Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On Dad and the Law--Part V-A--About Gavin

As I mentioned previously, Tom Boyle having a law degree but never actually going into court to sue people did not have much of an effect on Dad, but it did have a great affect on my brother, Gavin. Now Gavin, being one of those people that everyone always says will Amount To Something, decided that the very best way to do that would be to go to law school. But, of course, my dad warned him against that saying all you did was make enemies and nobody liked you and such like. Well, Gavin took that to heart and wondered what he could do, since he had already spent four years in law school. And just when he was on the point of despair, he remembered Tom Boyle, who I discussed in my previous essay. Of, course, even without the help of Stephen Covey to warn him, he realized that the demand for lawyers to adjust insurance awards down to less-worldly-causing amounts was getting very limited, but he decided to ask my Uncle Milford if there was anything like that he(Gavin) could look into. Well, Uncle Milford was a sort of big-wig at the state so he suggested that Gavin trot up to the State Capitol Building and pop into a few offices and tell them that he(Uncle Milford) had sent him(Gavin). So he did that and he hadn't popped into very many offices when a man said to him. "Do you know anything about the laws dealing with banks?" And Gavin responded in a very humble tone of voice, "Of course, I have just finished four years at law school. I know all about laws dealing with banks." So the man said, "Well we need someone to help the man who regulates the banks in this state to regulate the banks in this state, so since you know all about the laws dealing with banks, you are hired." Well, naturally, Gavin was very happy and so he went home and told his wife, Libby, the good news and took her out to dinner, which was a very good thing because after four years of college and then four years of law school, they were both getting pretty thin.

Well, after a few months of being the assistant bank regulator, it was clear to everyone--or, at least, everyone who mattered, that Gavin had a real knack for this sort of thing, so they told the head regulator to go regulate something else, and Gavin became the chief regulator of banks in the state of Idaho. Well that is pretty much all there is to the story, except I have decided that it would be helpful to people who graduate from law school and don't want to be bothered with going into court to explain exactly how Gavin regulates banks, in case they decide that that is what they would rather do than go into court. Gavin drops by my house every so often, and besides that, I have known him from the time that he was knee high to a grasshopper (of course, he was never really knee high to a grasshopper, that is just another one of those sophisticated figures of speech that I have picked up over the years). At any rate, although, I will admit that I have never actually gone with him to regulate a bank, I can tell you with a great deal of confidence exactly how he does it.

To understand his methods, you have to realize that Gavin has always been the athletic one in our family. He was on the baseball team in high school and played tennis and golf and was very good at all of them and then some. But lately he has concentrated on golf. The trouble with golf is that if you don't keep at it constantly, you quickly lose the knack. Your drives don't drive, your puts putter--that sort of thing, so in order to keep up with his golf, he has to combine it with his work. What he does is he goes into a bank that he is going to regulate and he goes up to the nearest counter and he says, "Take me to your leader!" He learned this line from reading and watching science fiction stories but, after all, he does have to say something and be pretty impressive about it, so that's as good as anything. Well, usually the clerk, who has also read some science fiction, is not much impressed by this, and demands, "And just who might you be?" Well, then Gavin gives it to them with both barrels (this is another sophisticated figure of speech) and says, "I'm the head regulator of banks for the state of Idaho." Well, the clerk at that point is naturally sorry that he was so arrogant and all and immediately takes Gavin to his boss.

All the while this interchange has been taking place, Gavin is very carefully looking around. He notices if all the papers on the desk are neatly stacked in orderly piles or if they have been sloppily layed down in a helter-skelter fashion. When he meets the bank manager, he looks him over to see if he is wearing a well pressed suit with a well-tied tie--or, if the bank manager is a woman, he checks to see if she is wearing whatever women are supposed to wear instead of a tie--Gavin having learned exactly what that is during his four years at law school. Well, if everything looks ship-shape (of course, the bank really bears no resemblance whatever to a ship, but I needn't tell you what that expression is), i. e., the papers are all stacked straight, and the tie is well-tied, Gavin congratulates the banker on having passed his audit (this is the expression bank regulaters use because it is much shorter than "bank regulation visit"), and he calls up some friends and they go play golf. If, however, things do not look, in a manner of speaking, like the H.M.S. Pinafore, Gavin has to take action.

What he does is invite the bank manager and a few of the assistant managers to go golfing with him, at their expense, of course, greens fees having gotten so out of hand lately. Gavin is a good golfer and so he doesn't liek to take unfair advantage of these people by scaring them with banker talk right off, so he talks about the weather, and the scenery and that sort of thing to put them at ease. Then about the 8th or 9th hole, he says in a very casual sort of way, "Now about the bank, if someone comes in and gives you $500 to deposit, do you write that down in a book somewhere, so you will remember it?" If the man says, "Yes, we know all about keeping books and we always write it down." Then Gavin is mightily relieved, but he doesn't stop there. "Well what if someone comes and borrows $500, do you write that down in a book too?" Well, if the bank man responds with, "Oh you bet, we write that down as well." Then Gavin is even more mightily relieved. Of course, if they respond with something like, "Oh we don't bother with books. We only hire people with very good memories." Then Gavin is very, very concerned, realizing that staightening this whole thing is going to cut seriously into his golf time.

But, unlike most bank regulators, when Gavin finds out that the bank people know all about books, he doesn't let it go at that, he persists, which explains why he became the head regulator so quick. "Supposing that someone borrows some money and they don't make a payment, what do you do?" he asks looking at the bank manager very narrowly (of course, I just threw that in, I have no idea what it means to look at a person "very narrowly", but they do it in the detective stories I read all the time). "I write that in the book too." The bank manager, hopefully, responds. But Gavin relentlessly persists, "And just how do you write it in the books?" If the bank manager says, "I write it in red ink." Then Gavin breathes a sigh of relief and goes back to talking about the weather, knowing that the people's money is in good hands at a bank where everyone knows about books and red ink. Of course, when he gets back he takes a look at the books, to see if they really are using red ink.

Now, of course, I realize, as I am sure everyone else does, that things have changed in the banking world, with the coming into use of computers, so I am describing what Gavin did earlier in his career. Now he has to ask about computers. And this, of course, has created a thorny problem. The problem is, of course, that it is not possible to have two keyboards, one with black letters and one with red letters, so somehow, the bank people have had to come up with ingenious ways to replace the use of red ink. This is known as the Red Ink Problem. My brother has had to golf on golf courses all over the country to see how people in various parts of the country have been able to deal with this problem. Lately he has been elected as president of the National Bank Regulators society, so he has had to golf on golf courses all over the country explaining to people in various parts of the country how people in other parts of the country handle the Red Ink Problem. Actually, I think it is a good thing that we have come up with computers, because if we had not, and what I read in the newspapers is true, if we had not come up with computers, we would be suffering from a frightful shortage of red ink.

At any rate, this whole article was a digression from Dad's law career, but I thought it would be helpful to people to know how going to church with Tom Boyle, even if it didn't help Dad's career all that much, it was at least helpful to my brother's. Hopefully soon, I will get to talking about Jayson Holladay, whose career, while terribly hopeful for Dad, wasn't particularly helpful either, as we will see.

Monday, April 28, 2008

On Dad and the Law--Part V

I think at some point Dad decided that there was never going to be a "royal road to success" in his career as a lawyer, but he gave it one last try. To understand what happened you have to realize that when I was in high school we moved out south of town, directly across the road from the municipal golf course and as a consequence we became neighbors to and attended church with the wealthiest and most successful people in town. That is because we lived close to what we called Snob Hill. Snob Hill was really Johnny Creek Road. The reason we could afford to live in the same neighborhood with these people requires some explanation. Of course, I have to explain right off, that we had some ordinary people in our neighborhood, i. e. people who lived in very ordinary houses like the Southwicks, the Armstrongs, the Robinsons and the Probarts--in fact, the Probarts lived in a house that was less than ordinary. But they had lived there since the days of the conestoga wagons, and they certainly did not live on Snob Hill. But how we came to live so close to the Herzogs, the Comstocks, the Boyles, the Kilbournes, and many other of the rich folk can best be explained by explaining how you got to our house. If you started up Johnny Creek Road you came to a fork at which you had to turn either right or left. If you turned right, you stayed on the main road and wound up on Snob Hill, which was cluttered with mansions. Snob Hill was popular because it had a very beautiful view of the whole valley. If you turned left, you passed a chicken farm, and about half a mile up the road you came to our place and just a little bit further, to the Southwicks, and then to Mrs. Southwick's parents place.

I don't think Dad ever really figured out why we lived where we did, all alone, with none of the rich people eager to move in around us. We had a view that was probably as beautiful, if not more so, than any of them. In addition, we had a stream running through our property with a couple of acres of Russian Olive and Juniper trees. It was almost an idyllic location. I suspect that many of my parent's friends, when they came to visit, wondered how on earth we could afford such a wonderful piece of land, so close to the very wealthy--I say, they probably wondered that as long as the air was still, as soon as the wind blew, which it did a great deal in Pocatello, they knew exactly why. The key to our even having bought the property at all is the fact that Dad had a very bad case of nasal allergy. He was always sniffing from an inhaler just so he could breath, and, of course, he couldn't smell. Jess Ziebarth, who was my 7th grade teacher's brother, and was as sharp at business as she was at English, owned the property and had been trying to sell it for years. He had initially showed Dad several other locations, not nearly as beautiful, but as soon as he saw Dad pull out his inhaler, I think, he yelled, "Eureka! have I got a deal for you." and took Dad to what became our place. Dad loved it instantly. Mr. Ziebarth, who was no crook, and was actually a very nice person--almost as nice as Miss Ziebarth, although, lots of people didn't think she was so nice because she could look pretty mean, and look which she used fairly often in class--gave Dad a really fair price, in fact, I think he felt it was an absolute steal--and the rest of us in the family probably would have agreed with him if we had also had a very bad case of allergies. The reason, of course, was the fact that we were downwind from the chicken farm. I will say that after we had lived there a few years, they came to us and announced that they had bought some sort of device that cleaned up the smell, which made things much better, except of course, when the device broke down, which it did fairly often. We would all be sitting out on the deck, looking out over the valley and the sunset when all of sudden the wind would blow, and we would realize that the device had broken again and we would dash into the house, close all the windows and the doors and start burning incense, leaving Dad out on the deck wondering why we had all dashed away in such a hurry.

