© Copyright 2011 Robert C. Cline (1935-2007) & Elaine J. Cline-Santino
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted by any means—whether auditory, graphic, mechanical, or electronic—without written permission of both publisher and author.
This book contains adult situations and adult language which may be offensive to some individuals.
Cover Design, Photographs and Layout by:
Cassandra Samson – A Thousand Words Photography
Sirena Murphree – Layout
Tyrone Parsons – Model on front cover
- Before Proceeding -
Keep in mind this is a true story of one man’s personal experience standing up to “the Man” in a then brutal Texas Prison system during the 50’s and 60’s. The language in Robert Cline’s writing was the language of this time period. The Warden used a group of Black prison inmates that were large and would carry out the Warden’s orders. Bob learned prejudice while experiencing brutal beatings from these men. He expresses himself true to form for that time. Once out of prison, it took a few years and many conversations, for him to accept that these men in prison are not reflective of all Black men in the free world. The real clincher was when a member of his family, that he dearly loved, married a Black man. Once Bob held their first child, his heart melted. We worked on this issue and his attitude toward this particular race mellowed tremendously through the years. He accepted that we are all a part of humanity regardless of our nationality or the color of our skin.
As an avid book reader, I rarely read the Forwards of a book and now I’m faced with writing one…So my message to you is: READ THIS ONE…
The first “Forward” I ever actually read from beginning to end was the one written for the book, The Largest Hotel Chain in Texas by Lon B. Glenn. That forward was worth the read. It prepared my mind for the information that followed in the book.
Hopefully you will take the time to read this Forward as it will help you understand the man behind the story and how this book came about. As you read about his experiences, picture them in your head and you will see a true life movie unfold in your minds eye of happiness and heartache, fear versus power, love and hate, and one man’s journey from rage to redemption. Enjoy.
When you never thought you would dance again, your first dance is very special. Bob stopped ‘dancing’ at the age of fourteen when his father died and he truly felt he would never dance again. The spiral downward toward a living hell began at age fourteen as he watched his father bleed to death.
Bob had a spirit that was different from most folks. It was wild and untamed. Viewing death as the end of it all, he sought to get as much out of life as he could. At first it was the quick thrills of fast money, fast women and the highs of drugs and alcohol; the excitement of pulling off a job, out foxing the ‘Man’ and getting away with it; or maybe the victory of coming out on top in a barroom brawl was the thrill of the day.
However, the thrill of the fast life quickly came to a grinding halt when the reality and brutality of the Texas State Penitentiary hit him square in the jaw. How could he ever survive? Did he even want to? Would his heart ever dance again?
His lessons in life were harsh and brutal at times. Eventually he learned that there were better ways to handle his rage than using his fists. He could use the letter of the law to correct the law. So, he began to put his energy into building his mind and thus took the first step on the long road to recovery.
He learned that the real joys of life were not found in a bar or a bottle. Neither was it illicit sex or illegal money. Instead it was the pride felt from doing the right thing, the touch of a loved one, the smile of a friend, the pleasure of holding your children in your arms, or watching them as they sleep. That one of the most valuable treasures in life is being there to watch your children grow up and holding your grandchild in your arms for the first time. Then one day he realized his heart could and would, dance again. And dance he did, fifteen years later, when he beheld as a free man the family that was so dear to his heart.
Bob’s life experiences are written down just as he spoke, in an unpolished, country style. The language and events when describing his experiences in the Texas Penitentiary can be graphic at times, but keep in mind this was his reality and he didn’t sugarcoat it.
Bob never had it in his mind to write a book about his life as a Texas Farmboy any more than one about his life of crime and prison experiences. Whenever the family would gather around the kitchen table, they would each have stories to tell about growing up in a family of ten kids to poor parents struggling to survive on a little Texas farm.
One day, Uncle Ken told about the time the older boys were able to talk their little brother, “Runt”, into peeing on an electric fence. Trusting his older brothers, Bob did just that; and of course he got quite a jolt. After we were finished laughing, I threw my hands up and said “Well, that explains it”. “Explains what?” Uncle Bob asked. “It explains your life.” We all had a good laugh and moved on to another topic. My point is that we can’t really explain why any sane person would make the choice to pursue a life of crime. So, peeing on an electric fence when you were ten years old is as good an explanation as any other.
During one of our deep discussions I suggested, as a means of therapy, that he write his experiences down and I would help him process the emotions that might be released as a result. This assignment took him several years. Then one day he was finished. The story itself wasn’t finished as he could have written much more, but emotionally, he was just done with the process and wanted to move on with life. I got that.
As I read his writings, I suggested he turn it into a book. He didn’t think anyone but his crazy niece would be interested in reading it; but to please me, he agreed to meet with a coach that suggested he intertwine his prison experiences with his life as a Farmboy in Texas. The result is the story you have before you.
It’s not a literary masterpiece written in “sophisticated prose”, but as you read it you will get the flavor of a wild Texas boy that grew up in a harsh world, yet intertwined with deep family love and loyalty. This was a Texas family from the 1930’s to the 1970’s and that country way comes across clearly in his expressions.
My biggest regret working on this project is that I didn’t get it done before my Uncle Bob’s life was over. You would have liked meeting him and he would have died with a greater sense of accomplishment.
Jeannette Cline – 2020
The Flashbacks Begin – Living on the Farm
Man I never knew dark could be so black. Not that this was my first time in the hole, it wasn’t, but this time it seemed that the world had closed in around me and the blackness of this man made pit just made it worse. I am twenty-seven years old doing life in the Texas State Penitentiary and yesterday I killed a man. Man, what a load to have to carry! To make it even harder, the Warden just left my cell after standing there in the hall and assuring me that he wouldn't rest until he could see me burn in the electric chair. I hadn't wanted to kill anyone, but it happened! Jesus Christ it happened! And Mom, my dear sweet Mom, this would literally break her heart. I had done some wild and crazy things in my life. Hell, let's face it; I have done some bad things. But not like this. Dear God! I had taken a man's life. This would surely kill her.
Since my Dad died, it seemed I brought my Mother nothing but heartache. I was about fourteen years old then and nothing before, or since, has ever had the impact on my life as his death did. Not that I hadn't been in trouble before Dad's death, I had...twice that I can remember. Once, when I was nine years old, my second cousin and I went into a drugstore and ordered a malt shake and then tried to walk out without paying the ticket. We thought we were real cool and we were just going out the door when the cashier ran over and grabbed us by the arm. She held us until the Manager got there.
The cashier was a big lady and as strong as an ox. She had no problem hanging on to two nine year old boys. And believe me, between her and the Manager, they had scared the hell out of the two of us by the time the police arrived. I guess they called the police hoping to really scare us and teach us a lesson. But it backfired on them. Because by the time the cops finished slapping us around and let us go, I was really mad. I suppose I had a bad temper even then....
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