ Chapter Three ]


[ Chapter Four ] [ Chapter Five ]


[ Chapter Six ] [ Chapter Seven ]


[ Chapter Eight ] [ Chapter Nine ]


[ Chapter Ten ] [ Chapter Eleven ]


[ Chapter Twelve ] [ Chapter Thirteen ]


[ Chapter Fourteen ] [ Chapter Fifteen ]



Ellen's Memorial



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