Sunday, July 6, 2014

He Sleeps With the Quail...

A couple years ago, following a fruitless yet interesting quail hunt (2012 was a brutal year, quail and weather-wise) I posted a short blog about the experience. I'm just going to post it again in its entirety because you really need to read it in the context of this current blog...

Saturday. I wake up, and in what is becoming an increasingly pointless act of (waning) faith-based rote, load Jenny and go for yet another late-season death march on my favorite local public hunting area, which happens to abut a minimum-security state prison.

I park on the northern edge of the area along a lonely, seldom-used county line road, and as Jenny and I start hunting down toward the river bottom (and toward the direction of the prison, which sits across the river) I happen to look back at the parking area and notice one of those official-looking white vans that scream "government vehicle" parked directly behind my truck. I'm still close enough to notice that the driver is eyeballing me through a pair of binoculars.

"Who the hell are those guys and why are they watching me?" I ask myself as he puts down his binoculars and resumes driving, slowly, on down the road. I shrug my shoulders and promptly forget about it as the dog and I continue hunting  a brush-choked draw that leads down into the riverbottom.

Three hours, numerous miles and zero quail later, we work our way back up out of the bottom toward the road when I notice that same damn van parked behind my truck again. Once again, they eyeball me for a few minutes before slowly pulling out of the parking area and cruising on down the road.

Odd behavior, for sure, and I wonder if one of the inmates at the prison has decided incarceration is a bummer. It's actually a fairly routine occurrence, not like this prison is Alcatraz. Once or twice a year someone gets happy feet, and the fleeing inmates generally fall into one of two distinct categories: those smart enough to slip into the small town adjacent to the prison and quietly steal a car, or those who climb the fence and blindly run like hell to the north across the WMA.

The former generally at least make it back to a major metropolitan area before getting recaptured, while the latter spend a few very uncomfortable nights wandering aimlessly around the prairie before being spotted by a rancher and picked up.

So maybe it's not just the dog and me out here, after all, because there sure as hell aren't any other quail hunters. Sure enough, when I get home and check the news, I discover that nope, we weren't alone...

From the Oklahoman
An Okmulgee County man who escaped from a prison in Fort Supply remained missing Saturday, Warden Marvin Vaughn said. Michael Weber, 50, was last seen at an inmate count about 9 p.m. He was still missing at the next count taken at 10 p.m. Weber is serving a five-year sentence for two counts of possession of a stolen vehicle in 2009 in Okmulgee County. He began his sentence in October 2009 and was to be released in August 2013. Weber is 5-foot-9 and weighs about 170 pounds. He has numerous tattoos on his arms, legs and back. The William Key Correctional Center in Fort Supply is a minimum-security prison housing about 1,100 inmates. Deputies from the Woodward County sheriff's office are assisting in the search.

As of Monday morning, Monsieur Weber, much like Monsieur Colinus virginianus, has evaded all attempts to locate him and is still hiding out somewhere in the wilds of far northwest Oklahoma. He sleeps with the quail. And where that may be I have no idea...

He sleeps with the quail, I wrote back then in jest and homage to a great and enduring cinematic meme. However, as it turns out Mr. Weber really was sleeping with the quail, in the true Luca Brasi sense...

Again, from the Oklahoman (last week)

Human remains found in Woodward County may be those of an inmate who escaped from an Oklahoma prison in 2012. Michael J. Weber escaped Jan. 7, 2012, from the William S. Key Correctional Center, a minimum-security prison in Fort Supply that houses about 1,100 inmates. Weber, 52, was serving a five-year sentence on two counts of possession of a stolen vehicle in Okmulgee County in 2009. He began his sentence in October 2009 and was scheduled for release in August 2012. Weber was last seen at an inmate count about 9 p.m. He was missing at the 10 p.m. count. On Wednesday, the skeletal remains of an adult were found by a person walking in a pasture outside Fort Supply, Woodward County Sheriff Gary Stanley said.

An occupational hazard, I suppose. It's big and fairly empty country out here, and at that time of year it wouldn't be too hard to die of exposure if conditions were right and you weren't properly clothed for it. Still, it's not like this is the edge of civilization. As long as he kept walking a straight line in any direction, eventually (and by eventually I mean within a day) he would have stumbled upon a road. It wasn't particularly cold (at least that weekend), there were numerous windmills to get water, no megafauna to eat you, and the snakes weren't out. So why'd he die, out here in this semi-benign and wholly subjugated land? Broken leg or ankle? Maybe. Hypothermia? Good possibility. Or perhaps just the sheer terror of being alone in the unknown did him in, his mind and then his will giving in to those ancient, vestigial fears of what lay beyond darkness and knowing that still reside within our DNA from a time when such fears were well-grounded? Who knows? He most likely got lost and simply wandered until he died. I imagine that for someone on the run and not familiar with the area it'd be a terrifyingly easy mistake to make, even in a place like this, a region once so magnificently wild but now a century domesticated.

 But I guess even a whipped dog can still bare fangs now and then, and the unfortunate Mr. Weber's demise is a good reminder of that, as well as a reminder that nature - the mean old harpy -  still has terms upon which you must pay to play, or live. And when you think about it, that's a completely scalable truth, isn't it?


  1. Kinda far out, when you think about it... and sort of Abbey-esque too (except it's the prairie and not the desert).

    Would be interesting as a sort of chapter-closer if they verify the identity and cause of death. Morbid curiosity and all... you know?

  2. Do Oklahoma inmates wear distinctive shoes with notched heels or something, so that you know when you've cut their tracks?

  3. Phillip, yeah, I thought of that, too. The autopsy will take a while but I'll let you know. Pretty sure it's the guy, though. Tough break for him, he was scheduled to be released in just a few months, according to the article. Who knows why people do the things they do?

    Chas, I'm not sure. Is that a normal thing for some prisons or states?

    1. Colorado state prisoners do or did wear such shoes. They made things easier for untrained trackers, like the correctional officers you would see around Cañon City walking along the edges of roads, eyes on the gravel, after an escape.

      Actually, from what I hear, for a "short" inmate to escape is not unheard of. He will probably be caught, his sentence extended, and he won't have to face the scary outside world. Or he might be moved to a higher level of custody, thus getting himself away from someone who is causing him problems.