Denver Bar Association
July 2010
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Dick’s Place

by Justice Greg Hobbs


His shop, Sixth and Gilpin, is next to the tux shop. Thirty years ago, I discover him when we move into the Denver Square half a block off the Southwest corner of Cheesman Park. I am a first year partner at a 17th Street Denver law firm. 

"Nixon brought us the slower speed limit and now Carter’s got the Iranians bagging our people," he said. I told him, in reply, I’d bought a Jimmy Carter Mercedes, 240-D, 4 cylinder gas saver — no guts for pulling up Loveland and Rabbit Ears passes.

He becomes my monthly clip art counsel. He razes hair in 20 minute increments, ranging the repertoire outrage to outrage. Girlie magazines are arrayed on the two-chair staging area counter. You wait for the guy in front of you to get out from under his apron, then it’s your turn on the fry pan.

"Save the world from the corporations." This is his Reagan observation. He’s Dick Archuleta. A kid from the Lower Arkansas Valley, where the Oakies hop the Dust Bowl freights at the La Junta switch-yard down the tracks from his house. They do not know that the terminus is parched-out Santa Fe (not the Golden State). A boy can listen to everything adults will say because they don’t seem to notice him. He grows up in the Navy on a Korean War fighter ship.

The 90s — Clinton didn’t disappoint. "Who needs these magazines when you can be a Democrat?" Gary Hart’s, "Catch me if you can!" Big Bill’s, "You caught me, but I didn’t do it!" I get late night commentary like this from Dick on Saturday mornings. Off year Republicans introduce leadership by Newt. Governor Romer appoints me to the non-partisan Colorado bench.

"Dick’s Place." That’s how he answers the phone when you call for an appointment. He’s always prepared, the long way around, to critique a U.S. Supreme Court opinion or one of our Colorado own. He makes me presentable for judicial and community appearances. He keeps me in my place.

The collapse of the Two Towers occurs near the beginning of the third decade. Era of hypocritical Christian philanderers and robber barons of all denominations. "Walker Bush!" His razor buzzes eagerly with the latest folly before I can get my glasses off. He begins calling this one room with a bare light bulb and a single toilet in the back his "Sanctuary."

Silver hairs, just a few to begin with, join the darker shavings at my feet. There’s a little practice putting green on felt to the left of the door as you enter past the red, white and blue pole announcing he’s open for further consultation.

It’s the third week of April 2010. "Dick, you have plans to do any golf trips this summer?" He responds, "No, my wife’s never recovered from the West Nile, she needs me at home."

I get up from his chair, in one of the few small shops left on Sixth Avenue. Gourmet Oliver’s Meat and Cheese Market has moved in next door; Parisian art poster place now located on the other side. No tux shop.

"Get your ears lowered," my departed Air Force father would say when I was a kid and departed for the latest head shearing.

I pay. He points me to a small sign he’s taped on the opposite wall. "My last day is May 22." The fewest words he’s never had to say, and these he’s written down because they’re hard to say.

My astute, sardonic counselor. My faithful, persistent critic. Gone.

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