At any rate, we now went to church with some of the wealthiest people in town. Several lawyers lived on Snob Hill, but they didn't go to church, or at least, not to ours. But there were two lawyers who did, and who Dad sort of envied--Tom Boyle and Jason Holladay. Well to say that he envied Tom Boyle is not exactly fair, because, Dad realized that Tom's case was special and that he could not hope to duplicate it. It turns out that Tom had graduated from law school, but wasn't really excited, like Dana Muir, at getting involved with courts and arguments and that sort of thing so he went( or at least, I always assumed that this is what he did) to the local insurance agency and asked them if they had a job. Well, they asked him if he understood the law about insurance, and him having graduated from law school, he said he did, so they hired him. It turns out they needed what they called an Insurance Adjuster. As far as I could tell what an Insurance Adjuster did was as follows: when someone died all their relatives would gather around and ask, how much insurance did they have? Well normally, they were disappointed that it wasn't more, but of course, there wasn't anything they could do about that. But every now and then they would ask, "How much insurance did he (or she) have?" and when the agent told them they would say, "That is way too much. If we had that much money we would get worldly and spoiled and maybe even worse." So they would ask to have their insurance adjusted down to a less worldly-causing level. Well, Tom Boyle, having graduated from law school knew exactly how to adjust it down in a completely legal manner. Anyway, Tom Boyle was very, very liked because he had such an easy-going disposition. But, of course, he could afford to have such an easy-going disposition, because, strange as it may seem, there weren't all that many people who wanted to have their deceased relative's insurance payment adjusted down, so mostly he spent his time doing cross-word puzzles and keeping very up-to-date on all the vital statics of the major-league ball players. Now Dad really liked Tom Boyle, but I think he more or less realized that the demand for law school graduates who knew how to legally adjust insurance down to less worldly-causing levels was extremely limited, so Tom's example didn't have much of an effect on Dad's practice. In fact, mostly I mention Tom Boyle at all because of the effect it had on me.

It turns out that Tom Boyle had a son my age, Larry Boyle. Now Larry and I went to church together and did a few other things together, but we didn't do all that much together, because Larry was so easy-going, having learned how to do it from his dad, and fun-loving, which happens when you have an easy-going dad, that we tended to move in different circles. In fact, if someone had told Larry--which I myself may have done on a few occasions--that Life is Earnest, Life is Real, he would have realized immediately that he was being quoted to and that whoever said that did not have an Insurance Adjuster for a father. The main reason I mention Larry is that he is now on the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho. This undoubtedly comes as great a shock to whoever is reading this as it did to me when I first heard it. "What!", I said, very emphatically. "Larry Boyle on the Supreme Court? Why when I knew Larry Boyle he couldn't have told you who the president of the United States was without a whole lot of coaching." In fact, when I knew Larry, Idaho had two senators--Frank Church, a Democrat, and Henry D., a Republican. The Democrat had a last name that almost anyone, especially if they were religious, could spell, but the Republican had a last name that no one could even pronounce, much less spell--it was something like Dworchek, but everyone, except possibly his wife, just called him Henry D. Well, I mention all this just to point out that Larry Boyle could not have told you all that with any amount of coaching. How did he do it then? i.e. get to be on the Supreme Court and all? I thought about it and I decided that it was because when he went on his mission he had Stephen Covey for a mission president. I suspect he told Pres. Covey about wanting to be like his dad and help people adjust their insurance receipts down and Pres. Covey, being a business professor, realized that the demand for that sort of thing was dropping off considerably, suggested that he try something else and began coaching him on "the seven habits of highly successful people". This, of course, worked so well for Larry, that Pres. Covey decided to turn it into a book. My wife on occasion is want to say, "why can't you be a highly successful person like you old classmate, Larry Boyle?" Well, I got so tired of her saying things like that, that I decided I would by the book, which obviously worked for Larry Boyle. It came as a bit of a shock. I thought the seven habits would be things like, "get to bed early, eat lots of spinach and broccoli, run a mile before breakfast", that sort of thing. Instead, the habits were things I had never heard of, in fact, things that were not even in the dictionary my Aunt Virginia gave me for my 10th birthday. In fact, after reading the whole book, the only habit I could even understand was "Sharpen the Saw". So I said to myself, "if it worked for Larry Boyle, maybe it will work for me." So I went out to the shed, where, fortunately, I had a saw; borrowed a file from my neighbor, and began sharpening the saw. And I must say, it was no easy task. I must also say, I was a bit sceptical, wondering the whole time how that was going to help. And I must say, my scepticism was well placed. Doing all that didn't even get me a raise, much less getting me appointed to the State Supreme Court. I finally decided that the only way that that possibly could help me is if I ever decided to actually use the saw. I now feel that those "seven habits" only work if they come straight from the horse's mouth--as they did for Larry--not that I want to compare Stephen Covey to a horse--that is only a very sophisticated figure of speech. But I digress.

At any rate, knowing Tom Boyle, as I said, did not help Dad in his practice that much. But Jayson Holladay was a very different story, which I will take up later.

Friday, April 25, 2008

On Dad and the Law--Part IV

Although Dad didn't get much from listening to Perry Mason's look-alike, Raymond Burr, or, even a few years later from his creator, Earle Stanley Gardner, there was one Bar Convention from which Dad came in a high state of excitement. This one was held in San Francisco and when Dad got back from it he announced to all of us that he had heard a speech that had given him an idea that was finally going to put us on Easy Street. He was finally going to be able to look his uncle, Wesley Merrill in the eye and say, "To bad about that case you lost, in fact, to bad about the last twenty cases you have lost. If you need a loan, or even a little bit of help with a handout, just drop on by." As I said, he was finally going to be able to say that to his uncle, instead of his uncle always saying that to him. Not that Dad ever really asked his uncle for a handout, or even a loan, but you could tell that he envied him. His uncle seldom lost a case and his clients were mostly big corporate types, or, at least, the biggest corporate types that you could find in Pocatello.

Well, it seems that the key to success so carefully, completely, and convincingly laid out by a speaker at the San Francisco Bar Convention can be summed up in a single word, "histrionics". Well, it could not be entirely summed up in one word, actually, it was three words. The other two words were "deep pockets". Now I must admit that anyone reading this is going to say, "Your dad went all the way to San Francisco to learn this? This is hardly Legal Rocket Science." But you have to remember that this was back in the days when those kinds of Legal Rockets were still in their infancy. The Bar was still struggling to try to prove that they were an honorable trade or profession. You could not advertise and you could not specialize and apparently this fellows presentation about using histrionics and going after "deep pockets" did not go by unprotested. But whatever, Dad was all excited about it. He gathered us around the dinner table to tell us all about the trip and how we were going to be rich.

"So what is histrionics?" Loni asked. I would have asked, but I assumed it was the study of Paul Revere and Lewis and Clark and I admit I was a little puzzled as to how that was going to help Dad in his law practice, I just assumed he knew what he was doing and anyway, anything coming out of San Francisco was bound to be a little bit weird, so maybe they had figured out a way to make knowing all about Paul Revere and such like pay off. If they had, I was sure to cash in in a big way having read complete books about those guys for Miss Biggerts 4th grade history class. But anyway, it was a good thing that Loni asked because it turns out that histrionics has absolutely nothing to do with Paul Revere or even Lewis and Clark. But, in another way, it turned out to be not such a good thing because of the example Dad used to explain it.

"For example," Dad said, obviously very very excited, " this guy who spoke to us in San Francisco has made millions of dollars by being very dramatic in court."

"You mean like doing a summersault?" I asked incredulously. " Mom did that after she promised us she would if we ate our oatmeal and it put her in the hospital (which by the way, actually happened), if you did it in court, you would be lucky to wind up in the hospital. More likely, we would be orphans, or, at least, half orphans."

"Of course not," Dad just laughed. "I wouldn't do a sommersault. What good would that do?" Well, of course, he had us there, so we just asked him what he did plan to do.

"Well, for example, this fellow when he was suing a doctor for a bungled operation on a fellows leg brought in an actual leg cut off a dead person and dropped it in the lap of the people of the jury!"

"Please Dad," Gavin protested. "We're eating dinner!"

"That's just it," Dad continued all excited. "You can't be sqeamish if you are going to be dramatic in court."

"And just who would you sue in Pocatello?" I think it was Mom who asked that, although it may have been Loni.

"Well, doctors, like Dr. Sharp, I suppose."

There was silence around the table. Dad knew he had made a terrible mistake. "Well, at least, maybe someone, I mean there are some bad doctors here in Pocatello."

"Like who?"

Dad paused, and I think he was about to mention one of the doctors who we always said we couldn't go to because they charged big fees like Dr. Merkeley or Dr. Hegstead, but I guess he thought better of it. Dr. Merkeley went to our church and we were friends with his kids and, of course, Loni was Millie Hegstead's friend and I played ball with Ralph and besides, the idea of dropping a dead baby in the lap of the jury--well, he just said, "I don't know and we didn't hear anymore about the trip to San Francisco or even of becoming millionaires by using "histrionics" and going after "deep pockets".

Thursday, April 24, 2008

On Dad and the Law--Part III

Having failed to achieve the dream of Merrill K. Gee and Associates, Dad launched into the idea of really making a go of it as a lawyer, i. e. being successful in the way that his uncle, Wesley Merrill and some of the other lawyers in town were successful. One thing he looked to to help him in that venture was The Bar. Every so often The Bar would have what they called a Convention. Apparently, all the lawyers who were in The Bar would get together and discuss better and bigger and more effective ways to sue people. They would always have a speaker who apparently was better at doing what lawyers do than almost any other lawyer who would talk to everyone in The Bar in a big meeting. At any rate, Dad was always very excited when in was time for a Bar Convention.

Of course, I felt keenly about Dad's success, so I would occasionally make suggestions. The one I remember best was I suggested that he get into the same line of work as Perry Mason, who seemed, at least, to win a lot of cases and seemed like everyone admired him. My very first job was to clean Dad's office and I suggested he change his little sign which read "Gee & Hargraves, Attorneys at Law" to "Gee & Hargraves, Criminal Lawyers". This I felt sure could not help but bring in the bacon so to speak and in no time at all my dad would be as widely admired as Perry Mason. But Dad nixed the idea right off. For one thing, he said, he could not put out such a sign. Doing so would land him in hot water with The Bar, which did not allow the advertising of a specialty in any form, not even on a sign. He could, of course, accept only criminal cases if he chose to do so, but he could not put out a sign saying such. When I asked him how Perry Mason got away with it, he only responded rather(flipantly, I thought) that he wasn't sure how Perry Mason got away with a lot of things he did.

