A column dedicated to the folks in the pews.
Written by Dale Buchanan
Stepping from Big Red pews this morning is Mr. Peter Wall. Peter is a practicing attorney with the Fresno County Counsel’s Office and an active member of our congregation. Just before Thanksgiving, Peter agreed to sit down with me for an interview. What with the holidays, the meeting got put on the back burner until last night when Gayle and I met Peter at a local Starbucks.
We chit chatted for a few minutes before I described the procedure and we got busy. I had eight questions that I thought might give me a snapshot understanding of this man I really did not know very well. I am now sitting at my desk with eleven pages of Gayle’s notes.
Perhaps because of his training and profession, Peter answered the questions I asked with precision and clarity. Gayle’s notes were, as always, spot on. Much of the time Peter talked and Gayle transcribed. My job this morning is to relate to you a Reader’s Digest version of Peter’s story. As always in a condensed story, many of the details must be shortened or even left for your imagination.
“I was born in Madera, California, and grew up there with the exception of one school year when we lived in Antioch. I remember coming back to Madera and my first day in second grade. Same school, same kids I had left in kindergarten. A happy day.
I have two favorite mother memories that go back to kindergarten. The school was on the same block as our house, so very close, but my mother walked me to school every morning and then came for me after class but not all the way. She was down the street watching and allowing me to spread my wings. I knew she was watching and I was never afraid.
By the time I started kindergarten, I had two preschool brothers who must have kept mother extremely busy. I remember coming home one day and being greeted by a delicious smell coming from the kitchen. There waiting for me was a big bowl of canned spaghettios with a hot dog cut up in it. Why do I remember this? Maybe because it was prepared just for me. I guess the long and short of it is that it made me feel special.
My dad was a cabinetmaker and up early. From my bedroom I could hear him eating his breakfast and getting ready for work. Afraid he would send me back to bed, I never dared go to the kitchen while he was getting ready. But the moment he went out the door, I would spring from my bed, fly down the hall to the living room and climb up on the couch and there, out the large window I would see dad getting into his car. He always paused, just a second, before entering the car and with a smile glanced at me. Dad loved hand signals. On those wonderful mornings from the front door of the car with my face glued to the window, I would get the sign for “I love you” and a “thumbs up.” With that affectionate wave dad drove away to the mysterious world of work.
Growing up we three brothers took turns ganging up on each other and doing “stupid stuff.” Once as eldest brother I was left in charge of the two younger ones. In roughhousing Adam ended up on his tummy and claimed he couldn’t move his legs. I was scared. Today he still laughs about tricking me. Three rowdy boys made life great fun during our growing up years.
Raised in a loving home and secure in my Christian faith, I more or less accepted the path of least resistance and was on my way to seminary and the ministry in the Mennonite Brethren Church. Somewhere along the way I had to face the reality that I really could not believe much of what I had accepted as the truth. I found myself writing in my journal ‘I am done with believing in God.’
Almost by accident I found the law. In one of my many past part-time jobs I worked in a book store. A girl came in looking for books to prepare for the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). She told me about San Joaquin College of Law in Clovis. I enrolled, graduated first in my class, and met Mary in our second year when we were study partners. At one point we were wading through an extremely boring class on “Wills and Trusts.” So bowing out early, I asked Mary to go with me for a drink. She agreed. I had two gin martinis and she had two “pink things.” It was there in the parking lot of the Old Claim Jumpers that we shared our first kiss. And the rest is history.
Dale, you asked me about my passion. I want to know things and at the same time I am skeptical of what it means to know things. It is this paradox that is my passion.”
Dale Buchanan is a member of FCCF with a passion for stories and writing. In between penning his own memoirs, he is helping us get to know our members, one pew at a time.