The Rankin Family

It is the weekend, so we will sing! Here is the Rankin Family on Fare The Well, Love.

I am singing that I am back from the Lousiana State Penitentiary at Angola, and that the visit was not too depressing this time somehow. The Death Row guards are always so nice, and so glad to see you. The food for visitors is, as we know, the very best of old Southern cuisine.

When I started to go to Angola with my friend Maureen, we would arrive early, before the rush, and leave ahead of the rush. Being as I am I now arrive after the rush and leave on the last bus. Many other people also leave on the last bus.

The disadvantage of leaving on the last bus is that as you pass the different cell blocks to pick people up, you see them come out. Most visitors are somebody’s mother and they are bright and animated while they are on the cell blocks, but they walk out crying. Seeing this is the hardest part of visiting Angola.

Maureen and I used to go up to Angola from New Orleans. We would arrive home exhausted and get over the visit by going out with a group of lawyers related to us and drinking heavily, or by renting large quantities of videos and downing entire six-packs of Diet Coke.

Now that I go to Angola by myself and no longer live en ville, I always think I should arrange to go out with friends in Baton Rouge on the way home. I never actually do this because these friends have nothing to do with Angola, and the change of worlds would be too extreme. Instead I make a beeline for the library at LSU and wander aimlessly through the section of new journal issues. Then I drink a double espresso at Highland Coffees and head over the river to Maringouin.

Getting processed in this time I was the only white person in my group. The only other middle class people were a family of three from Shreveport, who had started driving at 6 AM. “Yes, it is very interesting to visit here,” I agreed. “But I am always sad when I leave.” “Yes,” said the father, a younger person than I. “You have to go out to dinner to get your mind off it.” “Yes,” I said.


5 thoughts on “The Rankin Family

  1. I thought often about figuring out a reason to go up to Angola this weekend, as well. I don’t like to get too far removed from those inside, as I most certainly would not want to be “forgotten,” if I was locked up. But I don’t have any personal connections there and having missed the craft fair, I decided I had lost my opportunity. Perhaps I need to make a connection so that I will be back in the loop. Or at the very least make a firm plan to attend the craft fair in the spring. Thanks for this post. We need to be kept reminded of the millions that languish in the true belly of the beast. And next time, I would meet you for a meal in BR, if you like, to listen, if nothing else.

  2. You should make friends with Gary Tyler, get on his visiting list, see what is up with the Drama Club and try to go to their banquets. I cannot because I am on a Death Row list, and under Cain, you can only be on the list of one total prisoner. Gary’s great and could really use some support right now.

    If I’m in the country in April, we will go to the crafts fair … we’ll start early and then you’ll go to the museum and I Death Row. And yes, the next time I go to DR by myself we’ll meet in BR. 🙂

  3. When I worked in education up at the prison, we needed a lot of time to process what had happened while we were teaching. It was so intense. We needed each others’ support to bear it. Could you write about it, or do you write about it?

  4. I’ve written one piece and haven’t published it. And I briefly had a small column about it, have written little things. Today I was thinking I *really* need to write about it, as in, it is my secret THEME.

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