Well, in a way, he got a chance to find out. It turns out that a Bar Convention was coming up in Sun Valley and The Bar had invited Raymond Burr to speak. Dad was really excited, which surprised me, because, of course, I could see through that in about 30 seconds. Lawyers, who, for the most part, as I said, were lawyers only because they couldn't think of anything more worthwhile to do after they finished college, and, therefore, not the sharpest tacks on the board, were going to be duped by The Bar into thinking they were hearing from Perry Mason, when, in fact, they would only be hearing from the man who pretended to be Perry Mason on television, but I was surprised that my own father, who could have thought of any number of things to do after he finished college and only went into The Law because he loved it, seemed as gullible as the rest. Well, anyway, he trotted off to Sun Valley, and, sure enough, when I asked him about when he got back, he told me that he thought it had not been particularly helpful, which, as I said, I could have told him in the first place and saved him the trip.

But after that, I began to watch Perry Mason with a more critical eye and I decided that I was glad that Dad didn't want to be like him. For one thing, Perry Mason had to handle a big major case every single week. What with preparing for the case, telling his private detective, Paul Drake, what to do, and studying in the law books really hard to find new things to object to, he could hardly have any time for his family--which, in his case, was probably ok because he didn't seem to have one, but I wouldn't have liked it with Dad because he wouldn't even have had time to take us for our yearly trip to Yellowstone, which we sometimes did even twice a year. Of course, I finally figured out why Perry Mason had to work so hard--he was famous and respected and all that, but he almost never made any money. The reason was that he always had clients who were very beautiful but they were almost always in need of money. That was their problem. They needed money and beautiful girls--at least, beautiful girls in Los Angelos, are always in some way associated with millionaires in some way i. e. they come into the bar where they work, or they are their secretary, or even their wives--but, at any rate, they always know these millionaire guys really well, but the only way they can get any of their money--even if they're married to them--is to murder them, which, of course, the District Attorney, Hamilton Burger, always thinks they did. (As an aside, I think if I were a millionaire, I would avoid Los Angelos like the plague, because in Los Angelos at least one millionaire, probably more, are murdered every week--I say probably more, because it only stands to reason that Perry Mason would not be involved with every single case involving a murdered millionaire). Of course, Hamilton Burger is so busy preparing cases and studying law books to figure out ways to overcome Perry Mason's objections, that he never learns anything from experience. You would think, for example, that he would eventually learn that just because a beautiful girl is desparate for money and the only way she can ever get any is to murder a millionaire, does not necessarily mean that she did, in fact, murder the millionaire, especially if it turns out that she is Perry Mason's client, but he never does--learn that, that is. But his chief investigator, Lt. Tragg is no better. He always thinks that because he happened to stumble into the murdered man's house and finds the beautiful girl standing over the murder man with a smoking gun, means that she killed him. Of course, he does have the excuse, that on the previous week, it was not a gun, it was a lead pipe, and the week before that it was a knife, and before that, a candlestick, so that is understandly confusing, and leads him, because the weapons are different, that because the beautiful girl is standing over the just-murdered man with the weapon in her hand, that she did it. Of course, the one who always does it is someone we hardly know, like the office manager, who happened to see the millionaire kissing his(the office manager's) wife's sister's best friend's milk man's niece, and is, therefore, understandly so outraged that he feels the only course open to him is to murder the cad. But, of course, we don't know any of this until Perry Mason points it out after having been told about the niece--and two dozen or so other facts, discovered by his men--by Paul Drake, in the middle of the trial when he whispers all these facts in Perry's ear right after he has made an objection--Perry is always at his sharpest after he has made an objection. But, of course, only Perry knows that it is the fact about the niece that is really the only relevant fact. Well he accuses the office manager, who promply confesses but everyone is very simpathetic, when they discover about the millionaire having kissed the niece and all. But the sad part is, of course, that in the last part, after Perry explains how he figured out about the niece, there is never enough time for him to explain, but you know it to be the case, that because he proved that the beautiful girl did not murder the millionaire, she doesn't get any of the money she would have gotten if she had and, therefore, he will have to try another case next week with the hope that there will be something besides enhanced reputation in it for him, which, of course, there never is.

Well, the point of all that rather lengthy digression, is that I was glad that Dad didn't become another Perry Mason. But he did attend one Bar Convention, about which he was very excited, and from which he was sure he had gotten the insight he needed to really make it big. But I will have to tell about that later.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On Dad and the Law--Part II

The way that Dad planned to become the Robert J. Debry and Associates, only the Merrill K. Gee and Associates, and in Idaho instead of Utah and long before Robert J. Debry added Associates to his name, and very possibly before Robert J. Debry was even named at all, was in this fashion. My mom grew up in Preston, Idaho with the result that I had a Grandpa and Grandma not only in Pocatello, but I also had them in Preston, which, of course, was very confusing until I studied Mendell in my college biology class, but long before I studied Mendell and understood it all, I had a Grandpa and Grandma in Preston. Well, anyway, we would go there fairly often, and Dad somehow managed to pick up some clients there. Exactly how he did that, he never really explained to me. I suppose he stood around the local General Store, which was about all they had in Preston in those days, except, of course, the Spudnut shop, which was right next to my grandparent's place, so I suppose he could have stood around in that, and said to customers, "Would you like to sue somebody?" and eventually, he got some takers. Of course, if he did do that, it is awfully close to doing advertising which, as I explained earlier, he was supposed to never, ever do under any circumstances, but, then, I suspect that The Bar was not real active in Preston and he felt he could somehow get away with it.

At any rate, he had clients there and so he had to go there and occasionally he would offer to take Loni and me along. Now we loved to go to Preston. For one thing, my Grandpa Merrill had a very large raspberry patch, so whenever we went, if it was summer, we got to eat lots and lots of delicious raspberries (unless, of course, we had to pick them ourselves, in which case, we didn't eat quite so many). For another thing, the Crockets, who owned the doughnut shop next door, would see us hanging around and offer us a genuine Spudnut. But the main reason we loved to go (other than to see Grandma and Grandpa) was to visit Aunt Jessie. Jessie Whitehead was not really our aunt. She was my Grandpa's cousin, or second cousin, or maybe even third cousin, but we always liked to call her Aunt. Of course, normally, we were not usually all that excited to visit even our real aunts unless they had kids our age, which Aunt Jessie didn't, but what Aunt Jessie did have was a TV set. In those days there was not a TV station anywhere near enough to Pocatello that you could get TV there, but Preston was close enough that with a very high antenna on your roof you could get the stations in Salt Lake City. So it was at Aunt Jessie's place that Loni and I learned about Boston Blackie and Howdy Doody and other very important people that kids in Pocatello knew absolutely nothing about.

At any rate, when Dad's friend, Dana Muir graduated from law school, Dad approached him with the idea of opening up a branch of his office in Preston, and Dana would run that branch. Over lunch at our house Dad explained the whole thing to Dana, and I listened in very carefully, hoping that I could somehow get in on this operation so I could get down to Preston more often and thereby get even further ahead of all the other kids in school in Pocatello by watching Aunt Jessie's TV more often. The only lawyer in Preston was a man named Del Smith, and according to Dad, as he explained to Dana, this Del Smith was either old or lazy, I don't remember which, maybe both (if you know someone who lived in Preston at the time you could ask them whether Del Smith was old or lazy), but anyway, he was, again according to my dad, not up to doing near the amount of lawyering that needed doing in Preston in order to keep the place is ship shop shape. So Dana, who thought that since he had spent four years in college getting a law degree, he might as well do something with it, and not aware of the possibilities I will explain later when I talk about Tom Boyle and Jason Holladay, accepted and off he went to Preston.

Now this was very exciting to Dad. I think he could easily visualize the day when he would have branch offices all over Idaho and could advertise himself (as soon as The Bar would allow him to advertise at all) as Merrill Gee and Associates. Loni and I were very excited that maybe he would open up a branch office in Lava Hot Springs, hopefully right next door to the swimming pool. But alas, it was not to be. About a week after he went down to Preston to start working on his first case, Dana called Dad and said that he needed help. Dad said he was glad to go and understood completely, after all, it was Dana's first case, and they can't teach you everything that is in all those huge books that line the walls of a lawyer's office, even in four years. So Dad went down. To his disappointment, even amazement, Dana announced that this, his first case, was also to be his last. It seems that whoever it was that Dad (and now, Dana) was suing, was about the most popular person in Preston, so that wherever Dana went he was accosted and almost threatened. Dana said he understood that people who got sued might be a little annoyed, and maybe even more than a little annoyed, with the people who were suing them, but it had never occured to him that they would be equally--and maybe even more--annoyed with the lawyer who was representing the suing people. After all, he was only the messenger, so to speak. But he was finding out different, so he said, he was quiting the law altogether.

