Dale is thirty-five years old. He is a Texan living in Washington State.He is a tall thin man with wispy blond hair which is usually kept hidden by his cowboy hat. He always wears faded blue jeans and a plaid cowboy shirt. He has piercing blue eyes that seem to look inside the heart of everyone he meets making some curious and others very uncomfortable around him. His Texas drawl is a bit gravelly, coupled with his southern politeness and his Howdy ma’am or sir draws people to him. Even though people are drawn to him he is careful who he talks to beyond the Texas greeting.
Dale works in a factory in production control. He is a liaison between engineering and manufacturing. He works hard and treats everyone he works with fairly. He is good at his job and the possibility of promotion is very real. His factory recently hired a new employee doing the same job Dale does. His name is Hal. After a week of observing Hal, Dale reaches the conclusion that Hal is making more than his share of mistakes even for a new hire. It’s not that Hal isn’t trying. He is trying very hard, too hard. It is obvious that he cares about his job but he is so afraid to make mistakes that he makes more mistakes than he would have if he wasn’t so worried about making them.
Dale finds himself liking Hal in spite of himself. Being the kind of man Dale is he reaches out to help Hal get back on track. He makes sure that everyone at the factory knows that he is looking after Hal. He encourages Hal to slow down until he gets comfortable with his job. It doesn’t take long before Hal is doing his job well. One day the factory employees were giving Hal a hard, not doing the job the way it was suppose to be done.Hal became so upset that he yelled at the employees. A few of the employees yelled back and some openly laughed at him. As soon as Dale could he came over to to support Hal. Dale gave each employee a look that stopped them cold. There were mumbled apologies. Every employee that gave Hal a hard time got busy and fixed the problems that Hal was upset about.
Dale said, “Because you yelled at the employees you just showed them that you weren’t anyone to be afraid of.” Hal said, ” They were not doing the job the way it was suppose to be done. They have packaged those parts at least a thousand times.” Dale said, “You are right they weren’t doing the job but if you had quietly told them the same thing that you yelled at them about, they would have had reason to fear you. Did you know that when a career criminal kills someone they never even change expression before during or after they kill.” Hal asked, “How would you know that?” Dale said, “Because I have six older brothers all of them in prison back in Texas for murder.”
Dale said, “Sit down Hal and let me tell you why I am up here in Washington State when I am Texas through and through.” Hal sat down. Dale continued, “I am the youngest of seven brothers. I am the only one not in prison. Only two of my brothers have any hopes of getting out.For generations as far as I can go back my family has been in and out of jail and prisons.” My Poppa and Ma were in and out of prison when I was growing up. Whenever we had a school holiday I was always going to visit one or the other of them and my brothers. My friends were all people who broke the law more than once. I spent time in prison for robbery. They let me off after five years.
While in prison I had time to think about what I wanted in life and what I didn’t want. I had all of the life of crime and prison that I could stomach. I wasn’t a gang member so I had no real outside reason to be a criminal but after I got out of prison too many people knew about my family for me to get a full time job. No matter how hard I tried not to I was becoming more drawn in to a life that I did not want. I realized the only way I was going to leave that life behind was to break away and go as far away from the life I knew as I could.
I put what little I had in a back pack, grabbed a sleeping bag walked over to a truck stop and hitched a ride. I was asked where I was going, I said as far as I could go. This trucker was going to Washington State. When we got here he asked me if I needed a job. I said I did. He gave me the address of this factory and a name. I was given a chance to live an honest honorable life and I took it. I now have a nice house and am engaged to one of the ladies who works here. I finally have a the kind of life I so badly wanted back in prison.
Hal asked, “How was it that after generations of people in your family that lived lives as criminals that you were able to pull away from the only life you knew?” Dale said, ” It was either that or go back to prison. For me to go back to prison meant death. I needed a change.Change takes courage. Take away the guns and knives and you won’t find many criminals with courage. The reason I am the first and so far only one in my family to leave a life of crime is that I am the only one who found the courage to do so. I badly wanted to break away from the life I knew. The only way I could do that was to reach inside of me to find the courage I so desperately needed. It was there because I looked for it.Life is about choices isn’t it?”