BRIAN LAMB, HOST:
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, why a
book about the Lazy B?
JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR, AUTHOR, "LAZY B": Basically, because
my brother and I grew up on the Lazy B
Ranch, and it ended up being sold in
the late 1980s, and it broke my heart. Something that I
thought would always be part of me and part of our family and
always there for my children and grandchildren and their
children was gone, and there wasn't any other way to
preserve it, I guess, except to sit down and see if we can
write up some of those memories and make it real.
LAMB: When--when did you start writing it?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, about three years ago. For a long
time, it was so painful that the ranch was gone that I couldn't
let myself think about it. It would depress me if I did. I don't
know if you're like that, but if there's a place that I really
loved and cared about, if it's gone, I'm afraid to go back
because it might not look the same or be the same, and I
want it the way I knew it and remembered it. And maybe this
book was the only way I could achieve that.
LAMB: Where is it?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Where is the ranch? It's on the
Arizona-New Mexico border. The ranch was half in each state,
along the Gila River--to the south side of the Gila River and to
the top of the Peloncillo mountain range. It's a high desert
area. It's rather arid and sparse. There are some oak trees
and mesquite trees on the higher elevations. And it's high
desert; it's about 5,000 feet high, even on the flat part. But
it's--it has a fairly decent climate: rarely gets below freezing
in the winter; it gets fairly hot in the summer, but not
LAMB: How long did you live on that ranch?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, I live on it from childhood until I went
away to school and eventually got married. My brother, who
wrote it with me, lived on it always, until it was sold. And my
father ran it until his death--lived on it. And it was started in
1880 by his father. So it had been in the family 113 years by
the time it was sold.
LAMB: How big was it?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: It was very large. It was close to 300
square miles. That's a large area. But, of course, you have to
realize that grass is very sparse in that area. It's not like
having that amount of land that is well watered and that
produces a lot of grass. It had very little grass.
LAMB: How much of that--the actual land did your family
own? Did they own all that?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: No--oh, heavens no. It was primarily public
land. When my grandfather started it in 1880, that area was
part of the New Mexico territory. It was in the area acquired
by the United States in the Gadsden Purchase, just before the
Civil War, and that ha--had belonged to Mexico. The Southern
Pacific Railroad wanted to put a line through from New Orleans
all the way to Los Angeles, and the best route went through
that area, south of the Gila River. And Congress eventually
a--approved the Gadsden Purchase. Mr. Gadsden had been
sent down to negotiate it. And so in 1880, the land was
basically unoccupied, except for the railroad, and if somebody
wanted to acquire livestock and put out there and develop
water, then it was possible to homestead a certain amount of
land around the water that was developed, and the rest of
the land could be basically just used.
And Arizona became a state--When?--in 1914, something like
that, and at that point, coming into the Union, the state was
given a certain amount of state land and the same with New
Mexico. New Mexico had a certain amount of state land
eventually when it was no longer a territory. The federal
government kept a large amount of land in Arizona and New
Mexico, and, of course, a great deal of the land is owned by
Indian tribes. So the land that is actually available, in Arizona
and New Mexico anyway, for private ownership is less than 15
percent of the land overall.
And what happened in time was that leases were negotiated
for the state land with the state of Arizona a--and New
Mexico--with the state of New Mexico, and the federal lands
were administered by the Bureau of Land Management under
the Department of Interior. And an elaborate system of
provisions for parceling out that federal land evolved over
time, initially with the passage of the Taylor Grazing Act. And
that required sorting out who got what. In the days when my
grandfather went, anyone could put cattle on, and many
people did, so there might be joint use of a lot of the land.
And after the passage of the Taylor Grazing Act, the
objective was to sort out who should be using what part and
not have multiple use, at least grazing rights, going to more
than one person for a particular acre of land.
LAMB: You--you say in the book that one of the things you
remember most about the ranch is silence.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes.
LAMB: Explain that.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yeah. My earliest recollection is of sound,
or the absence of sound. I don't know how many people who
live in urban areas today are even aware of how much noise is
going on around us all the time--all the time, from vehicular
traffic or airplanes or the sounds of heating and cooling
systems working or of computer systems operating or
telephones ringing. I mean, there's just a lot of sound--or
people talking in urban areas.
And at the Lazy B, there was none of that. There were
no--we didn't have electricity for years, so there--there were
no motors running, and there was no vehicular traffic to hear.
