Excerpt Two from Chapter 15: Taking on General Motors, Insanity… And Broken Hearted Melodies

I arose with a great sense of anticipation like I was about to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world, or about to bat cleanup in the seventh game of the World Series. We were in the fourth quarter of this long-winded, four week pursuit of justice, but I had plenty of time left on the clock to pick apart the deficiencies in Dr. Robey and his presentation. Under the glare of the lights, and in front of a packed courtroom, I purposely checked my 35-year-old aggressive nature, and slowed my approach to the podium. Suspiciously eyeing Dr. Robey, I heard the echo of my own thoughts: “this cross examination is what I was born to do. Without it, I wither and die on the vine. With it, win, lose or draw, I have a life with meaning. It’s my journey… my destiny. It’s what I longed to do. It’s what I had to do. Let’s slug it out, Ames Robey! It’s me and you, mano a mano, and neither one of us has a place to hide. The universe of justice is watching, so, as they say in the Hood in Detroit: “Let’s throw down and get it on.”

As I approached the podium with my notes and cross examination materials, I caught a glimpse of my father sitting forward on a bench in the back of the courtroom, and I thought of him and his father as I said to myself: “Here I am, a lawyer, standing in an American courtroom.” And, I thought to myself… this is certainly a long way from my grandfather, Frederick William Lauck’s fourth grade education, his move from St. Louis Missouri in 1917 to Detroit, Michigan to find work at Ford Motor’s Highland Park Plant, and his part in the “Battle of Miller Road” with Walter Reuther’s union boys squaring off against old man Henry Ford’s designated hit man, Harry Bennett, and his army of ex-cons at the overpass on Miller Road in Dearborn, Michigan and his early death at age 48. And, this is certainly a long way from my own father’s ninth grade education and his pangs of hunger on the “mean streets” of Detroit during the Great Depression of the 1930s and his struggle through life with limited opportunity. And, this is certainly a long way from the logging camps and mining towns of my mother Jean McKelvy Montroy’s Minnesota childhood with its brutal winters in such forlorn places as Duluth, Hibbing, Tower and Eli, and a long way from the early and tragic death of her 17-year-old brother Sherwood Montroy in a logging accident in 1918 with Sherwood’s battered body laid out in the family parlor, with pennies on his eyes to hold them shut, and his burial on the snow swept plains of desolation-row, Minnesota. And, it’s certainly a long way from the ravages of the flu pandemics of 1918 and 1919, and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s that the Greatest Generation endured, and certainly a long way from the ravages of alcoholism that beset my family, and a long way from their destitution in “soup lines” during the financial ruin of the Great Depression. But, through it all, through the hardships of hard-scrabble life, those survivors carried on, living lives of quiet desperation, and, eventually, at their last hour, succumbing to graves with nameless markers, forever remaining faceless and nameless on life’s social registry.

But, then, I thought… every once in a while, even in the bleakest of family histories, good fortune smiles on one of the survivors’ descendants, and graces that lucky descendant with “opportunity.” That unearned, serendipitous, good fortune of “opportunity” somehow fell from the Greatest Generation to me. Now, generations of desperation later, I was the lucky one, the one chosen to stand up as a lawyer in an American courtroom as the judge called out my name: “Mr. Lauck, your witness,” putting me squarely in charge of the fight for justice for another no-count, another one of life’s desperate survivors, Robert Smith. Two no-counts – randomly, or, perhaps, fatefully and inexorably locked together in the battle for fleeting justice and for Robert Smith’s life.