Between the Lines

Random reflections from the youth in a juvenile correctional facility.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Hangman by Maurice Ogden

After reading the poem, answer the following questions:

Who/What does the hangman represent?

Who is the narrator of the poem?

What lesson does the poem try to teach?

Into our town the Hangman came, 

Smelling of gold and blood and flame. 

And he paced our bricks with a diffident air,

And built his frame in the courthouse square.

The scaffold stood by the courthouse side, 

Only as wide as the door was wide; 

A frame as tall, or little more, 

Than the capping sill of the courthouse door.

And we wondered, whenever we had the time, 

Who the criminal, what the crime 

That the Hangman judged with the yellow twist

of knotted hemp in his busy fist.

And innocent though we were, with dread,

We passed those eyes of buckshot lead -- 

Till one cried: "Hangman, who is he 

For whom you raised the gallows-tree?"

Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye,

And he gave us a riddle instead of reply: 

"He who serves me best," said he, 

"Shall earn the rope of the gallows-tree."

And he stepped down, and laid his hand

On a man who came from another land. 

And we breathed again, for another's grief

At the Hangman's hand was our relief

And the gallows-frame on the courthouse lawn

By tomorrow's sun would be struck and gone. 

So we gave him way, and no one spoke, 

Out of respect for his Hangman's cloak.


The next day's sun looked mildly down 

On roof and street in our quiet town, 

And stark and black in the morning air 

Was the gallows-tree in the courthouse square.

And the Hangman stood at his usual stand

With the yellow hemp in his busy hand;
With his buckshot eye and his jaw like a pike

And his air so knowing and business-like.

And we cried, "Hangman, have you not done

Yesterday, with the foreign one?" 

Then we fell silent, and stood amazed, 

"Oh, not for him was the gallows raised."

He laughed a laugh as he looked at us:

"Did you think I'd gone to all this fuss 

To hang one man? That's a thing I do 

To stretch a rope when the rope is new."

Then one cried "Murder!" and one cried "Shame!"

And into our midst the Hangman came 

To that man's place. "Do you hold," said he,

"with him that was meant for the gallows-tree?"

And he laid his hand on that one's arm.

And we shrank back in quick alarm! 

And we gave him way, and no one spoke 

Out of fear of his Hangman's cloak.

That night we saw with dread surprise

The Hangman's scaffold had grown in size. 

Fed by the blood beneath the chute, 

The gallows-tree had taken root;

Now as wide, or a little more,

Than the steps that led to the courthouse door,

As tall as the writing, or nearly as tall, 

Halfway up on the courthouse wall.


The third he took -- we had all heard tell --

Was a usurer, and an infidel. 

"What," said the Hangman "have you to do

With the gallows-bound, and he a Jew?"

And we cried out, "Is this one he

Who has served you well and faithfully?"

The Hangman smiled: "It's a clever scheme

to try the strength of the gallows-beam."

The fourth man's dark, accusing song

Had scratched our comfort hard and long;

"And what concern," he gave us back. 

"Have you for the doomed -- the doomed and Black?"

The fifth. The sixth. And we cried again,

"Hangman, Hangman, is this the man?"

"It's a trick," he said. "that we hangmen know

For easing the trap when the trap springs slow."

And so we ceased, and asked no more,

As the Hangman tallied his bloody score. 

And sun by sun, and night by night, 

The gallows grew to monstrous height.

The wings of the scaffold opened wide

Till they covered the square from side to side;

And the monster cross-beam, looking down, 

Cast its shadow across the town.


Then through the town the Hangman came, 

Through the empty streets, and called my name
And I looked at the gallows soaring tall, 

And thought, "There is no one left at all

For hanging, and so he calls to me

To help pull down the gallows-tree." 

So I went out with right good hope 

To the Hangman's tree and the Hangman's rope.

He smiled at me as I came down

To the courthouse square through the silent town.

And supple and stretched in his busy hand 

Was the yellow twist of the hempen strand.

And he whistled his tune as he tried the trap,
And it sprang down with a ready snap -- 

And then with a smile of awful command 

He laid his hand upon my hand.

"You tricked me. Hangman!," I shouted then,

"That your scaffold was built for other men... 

