I spent some time on the road this week. In part because I had work to do in other cities, and in part because the engineer said so. He and a team of similarly humorless fellows stood around with serious looks on their faces, writing on clipboards and pointing. They all wore hard hats and voiced concern about the foundation at the Levison Towers. I thought it was just a leak in the basement and we could spackle it. I am not an engineer, it seems.
Windshield time is thinking time for me. I made the final decision on when to go to law school during a business road trip. I also learned French and have started Spanish lessons. When I am on the road, a couple of fundamentals are constant: Stay away from the big trucks while on the lookout for crazies and find something interesting that isn’t obvious. Something always comes up.
I got to experience the ultimate road warrior joy- French fry windfall. Calorie counts on menus have made it to my part of the world, and my seat belt was plenty snug to punctuate the point. I ordered a small fry even though I wanted a large order. Or two. At the end of the package of fries came the typical “no more salty goodness” letdown. Then, to my surprise, I found a couple of fries that had fallen out of the fry package and into the bag! Elation! I may be overstating things a bit here, but trust me Gentle Reader, French fry windfall is a thing.
My practice is limited to civil trials. While trying criminal cases intrigues me, watching my client leave in handcuffs does not. Spending one’s life in a cell is unfathomable. Unless it gets worse.
Missouri was divided in the Civil War- those of you who know history are not surprised by this revelation, but I remain baffled. At a little courthouse in southern Missouri is a historical marker. It tells the story of Asa Ladd, locally born, held as a prisoner of war by the Union army. In retribution for a Confederate atrocity, the Union ordered him and several of his compatriots executed. These men had nothing to do with the atrocity, and they only found out six hours before their death that the end was coming.
I could almost see him in a tiny room, awaiting his fate. Those final hours had to be agonizing, waiting for a bad death that just days before seemed far away. Knowing that the typical Confederate foot soldier was young and poor, I could see him there, tattered uniform and hope gone. I was moved to read his final letter to his wife:
Dear wife and children,
I take my pen with trembling hand to inform you that I have to be shot between 2 and 4 o’clock this evening. I have but few hours to remain in this unfriendly world. There is six of us sentenced to die in room of six Union soldiers that was shot by Reeve’s men. My dear wife, don’t grieve for me. I want you to meet me in heaven. I want you to teach the children piety, so that they may meet me at the right hand of God. I can’t tell you my feelings, but you form some idea of my feelings when you hear of my fate.
I don’t want you to let this bear on your mind any more than you can help. For you are now left to take care of my dear children. Tell them to remember their dear father. I want you to go back to the old place and try to make a support for you and the children.
I want you to tell all my friends that I have gone home to rest. I want you to go to Mr. Connor and tell him to assist you in winding up your businesses. If he is not there get Mr. Cleveland. If you don’t get this letter before St. Francis River gets up you had better stay there until you can make a crop and you can go in the dry season.
It is now half past 4 p.m. I must bring my letter to a close. Leaving you in the hands of God. I send you my best love and respects in the hour of death. Kiss all the children for me. You need have no uneasiness about my future state, for my faith is well founded and I fear no evil God is my refuge and hiding place.
Good by Amy. Acey Ladd.
I was distracted most of the rest of the day, thinking about this young man. As is typical on a road trip, I couldn’t wait to get home to my family.
©2016 under analysis llc. under analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. He needs to order no French fries, not even a small bag. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to Under Analysis via email at email@example.com.