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SIDEBARS: A serving of history at the Pioneer Village

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SidebarsFor the second year, I received an invitation to a coveted spot at the dinner table located in Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. This supper prelude to the Indiana State Fair, hosted by Lou Gerig and Shelley Troil, brings many community leaders to a serene dinner (I was corrected when I referred to it as “lunch”) around the table that is part of the 1930s kitchen display located in Pioneer Village. When the dinner bell (yes, a real dinner bell) rings at noon, the guests are seated and surrounded by the diligent volunteers who put our agricultural history on parade for the visitors of the state fair.

While this article generally recommends places to dine, this particular article is to recommend a more important aspect of dining – the company and conversation that make a meal as or more special than the food. However, before I get to the philosophical stuff, I just have to share with you what was served: chicken and noodles, served over mashed potatoes; corn on the cob; stuffing; onion and cucumber salad; bread; and your choice of apple, gooseberry, or rhubarb pie. While I am no farmhand, I can match one in food consumption.

As we bowed our heads to pray around the table, there sat some heavyweights of our community, but those doing the heavy lifting were the agricultural specialists who take care of the artifacts that have adorned Pioneer Village for 50 years (this year being that milestone). These dedicated workers refurbish, maintain, and catalogue the relics of farming history. More importantly, they know the history they preserve. The manager, Mauri Williamson, blessed me with a personal tour of the grounds while providing me a firsthand chronicle of Indiana’s farm history. As a farmer and the director of the Purdue Ag Alumni Association for 40 years, he experienced what to me was history. Folks, this priceless recitation of facts from the past cannot be gleaned from a book, TV show, or even documentary. Mauri regaled me with stories littered with hilarities that revealed a subtle mischievousness a younger man could not have gotten away with. I spent an extra hour following Mauri around the barns and what, ultimately, the public tours as Pioneer Village.

What the heck does my afternoon at Pioneer Village have to do with this column? Well, it reminded me that we, in the legal profession, have our own “Mauris” from which we can get live history lessons about the law and the practice. You know that partner, or retired lawyer or judge, whose bar number is below 300? Well, they hold more than a low bar number, they hold a host of memories that translate into the history of our legal system. This article is to encourage you to engage, via a lunch invite, a “legal Mauri” you know who has been practicing years and years and ask them to impart stories and knowledge about the development of their practice. Within those stories is incredible, historical insight into the development of our profession. You may even learn, first hand, about the development of a legal doctrine we all assumed just appeared on the books one day. All you have to do is extend the invitation. For example, a couple of months ago, I went to lunch with Carl Overman, of counsel to Bose McKinney & Evans. Now Carl, I’ll just say, has been practicing a real long time. He described the legal layout of the land starting in the 1950s, he went on to talk about the partners he had and shed, and then he waded into the area of law he helped birth that now is a common business practice, employee stock ownership plans (aka ESOPs). What Carl imparted was by no means a history lesson but rather stories from which I extracted significant, historical intel.

sidebarspioneervillage-15col Guests and Pioneer Village volunteers gather around a farmhouse table in the Pioneer Village for an annual supper held as a prelude to the state fair in August. Attorneys Jim Voyles and Jennifer Lukemeyer sit at the center. (Photo submitted)

To determine the future one must examine history, which is what we lawyers do all the time. How about getting it from a live source rather than Westlaw or a memo written by an associate? There are plenty of Carls and Mauris out there from which we can all learn. Thanks gentlemen for paving the way and sharing your trip with me.

So pick up the phone and make the invite – you will not be sorry. And, when you head out to the Indiana State Fair this year, you can pick up a book about the 50 years at Pioneer Village containing all sorts of tales about the village and its characters, such as Mauri, titled “Harvesting History, 50 Years of Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair.”

Pioneer Village gets 4 gavels, but not because of the food, because of the company.•

__________

Fred Vaiana and Jennifer M. Lukemeyer practice at Voyles Zahn Paul Hogan & Merriman in Indianapolis, focusing in criminal defense. Vaiana is a 1992 graduate of the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Lukemeyer earned her J.D. from Southern Methodist University in 1994 and is active in the Indianapolis Bar Association, Indianapolis Inn of Courts, and the Teen Court Program. The opinions expressed in this column are the authors’.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

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  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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