And I no henchman of yours," I cried, 

"You lied to me, Hangman. Foully lied!"

Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye,

"Lied to you? Tricked you?" he said. "Not I. 

For I answered straight and I told you true --

The scaffold was raised for none but you.

For who has served me more faithfully

Then you with your coward's hope?" said he,

"And where are the others who might have stood 

Side by your side in the common good?"

"Dead," I whispered. And amiably

"Murdered," the Hangman corrected me:

"First the foreigner, then the Jew... 

I did no more than you let me do."

Beneath the beam that blocked the sky

None had stood so alone as I. 

The Hangman noosed me, and no voice there

Cried "Stop!" for me in the empty square.

The hangman represents prejudiced people. The last man that got hanged told the story. The lesson is not to be prejudiced and to speak up for your rights and other people's rights. JT

The hangman represents prejudiced people. The narrator of the poem is the last man that got hung. The lesson the poem is trying to teach is that you have to speak up and defend your rights and the rights of others. JW

The hangman hung all the different people and others just walked away. He was like a virus that spread and wiped them out like an epidemic. The narrator was the guy who spoke and was the last one to get hung. The lesson is that the people were cowards and did not stand up for themselves and it shows that if you don't speak up then you won't be heard. MC

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Native American Heritage Month

Carlisle Indian Industrial School

From Debbie Reese’s American Indians in Children’s Literature

In Cheyenne Again, Bunting tells the story of a 10-year-old Cheyenne boy who, in the late 1880s, is taken far from his family and sent to Carlisle Indian Industrial School, more than 1,000 miles away, to “learn the White Man’s ways.” “The corn is drying out,” his father says. “There will be food in this place they call school. Young Bull must go.”

Toddy’s acrylic and oil paintings are perfect for a boarding school story, especially when he contrasts the open, light expanse of the Great Plains with the depressingly dark confines of the school. The child’s pain also, as Young Bull’s hair is forcibly cut while others, with short hair, look on. And his running away, with only a thin blanket for cover, into a blizzard. Toddy has been there. As a former student at Intermountain Indian School in Utah, he holds the stories in his heart.

In Bunting’s telling, on the other hand, conditions appear far better than they were. “Kill the Indian, save the man”—Captain Richard Henry Pratt’s harsh motto—was much more indicative of the treatment meted out to the lonely, miserable children than Bunting cares to reveal. Children whose parents voluntarily sent them to Carlisle went there, not to “learn the White Man’s ways,” but to learn English. Bunting does not mention the many deaths—from malnutrition, from diseases, from beatings, from broken hearts. Nor does she mention the jail cells and the arbitrary punishment such as having lye rubbed into young mouths for the sin of not knowing what was expected. She whitewashes the abject wretchedness of the children’s lives.

There would have been no kindly teacher to offer “salve to sooth the place the chain has rubbed,” to console a child by telling him, “Never forget that you are Indian inside. Don’t let us take your memories.” Pratt’s “teaching” methodology was designed to force the children to deny—and later, forget—their Indianness, inside and out. Any teacher encouraging a child to remember who he was would have been fired on the spot.

American Indians are still experiencing discrimination and disrespect. (See Changing Winds Advocacy Center ) Do you feel racism is still being practiced in the United States? Why do you think this is or is not so? What cultures do you think are the victims of racism? How can you demonstrate respect for other cultures’ beliefs and practices?

For more information about activities for Native American Heritage Month see


Yes, racism is being practiced in the U.S. in every day routines like jobs and even in school. Racism is being practiced in school because some people think they are better than others – all whites, blacks, everyone. I can demonstrate respect for other’s cultures and beliefs by showing that there are some decent people out there. MC


Racism is still being practiced in the U.S. because some White people believe the Black people are trash. I think racism exists because of slavery. Black and White cultures are victimized. I can show respect by helping them, reading books to learn about their culture, ask the teacher, and visit other countries. JW


I believe that people show racism because times before we were born people practiced it so it just passed on from one generation to the next. Now after slavery, we have African Americans trying to reclaim there dignity and reputation in the world and are pointing their finger at the white people. On the other hand, the white people of today are sitting there saying it wasn’t my fault, it was the generations before me. Now we have a war to see who will come out on top. White Americans are looking at the black African Americans that live in the ghetto saying this isn’t the way an American should act or live while the blacks are saying the same thing.

