Signs of the Times
My first employer after I graduated from Law School in 1982 was the United States Government, embodied by Senior Eastern District of Virginia Federal Judge Richard B. Kellam, in what was then Princess Anne County. When I first started working at the court, some of the ladies who worked in the Clerk's Office began asking if I knew that one of my responsibilities was to deliver turkeys to friends of the Judge at Christmas time. I thought they were pulling my leg and I certainly didn't recall any mention of this when I interviewed with the five sitting judges.
Well sure enough, as Christmas approached, the Judge gave my co-clerk and I directions so that we could find the turkey farm in Princess Anne County, where we were to take his Cadillac, load it up with turkeys, and return to the courthouse in Norfolk. Frank, my co-clerk, intimated that he didn't feel comfortable driving the Judge's Cadillac, so without hesitation I got behind the wheel and off we went.
The weather wasn't particularly cold though when we found the farm we soon realized these "freshly" killed turkeys were still warm. The farmers had just finished killing and gutting them and we proceeded to load them into the trunk and back seat of the Cadillac. When I say "we", I mean the farmers and I, since Frank was rapidly getting queasy from the aroma emanating from the birds. After loading 50 turkeys, Frank and I drove them to Norfolk, with a stop at the Judge's house, where we unloaded 25.
We then helped one of the Judge's brothers unload more of the fowl in the courthouse parking lot. While I helped the Judge's brother transfer the birds, Frank, who was an ex-helicopter pilot and West Point graduate from Boston, went upstairs to the Judges chambers, where the Judge gave him directions for some of the deliveries and gas money. Upon Frank's return, we gassed up the car and began our journey.
I knew we had some deliveries to make in Richmond so I started driving 64 West toward Hampton Roads. I asked Frank what directions he had been given and he told me we were supposed to go through the tunnel. After we had successfully driven under Hampton Roads, I asked Frank for further guidance. "Governor Godwin's" was the reply.
Well, I didn't grow up in Virginia but I had lived in the Old Dominion for ten years and knew that Mills Godwin wasn't governor any longer. "Frank," I said, "what do the directions say about getting to the Governor's?" "Well, they say to go through the tunnel, head for Suffolk, and the Governor's place is at Cedar Point in Chuckatuck." "Frank, we just went through the wrong tunnel and we're headed to Richmond!" Frank replied, "Well, when the Judge asked me if I knew where we were going, I assumed the Governor always lived in Richmond."
It was now going to be a challenge to get to Richmond, deliver those turkeys and then find our way down 460 East to Chuckatuck and locate the Governor's house. And Frank seemed oblivious to there being any problem. So I floored the Cadillac and caught the tail end of a truck going about 80 mph and we flew to Richmond, where we delivered turkeys to the homes of Justice Snead of the Virginia Supreme Court, Federal District Judge Robert Mehridge, and another friend of the Judge's who was a physician. I called back to the courthouse and talked with Millie Page, the Judge's secretary, who confirmed that I was correct about Governor Godwin's and that Frank and I had headed in the wrong direction.
We then flew down 95 and got off at Petersburg on 460 and headed for Suffolk and greater Chuckatuck. By this time it was dark and I was trying to read the directions and make sense of them backwards. Frank and I didn't have a lot to say to each other and I was angry at his arrogance in thinking he knew all along where we were headed. I drove into the entrance of what looked to be a pretty exclusive neighborhood. "This isn't the place," said Frank. "It sure looks like it to me," I said, but Frank wouldn't budge. So I slammed the Caddy into reverse to go find a phone.
We went back up the road, found a phone, and Frank made the call. He was a little sheepish when he returned. "I think it might be the place we just left," he said. Slightly self-satisfied, I turned the car back to the road, returned to the entrance to Cedar Point where we'd been 15 minutes before and delivered the turkey to Governor Godwin's home.
The next day, Frank left to celebrate the holidays in Boston, while I reported to work to delight the Judge and Millie with the tale of the previous day's misadventure. The Judge informed me that he had asked Frank several times before we left whether he understood the map. Frank, of course, had assured him that he had everything under control. Ha! So much for Frank the pilot from Boston.
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