Friday, June 21, 2024
Guest ContributionsOn the Road with Mike MurchisonTrucking

Your choices determine whether you exist in a prison, or live free in the wide-open spaces

Statesville Prison, Illinois, F-Block Photo: Injustice Watch


Many years ago, when I was just starting out in the long hall end of trucking there were quite a few new sights, places and people to encounter.

I had a run that carried me from Southern Alberta to Denver then east onto Toronto. From Toronto back to Alberta.

I crossed the Great Plains of the US into the Midwest through Iowa and Illinois.

It was there, somewhere in central Illinois, that I bedded down for the night. Nothing out of the ordinary. It was midsummer. Hot and sticky but livable.

Photo: Mike Murchison

The Truckstop I parked at was situated in farming community; I didn’t realize until the following morning I was surrounded by corn fields. As far as you could see.

I remember before hitting the sack seeing a huge sprawling mass of light way in the distance to the south. Couldn’t figure what it was in the darkness; it didn’t matter much.

The following morning, I sidled up to the counter at the restaurant, and started nursing the coffee. I asked the waitress just what were those lights way of in the distance that I saw the night before?

“Prison,” she said.

“Maximum Security…one of the biggest in the country,” she added.

I said nothing. I finished my coffee and toast. Paid the bill and walked out in a southward direction.

Corn as far as the eye can see. Disappearing over the horizon only to be interrupted by the intrusion of the cold stone geometric monolith that certainly did not fit into the agriculture landscape.

No Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard song about prison ever hit me as hard as staring at that structure: it was huge. Thinking about who was in there and why had a sobering effect.

Contained inside were those who for whatever reason stepped over society’s line of freedom and decency. Some by choice, some out of rage and some simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

They deserve to be in there, some would say. “He’s innocent.” “He’s been set up.” Didn’t matter. They were in there, and I wasn’t.

A stone-cold box with small windows that looked out into fields of lush green corn stocks. A small window that afforded a view of a highway, people moving, life being lived as opposed to just existing.

I’m not sure why it hit me so hard, but it did.

I felt small. Very insignificant and very humbled that I wasn’t in there or in a similar place.

It was in that moment that I clearly understood the meaning of the statement ‘It is there but for the grace of God go I…”

I couldn’t fix or change anything. It was all beyond me. And when things get too big to wrap my head around them, I just wrap my hands around a guitar. And try to make sense of it that way.

I wrote a song that day “If I Had Wings.” Here are the lyrics:

“If I had wings I would fly to my love
If the wind were my friend, I would sail the sea
And she'd wrap her arms around me
and by my side she'd always be

The course I chose the road I traveled 
By the grace of God lead me astray
Days so long and nights so empty
From her side I wish I never strayed

The corn grows tall. The cattle grazing
The evening sun sinks overhead
But I got four walls that surround me
And stone-cold floor to rest my weary head

Yah, if I had wings, I would fly to my love...”

Be blessed