Charlie Russell

[A repeat from November 16, 2017] If anyone has received a greeting card or letter from me – it may have included a hand-drawn cartoon.   You can thank Charlie Russell for the artistic addition. 

Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926) was an American artist who painted iconic scenes of the Old West.  Charlie was born in St. Louis and moved to Montana when he was 16 years old where he got a job working on a sheep ranch.  Charlie chronicled the bitter winter of 1886-7 in a series of watercolor paintings.  While working on the O-H Ranch in the Judith Basin of Montana, the foreman received a letter from the ranch owner — asking how his cattle had fared during the winter.  Instead of writing back, the foreman sent the owner a postcard-sized watercolor painted by Charlie.  The image was that of a gaunt steer surrounded by wolves – on a gray winter day.  The owner showed the drawing to friends and displayed it in a shop window in Helena.  And Charlie began to get work — as an artist.

In 1897, Charlie and his new bride moved to Great Falls, MT where he remained for the duration.  Charlie was a prolific painter – with over 4,000 works (oil, watercolor, drawings and occasional sculptures) to his credit.  Today, the works of Charlie Russell go for big bucks — like “The Hold Up” which sold for $5.2 million in 2008.

Four decades ago, while visiting Charlie’s studio in Great Falls, I learned that he had adorned many of his letters with drawings.  And I got a bright idea. . . . .

If you want to see some of Charlie’s artistic letters, check out   

Letter to a Friend

We have an email group. A couple of friends have sent around “political” emails that offend some in the group. Frankly – everyone is offended these days. I sure am – by certain people. Politicians. Groups. Anyway – I responded with comments of my own.

I’m not a fan of some of the demeaning emails that are sent around – but I brush them aside.  Why?  In part because each one of us comes from a different place.  Different education.  Different life experience.  Different upbringing.  Different filters.  You are not always “right” in your opinions.  Or assessments.  Or conclusions.

Neither am I. . . .

As to forgiveness?  I’d leave doors open. All we see today in politics is closed doors.  That’s just ducky. I am exhausted by the fact that everyone is offended by something.   I am and you obviously are too.  We all are.  That’s the sadness.  You feel you are right.  But so do I.  So do our friends.

As Jonathan Haidt said in his book – everyone has a Righteous Mind. . . . . And that leaves no room for considering alternative opinions.  The door is closed.  Anger boils.  I could go on but it would not be productive.  That’s why I believe issues can be more uniting than political labels. And to me – friendship can and should trump (I do NOT like that word) political disparity.  It’s all the more reason to be civil in our discourse. And it’s all the more reason to be generous in forgiveness. That said – hopefully we will cross paths one of these days soon.  And if we talk about politics – we will agree to engage in civil discourse.  And I will forgive you for your opinions. 

And you will forgive me for mine. . . .

The N.R.A.

[Another timely repeat – from February 22, 2018] When I was a kid, my father sent me down to the local creek to shoot rats.  Big Norway rats.  I used a BB gun or a single shot .22 loaded with CB shorts.  When I was 14, I was on staff at a Boy Scout camp in Wisconsin.  I got on the school bus for the ride up north with my knapsack and my Stevens Model 416 .22 caliber bolt action target rifle.  Plus two boxes of ammunition.  Art T. brought pistols to camp since he was on a pistol team back home.  Since we arrived on Sunday, we put our guns under our bunks and on Monday checked them in to the rifle range for the duration of the summer.  No one ever thought of doing something violent or hurtful to another person.  Many of the boys were junior members of the NRA.  I was for a couple years.  But never since. 

I believe that folks who want guns for hunting, target shooting or protection should have them.  But I oppose semi-automatic weapons, bump stocks, massive clips or military-style weapons.  They are not necessary.  Nor are they contemplated by the Second Amendment.  The NRA is no more.  It is not the National Rifle Association.  It is now the National Assault Rifle Association.  Maybe the National Bump Stock Association.  The current NRA seems to ignore the gun violence that suffocates our nation.  Instead, they preach the same sermon that most weapons should be legal.  With little limitation.  Easy on the background checks.  As we all know, some NRA members crave automatic weapons.  And bazookas.  And RPG’s.  “Pry my cold dead fingers. . . . .”   

