The Calls of Distant Whales

First a quick announcement:  Mike and I will be out at the Santa Fe Farmers market tomorrow (Saturday, October 15th) participating in the Local Food Baking Competition.  The competition runs from 11-12pm at the Farmers Market in the Railyard.  Come out and join us- it’s going to be a blast!

Today Chris from Krusty on Chrissy is our celebrity guest writer.  Chris was a high school honors English teacher but a few years back he quit his gig at the high school and went to work at the city jail….as an English teacher.  He gives us a peek into a world most of us will never ever see through his insightful writing about his experiences teaching prisoners.  His stories are poignant and often funny.  I (Molly) came across this post last week and have been describing it to everyone I’ve had more than a 10 minute conversation with.  I found myself steering the conversation so I could talk about this post.  I came home, emailed Chris and asked if I could publish his post in its entirety on our blog.  He told me absolutely!  Chris recently participated in First Gen American’s Coffee Talk Challenge.  That post was one of his first where he threw the focus on his family.  Go check it out here, it’s about traditional values taught by his fairly un-traditional father.


The stories the guys can select from the web-based program we use to teach them reading are many and varied. They range in topic from NASCAR to Frida Kahlo, from the rise and fall of the Aztecs to the emergence of the hotdog as a popular food in American cuisine. One story in particular often catches their fancy. It’s about whales and the history of whaling in the US. Personally, I love whales, so I always supplement the whaling story with knowledge I’ve acquired about whales over the years: a blue whale’s heart weighs 4000 pounds, and it’s the largest animal that’s ever lived on our planet or any other planet that we know of; a female blue whale produces almost 100 gallons of milk a day, and it’s the consistency of yogurt; whales use their tails for defense from enemies, and they can crush every bone in a human’s body with one blow; a sperm whale can dive to depths that no large-scale submarine could even imagine diving to, over 10,000ft.

Usually the guys love these anecdotes, but one guy in particular seemed especially smitten with the whole concept of whales, so I decided to bring in Roger Payne’s book Among Whales and read a bit of it for them to see if I’d have as much success with it as I did reading Half Broke Horses. (For those of you who missed my blog post The Dugout, it might shed some light on their reading tastes.) Anyway, I brought it in today and read a bit. Yeah, they were mesmerized! Again! Of course, Payne is an incredible writer. His blend of science and art is nothing short of poetry, and his descriptions of the ocean and life in it are so eloquently and beautifully constructed that you are absolutely transported into every scene he creates, so I guess it was an easy sell.

After I was done, the guy who was enamored with the whales in the first place came up to me and said, “I think my granddaughter would love that book. I wish I could read it to her.” This guy is in his 50?s, he has barely reached the 2nd grade level in his reading, and he has a tumor in his chest the size of a softball. We have been trying to get him into medical for weeks. He finally got taken to UNM’s cancer center where they did some tests. That was 2 weeks ago, and he has yet to hear any results back from them. Meanwhile this “lump” is growing, and he is vomiting and defecating blood, so the chances that he will ever get to read this or any other book to his granddaughter are slim to none.

It really pulled on my heartstrings, so I looked up from my computer and asked him if he’d ever heard a humpback whale sing. “No. What does it sound like?” I Googled humpback whale song, plugged in my external speakers, cranked the volume and hit “play.” When the plaintive sound of that whale singing hit my jail classroom in the middle of this desert, I kid you not, you could have heard a pin drop.

This dying inmate looked at me and said, “Mr. Pauls, that sounds just like a baby crying!”

Singing whales, crying babies, dying grandfathers, half broke horses. The jail’s got a little something for everyone.


Thank you to Chris.  Go check out the rest of his blog at

We want to thank every one who linked to us and includes us on their blog roll.  Our top 5 (really 6 for this week) referrers from this past week are:

1.  Budgeting In the Fun Stuff & Minting Nickles (tied for first!)

2.  Nicole and Maggie

3.  First Gen American

4.  Debt Free By Thirty

5.  Penniless Parenting

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