22 May 2016

"Doin' Time in Missouri"

22 May 2016--Got here to Jefferson City, MO a few days ago, passing this huge Indian in Oklahoma before we crossed the state line.  Took the pics of this 18 wheeler because in all our travels, we haven't seen this logo before!

This is one of the 1st times we have actually stayed in a state park; usually they are not equipped to handle the length of our rig, but we lucked out here as we are only maybe 10 minutes from downtown.  We are definitely 'out in the woods', and it's a little more rural than most places we stay, but we thought our Canadian friends Gayle and Yvette would appreciate that we have a picnic table. haha  We were happy to have a concrete pad, so it was a trade-off!  haha

Over 3 days we have seen a lot of birds (woodsy areas are like that--haha).  Even caught some that had caught dinner for themselves and their babies.


These birds, called barn swallows because most people have them in their barns, have a bunch of nests under the bridge, and you can see the one here with a bug in its' mouth, then under the bridge, then comfortably in the nest.  Both the back and the chests of these are quite pretty, but you have to have your camera on 'continuous shot' or you'll never capture it.  It flies and darts around at breakneck speed!


We have been out at the marsh every day trying to catch different birds, but we noticed that when we went out this morning all these flowers had bloomed over the lily pads.  If you blow up the 1st pic you can see, even far out in the water, lots of flowers on the top of the water.  (We saw a handful of small snakes also, but the prettiest thing was the flowers.)  What we didn't know, and only confirmed what we suspected tonight, was that these flowers bloom in the morning and then over the course of the day they close up again.  The last 2 shots in this sequence were shot at around 5pm.  Cool, huh?


The beautiful Blue Jay.

The Barn Swallow is faster than a speeding bullet!  haha  Look at the color on its' back in the 2nd pic.

And the ever-elusive Red-winged Black Bird.  This bird is even harder to catch than the swallow, mostly because it is always hiding in the trees or the tall grasses in the marsh so your camera has a hard time focusing.  When it flies that little red stripe you see here turns out to be a red circle about the size of a quarter...very prominent and pretty!

And finally, bringing up the rear of our marsh birds, the adorable baby geese with mom and pop crossing the road.

Now that we have highlighted the park and its inhabitants, on to Jefferson City, the capital of the state.  When we googled "the 10 best things to do in Jeff City", we were surprised that the #1 entry was to take a tour of the state penitentiary.  Having a somewhat morbid fascination with the penal system, we jumped at the chance to go see it.  Our 1st stop was across the street from the 'pen', the old Warden's house, built in 1888 with prisoner labor.  It now serves as the prison history museum, so we'll combine some info here with the prison tour we took.

No museum is complete without a show of just how crafty its' subjects were.  Hidden and manufactured weapons, some nice art pieces, and then prisoner-made clothing which ends up being sold illegally under a legitimate clothing label.

Some famous inmates:
-James Earl Ray, who escaped and then went on to kill Martin Luther King.
-Sonny Liston, who became Heavy Weight Champion, and actually got his boxing start here.
-"Red" Emma, who was convicted of espionage for opposing the draft prior to WWI, and also for being a proponent of birth control...(seems like the battle never ends, huh?).  She was deported to the soviet Union after she got out...yikes!
-Pretty Boy Floyd, mobster extraordinaire!

Good pics of a cardinal sneaking away from the prison grounds (jail bird?), and this gluttonous bird on the rails outside the Warden's house.  Looks like maybe a couple worms?  Or one BIG one?

Outside the prison, which actually covers the equivalent of about 2-3 square city blocks.  This prison was the only maximum security prison in Missouri for 153 years, and the only one west of the Mississippi for 168 years, so lots of out-of-stater prisoners were shipped here. Surprisingly, although it sits on prime real estate smack in the middle of the city, this place was built in 1836 but didn't close till 2004.  It now just offers tours...even ghost tours at night (no thanks!).

Here we are being in-processed...that's one of the leftover inmates grabbing Cathy!

Well into the 20th century prison labor was competing against private labor, making fortunes for some very lucky individuals.  And if you read these you will see that the pay gap between men and women goes way, way back (haha).

Another famous inmate, at least in these parts, was 'Red" Dolan.  Dolan was a convict who not only assisted in prison surgeries, but did them himself.  The lady in the 1st pic here is a volunteer with the city Visitor's Bureau, but her career was a nurse of 45 years.  The guy giving us the tour told us how she 1st came here as a 17 yr old nursing student tagging along with local doctors who came to work on the prisoners.

Her name is 'Aloha" (? your guess is as good as mine where that came from--haha?), and needless to say I sidled up to her to talk privately.  I asked her kiddingly if her mother willing allowed her to do that at 17, and without blinking of an eye she told me that she came from a large family, that she had left home and received her last beating at the age of 12, and then moved in with a woman who owned a local restaurant.  Somewhere along the line she met an older guy who gave her $75 and told her to go to school.  When I said "wow, you should write a book", she again nonchalantly told me that there were a lot of families like hers around here at that time, so it was no big deal.  I would love to have been able to talk with her more.  