But one should at least understand the NRA’s position since there are those on the other side who believe that by confiscating all weapons, violence will come to an end.  But then there are some [probably the same folks] who proclaim that even those who are mentally ill and prone to violence (as we have seen in the recent mass shootings) cannot be forced to take meds or have institutional treatment unless the individual agrees.  That’s just ducky.   Toxic attitudes. Toxic agendas.  Toxic results.

With such extreme positions – competing for legitimacy – it is tough to find common ground.  And common sense.  We need to do something.  But sanity and compromise seem to have gone out the window.  

The Sikhs

[A repeat from August 8, 2012, with relevance today]  The terrible shooting last weekend at the Sikh Temple in Milwaukee [now Indianapolis] prompts me to offer a few words on the Sikh religion.  First of all — Sikhs are not Muslim . . . . .  

The Sikh religion began in the early 1600’s  and today is found mainly in the Punjab area of India.  The three tenets of the religion are:  equality of humankind; universal brotherhood of man; and one supreme God (though there is belief in the teachings of 10 gurus or teachers).   All Sikh men have the name “Singh” and all Sikh women are named “Kaur.”   There is a belief in reincarnation and there is an emphasis on ethics, morality and values.  Sikhs abstain from alcohol, drugs and tobacco and they do not believe in “miracles.”   During WWI and WWII, Sikh regiments served bravely in the British Army – suffering more than 200,000 casualties.   

Generally, Sikhism has had cordial relations with other religions though there has been strife in India with Muslims (after the partition of India in 1947) and Hindus (over possible creation of a Punjabi state).   There are 5 exemplars of faith which all begin with the letter “K”:  Kesh – uncut hair that is wrapped in a turban; Kanga – a wooden comb; Katchera –  cotton underwear worn to remind one of purity; Kara – an iron bracelet symbolizing eternity; and Kirpan – a curved sword of varying lengths.   It’s the Kesh (and turban) that gets Sikhs confused with Muslims among the uneducated.  

The Hindu greeting in Hindi is namaste (recognizing divinity in the other person).  In the Punjabi language – and among Sikhs – one says sat sri akal (“God is the ultimate Truth“).   Both phrases are offered with hands together.  Sounds pretty ecumenical to me . . . .


[A repeat from July 12, 2013] My father used to go bowling when I was a kid.  Gunnell’s Bowling Alley in Mt. Prospect. Sometimes he’d take me along.  He’d want me to watch and learn – but I always brought a supply of dimes to play the pinball machines over by the exit.  Ready to make a fast getaway.    My dad’s team members all wore the same color short-sleeved gray shirt with the team name and their names stitched in pink“Pete” “Dave” “Carl” “Al” and so on.  I still have my father’s bowling shirt in the closet.  Or attic.  Somewhere.  

Does anyone “bowl” anymore?  And if so, for what purpose?   You throw a big heavy ball — trying to knock down “pins.”  You spend time in the alley.  And then you’re in the gutter.   You do well and you get a “strike.”  But that’s what unions do — which is always bad.  Three strikes and you have a “turkey.”  Next best is a “spare.”  Like a spare tire.  Which you want to avoid around your midsection.  And if you do poorly, and don’t knock any pins down, people avoid looking at you (like this dude is really bad. . . . .).

I haven’t bowled in years.  I may never again.  The last attempt was a neighborhood gathering 35 years ago (“Let’s all go bowling“).  Donna looked at me and said “oh let’s go” so I smiled, drove to the bowling alley, rented the shoes (have you ever smelled the shoes they rent at bowling alleys?) and then didn’t bowl.  I drank some Dos Equis beer and looked at the pinball machines.  But I had the shoes on.  And a Hawaiian shirt.  I guess I looked like a bowler.  But my feet haven’t been the same since.  I can’t understand.  You try to aim a big, heavy black ball.  And then roll it.  Trying to hit some far off target.  Makes no sense whatsoever.  I’m gonna go golfing. . . . .

