July 19, 2010

‘Big Mac’ & ‘The Interview’ left big, lasting impression

— The Oklahoma State Penitentiary stands on 1,556 acres of land in McAlester, Okla. It was built with prison labor.

The site of the worst prison riot in U. S. history, the massive white structure looms over the city of McAlester. A sickly, yellow light encircles the prison at night, giving one a feeling of evil emanating from the building itself.

The first time I ever saw it, I never dreamed I would step inside the creepy old building.

So when I received a letter from inmate and confessed killer Ronson Bush asking me to come to "Big Mac" to interview him, I was reluctant to do so. He wanted to tell his story since he says his attorneys refused to let him take the stand in court. But, the very idea of entering the intimidating building made my skin crawl.

After thinking it over, I contacted prison officials and asked for an interview. Within a couple of days, I received a phone call telling me where and when to report.

I wrote Ronson and told him I was coming. After all, he had to live there, the least I could do was visit.

On the long drive to the prison, I speculated about the prison itself as well as the prison guards and employees.

I imagined the prison to be intimidating and frightening and I was not wrong. Built in the early 1900s, the building is old and showing signs of disrepair. Old, unused stairs were rusted, out buildings were seedy and badly in need of paint.

State of the art, it wasn't.

And when the exit gate closed unexpectedly on my way out, my heart nearly stopped.

Luckily, the push of a button raised it again.

Checking in with the warden's assistant, I found I would not be allowed to walk through the building to the visiting area. I had to walk around the building on the outside. He said it was about an 1/8 mile walk. With the temperature near 100 degrees, the walk seemed much longer. I was going to have to work for this story.

As I walked in tall grass alongside the prison walls, I got my first true impression of their actual height. The idea of being imprisoned behind them left me cold.

Inside Big Mac was a different story. The floors in H Unit, where I visited Ronson, were shiny as mirrors and, although gray and monochrome, the place was spotless. The only scary thing was the fact that I was locked inside.

As for the prison personnel, I imagined Nazi-like guards with stiff, unsmiling faces.

I could not have been more wrong.

Aside from one guard stationed high in a tower who shouted instructions at me, the people inside the prison were just regular people and not scary in the least.

I was told I would be patted down before entering the visiting area, but the guard, a 30-something young woman, only asked me to take off my shoes.

She then escorted me to the visiting area - a large open space with four stall-like areas on opposite ends of the room.

Each stall had a stool securely bolted to the floor in front of it. Each stool faced a window reinforced with steel wire and covered with steel bars.

 A telephone hung on the wall to my left. The name "Chris" was scratched into the metal shelf in front of the window.

I sat down and waited for Ronson.

A guard soon brought him to the small, cinderblock room in front of me and locked him in the room. Ronson smiled slightly and backed up to an opening in the door so the guard could unlock his handcuffs.

Once freed from the cuffs, Ronson sat down in front of me and picked up the phone. I couldn't help but think about all the times I've watched the same scene play out in the movies.

Only this time it was real. Ronson was there at Big Mac because he had killed a man. The reality of that fact was sobering and I was suddenly unsure how to start.

After a while, I composed myself and visited with Ronson for more than an hour.

Knowing the horrific crime he committed, I was surprised to find I was not afraid of the sad, tearful man in front of me.

Some say he's a monster. Others say he is manipulative.

Maybe so, but the impression I got was one of a man who recognizes the wrong he has done and the terrible pain he has caused, and is ready to make it right as best he can by offering up his own life as payment.

Text Only
  • Schools Menus Jan. 10-14

    January 8, 2011

  • ‘Big Mac’ & ‘The Interview’ left big, lasting impression

    The Oklahoma State Penitentiary stands on 1,556 acres of land in McAlester, Okla. It was built with prison labor.
    The site of the worst prison riot in U. S. history, the massive white structure looms over the city of McAlester. A sickly, yellow light encircles the prison at night, giving one a feeling of evil emanating from the building itself.

    July 19, 2010

  • 7-18 chuck picture.jpg Musings on our vacation and lacrosse

    My wife and I just got back from the long vacation drive to New York City to see my mom and family.
    It was a great trip, but living out of suitcases for two weeks got old about halfway into the adventure.
    We stopped in Nashville for a couple of days to see our oldest daughter, who recently relocated there for a new job, then spent some time in Gettysburg (I’m a Civil War buff) before landing at my mom’s house on Long Island.

    July 19, 2010 1 Photo

  • Intership is time well spent

    As I draw near the halfway point of my time here in Chickasha, I am amazed by how much I’ve learned and how positive the experience here has been.
    In less than a month I have had the fortune of meeting and interacting with some of the most kind and helpful people I’ve ever come across.

    June 28, 2010

  • Chickasha High now owns bragging rights

    I am very proud of the fact that Chickasha High School made Newsweek's 2010 list of "America's Best High Schools." This isn't the first time CHS has made this prestigious, national list.

    June 23, 2010

  • The next bubble: Mike Garrett’s ego

    Mike Garrett’s ego is so big it thought it should get its own conference during last week’s college athletic realignment.
    Airlines should double-charge the USC athletic director when he flies – once for his body and again for his big head.

    June 21, 2010

  • Shaping up & having the time of their lives

    On June 7, I took my daughters, Allison and Breanna, to something I hoped would be one of those things they would cherish – something that could change their lives. I took my daughters to FLO Health and Fitness and got them started on the 2010 Ms. Fit Teen Challenge.

    June 16, 2010

  • Candidate crop looks plentiful this season

    On Saturday, I was given a great opportunity to meet and listen to the candidates for several state offices, including governor and lieutenant governor.
    The Oklahoma Press Association fielded this panel discussion titled "Oklahoma's Future," which I think is a fitting description of what we should be looking for in our candidates. If elected, how will each individual impact Oklahoma's future in a positive way through their elected office?

    June 9, 2010

  • Marty, Monsters & My Miracle Mets

    The mention of Marty Seymour no longer makes me curl into ball, assume a fetal position, and cry for my mother.
    I've slain that emotional dragon, thank you very much. The psychotherapy is working.

    June 1, 2010

  • House sees increase of activity

    We have seen a steady increase of floor activity at the House of Representatives over the past two weeks as the Oklahoma Legislature has been considering more bills at the Capitol.

    April 5, 2010

Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction

Do you think our cool summer means we will have a rough winter?

     View Results