Dad, as I said, was dumbfounded. He pleaded, he cajoled, he threatened, he cried, but all to no avail. Dana was determined. The reminder that he had spent four long arduous years getting a law degree carried no weight whatever, when he thought of the menacing looks he received walking down the streets of Preston. He had put himself through law school by doing typesetting for the Denver Post. So Dana began doing the same thing for the Idaho State Journal. What must have been terribly discouraging to Dad, and he even hinted at it a few times, was that Dana, who started to real estate on the side, was soon doing better--and according to my dad--much better, than he(Dad) was doing with all his college and experience. So anyway, since it had become painfully obvious that he was never to be Merrill Gee and Associates, he had to try the next thing, which I will try to describe in the next section.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

On Dad and the Law--Part I

My father was a lawyer. You are probably wondering why he became a lawyer. Of course, we all know why most lawyers become such. They have finished college and they have a spouse, or someone in mind they hope to convince to be their spouse, whose father is a doctor or a dentist, and, therefore, used to the finer things in life, so when our hero goes home and announces (or to the spouse's house and annouces, in case he is still trying to convince) that he has finally finished college and now plans to go out and be a school teacher, the fire hits the fan. Well at that point the hero realizes that if he wants to keep (or get) the spouse (this is all very awkward, because, of course, we could be talking about a man or a woman here, but I haven't quite got the whole thing down about how to make that clear, but just keep in mind that when I say "his" or "hero", I am using the terms in their generic sense), he is going to have to do something different. After checking and finding out that the local, state, and federal bureaucracies all have hiring freezes posted (again), our hero, after checking his math and science grades again and realizing that doctor or dentist is not an option, yells (like Archimedes), "Eureka, I've found it" and he (or she--increasingly, she) heads off to law school. Well, in my dad's case, this didn't happen--or at least, he claimed it didn't. He told me (and I questioned him very closely on the subject) that he, like Sir Walter Scott's father, had always loved the law and always wanted to be a lawyer. So off he went to law school. But the truth of the matter is, that at heart Dad was really a bureaucrat. So after walking down the aisle at George Washington University to pick up his law diploma, he kept on walking across the street and accepted a job with the Social Security Administration as the regional manager for the Pocatello area. This was a great relief to my Grandpa and Grandma. My Granddad, working for years in the County Assessors office, had absolutely nothing against bureaucrats, and was mightily pleased that Dad had such a good, secure, government job fresh out of college. But, like most young bureaucrats, expecially those with law degrees, Dad was ambitious, so when he got the chance to be Assistant Federal Marshall for the state of Idaho, he jumped at it, even though that meant having to move to Boise and consequently, having to associate with Republicans and other low lifes that hang around Capitol Buildings. A year or so later, he jumped at the chance to be involved as a prosecutor and judge at the Nazi War Crime Trials in Germany. That was a wonderful experience for my sister, Loni and me, and, I think, for my parents, but like so many wonderful experiences in life, it had its down side, in this case, the downside being that the higher up in the bureaucracies saw that Dad was being ambitious and decided to nip that in the bud, and his having been involved in something as politically incorrect as the Nazi thing gave them a reason, so when he came back from Germany they told him that if he wanted to continue to be a bureaucrat, he would have to be like almost all the other bureaucrats and just sit around Washington D.C. and shuffle papers. Well, Dad decided that he wouldn't be much better at shuffling papers than he was at shuffling cards, what with him hating gambling and all, and besides, he didn't much care for Washington D. C. either. So he launched out on his own and became a lawyer in private practice.

Poor Dad. As I said above, he was really a bureaucrat at heart, and he never really adjusted to arguing, the in-fighting and back stabbing carefully balanced by back slapping, that characterized the life of a small town lawyer, but he certainly gave it a valiant try. I think he decided early on that he had to develop some sort of strategy in order to really make a go of it. It was discouraging to him, I think, to notice how successful other lawyers were, expecially his uncle, Wesley Merrill, with seemingly no effort other than a careful balance of slyness and, as I said backslapping and stabbing. He told me that it really bothered him that his fellow lawyers would call each other (and him) all kinds of names (like "you rattlesnake, you slimy toad" and that sort of thing only even worse) and then go out to lunch together. I suspect that part of the reason, he was so unhappy with the whole thing is that, especially, at first, he couldn't even afford to go out to lunch. But anyway, he developed several stategies, which, I now understand, but I didn't at the time.

Now you may be asking yourself, "why do you understand these strategies now and didn't then?" This is a very good question, but the reason is that my boss always watches the news on TV at noon, and I sometimes join him, although he generally looks at me with a glaring eye and sometimes even says, "Don't you have something you need to do?" But when he does this I simply point at my sandwich or my apple, which is my sort of subtle way of reminding him that it is my lunch time, and he just grunts and we go on watching the news. Well, anyway, in Salt Lake the news at noon is more or less sponsored by lawyers and I have pretty much figured out their strategies and, I realize now the similarity between what they are doing and what my dad tried to do (unsuccessfully, as you will see) way back then in Pocatello. Of course, my dad could not advertize. This, according to him was a strict no-no. There was a group of people called "The Bar" that very strictly regulated lawyers, and if you tried to advertise, or even tried to specialize, you were promptly kicked out of (or maybe it was kicked by) "The Bar". At any rate, you were kicked, and if you advertise, which was considered especially bad, you were kicked very hard.

But, anyway, nowdays The Bar goes in for advertising in a big way so if you are very observant (which I am), you can really catch on to what lawyers are up these days. In Utah there are two very successful lawyers named Craig Swapp and Keith Barton. These two lawyers have never had a case that they have not won for at least a million dollars. I think that whenever the judge sees that the plaintiff is represented by either one of them, he has had so much experience with them that he simply turns to the jury and says, "I see that plaintiff is represented by Mr. Swapp (or Mr. Barton). I think that in view of this fact (judges always like to say "In view of this fact", it is one of the things that they work really hard on in law school) gentlemen and ladies of the jury, we may as well dispense with the usual rigamarole of listening to evidence and calling witnesses and simply grant plaintiff the million dollars (sometimes, of course, it is two or three million, but whatever it is he is asking), which we know he will get anyway. That way we can all go home early and I can pick up a few tips from Judge Judy (which, by the way, my boss also watches on occasions, but if I so much as pause in front of the TV during that show, he really gives me the evil eye, lunch being over and all, so I move quickly on. I mention this, because, having only seen short sniptets of the show, I am really not in the position to tell that judge whether or not he could pick up some good tips from Judge Judy), so Mr. Foreman, what do you say?" Well, of course, the foreman, by way of making the whole thing look on the up and up asks around to get opinions of the other jury members, but, of course, he being the Foreman and all, he pretty much ignores their opinion and goes along with the judge.

But I must say, and I think it important to make this clear, that neither Swapp or Barton ever really guarantee that they will win at least a million dollars, of course, from the way they smile, and act so assured and all, you're pretty certain that the million is in the bag (provided, of course, that you, the client, were injured due to absolutely no fault of your own). But to make it clear why they can't absolutely guarantee that you will get at least a million dollars, I will do what lawyers almost always do and use a clarifying example. Suppose you are walking along on the sidewalk and smack dab in front of you, right in the middle of the sidewalk is your neighbors three year old's tricycle, but you do not see it because right at the instant when you might have seen it a hummingbird hovers in front of you, which is such a rare sight that you look at it exclusively and, as a result, you smash into the tricycle, stubbing your toe. Well, you have obviously been injured through absolutely no fault of your own so you call Mr. Swapp. He, of course, is pained, horrified, incredibly indigent, mortified, and several other things, when he realizes how terribly irresponible and inexcusibly negligent your sneighbor's three year old has been in leaving his (you notice, I said "his", in these examples you have to be terribly careful or you could be sued yourself) tricycle in the middle of the sidewalk, and, of course, given the circumstance of the hummingbird and all, it is clear that you are absolutely not in the slightest at fault. So he takes the case. But when it goes to trial, the judge, not having seen a hummingbird hover in exactly that manner, especially over a sidewalk, decides to go ahead with hearing testimony and witnesses and whatnot, and the result is that you only win $900,000. Well, naturally, you are incensed, especially when you find out that Mr. Swapp plans on taking part of the $900,000 for himself, which more or less adds insult to injury. So you decide to sue him (Mr. Swapp), using Mr. Barton, who you now realize, you should have used in the first place. Well, he (Mr. Barton) delivers the goods by suing him (Mr. Swapp) for one million dollars and, as usual, winning. Well, anyway, I hope that that makes it all clear, actually, I'm not clear on the whole thing myself, but I think, if you read over this example carefully three or four times you will understand why both he (Mr. Barton) and him (Mr. Swapp) cannot guarantee that they will always win one million dollars.

Now this is getting a bit long, but you will certainly understand all about the law when I am finished. There is another lawyer--well actually two lawyers who work together, named Siegfried and Jensen. They have had over 20,000 people come to them for help who have been injured through no fault of their own. You may wonder why so many people have gone to Siegfried and Jensen, especially, as these two lawyers are much too humble to tell you exactly how much they always win when they take a case, but you can tell from their manner that it is probably even more than Mr. Swapp or Mr. Barton. The key to their great success is that they have a bit of a gimmick. They always bring a tiger into the court. I've never actually seen the tiger, of course, but they are famous for their tigers. I'm sure they have carefully trained them to growl at the judge if he overrules one of their objections and occasionly to growl at the jury so they know which way they better vote. I'm not too sure how successful this gimmick is lately because a few years back one of their tigers badly mauled a guy named Roy--I'm not sure whether he was the judge or on the jury, but I did read about it in the paper, it being big news. So anyway, I suspect that whenever they bring a tiger into the court now, that the bailiff checks to make sure that it is secured by a pretty strong leash, probably actually pulling on the leash.

But the most humble, and most successful, is a lawyer named Robert J. Debry. He is so successful that his real name is now Robert J. Debry and Associates. He has offices all over Utah and so he is always jetting around to his various offices to help people who have been injured through absolutely no fault of their own. When I say he is the most humble, it is because he not only never mentions how much he will win but he also never mentions how many thousands of people, but what with him jetting around so much and all, you can be pretty sure that he beats the others on both counts. His big gimmick is that he will tell you right on the phone whether you have a case or not. And it is a pretty good thing that someone invented cell phones because if you called him from Salt Lake and he happened to be in St. George, or even on the jet, you might call someone else, and then where would he be? Anyway, if you call him I suspect, he immediately asks you, "Were you injured due to absolutely no fault of your own?" and if you say, "Oh, absolutely." Then he takes the case and you are have a million dollars more or less guaranteed, although he never says that--not on TV at least, maybe, he does on the phone. At any rate, it was the Robert J. Debry strategy that my father first decided to try as I will explain in the next installment, if I get to it. I think that it is pretty impressive that Dad would think of this strategy so long ago, probably long before he (Robert J. Debry) had thought of it, probably while he was still struggling to get into The Bar. But, as you will see when I tell the whole sad story, this stategy did not work for Dad at all, but, it was definitley due to absolutely no fault of his own, as you will also see, and probably also because in using this strategy he was so far ahead of his time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On Pocatello Politics--Epilogue

Several years had passed. I was in college and, although, I would visit Mom and Dad occasionally, I was living in Utah. I was walking with my grandfather downtown, but I do not remember what it was that had brought us so far from either his or my parent's homes. Grandfather was in his 90's and had retired as Bannock County Assessor--a position he had held until well into his 80's.

We walked at a fairly good clip, which rather surprised me, because, as I mentioned Grandfather was well into his 90's, but as we walked in front of the courthouse. It was then that I realized that he had been informed, probably by my father, of my own Republican leanings, because as we slowed the pace, he pointed at the front door of the court house.

