Birthdays that end in a zero are triggers for most of us. We measure where we are by where we thought we should be at decade’s beginning. The 50th birthday ushers in the midlife crisis, stereotypically managed with a bright red sports car or some other self-gift. The name is only accurate if we live to be 100, but the midlife crisis is no joke.
I am a bit of an over achiever when it comes to triggering events. I started my midlife crisis when I turned 49. That year was professionally challenging for me as I lost two trials that seemed sure wins. I began to question most everything I was doing and wound up at the Trial Lawyers College.
Gerry Spence started the college about the time I got out of law school- 6 weeks at his ranch in Wyoming working with lawyers and other professionals to hone trial craft. I applied but didn’t get in that first year and it was probably for the best. Twenty something me had no idea what he was doing. Almost fifty me didn’t either, but at least he had enough experience to fake it if need be.
Over the years, the 6 week program has been shortened to 4 weeks but that was still a big stretch of time away from the office. Fortunately, the College began a regional program which meant seven long weekends and a week at the Ranch to graduate. I finished that program in two years and spent more time at the Ranch in pieces than if I had done the summer program. Each trip is dear to me.
Nestled in the mountains outside of Dubois, Wyoming, the Ranch is spartan but beautiful. Down a gravel road about a mile is Spence mountain. Spence himself is said to have walked up it every day until he was in his seventies, and there is always a group of students making a morning walk up Spence mountain before classes begin. It isn’t a technical climb, but it isn’t a walk around the block for a Midwesterner, either. The thin air and my less than thin body made it challenging. I’ve trekked up Spence mountain most of my days at the ranch, enjoying the fellowship with my classmates and the connection with all those who have gone before and since.
At the top of the mountain is a pile of small rocks. Those that climb usually pick a rock up on the way and add it to the pile. It feels familiar, and I always put a rock on the pile.
It is impossible to make the walk up the mountain without looking at the rocky trail, either to catch my breath or to keep from stumbling in the early morning half-light. I had surveyed the rocks on the trail in Wyoming often enough to want a tangible reminder of my experience. I spent more time making a choice of the right stone than when I proposed to my wife, although I would deny that if she asked.
I finally picked up a little green flat stone which has been in my pocket every day. It was smaller than a Copenhagen lid, perfectly smooth on one side but with a broken-out piece on the other- a lot like me. Some would say I overstate my smoothness but no one would debate the broken piece. It was a smile every time I felt it in my pocket and thought about the Trial Lawyers College, and it was a great fidget stone. Until last week.
Somehow I lost it on the final day of a vacation/business trip. Not surprisingly, no one turns in little rocks to a hotel lost and found. My little piece of the mountain has relocated to Florida.
I am still surprised about how upset I was (and am) at the absence of a little flat green stone. If I had lost my wallet, I would have shrugged and been annoyed, but it would have passed. This is still bugging me, when I fill my pockets in the morning and throughout the day when I absent-mindedly reach in my pocket for the stone.
If you are in Miami and see a small flat green stone, I would be grateful for its return. And if anyone visits Spence mountain before I do and sees a similar rock- flat, green and small- it likely came from the same boulder. I’ll happily pay freight to relocate it to St. Louis.
©2018 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. The rocks in his head are bigger than the one he lost from his pocket. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent directly to Under Analysis via email.