……………A LONG MILE………….

Dennis Hatfield
4 min readNov 19, 2020

As a child I lived a block away from the Montana State Prison. In a child’s eye and mind, it was a huge fantasy castle built of granite blocks and brick, with medieval turrets on every corner. The only thing missing was the moat and draw bridge.

It was very impressive, and very ominous at the same time. Everyday, on my way to school, or just going out to play, I would walk, run, or ride my bike down the street and try to imagine what went on behind those castle walls.

At the south end of the prison, outside the walls of the castle, there was a large field surrounded by a massive steel fence topped with barbed wire. Part of everyday, uniformed men, would appear and I would watch them lift dumbbells, play catch, play baseball and basketball; some would just stand around and smoke cigarettes. It never looked like a happy place to me; I could always hear some laughter but there was always a heavy vibe, way before I ever knew what a vibe was. There were always men who just walked. They stayed close to the fence, as close as they could get to freedom, on a path that led nowhere, but everyday, day after day, they walked that path to nowhere. At the time the field looked gigantic to me, but looking back now, to circle the field was probably about a quarter mile. There was no particular order to the men who walked, sometimes in a line of three or four, but mostly just aimlessly alone, head down following the path to nowhere. I always wondered, what were they thinking?

That was many years ago, and really, I never thought about it much until June of this year when I found myself blazing a path to nowhere in my back yard. I counted my steps and found that it took fifty six steps to make a complete circle around the fence line in my backyard. I’m six foot three, so each step I take is not quite a meter and a little bit more than a yard. So if I walked around the backyard four times, it is almost a quarter of a kilometer, that means five times around is approximately a quarter mile. Ten times around is…

Dennis Hatfield

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