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Room for One: Red River Calabooses


Odell's calaboose is just a few short miles from the Red River in Wilbarger County.

Along with the courthouse, the county jail is the one building in town that was generally meant to last. Its large stone walls and iron bars made sure that those inside couldn't get out, and those on the outside wouldn't want to come in.

Not every crime was conveniently perpetrated in the county seat, however. So what could a small town law enforcement officer do when he had to arrest a person for some nefarious act, but could not transport the accused until the next day?

He'd rely on the calaboose to hold those who strayed from the law. A calaboose is a free standing, one room concrete block usually situated behind the town center (and in close proximity to the sheriff's office). The word "calaboose" stems from the Spanish word for "dungeon," calabozo, but in the vernacular, they are referred to as the "hoosegow."  

Luckily for us, a few of these frontier-justice relics remain. I've made it one of my missions to photograph every calaboose I come across. And although the name implies a rather sinister structure, I've yet to encounter iron spikes or thumb screws. Instead, all calabooses (or calabice?) are concrete block houses, with a door and a small window, which would house a thief, cattle rustler, or drunk for a night.

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