Thursday, June 9, 2011

12 Interesting Things about My Dad, Pat Hurley

1. He arm-wrestled the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1968 and won. The first ever civil-suit against the Klan, for $1 million, in a wrongful death case. Dad, as one of the out-of-state rabble-rouser Yankee attorneys, was chased and threatened with death every day he was down there.
2. Later, when I took my first newspaper job, in Jackson, I stayed at the same motel he had first stayed at, called I think... the Sand 'n' Surf? Which is weird because there's no sand or surf in Jackson, Miss.
3. He arm-wrestled alcohol and lost. It may not have been a fair fight.
4. He fought in Korea and usually said only two things about his experiences there: 1. It was the coldest he had ever been in his life, and 2. The letters he got from my mom were the only thing that kept him going.
5. He was frat pals at U of O with Ken Kesey (though dad was a Chi Psi and Kesey was, I think, a Beta). Dad said Kesey asked him to read an early draft of "Sometimes a Great Notion," which he wrote before "Cuckoo's Nest," but published after. None of us could ever find any notes or drafts, though.
6. In his time on the bench, he said repeatedly how impressed he was with the Rajneeshee lawyers, who may have been wearing maroon suits, but "were exceptionally polite and did their homework."
7. He made Bruce Jenner really, really mad by smoking (Lucky Strike straights, nonstop) 2 rows behind him at Olympic track & field trials in the '70s. "He kept turning around to look at me!" he seemed shocked and bemused.
8. His only sibling, my uncle Jim, was involved, as a young Catholic doctor in St. Louis in the '50s, in the real-life case upon which William Peter Blatty based "The Exorcist." Creepy.
9. After about 1962, he drove only convertibles. In rainy Portland. The most memorable of these was the canary-yellow Chevrolet Impala, with one of Oregon's first vanity license plates: "CURIUS." (It helps to have some '60s risque pop-culture knowledge to fully appreciate this. Or maybe not.)
10. My sisters and I inherited his Easter Island nose, his impatience behind the wheel, his mutant baby toes, and some of his brain and sense of humor. We are grateful for at least two of these.
11. He used to take Mary and me "out for something fun" at the Old Old House, to a ratty old tavern in Lake Grove. He would lock us inside the car, with our coloring books and crayons, and be gone inside till he could barely stand. It wasn't until about 2001, relating this story to a friend, that I realized this was actually pretty bad.
12. He lived long enough to meet one of his grandchildren, Eamonn Hurley-Flynn, and that was a shining beacon of light in his last years.