I had to make a trip to Huntsville. Having a friend in the Big House means that you have to go and visit
your friend periodically, that’s why you are friends in the first place. Fortunately, my friend will not be in
prison for years to come, it is a reasonably short stay, and I had never visited a prison before. This was
an opportunity to witness the penal system first hand, learn about it from the inside, and spend a day in
Huntsville wandering.

I considered riding my motorcycle that day. I thought breakfast and an early morning ride before the
weather got too hot would be a nice way to start the day. Thank goodness I ran into a prison guard at
my local gas station that morning. While filling up he told me that motorcycle visitation was not allowed
at the prison. Something to do about prisoners escaping and me not being able to lock my doors. That
was a big gift! I filled up the tank and headed home to get my truck and change into something more

I guess I should have really read the rules of a prison visit before heading for my visit. Upon my arrival,
and waiting in a long line at the visitors entrance I was stopped by a young lady who informed me that
wearing shorts was not permitted by visitors in the prison. I was flabbergasted. Really – did someone in
an authority position really think that my 60 year old legs were going to start a prison riot! Maybe it was
not my legs in particular that would cause an uprising, but the rule was in place, and not to be
questioned. A quick stop at Walmart was fixed this problem and I was back in the visitors line in 30
minutes wearing jeans.

The system is slow getting in and out, and I feel for the people who go through this routine on a regular
basis. My friend is doing fine and doing time was not the horror show that I expected to hear. I think the
most startling thing that I learned was that the prisoners are held in un-air-conditioned cells. This point
alone would make me reconsider committing any crime that would have me end up here. The visit was
pleasant and about an hour, and I was happy to be heading to the exit to see what else Huntsville has to
offer when it was over.

If you visit Huntsville, the Prison Museum is a good place to start. It is not a huge museum but it is full of
many historical items and even has one of the original Electric Chairs that was used on death row. The
staff was very friendly and knowledgeable, and happy to answer any questions. It was a good way to get
a peek at what it would be like to live on the other side of the wire. I encourage you wanderers to stop
by for a visit.

It was shortly after noon when I was finished with my prison exploring. I was hungry and need a cool
beverage at this point. I made a quick pass by the 67 foot statue of Sam Houston which is on the north
bound side of I-45 just south of the city. A quick stop but worth your time during a visit. From here I
went to see the Sam Houston State University campus. The campus is nestled in downtown Huntsville
and is what you might expect from a university in a small town. I certainly see why students enjoy going
to school here, the campus is charming. It is summer time so there were very few students on campus.

I did meet a small group of kids playing Frisbee in a grassy area on campus and asked them where they
suggested I should get lunch. They all recommended Humphreys’ Grill which was just across the street
from where we were. There were only 3 of them and I remember what it was like being on a low, or NO
budget when I was in college. I told them to jump in my truck and I would buy them all lunch. Lunch was
burgers and onion rings where were very good. The grill had a real college atmosphere about it and we
all had a good time. I had a beer but the students were all a bit under age to they had to pass. I will plan
to visit the school again this fall when it cools down and I can attend a Bearkats home football game.
I stopped by the town square next for a little antique shopping and a glass of wine at Sam’s Table. The
downtown area consists of a courthouse square (which I love in a small town) surrounded by half a
dozen antique shops good for browsing. I loved the sign in one window that read “We buy junk….We
sell antiques”.

As is with many small towns and cities that we drive by on a regular basis, Huntsville is a nice place to
visit and I plan to return soon. So keep on wandering and exploring. Turn off your TV and cell phone and
see what the Piney Woods has to offer. Until next month!

Piney Woods Wanderer

Never lost but sometimes hard to find!