So, I thought this month I would share a little levity in lieu of legal advice. Besides, legal advice is very difficult to give in the abstract because so much of what we do as lawyers is driven by the unique facts of the case at hand, and those facts can be as unique and diverse as the individual personalities of our clients. We humans can find more ways to accomplish or to add total chaos to any given interaction with each other that I long ago learned there was no such thing as “I have seen it all.” Literally at any minute and often in the very near future a prospective client is going to walk into my office with the most unexpected or at least unpredictable set of circumstances that I never could have anticipated.
It never fails.
If there is a legal moral to this story perhaps it is simply that the court system can at times be imponderably slow to the point everyone’s patience is tested to the breaking point. Perhaps it is that communication with your attorney is critical. Perhaps our legal moral here is simply please avoid frustration and do not lash out, you can put your attorney in either a bad position or doubled over laughing.
As they say, the story is true however the names and certain details have been changed to protect the innocent and perhaps even to get a client past a statute of limitation. Let’s set this story in Oklahoma, a land far, far away and a long, very long time ago. A rising Televangelist had opened up his Mega Ministries in a small Oklahoma town. A massive structure on a hill and overlooking the highway, designed and made for national televised broadcasts, which also attracted the devout in the area drawn to the oratorical charisma of the pastor, the Reverend Hoel E. Roller or simply Reverend Roller.
The church was still new when parimutuel gambling was on the state legislative table and suddenly God instructed Reverend Roller, through a late night revelation, that a horse racing ranch was soon to be provided. Elderly widow, Penny Pickle, who had joined the congregation early on, was holding title to the 160-acre old Pickle farm. It had been fallow for years and soon Reverend Roller was in prayer and in counsel with Penny Pickle and before you could say, “Jack Sprat spat,” Penny Pickle had “sold” the family farm, owner financed of course, but at least she held an actual written note and mortgage.
Soon a sprawling thoroughbred horse racing farm stood where the old Pickle farm once was and some “partners” of Reverend Roller from the Chicago Area, let’s call them “The Outfit,” were erecting state-of-the-art buildings, pens, exercise areas, work-out tracks and mobile homes. Only the old barn still stood, neglected, in an undeveloped corner of the property awaiting its inevitable fate. And horses? Suddenly the old Pickle farm which once only grew rust on old farm implements had the finest and fastest horse racing stock anywhere west of the bluegrass of Kentucky.
Almost as soon it seemed, Reverend Roller was back to see Penny Pickle with a dire story. Reverend Roller was concerned about his partners “The Outfit,” and their ranch manager, Jim Jolly who was not to be trusted. Reverend Roller’s brother, High Roller, was intended to replace the existing “ranch manager,” Jolly, and the new “ranch manager” needed a real home. Of course, in order to build the “ranch manager’s” home, Reverend Roller needed Penny Pickle to release one acre from the mortgage in the center of the property for the home. Penny Pickle always hoping to stay in the better graces of the Lord, released the one acre. Dead center of the 160 acre property.
Within mere weeks, Jim Jolly was displaced from the mobile home already in place on the one-acre parcel and within days of that, before construction could begin on the ranch manager’s home, a curious thing happened.
It seems Reverend Roller overslept one Sunday morning. So did High Roller. The congregation was there, the television cameras were waiting, their red “eyes” blinking furiously in anticipation, but Reverend Roller’s parking spot was still empty, and the Reverend’s phone was rolling over to the answering machine. He had disappeared together with High Roller, disappeared along with the collections and bank accounts, and all without a trace.
It was a small town ‘big deal.’ This was a town where everyone knew every person and every car in town, but suddenly the town was awash in late model government sedans. Heck the FBI even made an appearance. But the most obvious visitors of all were the sedans with the Illinois license plates and burly drivers in Italian suits.
There was more action than kicking a fire ant mound in July and just about as short tempered and unfriendly.
Everyone was betrayed, most especially Penny Pickle. Her oldest boy, Sweet Pickle, the Chief Firearms and Explosives Forensic expert with the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation, called the Law Offices of O. A. “Buck” Cargill, Jr., legendary and flamboyant trial attorney, and my boss. My assignment came the next morning as we met as we did every morning promptly at 6:30 at Cattleman’s Café at the stockyards in Oklahoma City for breakfast. I had my orders to drive out to interview the client and draft the complaints.
Lawsuits were being filed as fast and furious as humanly possible, with all Reverend Roller’s lenders and partners trying to seize assets, and all as the FBI worked to seize Reverend Roller. And that was my first introduction to Miss Penny’s “other” son, Dill Pickle, a true character right out of a Hollywood production. If her oldest boy, Sweet Pickle, was the typical scientific expert with a slight twang, the youngest, Dill Pickle, was a hefty good ol’ boy with a raspy Oklahoma twang that is hard to understand and even harder to emulate.
