Thursday, February 02, 2012

Weenies in History

Everyone seems to be talking about the 1980 New Mexico Prison Riot.  Tours are being given at the burned out facility where 33 inmates died at the hands of other maniacal prisoners.  Many other prisoners wanted no part of the chaos and this is where the weenies come into the story.

In 1980 I was serving as Director of the Alcohol Beverage Control Department.  We were in a battle to reform the state's corrupt liquor laws.  I  had been appointed to the post by Governor Bruce King.  I had served as his news secretary during his first term and worked in his campaign for a second term a few years later.

As I recall the riot started on a Friday evening.  Saturday the Governor called me in because his press secretary was on vacation and he needed me to help out with the army of press from all over the country.  It was a challenge.

Now, the prisoners who wanted to avoid the chaos and violence in the pen somehow worked their way into a large exercise yard.  There were hundreds of them there with no food, shelter or adequate clothing in the freezing February weather. Governor King called in the head of the National Guard and said he wanted blankets and food dropped to those prisoners.  Twenty four hours passed.  The prisoners were still unaided.  When we told the Governor he went ballistic....something he was never prone to do.  He called in General Franklin Miles to his office and we got to witness one of the few 'chewing outs' the Governor ever issued.  He told Miles that if every single inmate in that yard didn't have a bag of weenies, buns and a blanket with in two hours that Miles would be busted to KP duty.

About two hours later a Huey helicopter was raining weenies down upon the huddled prisoners.  That was a sight to see.

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