About Me

The Ugly Duckling
I am an ugly duckling.  Metaphorically speaking of course.

You see…I was born into a family of mechanics.  My father is a mechanic.  His father was a mechanic.  I have uncles who are mechanics and brothers who are mechanics.  I have a sister who is at least partially a mechanic.  I love mechanics.  But I am not a mechanic.

When I was 13, I watched as my 12-year-old brother fixed a lawn mower engine after I had let it run out of oil and it overheated.  I broke it.  He fixed it.

When I was 16, I watched as he bought a ’68 Camaro with his own lawn mowing money and overhauled its engine.  He was too young to drive it.  I wasn’t.  I can still hear him screaming at me as I routinely (but accidentally) shifted the car into the wrong gear while driving down the road.

The Model A
When I was 17, my father, brother and I started rebuilding a Model A Ford.  I say we but what I really mean is they were rebuilding it while I stood around nodding and pretending to understand what they were talking about.  They often used words like “four-banger,” “bucket-t,” “chop-top,” “glass-packs,” “land yacht,” “positraction,” and “nerf bar” to describe cars.  I had no idea what they were talking about; still don’t.  I once heard them say they’d turned a 289 into a 302.  A decent batting average for a shortstop, I thought.

What I didn’t realize at the time was…this was not just a rehab project for the Model A, it was also a rehab project for me.

For 17 years I had failed to grasp some of the basic skills our family considered essential to survival: fixing things and building things.  I guess I had come to consider these skills necessary for survival too.   In another year I would be out of the house.  On my own.  How was I going to take care of myself; make a living; provide for a family?

I think the project was also a way for my father to recreate some of the good experiences he’d had with his father.  He had driven the exact same Model A Ford to high school in the ‘60s.  He and his father bought the car in “fixer upper” shape and spent hours and hours doing just that…fixing it up.  My father had even given it a name: Maude.  (I’m not sure why, but he says he named it after a 1960s tv character played by Jonathan Winters).

The Explosion
One night as we were working on the car my father handed me a Dixie cup with gasoline in it.  (If you are surprised by this, you likely do not have a mechanic in your family).  He pointed to a metal boxy looking thing on top of the engine (mechanics call it a carburetor) and said “Now when I turn the key and you hear the engine try to crank, I want you to start pouring gas into the carburetor.”  I specifically remember asking him “Are you sure this is safe?”  His reply: “I wouldn’t have you do it if it wasn’t.”

Trusting (but naïve) I held the cup of gasoline over the carburetor.  When the engine turned over I started to pour.  Nothing happened at first.  From inside the car I could hear:

“Are you pouring it?”

“Yes.”

“Give it a little more.”

I gave it a little more.  Nothing happened.

“Are you pouring it?”

“Yes.”

“Give it a little more.”

I gave it a little more.  Nothing happened.

“Are you pouring it?”

“Yes.”

“Give it a little…”

In a split second I saw a bright flash and heard something that sounded like a 300-pound man entering a pool after doing a jack-knife off a high dive.  You know…the sound that begins with water parting and ends with a base-like whoosh.  The sound was followed by a dull ringing in my ears.  The flash had prompted me to close my eyes, but I could still see the flicker of light through my eyelids.

With my eyes still closed and after what seemed like 10 minutes (but was probably no more than 10 or 15 seconds) my ear ringing gave way to my father and brother’s voices.  I tried to blink my eyes open to see what was going on.  In between blinks I could see them stomping out fires all over the garage.  They were yelling at me for slinging lit gas everywhere.  I remember thinking “What about me?  Aren’t I on fire?”  To be honest, at that point I didn’t give a damn whether the whole garage burned to the ground.

When the fires were finally out, I noticed the distinct smell of burnt hair.  I hadn’t been wearing a shirt during all of this.  I looked down and noticed all of the hair on my chest had been charred. So were my eyebrows and some of the hair on my head.

I was finished trying to be a mechanic.  But what else was there?

The Mission
When I was 19, I decided to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I spent the first 11 months of my mission in Huntington Beach, California.  While there, I was introduced to a number of successful lawyers.  I loved hearing them speak.  I loved the words they used and the way they used them.  I loved the topics they discussed and the way they analyzed them.  They spoke the way I spoke.  They thought the way I thought.  They were interested in what I was interested in.  The more I was around them, the clearer it became…I was not born to be a mechanic.  I was born to be an attorney.

After my mission I attended the Florida State University College of Law.  Fifteen years after graduating from law school I can safely say this ugly duckling has found his flock.