Friday, November 2, 2012

From Rage to Redemption: The Story of Our Uncle Bob

Credit: Grolsch Filmworks"Cool Hand Luke Bob"
Ever see this iconic Movie Classic about a misunderstood and mistreated prisoner of an old time Southern Chain Gang ? The title & written script for the movie could well have been

Author Robert C. Cline (1935 - 2007)
Uncle Bob stayed at our Home in Anza California when he started writing the book. We were at a family reunion in Sierra Vista Arizona and he afterwards followed us home in his older model Ford Bronco. He was always fun to joke and kid around with. At a Texico Truck Stop in Indio California we gassed up before driving up the mountain from Palm Desert to our home in Anza. Bob having lived outside of California wasn't use to those old heavy  California State sanctioned Gas Fume Recovery Nozzles and proceeded to load up his tank with Diesel fuel instead of gas. We didn't find out until it was too late. Arizona still had the traditional bare nozzle and he didn't think anything about it. We made it to a mechanics garage between Indio and Coachella where they would empty the gas tank's contents and refilled it with gasoline the next day. All the way up that mountain I kept teasing him about using diesel to lubricate his engine valves. He was fun to have around and yet often times there was always a sense of lingering sadness. Mostly if you could get him to tell old fun stories about his doing things with the other family members, such pain didn't seem to be present. The entire Cline family is a very close family, something that most of folks in the western countries have lost along the way as a more disconnected secular society has replaced many traditional values. On a positive note he found a good friend he could relate to and do things with in Bobby Paul who was a transplant from Mississippi. So for months the town of Anza had a couple of inseparable Good Ol'Boys running around everywhere.

Uncle Bob actually wrote much of his book at our house and I think some in Arizona before he moved over. His niece Jeannette Cline encourage him to write down his experiences in writing as a form of therapy, but who ever thought it would read like a novel of intrigue and suspense in a real live film like that of the fictional character of Luke Jackson (played by Paul Newman) who experienced harsh treatment on a chain gang. I actually read the first rough script of the book in it's early but primitive form. It was a reading that was so captivating that you'd neglect other important responsibilities or business matters because you couldn't put it down. Lots of late night reading back then. Jeannette edited the rough draft with him. Bob said he didn't like watching the movie "Cool Hand Luke" because it reminded him of the hardship and mistreatment of the Texas Penitentiary System which was notorious for it's inhuman brutality. He especially didn't like the name of one of the characters in the film named Boss Kean because it sounded to much like "Boss King" for what they all had to call the Warden of the Prison he had been incarcerated. Here below is an interview with Jeannette Santino talking about her uncle Bob and the writing of the book.

One can only imagine what that place was like and you can vividly picture it while reading the book. Bob studied law and got himself out of prison and changed some of the way things were done. My son Jared is 23 years old and admits he's not much of a reader, but that this is the only book he says he has ever read through cover to cover. It should also be noted that Bob also wrote and published a book of poetry (the one about the Lesbian and the old Cowboy is my favourite) and attended Cowboy Poetry contests. He also wrote and sang country western songs, but so did many members of the Cline family.  Here is a link to the website to find out more about this man's incredible life in a harsh prison environment and actual experience of the chain gang lifestyle.

The Huntsville Unit was established in 1849 and was the first state prison in Texas. It is the only state prison of over 100 in Texas that actually has a wall around it. The original wall was made of sand brick. The current red brick façade was completed in 1942. The bricks were made at the Jester Unit in Fort Bend County. The unit has 424 employees and 1,705 inmates.

photo by Lawrence

Fort Huachuca Sierra Vista Arizona
By all means I recommend getting and reading this book. This is the perfect time of year for reading with winter coming on. Or get it as a gift for someone you know who will be interested in such life true life experiences. 

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