It also goes into religion. Muslims are fighting others who don’t want to plead to them and say that that is the way of the devil. You have Christians saying that the only way to get to heaven is to believe that Jesus Christ died for are sins and that you got to go by the bible so then they are saying every one who dose not believe in it will not see eternal glory so really it is a big battle of morals values and beliefs.

What I do is I listen to what all have to say and I try to defend every one and try to give everyone a chance. I don’t stick to one thing, I’m just open minded and I think that if more people were like that then we wouldn’t have so many problems in the world. People are so close-minded that they can’t see what others see. MC

Racism is still being practiced in the United States because the organized gangs like the KKK , White Pride, etc. people are hating one another for their skin color or religion. All cultures are a victim of racism. You can have respect for other cultures by helping others with or trying to better understand the other religion before hating it . CRO

I feel that racism is still being practiced in some place. There are Whites being hated on, and Blacks and Mexicans. It all depends where you are. This is because of how things were long ago. Some people still holding grudges. Others hate because of their pride or trying to fit in with others so they put on a show because of the way others do things.

I can demonstrate respect to other cultures by interacting with them on a regular basis and not treating them any different than anyone else. I can also invite them to things in my culture. I have no problems with any culture. We are all the same in my eyes. DG

Yes, I think that people around the world are showing racism. They still act like things are not their fault and they take things out on the wrong people. Some people are being real. I think this way. I see things because I feel bad deep down inside. These racist people are being out of control. People are still being hung and tortured around the world for nothing. I think every culture around the world is being a victim, especially Blacks because they get to deal with the thoughts of slavery. I will show them by caring for them and listening to what they have to say. LZ

Yes, I feel racism is still being practiced. As long as there are different colors, races, religions, beliefs, looks, etc. there are still going to be people that say theirs are more superior to everyone else’s. All cultures are victims or racism. That’s a fact. White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, and everyone else are discriminated against with prejudice. That’s just the way it is. Me personally, I’m far from racist. I’m around racist people and they say stuff to me. I have a choice to same something racist back but I don’t because it’s not right. I would be going against my morals if I would do that. I can demonstrate help by setting up jamborees for people of all cultures. Have a little fair or something bringing all races together. Respect other beliefs and cultures. MD

I think that racism is still being used in the United States because there are still members of the KKK around who think that black people aren’t worth a thing and there has been a lot of segregation in other states. The cultures that I think are victims of racism the most are the African American culture and the Hispanic culture. I can demonstrate how to be respectful by letting these cultures know that everything is going to be alright if they keep there head up. MR

I do think that racism is still practiced today. There are not just one or two people that are being racist. There are people that grew up and their parents teach them that one group or type of people is better than another. This is why some people join a gang or a club that supports this type of mentality that they grew up on. I think this because it’s in every state, every city, and it’s even in your neighborhood. It is easy to change a child’s mind. All you have to tell them is that their race is better than another, and show them that others are bad, tell them that others don’t care about you and they don’t want to be your friend. When these kids get older and they start to have kids, they are going to show their kids that this group is better than theirs and so on and so forth. What adults have to do is show the kids that we can all be friends and all help each other. STOP ALL THE VIOLENCE AND START A NEW REVOLUTION. JP

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Veterans Day

Veterans Day

America was founded on the principles of liberty, opportunity, and justice for all, and on Veterans Day we recognize the men and women of our Armed Forces who have valiantly defended these values throughout our Nation’s history.

Write a paragraph about what you as an individual can do to demonstrate respect and honor for America’s Veterans.

I can pledge in the morning not to put down my country because it shows what people had to sacrifice and the lives we lost to show them more respect than others. MC

As an individual I can make a poster for the soldiers that are at war and that died for our country. I can pledge and I can thank the solders and not put my country down. JW

What I can do is become a better citizen in America so I can say I am proud of being an American Citizen and I am sorry for what happened to the people who went to war for us. I could also celebrate Veterans Day for all the dead soldiers that died and is not here with their own family. I would even tell my family to celebrate if they don’t participate in them. SB