"I stopped in the other day to visit some of my old friends at the courthouse," he began innocuously.

"Glad to hear it," I responded politely. "How are they doing?"

"Well, in my office, they are doing just fine. I am proud to say that I left everything in tip-top shape and they've been able to carry on without a hitch."

"Well, of course, we all knew it would be that way. People here didn't keep electing you for nothing." I said wondering where all this was going. I was not long in finding out.

"But", he continued, "when I went over to the clerk's office, I'm very sorry to say, it was a very different story. They are still trying to clear up the mess left them by That Republican (for several years after he left office, Grandad would refer to him by name, Deloy Giles, but for the past several years, he simply called him, That Republican). I just can't understand what the people in this town were thinking when they elected him. How a single Republican could make such a mess of things in two short years, is a mystery to me, but he did, and," he added with a rather ominous touch to his voice, "they always do."

Since it had been almost two decades since Mr. Giles had thus darkened the doors of the County Courthouse, it was a little difficult for me to believe that he could have been entirely responsible for the mess remaining at the County Clerk's office and I was sorely tempted to say something sarcastic like, "Are you sure that That Republican didn't inherit a mess made by a previous Republican, also elected due to patriotic sympathy (Mr. Giles, as I explained earlier, had been elected--although, a Republican, normally impossible in Pocatello, because he was a Korean War Hero), possibly an associate of Teddy Roosevelt's distinguished in bravery at San Juan Hill?" But I refrained. I simply said, "I'm sure, Grandpa, that with all the good Democrats in this town working on the problem together, they will eventually be able to straighten out the mess."

"Well, I hope you're right." Then he muttered almost under his breath, "But I doubt it." And we continued our walk.

Monday, April 14, 2008

On Pocatello Politics--Part III

Several years after we got back from Germany, when I was old enough to begin, at least, to understand about the importance of politics, Idaho elected a Republican govenor by the name of Bob Smylie. Dad acted totally surprised at this development. I think that having won the fight over gambling a few years earlier, he more or less expected to win every political contest the rest of his life. At any rate, he was surprised, and even shocked, when Idaho selected a Republican govenor. He would, thereafter, tell everyone who would listen that getting rid of Bob Smylie at the next gubernatorial election had to be everyone in Pocatello's top priority. Why he felt that way, I could never figure out. It seemed unlikely, to me at least, that anyone in Pocatello would vote for Bob Smylie anyway, except, of course, possibly The Republican, Deloy Giles, (this was before I knew about the Kilbournes. I could only suspect that Dad felt that Mr. Smylie had snuck into Pocatello just before the election and done something very underhanded, like passing out cigars. Many people would then smoke a cigar just before the election, think thereby that they were Republicans, because they were, after all, doing the sort of things Republicans do by smoking a cigar, and vote for the only Republican on the ballet. My guess was that the real problem was Boise. Boise had more people than Pocatello, and it was loaded with Republicans from the get-go, so all Mr. Smylie had to do was pass out cigars in Boise, which was his home town anyway, and, wa-la!, he won the election.

Of course, we also had a Republican President at the time, but I think Dad realized that what with all the gangsters, hoodlums, penny-an-hour-payer employers, slave drivers, and champagne drinking stage and movie stars--all of whom were naturally Republicans--in big places like New York, Chicago, and Los Angelos, you could not blame Eisenhower's election to the presidency to Democrats in Pocatello turning turncoat. Not that it wasn't a problem. President Eisenhower usually referred to himself as "Ike", nobody, except possibly Miss Biggert, being able to spell, or even correctly pronounce, "Eisenhower", and many people in town wanted to get "I like Ike" buttons, that being such a catchy phrase and all, and the only way you could get them was to promise to wear them, of course, so you saw many people, even in Pocatello, wearing the buttons, but I'm sure none of those people actually planned to vote for him.

Of course, one of the things you learn rather early in life, is that the course of true love never runs smooth, and we were reminded of that rather unpleasant fact, when my mother came home one day before the election and announced to all of us that she liked Ike. Now my dad was a great Adlai Stevenson fan and told everyone what a wonderful man Mr. Stevenson was, although, I was never quite sure that Dad agreed with him when he said that he found Paul appealling, but Peale appalling, my Dad having several books by Peale, but anyway, he really liked Adlai Stevenson, no matter how appalling he found Peale, and, as I said, told everyone, even my mother how he felt. So it caused a bit of friction when Mom came home and announced that she liked Ike. Now Loni and I could see through that in an instant. Mom was just getting back at Dad for telling her that he wished she would cut back on the amount of money she was spending on the groceries, and she probably didn't like Ike at all. But I'm sure that feeling that Mom liked Ike was a source of great grief for my dad, so I was tempted to tell him about the groceries and not to worry about it, but I decided that it was not a kid's place to try and console his father, so poor Dad had to bear up under it as best he could.

But anyway, he decided to focus on getting rid of Bob Smylie, but as the election approached, there was a real problem, a fly in the ointment, so to speak. The fly was not really a fly, it was one of the Democratic candidates for govenor who favored bringing back gambling to the state of Idaho. Of course, there was also a Democratic candidate who was opposed to that idea, and my dad worked very hard to get him elected, but to no avail. The gambling guy was chosen to be the Democratic candidate. My poor dad! Here he was, telling everyone for four years that the thing he wanted most was to get rid of Bob Smylie and here faced with the fact that he had to now tell everyone that he thought they should vote for Bob Smylie. The reason was, of course, (and you will know this if you have read my previous explanations of politics in Pocatello) that as much as Dad disliked Republicans, and as much as he disliked, maybe even hated, Bob Smylie, he hated gambling a lot more, so he told everyone that he felt he had no choice and he felt that they should feel they had no choice but to vote for Bob Smylie.

Well, of course, I hated (as I explained in any earlier article) gambling too, so I was sure that if I could vote, I would feel, like my dad felt, that I had no choice but to vote for Bob Smylie. I have since learned, since I can now vote, that I find myself voting more often than not for the lesser of two evils, but back in those days that was not Dad's experience. At any rate, I was in for a mighty shock. I went to church the Sunday before the election, and the Bishop, as he always did, the Sunday before the election, at the end of the meeting announced that the election was next Tuesday and would everyone who could, please vote. But he added, "the Stake President has asked me to remind you that the Democratic candidate for governor favors gambling and we are opposed to it." Well, this came as no surprise to me, and I thought it a perfectly appropriate announcement, but after the meeting all double toothpicks broke loose. People were yelling at each other, and many swore that they would never come to church again (admittedly, most of the ones that said that, didn't come much anyway), others said that they were going to complain to the church leaders, others said they were keep going to church but find a different congregation to do it in and so forth. I was floored. All this over a reminder that you shouldn't vote to support gambling? I couldn't believe it. And I told my mother so when I got home.

"The problem was not the announcement," she explained. "The problem was that the Bishop was a bit of coward in the way he made the announcement. He shouldn't have mentioned the Stake President."

What's wrong with that?" I asked. Kay Hart, the stake president, was a good friend of the family and came by often. He was even a member of Mom and Dad's study group.

"Well, it creates a problem, because, you see, Kay Hart is a Republican."

"What!" I cried, with good cause, because, I couldn't believe it. "You're not serious."

"I am. Not only is he a Republican but he is very active in Republican politics."

"But, how could that be?" I asked in utter disbelief. "He comes to our house. We treat him as though he were a family friend. He comes to church and sits on the stand. How could he do that knowing that he is what he is?"

"Don't be silly", Mom remonstrated. "There are many good people who are Republicans. Just because we are Democrats doesn't mean that only Democrats are good people."

Of course, I had heard both Mom and Dad say that, or things similar to that before, but it never dawned on me that they actually believed it. But then the enormity of the situation suddenly struck me.

"He's even eaten our chocolate covered peanuts!" I stalked away hoping to be able to somehow put back together by suddenly shattered world.

Friday, April 11, 2008

On Pocatello Politics--Part II

I think it only fair to state right up front that as a very young man I did not have a real clear picture of partisan politics. For example, my view of Republicans came strictly from Democrats, since, as far as I knew, I didn't know any Republicans. I have since learned that Democrats may not always be the best source of information about Republicans, and vice-versa, especially if you want a completely objective picture, but I didn't know that at the time so I just accepted everything I was told.

The most important thing to know about Republicans was that they were very very greedy. Because of this they did not want to pay anyone who worked for them--and Republicans all had a great many people working for them--more that a few pennies an hour. If it were not for The Union nobody would get more than a couple of pennies an hour. Now admittedly, I came to hate The Union--actually, as did most people in Pocatello, not because they (whoever The Union was) were greedy, but because they were such a big bully and often very mean. I had been threatened with my life by a man in the name of the Union and I didn't like it--but that is another story. Anyway, because of the Union not even Republicans in Pocatello, if there had been any, which, for the most part there weren't with the exception of the people I am about to describe, could get away with paying people a couple of pennies an hour. Now I am the first to admit that there were people in Pocatello--for example, Dr. Hegstead, who I hate to keep bringing up, him being such a terrible example and all, but anyway there were people in Pocatello--and I suspected that Dr. Hegstead would be one, although, in all fairness to him, he may not have been, who would gladly have paid the people who worked for them, such as, in Dr. Hegstead's case, his secretary and his nurse, only a couple of pennies an hour. But, of course, even though I never asked Dr. Hegstead if he were a Republican--who would dare ask such a question--or even Ralph Jr. if his dad were one, which I probably would have dared done if I had thought of it, I assumed he was not because he did not have nearly enough people working for him to be one. Of course, in places where we assumed that they had lots of Republicans, places like New York, Chicago, Los Angelos, and Boise, there probably were lots of people who were only being paid pennies an hour, in fact, we pretty well assumed, although, our teachers never said so directly, in those places many of the higher up Republicans probably had slaves who they kept working with whips, just like in the movies about the south before the war and in Africa and in other places where almost everyone was Republicans, and there was no Union.

