Waiting for the Courthouse to Open

“A landman in West Texas eats enchiladas, chicken fried steak or pizza” -CSP

How many of us have experienced that time when the deputies and the clerk announce that it is time to lunch… and you know the only place to eat is a small café, a Mexican restaurant or a Pizza Hut.

In a hurry, you put the book back on the shelf, shut down the laptop and graciously wish them to have a good lunch, then you head to the door while juggling the straps of your backpack and closing the zippers.

The first day you show up, the waitress studies you for a little bit and tells you to sit down wherever you want. You say hi to everybody and start looking at the menu, even when you know there is a special of the day, and that it is probably the best deal. That is the moment when you feel like a newcomer.

Perhaps you are staying overnight and your per diem is not bad but you want to spend it wisely, so you opt for the special. A wise decision since you want to keep your options open for tomorrow, or for dinner, after work.

After finishing your lunch, there is an unwritten rule to not go back to the courthouse exactly at 1 pm because the deputies and the clerk may need some time to chit chat and go over what they had for lunch. At the end of the day, you are a visitor. 

So the question is: how do you spend your time before going back to work? Well, a good friend of mine always carried a book and read it for ten minutes and then had a little nap. I found that pretty good given the amount of reading you do at the courthouse. By reading a book and then napping you clear your mind and replenish your energy for the rest of the daywork. 

Our clients pay us to be efficient at the courthouse and to gather all the information we can before heading back to the office. There is nothing more frustrating than a landman that is always “waiting for an instrument from the courthouse to fill in the gap”. I like to carry a camera, be disciplined in my note-taking and draw flowcharts if needed. If something does not read right, it will probably need to be cured, so get a copy.

So, what to read while waiting for the courthouse to open? I suggest you read books about the place you are working on. Learn about the people’s history, their origins, where they came from, etc. Most of the time those little details bring light to the events that affect your chain of title. For example, one day I was running title in Lipscomb County, Texas and I came across a probate where both spouses died on the same day. You may say, well, it happens all the time, but the thing that made it remarkable was that I had just read about a tornado that crossed from Texas to Oklahoma and killed several people, the same date when the couple died. So I understood why the heirs were trying to clear their title so hastily: it was the Depression Era, and they wanted to keep the farm. The next thing to read was the sheriff’s deed and the family name no longer in the chain of title. 

If you are not into history and prefer something different, try a fictional novel. I can recommend a book from a good friend of mine that is in the realm of the New Western Thriller. His book is entertaining and fast paced, perfect for the downtime after eating. Like the main character, a Shiner Bock may be the perfect complement. 

So now you know, be courteous to the courthouse people and to the people at the diner, learn about their history and you will be fine at the moment of leasing, just make sure you bring the best deal for all parties involved because you may need to come back in three years.

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