Motion to Kiss My .. . .

As a lawyer, I have been on the receiving end of more than a few lawyer jokes. And have laughed at them. I’ve actually posted a few on my blog due to the high demand, broad appeal and grudging accuracy of some.

I’ve seen my share of weird things in and out of court but I thought I would let you know that not all humor is inspired by lawyers. Some is initiated by litigants. For example. . . .

Washington v. Alaimo, 934 F.Supp.1395 (S.D. GA 1996) featured an angry plaintiff in federal court who filed a motion titled “Motion to Kiss My ***” True

U.S. ex. rel Mayo v. Satan & his Staff 54 F.R.D. 282 (1971) a prisoner filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against the devil “and his staff.” Yep.

A really good one – that won the Criminal Lawyers Award Contest – involved a Charlotte, NC lawyer who bought 24 rare and expensive cigars, insured them against fire, smoked them and submitted a claim against the insurance company. It gets better. Spend 2-1/2 minutes and watch

Try? Win. Don’t Try? Lose.

[A repeat from April 12, 2015] My father was born in 1913. In the late 1920’s, he was a caddy at North Shore Country Club in Glenview. He would take the “train” (streetcar) from Portage Park up to Waukegan Road and Glenview Road. From there, he and his chums would hoof east to the Club.  He would do one – or two – “loops” and then go home on the streetcar which ran down the middle of Waukegan Road.  His best tip as a caddy was a five dollar bill from one wealthy (and apparently grateful) member.  My Dad said he felt rich. 

What’s interesting was my dad’s clear recollection of what happened after work.  He and several other neighborhood boys would exit from the west end of the Club onto Glenview Road and walk around the corner.  Streetcars ran every hour or two.  Thus if a streetcar was approaching – or there – there was lots of incentive to traverse the quarter mile or so as quickly as possible.  My father said it was often the same conductor.  If he saw the boys — and he saw them running — he would look at his watch and hold the other arm in the air.  Holding up the streetcar.  Standing on the pavement.  Arm in the air.  One eye on the watch.  One eye on the boys.   However if one of the boys lagged, or slowed to walk, Mister Conductor would look up.  Twirl his arm in the air (“go!”) and hop on the streetcar.  And off it went.  And the boys would have to wait for an hour for the next streetcar home. 

If they tried, and ran, or at least made an effort, the streetcar would be held up for a few minutes for the boys to arrive.  And then go.  My father said he learned a lesson here.  About trying.  That nameless conductor of nearly a century ago appreciated effort.  He also knew something about charity.  It was simple.  Try?  Win.  Don’t try?  Lose.        


Should a young man who is sentenced to a year in prison for stealing a car be allowed to return to society? To have a job?  Go to school?  To be forgiven? What about the serial thief who shoplifts food to feed her family? And after serving her fourth sentence for theft – she is released.  How about the 68 year old man who served 45 years in prison for killing a man in a bar fight? Forgiveness? Allowed to get a job? What if the 68 year old became a deacon of the church while in prison? And schooled young men on how not to behave? Can we forgive individuals who are accused of saying bad words — but not charged with crimes?  I’m just askin’ . . . . .

More and more people are being canceled.” For speech or acts that are not illegal but are “offensive” to some. Should we forgive them?  Redemption?  A second chance?  Many on the left spring to forgive those in prison.  Even those who commit violent crimes.  Those who violate the law.   But those who use a bad word?  Or say something stupid? Even as a teenager?  Never.   As we know, people can be falsely accused. And freedom of speech is no longer a right according to some.

Did you ever do or say something you regret? I believe that each one of us is more than the worst thing we ever did.  Or said.  And that forgiveness — “Mulligans” if you will (see May 7, 2018) — can be justified.  Mercy – is one of the highest attributes of mankind.  So why not be generous in its dispensing?  Do you ever forgive a family member or friend for hurtful things said or done?  Then why not strangers when there is genuine contrition.  Sincere apology.  If you don’t believe that each one of us is more than the worst thing we ever did or said, then — may you be judged accordingly. . . . .