The other thing about Republicans is that they had very expensive tastes and besides being greedy, they were wicked in other, even more wicked ways. For example, Democrats, at least, the ones we knew in Pocatello, who never--are almost never--went to church would smoke cigarettes and drink beer or cheap wine (except, of course, the ones who had never been to church in their whole lives and liked to hang out in bars and other places where people stab and shoot each other. Those people drank whiskey.), but Republicans smoked expensive cigars and they drank a very expensive wine called champagne. This was very wicked indeed--especially the champagne. I knew all about that because I had seen it in the movies. A Republican (in the movies that is) would give a nice girl a glass of champagne and she would giggle and take off her sweater and the movie camera would immediately shift so you saw the empire state building or the Statue of Liberty, because, in the movies they didn't dare show what happened next. If the movie was at the Chief Theater or the Rialto Theater, they had to leave that up to your imagination. If I could have gone to the movies at the Orpheum Theater during the week, I would have known exactly what happened next, because my mom said that those movies left nothing to your imagination. My friends said I could probably get away with it, my wearing glasses and all, they said, made me look old enough to get in, and I will admit, seeing some of the previews, which they always showed at the kid's movies on the weekend, made me want to go--especially, the one that the previews said was filmed entirely in a Nudist colony, but I realized that it would create a problem, even if I did fool the ticket girl with my glasses and all. I mean what would I do after the movie was over? I would have to call Mom and say, "Please come pick me up. I am at the Orpheum Theater." That would mean prison--or at least reform school for sure. Besides, when you think about it (which I admit I did not do at the time), what good would it have done a Republican to give a girl champagne in a Nudist colony--she wouldn't even have a sweater to take off.

All this brings me to the one person we knew for sure was a Republican, because my parents said he--or more correctly, they (we assumed his wife went along with him) was. That was Grant Kilbourne. Grant managed the big fertilizer plant a few miles from town and was precisely the kind of person you would expect to be a Republican. He had lots and lots of employees who he no doubt would have only paid pennies an hour if he could get away with it, which, of course, in Pocatello he could not. But my sister, Loni and I were always very suspicous of what went on up at the Kilbourne house. They lived on what we called "Snob Hill" because that's were the rich people in town lived. They were members of our church, but, of course, being Republicans and all, they hardly ever came. Mostly when they did come it was because their daughter, Diana, was doing something like giving a talk or getting an award or some such thing that young girls did at church. Diana and Loni were sort of friends, meaning that they did things together at church but not much else. I always wished that Loni would get to know her better so that Diana might invite her to stay overnight at her house. This would be especially good if Loni got to stay at her house when they were throwing one of their big parties. Of course, if she had invited Loni, I would have warned her not to drink any pop or anything, because, you never know but what they might be slipping some of their champagne in the root beer, and it would be no good having your very own sister doing the things that girls do after they drink champagne. But the main reason I wished she go up there was to check up on a theory of mine. Grant Kilbourne had worked at the company headquarters in Boise, and Boise being a place where there were lots of Republicans running around, they probably had slaves and I couldn't help but wonder if Mr. Kilbourne had brought some back with him and kept them in the basement. The real problem with that theory was, what would you have a slave do in Pocatello? You couldn't have him (or her) mow the lawn, or even take out the garbage, for fear that the neighbors might see you whipping your slaves and call up report it to the Union. Of course, during the parties, they were undoubtedly kept very busy making the cigars and champagne for the party, but what would they do the rest of the time? I thought maybe Loni could sneak around, very carefully, like Nancy Drew, and see the slaves at work and see what else was in the basement that they could be doing. But she never got the chance. Besides, I pretty well gave up the slave idea when I broached it with Dad who just laughed and laughed and said I had been reading too many fantastic fiction books and needed to start reading something more practical, like the manual that came with my new chemistry set.

Of course, there may have been other Republicans as well. Mom said that she thought that Bernice Comstock might be a Republican, but I didn't believe that. Not for a minute. She was my Sunday School teacher, and a very good one she was too. I think people said that because she was such a classy dresser. But, of course, she had to be a classy dresser. Her husband, Mr. Comstock was the head of the local First Security Bank, which was the biggest bank in town and if you wanted people to put money in your bank you had to act like you were terribly rich so you could afford to give the money back if someone wanted you to, so both Mr. and Mrs. Comstock, and even Ralph Comstock Jr. (not by any means to be comfused for even a minute with Ralph Hegstead Jr.), always dressed very classy. For one thing, I knew that the Comstocks could not possibly be Republicans because Ralph Jr. was so nice, and very humble (except, of course, the classy clothes) and all, and Sister Comstock was such a wonderful Sunday School teacher that I knew it could not be true. Not that I doubted for a minute, that Mr. Comstock, who never came to church, did not on occasion do some very Republican things like smoke a cigar or sip a little champagne when he was out of sight of Sister Comstock, and even try to get away occasionally with only paying the bank tellers pennies an hour, but every now and then doing a Republican sort of thing, was, in my mind, a far cry from actually being one. Most of the reason I was sure that people may have accused them of being Republicans, is that, after all, we always suspect the very worst of bankers.

But one of things you learn as you grow older is that people are not always what you expect them to be and that there may be Republicans lurking where you least expect them, which I will clearly demonstrate in the next segment.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

On Pocatello Politics Part I

The first thing to know about politics in Pocatello is that there were only Democrats. Of course, there were a few exceptions and they will be dealt with below, but for the most part, certainly to 99.99% there were only Democrats in town. In fact, in Pocatello, the Primary Election was The Election.

Of course, life is defined by its exceptions, so I will deal with them right off. When I was very young, America was involved in the Korean War and just like the Pocatello draft board snagged me for the war in Vietnam, several young men in Pocatello were in like manner snagged for the war in Korea. I was not wounded and certainly not awarded an award for being brave, but at least one person was in Korea who was from Pocatello. And when he came home, the city--or more exactly, the county felt they owed him something, so they elected him County Something--Clerk or Secretary or Treasurer or something like that--as I said, I was very young and did not note all the details. At any rate, the Koreans were notorious for being very sneaky and underhanded and all that sort of thing and they were always using various tricks and tortures to do what we call "brainwashing". At any rate, our young hero must have been tortured--or at least, brainwashed--in this way, because when he came back from being a hero, he said he was a Republican, and the people of Pocatello, who felt that they owed him a great deal, elected him anyway. Of course, after two years, the people pretty well felt that their obligation to him, to patriotism, or whatever it was that caused them to do it in the first place, was running mighty thin, so they voted him out of office. Anyway, he was the only Republican to be elected to anything in Pocatello so long as I lived there, which was mighty long. As I mentioned, I was very young at the time, so I'll bet you will bet that I can't remember this person's name. And you would lose your bet. His name was Deloy Giles. And the reason I remember it has nothing to do with me being so young and all, it has to do with the fact that my grandfather, who was the County Assessor (have you ever wondered what the County Assessor does? I have too, and, in fact, I am sure my grandfather would have been happy to explain it all to you, especially just before election time, but unfortunately, I was never interested in the question until after my grandfather was through being the County Assessor. I can tell you this, that it is a very difficult job. I know this because my grandfather explained, even to me, young as I was, that the men who were running against him--who all seemed like very nice looking chaps to me--could not possibly do it.) and who was, naturally, a Democrat, would complain for years what a mess Deloy Giles had made of our whole county. When he would complain in this manner, my dad would just laugh and say, "Dad, (my grandfather was my father's father, so he called him "Dad") that was years ago, and after all, he was a war hero, and probably a very fine fellow in his own way." Grandfather would sputter and turn red and obviously be on the verge of saying "darn" or something worse, and then, no doubt, remembering the lesson of the cows that he was so fond of telling us all, he would laugh and say, "Oh maybe you're right", then pause, laugh again and say, "but I don't think so". Now in all fairness to both my dad and my granddad, I should point out that they always said that they voted for the man and not the party, but it was pretty clear to me that the men they did vote for were always Democrats. Of course, in Pocatello, you didn't have much choice.

I am afraid that you are maybe getting the wrong idea and thinking that the powers that be would only allow Democrats on the ballot. That simply was not true. If, for example, there was a Republican running for president or for govenor--and there almost always was, they would put his name on the ballot, even in Pocatello. And, in point of fact, occasionally someone would run for an local office as a Republican and they would even put their name on the ballot. The only example I can remember of this was one of my dad's partners in his law office, Howard Armstrong. Actually Dad asked him to run for County Attorney because he said that Hugh Macquire, who was the County Attorney, and had been forever, was a terrible County Attorney, but I think Dad assumed that he would do like everyone else who really wanted to get into office, and run as a Democrat in the primary. But I think that Howard realized that he didn't have a chance against Hugh Macquire because he had been in office so long and besides that he had a daughter who was absolutely the cutest girl in town--well actually, I'm not really sure that Linda was the absolutely cutest. George and Hazel Cox had two daughters--Elaine and Amy that were both terrible, terrible cute and may, in fact, have been the cutest (and then there is my future boss, Ed Bullock's, daughter, Karla, but she was more beautiful than cute, in fact, she was far and away--and everyone agreed--that she was the most beautiful girl in town, and, of course, that is why Ed was elected to be on the school board), but George and Hazel never ran for anything, so having such cute daughters never really did them any good. But anyway, Howard knew that he didn't have a chance, what with Hugh having such a cute daughter and all, so he decided to run as a Republican. Why he did this is anyone's guess, but my guess is that because he lived on a farm about 10 or 15 miles out of town, he assumed, if he wore dark glasses into work, he would be safe, and that it would look good on his resume to state that he was The Republican Candidate for County Attorney in case he decided to move to Utah or Arizona. At any rate, I think that he was hoping that Dad and the other partner, George Hargraves, and their wives would vote him, being as how they worked together and all, but, of course, after the final votes were tallied he realized that that hope was vain.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

On Pocatello Politics--Prologue

Before I get into politics, per se, it is essential to make a few things clear. The first is that my dad hated gambling. If you do not understand how much my dad hated gambling, you will think him a bit winkle-wanky on political matters when we get to discussing whos who and whats what later, so that is why we have to take the first side trip.

