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3 days in the bucket for June Cleaver

Jon Koonsman


My family is a bit of a fixture in the Selden-Duffau greater metropolitan area. In the century and a half that we’ve called this area home, we’ve seen many families come and go.

We’ve been blessed to have many wonderful (and often colorful) neighbors share our little corner of Texas - and we continue to rely on one another much as my ancestors did some 6 generations ago. So, imagine my surprise to learn that we have a hardened criminal living among us.

At first blush, the “Cleavers” seemed to be a pretty normal family. Parents of 3 adult daughters, June (an Engineer) and Ward (a Nuclear Operator) recently bought part of the old Pate place and quickly set about clearing brush and building new fences. Their daughters – Wally, Theodore, and Jessica – seemed lovely and well adjusted.

They worked day and night, like people possessed; I knew immediately that they were hiding something.

The “real” Cleaver family. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

When the Cleavers got ready to build a barn and a house, they solicited my services and I began seeing them on an almost daily basis.

By then, they were living in their horse trailer on the premises, and we often took our coffee together of a morning - we became fast friends.

On a cold morning a few months into the project (unlike the Cleavers, we do not work like people possessed), I stood with my crew – my father and my cousin – as we sipped our coffee and discussed our plan for the day.

Shortly June walked up to join us, wearing a pair of coveralls and vigorously rubbing her gloved hands together.

After exchanging our traditional pleasantries, the conversation inevitably turned to the frigid temperatures.

As we stood casually exaggerating stories about near frostbite in the Colorado wilderness and being frozen to a saddle in a Panhandle feedyard, Mrs. Cleaver dropped a bombshell that sent chills through us like an icy blue norther.

The coldest I’ve ever been was my first day in the joint,” she revealed with a faraway look.

Until that moment, I had never noticed the small teardrop tattoo beneath her left eye.

I fought back the urge to turn and run. Would anyone hear our screams from here? Should I buy a deadbolt and a new scatter gun? Slowly, reason gave way to panic as we realized that June is only about 5 feet tall – and it’s very hard to run in coveralls.

Sensing our alarm, she began revealing an account of betrayal and intrigue that would seem at home in a Vince Flynn novel. We listened intently, our fears giving way to respect, as she told of love and loss – and life on the inside.

I’m no expert when it comes to prison slang, so I’ve attempted to use Mrs. Cleaver’s own words where possible. The remainder I have gleaned from watching all 6,000 episodes of Cops.

Warning: Contents may not be suitable for children under 35.

June Cleaver. WIKIWAND

Incidentally, “June Cleaver” really is the nickname they gave her in the joint, and her story begins in seedy north Tolar - home of the notorious “Tolar Speed Trap.”

June’s baby-daddy was at his j-o-b while she was returning from Granbury with their youngest daughter (Jessica was in high school at the time).

As they crossed under the railroad bridge north of Tolar (fitting – since she was railroaded) she was pulled over for speeding. Now see, June don’t cotton to the PoPo layin’ in for her – she knows her rights. But despite her protests of innocence, the barely post-pubescent officer felt inclined to write her a citation.

June got no priors so she contested the ticket. After her court date had been repeatedly postponed, she arrived at court several months into the process to learn that the young officer had left the force and her ticket had been dismissed.

Unfortunately, she also learned that she had missed her trial date and had been convicted in absentia for Failure to Appear.

The Judge ordered her to pay a fine of a few hundred dollars or be immediately remanded to the Hood County lock-up – the toughest joint in all of …well …Hood County.

It would be 3 days in the bucket for June Cleaver.

It’ the call you never want to receive.

“Daddy, can you come get me? Mama’s goin’ to the big house.”

Ward tried his best to talk some sense into his wife, “Just pay the fine!” he implored her.

But June is a woman of principle.

Word spread that June was making waves well before she even made it to the bucket. So when she arrived they sent her straight to the hole and tried to freeze her out. They left her isolated and shivering without even a blanket for 12 hours, hoping she would crack or go ziggety-boom so they could send her straight to the ding-wing.

But when she wouldn’t break, they stuck her with a bum beef and busted her down to the toughest block in the house. It was full of reruns, hair farmers, ear hustlers – and only one ink slinger to keep the whole bunch tatted.

Now June is a pretty tough character, and as day 2 rolled around her cellies learned that she wasn’t just sellin’ wolf tickets. In fact, what her homegirls really needed was a little June Cleaver. By the time she’d paid a deuce to the house she was already up in the mix, puttin’ snitches in check and schoolin’ the fish.

But as you know, incarceration is hardest on the family, and Ward and the girls were taking it pretty hard.

Fortunately, it was visiting day and Ward was able to spend a few moments with his wife.

June got a little misty during this part, but I could imagine Ward sitting across from her wearing his Free June Cleaver T-shirt – holding the receiver to his ear – telling her about how the girls had grown and how they missed their mommy.

When their time was up, they each pressed their hands against the glass and Ward whispered those 4 little words that can melt the heart of even the most jaded convict, “I’ll wait for you.”

June was released at 3 a.m. after serving 3 full days. She served flat-time, no early release for good behavior – she had to max-out old school.

There was no fanfare, but she carried two important lessons home to her children.

First and most importantly, sometimes it takes sacrifice to stand up for your convictions. Lots of people claim to stand on their principles – right up until it becomes inconvenient or uncomfortable.

Wally, Theodore, and Jessica, your mother is most definitely a lady of principle and I am proud to call her a friend and neighbor. Secondly, even when you stand on your principles – they will still throw your ass in jail.

Fortunately, I’ve never been in the Hood County Jail, but I can imagine that it’s a little bit better place for having met June Cleaver.

And I’ve heard rumor that if you’re ever incarcerated there, scratched in a concrete wall above a neatly made bunk - amid the jailhouse graffiti and a dozen different misspellings of “innocent” - is one amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Welcome to the neighborhood Cleaver Family – you’re gonna fit right in.


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