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A restless teenager turns into a stern judge

“What goes around comes around. At least it did this time….” — Ol’ Dad

Occasionally I’m asked if I have any sons. This question is usually prompted by my having written a couple of columns about my two liberated daughters, combining motherhood with their careers.

Yes, I have three sons; Paul, 46, who has been physically disabled since the age of 15, Erik, 43, who is a freelance custom software engineer in Silicon Valley, and Philip, 42.



Both Erik and Phil graduated from Carson High School in the late 1970s and eventually went on to UNR. Erik majored in computer science and business administration following three years in the Army. Phil majored in journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter for a couple of years until he could no longer tolerate liberals. It’s Philip I’m writing about today.

I think Phil was a typical teenager for his time. As a parent, I was reasonably satisfied because he didn’t get in any more trouble than I did at his age, and he wasn’t a nerdy sissy. In junior high school he experimented with truancy for a couple of weeks (motor bike) before I got the word from Norm Scoggin, the vice principal. Norm and I worked out a solution with Philip’s teachers and together we really jerked a knot in his tail. You wouldn’t believe the change!




And then there was the episode where Phil and his brother Erik, ages 15 and 16 respectively, were parked in Erik’s old Mustang, drinking beer. A sheriff’s deputy caught them and took them in. The sheriff called me at home and asked what I wanted done with the boys.

I told him to keep them overnight and toss them in the drunk tank with the bums. He said he’d keep them but he couldn’t legally put them in the tank. To this day, I’m not sure what the sheriff did, but when I picked the boys up the next day, they were two very contrite, stinky, disgusted kids.

Phil graduated from high school as an honor student, but considering those times, I’ve always questioned the validity of that elite status in comparison with what it took to be an honor student when I was in high school. By the way, I never made it. I was in that generation of boys who knew we were all going to war upon graduation so we didn’t study very hard. Dumb but true.

The real test of my and society’s patience came when Phil got his driver’s license. He worked part time at Performance Enterprises so he’d earned some bucks, which he promptly spent for a raunchy looking old Corvette with a customized hood so it looked supercharged. And of course it was red. It had “speeding ticket” written all over it and sure enough, he got a bunch of tickets within record time. If traffic lights were synchronized for 25 mph, Phil figured they would also be synchronized at 50, and being a juvenile, he typically got away with a slap on the wrist.

So, on his final speeding ticket, I made a deal with Justice of the Peace John Ray to jerk Philip’s license for six months. He did, and he also remanded Phil to Bill Lewis of the Juvenile Division for six months of probation. Lewis was a very patient guy and he really helped Phil. Phil was a changed kid. He sold the Corvette, got his driver’s license back and no more tickets.

Now, get ready for a good laugh. Philip today is the Justice of the Peace in Gerlach, whose jurisdiction includes a huge chunk of Washoe County. He’s doing the same thing Justice John Ray did here in Carson City for so many years, and is now semi-retired. John and I laugh every time we see each other about Philip’s now upholding the law instead of breaking it.

Why Gerlach? Well, he’s always been a mountain man at heart who likes to hunt and fish, and he loves wildlife and the Black Rock Desert. Having never been married, he fits the rugged lifestyle as well as any native Nevadan.

Is he a tough judge? Yes, but fair. On a scale of one to 10, he’s probably a nine when it comes to upholding the intent of the law. Sometimes at social gatherings he’s been known to wear a T-shirt with the inscription, “Roy Bean was a wimp!”

The only negative in Phil’s life is having to contend with Burning Man every year, which is the most disgusting display of human debris ever to invade Nevada. This so-called festival results in over 300 citations, mostly from drug-drunk driving and speeding. Being a born-again Christian, he says, “Burning Man is penance for every sin I’ve ever committed.”

Since the Gerlach Justice Court can’t afford a clerk, he does everything himself. It’s a big load.

Should any of you single ladies be interested, all you have to do is drive between Nixon and Gerlach at 80 miles per hour, and you’ll either hit a cow or get a speeding ticket, or both. In either event, you’ll meet Philip. By the way, outside the courtroom, he has a great personality.

Bob Thomas is a Carson City businessman, local curmudgeon and former member of the Carson City School Board and Nevada State Assembly.


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