Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saturday Musings(tm), 13 February 2016

Good morning,

I can see only one light from my window.  It shines from the back of a grey house four dwellings north of my back yard.  An old pine rises above that home, like the cedar that I finally allowed myself to be persuaded to have removed from my side yard.  I miss that cedar.  The holly bushes planted in its place shed no debris but do not tower; they do not shade my upper story; they do not even seem to be thriving.

I found small pleasures this week.  A trio of apps from my favorite Pakistani restaurant for dinner one night; a spontaneous friendly hug from a nervous client outside the cold courtroom where his wife sat and fumed; the snug warmth of the slippers which my son bought me for Christmas.  I ordered a new hair stick for myself from Amazon Prime -- buffalo horn, translucent at the ends, creamy and dark.  The low cost surprise me.  It came in a box, with a note attesting to its genuineness and instructing how to tell the difference between horn and plastic, as though I would take a heated pin and poke the side of the thing just to ensure that I wisely spent my eight dollars.

I used to have four fat copper hair pins, three inches long with thick prongs.  My mother gave them to me.  She said they had been given to her by my father's mother, and had originally belonged to my great-grandmother Corinne.  I don't know if she spoke the truth but I believed her.  I have no reason to think otherwise.

I had crazy long hair for most of my life.  I had someone cut it to protest my mother's decision to make me wear orthopoedic shoes in eighth grade.  When she cried over my short ragged hair, I spat bitterness at her:  If I am going to be ugly, I might as well be ugly all the way.  I had paid eight dollars for the hair cut.  She paid ten more to have another shop make it look decent.

I cut my hair again  when I finished college and moved to Boston.  I painted blonde streaks with a kit from the drug store.  The new roommates that I found in Brighton, down the Green Line by BC, thought I was gay; they thought their boyfriends would not be tempted by me.  They had nothing to fear but not for the reasons they assumed.  I ended up dating the only man among them who hid his own true nature.  We stayed up all night every night for a week scheming how he could tell his mother and father.  I helped him make a plan to come out.  I left town a few months later, with shoulder-length hair, faded blonde streaks, and the knowledge that I had succeeded at only one thing in seven months:  Helping someone claim his homosexuality.

Twelve years, one-and-a-half degrees, three cities, a marriage and a divorce later, my hair had reached my waist.  By that time, I had escaped from Newton County, Arkansas, where the marriage had failed on the horns of our emotional immaturity.  I lived in Winslow, practiced ag-law with a radical firm, and twisted my hair into a French chignon for court appearances, securing it with my mother's copper hair pins.

I drove from Fayetteville to Springfield, Missouri in the dead of the winter of 1989 to defend a local cattle rancher in bankruptcy court.  My two instructions from the head of my firm:  Don't talk to the local press, and don't let that judge push you around.  We knew the federal indictment would soon be made public.  My mission that day involved protecting the fees paid to my law firm from recapture into the client's bankruptcy estate.  My client's original local attorney had gone over to the government's side.  I would be cross-examining him and his female partner.

My client drove us both to the federal courthouse.  A half-dozen marshals waited by the metal detector.  They made my client take off his cowboy boots, the heavy-buckled belt, and his leather jacket. The Oklahoma City bombing would not occur for five and a half years; 9/11 could not even have been imagined.  But that courthouse and those U. S. Marshals had prepared for an old cattle rancher accused of selling cows out of  PCA trust and his five-foot-three, hundred-pound lady lawyer.

When my turn came, the machine through which I walked bleated in wild and accusatory tones.  I wore no belt.  I had metal in my knee which they wanded.  A gruff-voiced female officer said, It's not her knee, and made me take off my shoes, watching as I struggled to untie them with no where to sit.  They put my brogues through the X-Ray conveyor belt while I stood shoeless on the cold floor.

Then they gestured me to walk back under the detector's arch.  I came around, ignoring the two officers who had taken everything out of my trial bag and my pocketbook, strewing the contents of both across a table.  But one of them said, Wait, what's this? and held up the four-inch crescent wrench that my erstwhile husband had given me, a year or two ago, to tighten the nut on my windshield wiper.  My stomach lurched.

It's a weapon, that's what it is, his buddy replied.  I had grown weary of this game.  My client started forward from the wide stretch of floor beyond the security station.  I gestured him to stand down.   I explained why I carried the little tool.  They confiscated it and told me to go through the metal detector again.  When I did, the alarm sounded and then I remembered my hair pins.  I thought, does copper set off metal detectors? about the time that one of the female officers said, I bet she's got something hid in that bun of hers.

We were due in court in about ten minutes.  I frantically pulled the pins from my hair while my client started shoving my files back into the bag and my personal things into my purse.  One more pass through the detector, with my hair spilling down over my coat, bare foot, seething, and they let me go.  I grabbed my shoes and we ran for the elevator.

They kept my grandmother's hair pins and the little crescent wrench.  I went back after the hearing but nobody knew where they were.

I followed the news about the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon, and the stand-off between an anti-government militia group and U.S. local and federal law enforcement agencies.  I did not agree with what the occupiers demanded.  I would not have chosen their method of protest.  But as I sit here, seeing my reflection in the old wooden make-up mirror, with my hair held by the buffalo horn hair stick, I yearn for those copper hair pins, which my mother once touched, and my father's mother once used; and which federal marshals confiscated and kept, so many years ago.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley


  1. My great-grandmother's hairpins have now been replaced thanks to my friend Katrina. #JusticePrevails.

  2. If what your mother told you about the owners of the copper hairpins was true then I'm sure they had some sentimental value. Sure they were great for your hairstyle, but they were heirlooms nonetheless. It's not like they were weapons or anything. Even though they were confiscated, I feel they should have returned them.

    Robert @ Weik Bankruptcy Attorney


The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.