In The Pen (In Richmond VA) Words: Rose Tate and Justin Mychals
Music: Justin Mychals c2014 BMI
I shared with you last time the story of my Grandfather Rose and my father’s ordeal of the hijacking, killing and subsequent coalmining/moonshining experiences. Rose was sentenced to 18 years in the State Pen in Richmond Virginia. That left my father, aunts and uncles, of which there were 5, alone in the Southwest portion of Virginia in the Appalachian Mountains.
After my father passed away we found in his papers a type written letter from my grandfather. It was a letter explaining what had happened that sent him to prison and, also a song that was written by him. The only person in the family that knew it existed was my dad’s oldest sister. She and one of dad’s cousins explained the song and they told me the story of Rose’s time in prison and the circumstances around his early release.
The story in the song gave us answers to some of the questions we had about the whole story. It also raised more questions than it answered. Seems that Rose received an 18 year sentence first time and only served a couple of years of that. He alludes to that in the song. Fact was after he had spent two years in the pen a young man that was with him that fateful night was in another gun battle and was shot. As he lay dying he asked his wife to fetch the sheriff and he admitted to the sheriff that indeed he was the one that had shot the men that my grandfather had been found guilty of murdering. The sheriff went to the judge and presented this new evidence to the judge and they secured a parole for Rose.
Rose laments in the song how hard it was to find work as an ex-con and turns back to moonshinin’. A gentleman also wrote my grandfather a $2 bad check for payment for a jug of shine. He pulled a gun on the young man in front of the local hardware store and collected his money. This broke his parole! The sheriff was intimidated by an ex-con and was reluctant to confront Rose to arrest him. The sheriff enlisted the help of the madam of the working girls in town to capture the “notorious” gun wielding moonshiner. He was duped into a night of pleasure and heavy drinking set up by the sheriff and the the madam. Apparently the madam’s house was given certain leniencies for this favor. Passed out, Rose was captured and returned to the State Pen to finish out his original sentence that he should have been pardoned from but was only paroled.
Upon hearing these stories and being presented with the song Rose had penned to explain his story I took the song and wrote the melody and chorus that is now “In the Pen In Richmond VA”. I tried to keep as much of the original writings of my grandfather as possible. I ended up changing only about 20 percent of the original text.
I cannot explain to you what a thrill it is to have an original composition co-write with my grandfather that I have only met through the stories of the people that knew him before I was born. He was apparently quite the character and lived life to the fullest if not always the smartest.
Next stop a co-write with my father about a coalmining accident. Excited to share this story with you! Till next time……