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.

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