Crawford’s Tribe, Episode 2: Learned Hand?
The Columbia Mafia is a strange thing. Easters at Lake Forest, or … Forest Lake. A 29205 zip code. An unnatural appreciation of pine needles. Many, many khakis.
I don’t really know if my grandmother was Columbia Mafia. The family didn’t really talk about it. If she was, Uncle George is, and I suppose I am too, though I’ve never lived among the Family. I’ve always thought of us as, at best, collateral members. We – my uncle, my cousins, and, briefly in law school, me – live among the Columbia Mafia. We dine with them. We attend law school with them. We receive invitations to their manly rituals.
Duffie Powers and I met in law school, fall of 2002. Let’s just get the law school part out of the way first: yes, there are bombed-out urban centers with more character than USC School of Law; yes, it is asbestos-ridden; yes, I sometimes have difficulty separating its layout from my high school’s layout in my mind; and, no, nobody is entirely sure whether the single elevator to the faculty wing was an intentional design choice to prevent protesting students from invading the faculty space during the 70s, as rumored, or whether it was, like the rest of the building, simply an atrocious design choice.
That was law school.
And Duffie and I met there.
I don’t really know if Duffie is Columbia Mafia either. We know all the secret ways. We have mutual family friends. Our people know each other. Duffie even lived almost directly behind my grandmother for a while. He’s from Columbia, which is more than I can say. He might even be from the right side of the river.
Duffie is a man of few words, at least until he ain’t. He cleans up nice, but he knows his way around a Remington 1100. And who among us doesn’t, we men of South Carolina? Try – and I’m speaking only of myself here – as I might to be a man of the larger world, a firm believer that America’s strength is in our diversity, dedicated to the proposition that, yeah, fine, we look out for ourselves and our families, but we look out for our neighbors too – a dirty, smelly liberal, in other words – I know my way around a Remington 1100 too. Or at least I used to. Back in the day.
So too, Mr. Powers, though perhaps the inverse. And that’s how we get on, I suppose. Each of us is a little less – and a little more – of our people than we might otherwise confess. He’d have to be for me to tolerate him, what with him being a Clemson alumnus and all.
So what is our shared thread? Our vast collection of experiences that have made us men and brothers? I’m not really sure. We almost accidentally killed TJ (the other one) at a semester-end party. We had a study group that apparently and undeservedly developed a reputation for being a bit hardcore. We had a deep, shared appreciation for Professors Wedlock and Smalls. Stravitz liked both of us, as much as Stravitz is capable of liking anyway … I kid, I kid. We survived Burkhard. Through, or perhaps in spite of, law school, through all the little things that go into shaping a student into a member of the noblest profession,¹ we became friends.
And now he’s helping to hand me off. And, continuing the theme, he’s tall.
As for the title of this piece, Learned Hand is a famous philosopher of the law, and you’ll have to ask Mr. Powers why he, or his name, is obliquely relevant to this story.
¹ See also, “deep irony.”