One of the 5 housing units inside the walls, we toured this one that was built in 1868, only 4 years after the Civil War ended.  Dark, cold and creepy!

Cathy is standing at the door of Sonny Liston's cell, where he served 2 years for stealing $100.

We had pretty much free reign to go where we wanted, but we were told in no uncertain terms not to try to close a cell behind us...we could be there for days as they try to figure out how to get it back open.

I am in what was considered the infirmary...gross!

Like putting 'lipstick on a pig', they reduced capacity and gave them some curtains, but other than the TV, it still had to be mind-numbingly dreary in there.  The inmates could buy those TVs for $49...didn't get a chance to ask why they were see-through, but I figure it was so they couldn't hide contraband in there.

Notice how small the door and entryway are originally...I cracked my head good coming out of there...forgot to duck and it almost brought me to my knees!  haha

Down to the dungeon we go. Hard to really show what the dungeons looked like, but the room we are standing in generally held 8-10 guys and was no bigger than your wingspan side-to-side and maybe 10 ft deep.  There was no water or toilet in there, only a water bucket and a refuse bucket, and they held you in cave-like darkness when the doors closed.  You couldn't even see your hand in front of your face.  They fed them through a slot in the wall at ground level.  It was horrible.  They let you out sometimes to work, and although no records were kept, they assume that "Firebug" must have been let out sometimes or he would have gone both blind and insane!  What they do know is that any guard could throw you in there, for any reason, and for any period of time he chose to keep you there. SICK!


I'm standing outside the cell Ray occupied while here.

Some prison lingo...never heard of a couple of them, especially the Roman Holiday.  The tour guide told us that a flogging was often given to guys in the dungeon.  30 lashes was typical, and he said that the cat-o-nine would literally rip the flesh from your back under that level of punishment.


The gas chamber house, wired off within the prison grounds.  The door on the right is to the gas chamber, while the one on the left is for the witnesses.  Love the cross on the 'final path'!  Nice touch!

Two chairs for efficiency, I guess.

I am looking in the viewing window at Cathy in the chair.  Notice the overhead mirror where you can see Cathy's reflection...I guess so I can see my loved-one's face as they choke on the gas?  I'm not thinking that is something I would be volunteering for.  haha

The holding room while awaiting execution, and pics of the 40 people who have met their demise here.


Only one woman has ever been executed here, and she also has the dubious distinction of being one of the only 2 people who were executed at the same time.  She and her boyfriend on the right were both executed for kidnapping and killing a 6 yr old while demanding a huge ransom.  Interestingly, it was the guy who cried and had to be comforted by her as they were led in to the chamber.

And the last story...the last guy to die here, on the lower right with the mustache, when asked what he wanted for his last meal, said "I think I'll hold off till later!"  haha  I don't know what he did, but I might have commuted his sentence just for his witty answer in such dire circumstances.

So that's a compilation of the park, the Warden's house museum and the prison...pretty interesting in a sick sort of way!!!  On to the Capitol and the Runge Conservation Nature Center next!!!


  1. So much to see and do out there, huh! This is our last week at .carefree this season. We leave Tuesday week! Starting our trek to New England. Hope our paths will cross. We are still playing lots of pickle and enjoying the beginning of rainy season.

    1. Miss you guys, and pickleball, too! Say hi to Yoli!!

  2. Loved the tour, and had to chuckle at your pictures of the redwing blackbird and barn swallows. We have SO many of those since they are a Midwestern bird. C'mon up, girls, we miss you!!! Really looking forward to early Dec.

    1. We think we'll be going through your way next summer, so we'll definitely stop once we head that way. In the meantime, really looking forward to getting back to camp also, but in the meantime, hope you guys have a great summer!

  3. Great tour Paula. now I'll never have to go there.

    1. Always the smart ass!! haha

  4. Wowzer!! Is that a word Paula? But that's what came to my mind reading your commentary and viewing the photos. You must have been having a déjà-vu, as I recall you telling another prison story...something about coffee!!

    1. Yeah, that was at Angola Prison in Louisiana...and the guy offering the coffee was a 'trustee' wanting me to follow him (alone) down a hallway and into a small room. I was scared senseless! haha

  5. The birds and the flowers on the water are beautiful !!! I especially enjoyed watching the geese family crossing the street !!! Lots of babies!!!
    That prison is so scary. I do not know how anyone can do anything that might put them in a jail???

  6. Impressive pictures of the birds! I am learning alot here - never went through Jeffersonville, MO! Thanks for sharing your adventures - keep the pics and stories coming!

  7. I believe this prison was on Ghost Hunters a couple years ago and it was creepy! Those pictures of the birds are beautiful!

  8. A bird is a bird is a bird!!! No just kidding very pretty. The prison was fascinating, and the story about the little boy Bobby, was on the investigating id channel!!