How Do You Keep Them Down On The Farm?

My uncle “was a safe man, a jugger, a man whose specialty was opening safes by whatever means was most appropriate. He was comfortable with liquid nitro and with plastic explosive, he was expert at peeling, he could drill out a combination lock or cut a circular hole in the top of a solid steel safe. He had helped to tunnel into vaults, to by-pass time locks and to remove wall safes entirely, so they could be worked on at leisure somewhere else.” Butcher’s Moon – Richard Stark.
My uncle was a skilled craftsman, as devoted to his work as any fine jeweler. My Uncle Harvey was a hard case criminal, often addicted to heroin and a dealer, a famous guy, the first Canadian to be put in jail forever under the new incorrigible prisoners act. This, I believe, was a law instituted at the behest of Senator Patrick Burns, whose Burns meat packing safe was blown up regularly by my uncle, using nitro he made a few blocks away on Prince’s Island, a local lumber magnate.
I had my first painting and drawing lessons in the Burn’s building when it was run down and infested with artists.
My uncle shipped heroin from Vancouver via the Royal Mail (Canada Post) to my grandmother in Turner Valley, a micro town in Alberta, famous for the first oil well, where I was born into poverty.
The Mounties, who often got it wrong, raided my Mom’s house a few blocks away instead, ripping open the furniture while watched by 4 small kids, as my Dad, a former soldier and coal miner, lay dying of lung cancer in a Calgary military hospital.
My uncle, while languishing in his fame/shame in Canada’s toughest prison, Kingston penitentiary, as Canada’s first incorrigible, got a BA, an English degree, in prison in the 1950’s, wrote a book, Bitter Humour by Harvey Blackstock. He was released to Toronto upon publication, as evidence of his rehabilitation, where like a lot of career criminals and artists, he drove cab.
His book is a series of anecdotes about how crime doesn’t pay, reminding of the Coen brothers movies, in that it details a series of fuck ups and lost profits, a description made for the parole board to demonstrate his penance learned in penitentiary. I suspect it was a total fabrication
In no way, for example, does it describe how much fun he had, with the drugs, the sex workers, the excitement of making nitro and subsequent, explosions.
He was a sociopath narcissist, which he learned at his mother’s knee. Passed on from generation to generation, the reason why my father married one. Typically, he liked change, commitments weren’t for him.
He started riding the rails during the Depression, when my Irish Catholic grandmother sent half of his 17 younger brothers and sisters to the Salvation Army, for lack of food on the farm, to end up as 3 meetings a day AA cult recruiters.
According to his book, his drug of choice was codeine which medicated his chronic lung disease, a gateway drug to heroin. He rode the rails and was a small time criminal, breaking into drugstores for cough syrup, leading to prison time and higher education as a safe cracker and artist.
This was, and remains today in police circles, the current theory of gateway drugs and activities, controlling our free will and power of choice by some form of magic.
Personally, because I’ve met a lot of artists and similar convicts driving cab, I think he had a lot of fun, with like minded souls, prison as an artist colony.
Sex drugs, rock and roll, how can you keep them down on the farm?