High court puts children on a par with golf clubs

July 05, 1995|By MIKE ROYKO

For those who remain saddened by the "Baby Richard" case, here is some advice. Think of it simply as a dispute over a piece of personal property and you might feel better.

Let us imagine that about four or five years ago a cool swinger named Otto and one of his girlfriends have a spat and break up.

In his haste to be with another girlfriend, Otto moves out and leaves behind a putter. It doesn't seem important at the time because Otto isn't a golfer. The former girlfriend gave him the putter as a gift.

Several weeks later, Otto happens to run into the abandoned girlfriend and says: "Hello, my pretty cupcake, I been wondering, where's that putter of mine?"

"What do you care, you dark-eyed, sweet-talking Romeo?" the abandoned girlfriend asks, "you aren't interested in golf."

"Hey, my whip-cream tart, maybe I'll take up golf one of these days and I will need a putter."

"Hah! You romantic rogue, I gave you that putter as a gift, and you never even took off the wrapping paper."

"So, that means it is still mine. Come on, sweetums, give me my putter."

"Too late, you dashing rascal," she says. "It broke and I threw the pieces away."

"But my turtle dove," he says, "how could my putter break?"

"Hey, dreamboat, like they say in this country, stuff happens."

Time passes, and Otto, nobody's fool, begins thinking about the putter and becomes suspicious of the former girlfriend's story.

One day he visits her and says: "Hey, adorable pumpkin pie, I've been thinking how nice it would be if you and me got married. Then I could get up on Sunday mornings like a regular middle-class husband and go play golf."

Delighted, the former girlfriend, says: "Oh, you suave smoothie, you would really like to get married and take up golf?"

"Sure, my little chickpea," he slyly says, "too bad I don't have my putter. Oh, well, that's the way the wedding cake crumbles."

Disappointed, the former girlfriend says: "But if you had your putter back . . ."

"Oh, my little cup of cappuccino, then we would live happily ever after."

"Oh, hot stuff, I have a confession to make. Your putter did not break. I did not throw it away. I sold it."

"You sold my putter, my little tuna fish sandwich? How could you do that to me?"

"Don't be angry with me, macho man. Times were tough, and a girl has to pay the rent."

"Then there is only one thing to do, my little gummy bear. This is the United States of America, and I will do what any red-blooded American would do."

"You will marry me!"

L "Maybe later. But now I must see a lawyer and sue somebody."

Which he does. And the law, while not blind, is sometimes cross-eyed.

One judge says it is not really Otto's putter because he never even took a practice swing, didn't have a proper golf bag and didn't pay for it in the first place -- his former sweetie did. And the avid golfer who had paid her for the putter had become fond of it and would be distraught at losing so prized a club.

TTC But another judge says that is all nonsense. If a man could be deprived of a putter that was rightfully his, even if he didn't play golf, what would be next -- his favorite tie, his after-shave lotion, his favorite video game or his blue suede shoes? No possession would be safe.

Lawyers being lawyers and fees being fees, the putter battle goes on for years with all sorts of spectators joining in.

Avid golfers generally side with the man who bought the putter, saying: "A putter belongs in the hands of a devoted golfer, and this man has demonstrated his devotion."

But many non-golfers say: "I know nothing about golf and I care even less, but I'm on the rightful owner's side because I believe in the God-given right of cool guys like him and me to sort of cruise through life having a good time. Besides, a putter doesn't have any rights, so what's the big deal?"

And that is how the highest court in the land finally sees it. One day, the putter is turned over to Otto, who says: "Hey, this is really neat. Which end is up?"

Almost overnight, he claims to have mastered the art of putting, boasting of the ease with which he could knock in long uphill, downhill and side-hill putts. Nobody saw him do it, but as he says: "Hey, would I lie?"

And so the property battle ends.

And from that day forward, Otto is known to his many admirers as The Big Putts.

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