Negotiations with the Chicago attorneys and their local counsel were not going well. They would not agree to abandon the released one acre back to Penny Pickle. It got worse, from a pushing and shoving match between Dill Pickle and Jim Jolly as to who had the right to be on the property, to someone showing up with an acetylene torch and removing an entire steel breaking corral one weekend, and a horse named Regal Jet disappearing the next. Tensions grew even more and soon the injunctions flew.
Penny Pickle having prevailed at the injunction hearing and given the authority to lock down the main property, it wasn’t long before “The Outfit” “leased” the trailer on the one acre to Jim Jolly, who now had legal grounds to come and go over the main property. Penny and Sweet took it rather in stride but Dill Pickle was livid.
From the early injunction hearings to the mediations and finally trying to set a trial, things were soon moving so slowly they seemed to be standing still. This did not help either, but seeking to keep Dill Pickle’s mind off the case, he was given the task of cleaning up the property and inventorying everything left there.
That did not work as I had expected.
At 2:00 a.m. my phone, yes I had a published number, rang. Answering with a very groggy, ‘Hello?’ The call went something like this as that raspy Oklahoma twang answered:
“Dill? ? ?”
“Richard, this is Dill. Dill Pickle.”
“Dill? What time is it . . . Dill! Its 2:00 in the morning!”
“I know but I was just doing what you a told me to do.”
“I told you . . . What?”
“You remember, you told me to clean it all up, and I was just out Momma’s old barn and I found two old sticks of dynamite.”
“You did what?”
“I found two old sticks of dynamite, they’re so old there aren’t no records, nobody will know where they come from and I was a thinking, I think I am gonna take them over and shove them under ol’ Jolly’s trailer and blow him up.”
“I’m gonna blow ol’ Jolly up.”
“NO! No, you are not going to blow Jolly up!”
“But Richard, these are really old, they will never know where they came from.”
“No Dill, they will figure it out.”
“How do you figure that, I mean these are really old . . . .”
“Dill, how smart do you think Sweet is?”
“Well, he’s really smart Richard you know that, he went to college.”
“Ok, and where does he work?
“At the Bureau of Investigation.”
“So, Dill, they are going to send Sweet out there to investigate and he’s going to figure it out in short order and you are going to force your own brother to arrest you for murder . . . now just how do you think that’s going to make Miss Penny feel.”
“Oh, I guess you do kind of have a point there.”
“Good, now I want you to call Sweet first thing in the morning and give the dynamite to him but be careful that stuff is probably not stable anymore and any jolt might set it off.”
“Do you think that’s what I should do?”
“Yes Dill, I said so, didn’t I?”
“Well, okay, but I think maybe I’ll just catch ol’ Jolly some night and beat him up.”
“NO!! You aren’t going to beat him up, ‘cause he’ll call the law and how do you think that will make Miss Penny feel.”
“Well, I’ll wear a mask, he won’t know who I am.”
“Dill, you woke me out of a dead sleep and I knew it was you as soon as I heard your voice. He’ll know.”
“Well okay then I’ll catch him over to Guthrie, he goes there every Saturday, I’ll catch him when he comes out of the bar, I’ll wear a mask, and I won’t say a word.”
“NO!! Dill, you are not going to blow him up or beat him up . . . you aren’t going to harm him at all. It’s all illegal and you’ll go to prison. He will still know it’s you, and if they happen to ask, I’ll have to tell them about this conversation. I am telling you to let me handle this.”
“Don’t you have to keep what I tell you in secret?”
“Dill, Miss Penny is my client, I have to keep her confidences. Even if you were my client, I have to talk you out of assaulting someone otherwise I have a duty as an officer of the court to report it so the victim can be protected.”
“So, you are conley (‘kind of like’ in Oklahoman) a law officer?”
“No, but let’s just go with that for minute, and just say ‘sort of,’ I have to talk my clients out of committing crimes if they are crazy enough to call me at 2:00 in and morning and tell me what they’re planning.”
“I thought you just said mamma is your client?”
“Dill, look its almost 2:30. Trust me here, do not touch a hair on Jolly’s head. I do not want Miss Penny asking me why I had to turn you in to the Sheriff. Call Sweet in the morning and have him send someone to pick up the dynamite.”
“Jolly’s bald just so you know.”
“Dill! I said no.”
“Leave Jolly alone.”
“Can I build a high fence around the trailer?”
“As long as it is AROUND and not ON the one acre and has a gate for Jolly to get in and out, sure.”
“I gotta leave him a gate?”
“Good night Dill.”