When we came back from Germany, gambling, meaning the sort of thing that goes on in casinos like in Las Vegas, was legal in Pocatello--indeed, almost everywhere in Idaho. Slot machines were everywhere, just like Las Vegas or even Wendover. Now Dad hated this and he, and others, set out to do something about it. And what they did was to get gambling put on the ballot, something like "Do you want all those slot machines sent down to Jackpot or other places south, or do you want to leave'm here in Pocatello?" Well, you can imagine that this was a very controversial question and people did a good deal of arguing about it at the grocery store and the department store and other places--probably, even at church, but, of course, if you were in church you were supposed to be against gambling from the get-go, but there were always backsliders who somehow weren't but still came to church, maybe to sell used cars or insurance or something, and didn't mind telling the non-backsliders that they were opposed to sending all those expensive machines down to a no-good place like Jackpot. At any rate, the question was a good deal discussed. The very first speech I ever heard on the radio (as opposed to Howdy Dowdy, Sgt Preston of the Yukon, and such like, which I heard almost every day), was my dad arguing against gambling and urging people to vote against gambling in the upcoming election. Mom got my sister and me around the big radio in the living room and said, "Let's all listen to your dad talk on the radio." Which, of course, we did, and I was very proud to hear my own dad talking on the radio just like Big John and Sparkie. And he gave a very convincing speech. I wished more than anything that I could vote and thereby show those backsliders a thing or two. I only hoped that they were listening to Dad's speech. But my dad, probably not convinced that his speech was enough decided to make it clearer to me. So a couple of days later he took me down to the train depot.

Now you have to understand, that when I was a boy, the train depot was a very busy place indeed, it was sort of like the airport is today. This was especially true of Pocatello, which had a very large, and busy train depot, because it was a sort of hub--whatever that is, but at any rate, it was one and consequently, the train depot was a very busy place indeed. Now, of course, things have changed. If you want to be alone and meditate and be all by yourself and you don't feel quite up to climbing the Matterhorn or Mt. Everest to get alone, the next best place to go is the local train depot, but, as I said, things were very different then. And on the day my dad took me down there they were very different indeed. Dad explained that it was due to the fact that it was pay day. All around the outer walls of the train depot there were slot machines, just like the airport at Las Vegas, or like the airports at Wendover, or Jackpot would be if they had airports, only the slot machines at the airport in Las Vegas are bunched together in the center of the various terminals, because, of course, they do not want to be anything like a train depot. At any rate, there were slot machines all around the outside and standing in front of every one of those slot machines was a man (I don't remember any women, but then, it was a long time ago and the type of woman who would gamble might have short hair), putting money in the slot machines. Some of the machines even had people waiting in line, hoping that the people in front of them would run out of money so they could try their luck.

Well, anyway, it turns out that Dad actually knew a couple of the men putting money in the slot machine. He pointed to one and said, "See that man there?" I told him I did. "I know that family and he spends so much of his money on slot machines that they don't even have enough to eat." This, of course, made me very sad, because we had just come from Germany and there were a lot a people who didn't have enough to eat and Loni and I had wondered a good deal about what we could do about it, not knowing at that time about the Scout Food Drive, which we could have helped with if they would let younger kids help them. Then Dad pointed to another man and said, "And I am suing that man so his wife can get a divorce. He doesn't even bring home enough money so she can keep clothes on her children." I remember the next several days looking around the play ground at Bonneville, where I was in the first grade, looking to see if there were any kids who were dressed only in their underwear, but I didn't see any, so I assumed that that man's kids went to Washington, or Whittier, or one of the schools across town. But anyway, I was convinced. I hated gambling, in fact, I still do, but that is not important. The important thing to remember is how much my dad hated gambling.

The next thing I have to tell by way of prologue is that my mom and dad belonged to a study group. Now you may ask, "What does belonging to a study group have to do with politics?" And the answer is, of course, normally nothing, but it turns out to be important, as you will see when we get down later to the nitty-gritty of who is who and what is what. Anyway, they belonged to a study group that met once a month. This included Bob and Donna Thompson, Conway and Phillis Grant, Kay and Violet Hart (take special note), Miles and Janice Romney, and Homer Satterfield and his wife. You notice that I couldn't remember the name of Homer Satterfield's wife? Nobody could. Homer was so well known and such a overpowering personality that nobody could remember his wife's name. Of course, I'm sure, that Mom did not like to say, "Oh hi Homer, and hi Homer's wife, good to see you both." So I think that before study group, she probably wrote Homer's wife's name on the palm of her hand or between her fingers or some other inconspicuous place. But mostly, people just called her "Homer's wife" or sometimes "Mrs. Satterfield", but someone, maybe even Miss Biggert, who was into politics, said, "It's a crying shame that no one remembers Homer's wife's name." and then they generalized that to, "People always remember the man's name and hardly ever remember the woman's name" (which, of course, is not true. I always found it much easier to remember Donna Thompson's name than her husband's who for years I just called Br. Thompson, but then, Donna Thompson always was so bubbly and kind that people just naturally took to her, not that Bob wasn't kind, but he was kind of imposing. He was, as almost everyone knows the state handball champion at 50 and most of the years before that and people who go around throwing handballs at you tend to be imposing--but, I digress). But whoever said that complained to Someone Important--probably to Nellie Kline Steenson, Pocatello's state senator. You may wonder how I remembered her name. I certainly don't remember the name of Pocatello's state representative. But Nellie Kline Steenson sent us a brochure before every election, and although, I didn't read the brochure, I did notice her picture and she looked just like the typical grandmother. Of course, that was not why she was elected, because in Pocatello there were lots of women who looked like your typical grandmother--rather more than in most places. But, I think she was elected because people more or less decided that with a name like Nellie Kline Steenson, she just sounded like she should be a state senator, Nellie Kline Steenson being for politics almost as effective, maybe even more effective, that "E. Preston" is for business. At any rate, someone complained to her about no one knowing Homer's wife's name and she took it to the legislature that started the whole Feminist thing. But if you think about (and I have, just now) women do have a legitimate complaint. For example, why do I remember Dr. Hegstead's first name. The answer is because his son, Ralph Hegstead Jr. was always swearing at me and so, of course, I know that his father's name was Ralph. But do I remember--in fact, did I ever even know, Mrs Hegstead's first name? No! and why? because you can't call your daughter Millie Hegstead Jr. thus letting everyone know that your name is also Millie. Of course, I guess, you could call her "Little Millie" but then that would make you "Big Millie" which is not particularly flattering, but it is probably better that calling her "Young Millie" which would make you "Old Millie", so you see, they do have a point--but, I digress again.

Anyway, Mom and Dad had a study group and about every six months they would meet at our house which was, for my mother particularly, a very Big Deal. She would get out her best candy dishes which she brought back from Germany and fill them with candy. One time one of the guests broke one of the candy dishes, but Mom just laughed and said, "Don't worry about it. It's nothing." Gavin pointed out that if one of us had done it, we would have never heard the end of it, and Mom maybe would have sent us to prison, or, at least, reform school; except, of course, if Erin had done it--come to think of it Erin did do it--and Mom said the same thing to him that she said to the guest at study group, which goes to show how terribly spoiled he was. I even wonder if he would have visited us in reform school. At any rate, Mom would fill all the dishes with candy and we, meaning the kids, would hope against hope that the study group people would not eat it all--especially the chocolate covered peanuts. I also liked the butterscotch candies, but didn't much care for the mints or the lemon drops, and, as fate would have it, those were the things that were mostly left over.

You may wonder what all this has to do with politics. Well, I'll make that clear in the next installment.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

On Smoking

One of the things that was a puzzlement and a source of much thought for me growing up in Pocatello was the habit of smoking. Nothing, it seemed to me, so clearly defined who you were and what you wanted in life than that habit--with, of course, the possible exception of drinking.

Now it is important to realize that in Pocatello when I was young there were only two reasons--at least, that I could see--not to smoke, and one of them was definitely not because of health. Tobacco containers did not, back then, have little messages saying in effect, "Smoking the contents of this package may not be the smartest thing you will ever do." Most of the magazines, the radio, and the TV (when we finally got TV) all carried the message that smoking was indeed the very smartest thing you could possibly do. Don Larsen, for example, pitched the first-ever no-hitter in a World Series for the Yankees, and then told everyone who looked on the back cover of Colliers that if he hadn't been smoking Camel cigarettes the whole time he couldn't have done it. Likewise, Rise Stevens, who sang in movies and at the Met said that she could not possibly sing Wagner or Verdi without smoking Camels. And it was that way for almost every exciting thing that a person could want to do. Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly could have hardly moved their feet if they hadn't smoked--not that I cared about that. No one in Pocatello, it seemed to me really wanted to dance. My parents didn't enjoy it, and I absolutely hated it. Everywhere you went--at school, and even at Church, it seemed like someone always wanted to teach you to dance--but I digress. Anyway if you wanted to be a great athlete, a beautiful or charming movie star, a glass-breaking singer, or anything else worth while, you pretty much had to smoke. Of course, I noticed right away that most of the people I knew who smoked were not doing any of those things, but I suspected they took up smoking in case the fancy hit them to start doing them, they would have the most important requirement for doing them firmly in place.

The first reason not to smoke was that your Church frowned on the habit. Of course, not all churches did, but mine did, so my parents didn't smoke, or at least, my mother didn't. There were times when I wasn't so sure about my dad, because he would come home reeking of cigarette smoke, but after awhile I accepted his story, which my mother did right from the start, that being a lawyer he had had to go to a meeting where everyone else was smoking so that is why he smelled of smoke. I certainly hoped it was true, because I knew that my mother would be terrible mad if my dad started smoking. Naturally, our church was not the only one that frowned on smoking. Just up the street was the Grace Lutheran Church, which as part of the Missouri Synod, also frowned on smoking, but a couple of the men in our church used to tell us with some delight that they had very carefully watched some of the Grace Lutheran fellows and, sure enough, after they got around the corner, and out of sight of the Pastor, they had lit up. Of course, now I realize that the Grace Lutherans were probably telling the same story about some of the men going to our church, but at the time, it seemed to me that that was the sort of behavior you could expect from Grace Lutherans. Actually, I rather admired them, in a way--at least they came to church. I had two uncles in Pocatello, and virtually all of my friends at church, had fathers who smoked (thinking, no doubt, that they better do it in case they decided they wanted to start pitching for the Yankees or, at least, doing something like that) and they never, or at least, hardly ever came to church. My friend, Gary Hoff, on the other hand, had a father who did not smoke, which I could never understand because I went with Gary a couple of times to his church, the Congregational Church, and after the service, several--in fact, most of the men, lit up, right in front of the Pastor and the Pastor never said a word. Of course, Gary explained to me that in the Congregational Church, every congregation more or less decided a lot of the rules, so I could only conclude that the congregation where they had come from, Weiser, Idaho, had decided to frown on smoking, and Gary's dad, thinking he might want to move back there some day, did not want to take up the habit, which was hard to break, and he would find himself having to sneak around a corner after services like those Grace Lutheran people.

