One thing leads to another. And another.
Last week I found the Woodbury County Courthouse on Facebook and “liked” it. It is an award winning Prairie Style design by William L. Foster, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright’s who designed a number of homes in the area.
My daughter and I were talking at a big family dinner last week.
“Sonja (who is 3) needs a backpack for pre-school,” she said. We talked about how things have changed and how she didn’t carry a backback. She liked floppy bags.
“I was sort of a nerd in high school, carrying a big tan briefcase,” I remembered.
“We have a picture of me learning to stand up on a brief case. Is that the one?”
“Yup, I and my friends all bought big briefcases at 'Sioux City Stationery,' and I bought one that was like my lawyer’s.”
“You had a lawyer? What was that about?”
“Well, this is a long story. In 1962 after I graduated from high school, I bought a car, a ‘47 Chevy, from your Mother’s Brother. It had bullet holes in it. He and one of his friends had taken it to a field and shot it up and I now realize he did it with the (non-functioning) 1954 Mossberg 22 which happens now to be hanging on the wall above your Mom’s desk. This is a ‘47 Chevy slopeback; mine was gray:
“Well, I and a friend drove it around without a muffler and were reported to the police. They came to my house and took me away for questioning. I wondered what my Mother thought when my sister told her what had happened..”
“So you needed a lawyer for that?”
“No, they thought we had something to do with a car that was left in a park and burned the night before. But we didn't and they let us go. My friend and I blew the engine on that car, bought a 260 Jimmy dumptruck straight six engine from a junkyard and put it in the car. A 260 was 4.25 liters, much bigger than the original one.
“We were so excited to get it running, we didn’t put a muffler on it and we just set the hood on the car without fastening it down. Must have weighed 150 pounds, fitting snugly within the fenders. That night we were driving about 60 mph on the new interstate (this was 1963), and the hood slowly lifted straight up, slowly angled upward, and slowly disappeared back over the car. It landed on the highway and we quickly crossed the median and returned to where the hood was laying, and got out of the car to pull it off the road.
“WHAM! A ‘60 white Impala hit the hood and stopped with sparks flying from under the car. The hood had caught under the front of the car. I went to the car and apologized to the elderly couple.
“It’s a good thing you ‘fessed up,” the man said. “I am a retired California Highway Patrol officer, and I would have chased you to the ends of the earth.”
I checked at the Chevy dealer on the repairs to his car. I was told they were about $40 plus towing (abut $20 then). Then I got a letter from his attorney telling me that he was suing me for $500.
Now during high school I had taken the city bus home from school. Many days on that bus was a lawyer with a big fat tan briefcase. Mr. Furlong, whose law firm still exists, befriended me and wanted to know what I thought about politics and life, what my plans were for after high school, and whether I thought it was really necessary to go to college straight out of high school. So when I got that letter, I knew who to call.
We went to court twice and the plaintiff didn’t show. I asked my lawyer if the case shouldn’t be dismissed because of this. He said it was ok. The third time the plaintiff didn’t show, and my lawyer and the judge conferred. My lawyer said that I had to pay $500, and when I objected to what had happened in court, he said “I have to practice law in this town, so I have to cooperate with the judge.” My first lesson in politics and no doubt formative of my cynicism.
The settlement was for payments of something like $7 a month. I paid for about 2 years and paid some of those payments to the plaintiff’s attorney in pennies. Never heard from them again.