The other reason for not smoking was that it was expensive--or at least, my parents and all my teachers at church, told me it was, and I believed them because it certainly made sense, because how else could you explain the fact, that with all its many advantaages, almost none of the women I knew--even the unreligious ones--didn't smoke. Take Bucky Petersen' s mother, for example. She never went to church--any church, and yet she didn't smoke. And there were lots of others like her--although their names don't come readily to mind--who were just like her. I concluded that before a couple got married, they would sign a sort of pre-nuptial agreement (not that anyone in Pocatello actually signed a pre-nuptial agreement--I suspect that no one in Pocatello, except lawyers, like my dad, and probably Mrs. Miller, my high school Latin teacher, even knew what "nuptial", much less "pre-nuptail" meant), but they all sat down with their parents before they got married and decided important things like who was going to do the dishes and who was going to mow the lawn and take out the garbage, and things like that until they could get their kids to do all those things, which, in the case, of my sister, Loni, and me happened much earlier than they could possibly have agreed on. At any rate, they sat down and agreed on all that sort of thing, and one of the things they agreed on was, that since smoking was so expensive, only one person in the marriage could do it, and, in Pocatello, at least, it was always the man. Naturally, if a couple felt that they were very rich and they could finally afford it, then both of them would start smoking. A very good example of this is Pete Bistline and his wife,Jen.

Before I go on I think I better explain why I knew about Pete Bistline, seeing as how he lived in the next block. Normally, of course, a young boy would not know anything about a person who lived a whole block away, but in Pocatello, it was different. The reason was that the people who started Pocatello, did not like Mormons in general, and they really disliked Brigham Young in particular, so they decided that they were going to do everything they could to make their town as different as possible from any town that Brigham Young founded. So instead of having big blocks with wide streets laid out with the streets running on a North-south, east-west grid, the Pocatello people decided on very small blocks with very narrow streets laid out on a helter-skelter grid. This being the case, it was pretty easy for a kid to know the people in the next block. There were only four houses on our block, and only three across the street, on account of Dr. Hegsteads 2-car garage with a double wide driveway, obviously, something had to go and in his case it was having an extra neighbor, which, I hate to have to say it, but I don't think he minded much. At any rate, Pete Bistline owned Bistline's Hardware (actually, my dad said sometime that Pete owned Bistline's and sometimes he said that his friend, Amos Chase, owned Bistline's. To me it made more sense that Pete would own Bistline's, because--well after all, it was called Bistline's and not Chase's, and I'm sure that a simple visit to the board of director's meeting would have settled the whole question, but I never went, not being at that age much interested in business--but I digress). As I was saying, because he owned Bistline's--or thought he did--and because he and Jen didn't have any children, I think that they decided that they could start letting Jen smoke, which she did. Actually, now that I think of it, the same thing happened to Dr. and Mrs. Hegstead, although they did have two children, but I think they decided that since he charged so much for delivering babies, and because (I would guess by looking at her) that Millie ate so little, that they could afford to have Mrs. Hegstead take up smoking--and, I must say, she took to it with avengance.

At any rate, I understand that smoking is something that is hard to understand, but I sincerely hope that this explanation has at least helped clear it up for you.

Friday, April 4, 2008

On Swearing

When my Grandfather Gee was a young man, he had to milk cows. Cows are very difficult creatures as I learned when I worked on Ed Bullock's farm. Ed, who was very religious, never swore, except when we were trying to get cows out of the alfalfa fields when they somehow broke a fence and got in them, then he would occasionally (very occasionally, must say in his defence) let forth with a Big Big D. Well anyway, my grandfather was milking the cows one day and the cow he was milking kicked over the milk bucket. As was his custom on such occasions, Grandfather Gee began swearing and cussing and yelling at the cow. He was in the midst of doing this, when it suddenly dawned on him that cursing of the cow, did absolutely nothing to the cow and it didn't do him much good either. That was one of those Great Days in our family history. He always told his son (my father) from that day on he never swore and he hoped that his sons would follow suit, which my dad and then some. Not only did Dad never swear, as far as I or any of my family know, but he never practiced any near-swearing and he made it pretty much off-limits in our family. Such words as "darn", "golly", or "gee-whiz" were frowned upon and occasioned a stern reprimand. Even words that I hardly even thought of as swearing such as calling a policeman a "cop" earned a "I better not ever hear that word again in this house". When I used that word (which I hope I never have since) and got the above, I quickly pointed out to Dad that Joe Friday (on the TV show, Dragnet) called himself that. "I don't care what Joe Friday or any other TV actor says, in this house we call the police either a policeman or a police officer".

I mention all this because there were in Pocatello, I am very sorry to have to report, a good many people who could very well have profited from my grandfather's insight. For those of you who find this hard to believe I can only site the example of Ralph Hegstead Jr. , which I will herefore proceed to do.

Dr. Ralph Hegstead and his family lived across the street from us. He was a baby doctor and I suspected that Dr. Hegsted's baby's did not come out exactly when or in the exact manner that he hoped for. Of course, if you are a baby doctor I think it only fair to expect that sort of behavior on the part of baby's to occur occasionally, but with Dr. Hegstead it must have happened most of the time, because he was always very grumpy. My mother said that he charged a great deal to deliver his babies and that, therefore, she could not afford to use his services. For my part, (but, of course, I never had the courage to tell my mother this) I was grateful that he charged so much to deliver his babies, the reason being that he could afford, as almost no one else on our block could, to have a two-car garage. Naturally, it was not the two car garage that made it so great, but the fact that it required a double wide driveway, which made it perfect for a basketball court. I loved to go over to their house and play basketball. The big drawback was Ralph Hegstead Jr.

Why Ralph Jr. was so unpleasant, I will never understand. Maybe it was because his father would complain to him so much about the babies coming out wrong or at the wrong time. Whatever the reason, he was, which was hard to understand, because his sister Millie, who was a good friend of my sister, Loni, was not that way at all. At any rate, we, that is, Bucky Petersen and/or Johnny Trimming and I would be playing ball and Ralph would come out and start playing with us. It was pretty hard to tell him that he couldn't play with us, because, first, it was his driveway we were playing on and second, he was older and bigger--in height, a little, in width, a great deal, than any of us. The one thing about Ralph was that no matter what we were playing, it was essential that he win, or if we were playing on teams, that he be on the winning team. Whenever a competitor would make a basket, Ralph would swear and "give him the finger". Sometimes he would do that to one of us for no apparent reason, other than possibly he was afraid that if he went for more than a few minutes, he would forget which words or even which finger to use.

Be that as it may, no matter what I had to put up with in the neighborhood or at school with respect to swearing, I could be sure that I wouldn't have to worry about it at home, that is, until That Day.

I'll never know, I don't think any of my family will ever know, exactly what caused it. It was a Saturday and Mom was having a bit a problem getting us all to do what she wanted us to do. I can't even remember what Dad was doing, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't The Problem. I was a bit slow in doing my chores, and I will admit to occasionally slipping away and reading a book. Loni, who usually was a real eager-beaver-household- cleaner-and-chore-doer had just started reading "Gone with the Wind" and was, therefore, more eager to get back to reading that than in performing her usual eager-beaver-chore-duty. My brother, Gavin could not have been the problem. He was only 8 or 9 years old, but he always did what he was expected to do, only better. Everyone always said that Gavin would amount to something because he always did what he was expected to do, only, as I mentioned above, better. And, of course, he has, as everyone always said he would, amounted to something, but, of course, that is pretty much off-set by the fact that he has amounted to something in banking. Whenever I go anywhere, people are always eager to shake my hand when I casually (or, at least, as casually as possible) mention that my brother is in State of Idaho Governor's cabinet. If, however, after I have shaken everyone's hands, someone happens to mention that he is in charge of banking in that state, I notice that they immediately head to the restroom to wash their hands. At any rate, it could not have been Gavin who was The Problem because she knew, like everyone else, that he would amount to something, and at that time of his life there was no way to know that it would be in banking. (Actually, she seemed awfully proud of him and the fact that he amounted to something, even when she knew it was in banking, but then, that's the way mothers--or at least, my mother--are). Then there is my youngest brother, Erin. He was, as all youngest children are, terribly, terribly spoiled and a great problem right from the get-go. Everyone always comments about how cheerful and optomistic my brother Erin is. Well of course he is. Anyone who has been spoiled and a great problem from the get-go during their formative years is bound to turn out to be cheerful and optomistic. Of course, he didn't get by entirely unscathed. His problem is his name. My parents, who had given Gavin a Scottish name, felt that it would be terribly clever to give his younger brother an Irish name, little knowing that by the time it finally came across the ocean to America, it would wind up as a girl's name. Fortunately, for Erin, during his sensitive years, in school and college, no one else knew it would wind up as a girl's name either. I don't think he realized it himself fully until he found out that the reason his company, for which he was an executive, treated him so well was because the government assumed that with an executive named Erin they deserved the Female Executive subsidy. He was not amused and promptly began calling himself "E. Preston" instead of Erin. Now whenever he goes to work for a company, they immediately make him a top executive, "E. Preston" being even more impressive than "J.P." which, after all, is getting to be a bit overdone. At any rate, because he was always a great problem, it is doubtful that Erin could have been The Problem.

I suspect when the roll is called up yonder we will find out that it was either Loni or I who was it but whoever, or whatever was it, the fact of the matter is that my mother let go with the Big Big D. At first we went on with things as though nothing had happened and then all of a sudden it hit us. Everything, and everyone stopped dead. Even Erin, who was only a little baby, suddenly stopped being a big problem. There was dead silence. Then Loni yelled out in shock, "Mother!" And Mom burst out in tears, "Oh its been so so hard this morning, and we went to party last night and everyone was using that word." She sobbed for a minute then continued, "Can you all ever forgive me?" Well, we didn't know what to say. Someone, probably Gavin, muttered sure and then we sort of drifted away. I went back to my book, Loni went back to "Gone with the Wind", Gavin went back to doing whatever he was supposed to do, only better, Erin went back to being spoiled, Mom forgot all about chores and went away, I suppose to think about what she had done, and Heaven only knows the absolutely gut wrenching emotions that were going through my dad's mind. All of us could only pray and hope against hope that our mother would never do anything that bad again. Which, as far as I know, at least, she never did.