Now the sounds you did hear were of the cattle perhaps
walking or mooing, making sounds that cattle make, or
occasionally birds, at night the coyotes or the windmills. We
had to get our water from deep underground, and in order to
power the withdrawal of the water, we used windmills. And
when the wind came up, they would turn and they would
creek, and you would hear all the sounds of the machinery of
the windmill going. And the wells at the ranch by the house
were 800 feet deep, and suck rods had to go all the way
down the 800 feet, and as they moved up and down, you
could hear them, and so I got used to that. But now if the
wind wasn't blowing and the cattle weren't making any noise,
there was no sound. None. And it's almost a deafening
LAMB: When was the last time you were on this ranch?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, just before it was sold. I haven't
been able to go back since it was.
LAMB: What's there now?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: It's being ranched, and in the last few
years, it's been acquired by apparently a very fine couple from
the state of Utah. And they don't live there full-time, but they
have full-time management, and they're doing a good job of
preserving the structures there, I'm told.
LAMB: Now this is co-authored by your brother, H. Alan Day.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: Where is he today?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: He lives in Tucson now.
LAMB: How long did he live on the ranch?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Until the ke--keys were turned over on the
last day when it was sold. And I can't even imagine how hard
it must have been for Alan to get in his car and to drive out
all those miles on that dirt road and know that that was his
last journey out...
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: ...as a part owner and as manager.
LAMB: When you were living there, how many cattle on
the--did--did your father own?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, you know, Brian, that's a little like
asking how much money did he have in the bank. You don't
ask that of a rancher.
LAMB: You say that in the book.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: And ranchers don't answer that question.
There were a lot of cattle, and the numbers, of course, were
controlled by--eventually by the permit system from the
federal government because they would evaluate the land and
the conditions and determine that you could have no more
than X number of cattle on a particular part of the land.
LAMB: Why is it that cattle ranchers don't like to admit how
many cattle they have?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, because cattle are sold, of course,
by the pound, and you know what kind of cattle they are and
you know how many there are and you precisely how much
they're worth, and so that's how much money is available, in
LAMB: You were born in 1930 in El Paso.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes.
LAMB: Why El Paso?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: My parents were living at the ranch. My
father had taken over management when his father died in
order to try to settle the estate, and he never left. And he
ended up meeting and marrying my mother, who had the
courage to say, `All right, yes, let's go live on the ranch.' And
it was very primitive in those days for her. And when she had
her first child, me, she wanted to go to a hospital. Her
parents, by then, were living in El Paso, Texas, so she chose
to go to El Paso, some 200-plus miles away, for my birth. And
we returned to the ranch as--as quickly as she was able to
LAMB: What's your first memory of the ranch? How old were
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: I--I don't even know. My first memory is
sounds, sounds of the windmill probably, coyotes at night, the
LAMB: What about the characters?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, the people at the ranch. Living there
was like living on an island, you might say. We were away
from everything. We had no neighbors close at hand, and
there were my parents and the cowboys who helped run the
ranch. And in those days, cowboys tended to be single men.
They seldom had a wife or family. And a number of the
cowboys at the Lazy B spent their entire lives there. They
really were part of our family, part of the working team.
LAMB: What was the story of Jim Brister?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, Jim was one of those cowboys, who
spent most of his life at the ranch. He came there when he
was about 18 years old. He was from Oklahoma originally. And
he was a huge redhead with massive shoulders, strong fellow,
and he had married a little woman, who was not 5' tall, named
May, and May said that she wasn't more than 13 years old
when they got married. And he had worked as a--in the Wild
West show. He learned to ride horses early on, and he was
quite a--quite a skillful rider and a fantastic roper. He could
just handle a rope like nobody else. And he worked in the Wild
West shows that were going around the country. And he and
May would follow the Wild West shows, and that's what he
And I think it must have been when movies started, silent
films or something, people stopped going to the Wild West
shows, and then Jim started working on different ranches
around the country. And, typically, he would ride the--the
wild string of horses, the--the tough ones that hadn't been
broken, and he would basically come onto a ranch and he'd
break the horses that needed breaking and get them shaped
up, and then he might move on to the next ranch after he'd
worked on the rough string. And he came to the Lazy B that
way. He was still very young. He and May showed up, and he
went to work and he never left.
LAMB: Was it Jim Bris--Brister that you told the story about
that he gave himself a root canal?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: He did.
LAMB: How'd he do this?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, he was the toughest man I have
ever seen in my life and probably the most coordinated man
I've ever seen. And he could stand pain better than anyone
I've seen. During the years at the ranch--you can't ride
horses all the time and not end up having some broken bones
because the horse will fall or you get thrown or something
goes wrong. He had all kinds of injuries, but he never let it
stop him. I don't think he ever missed a day of work, no
matter whether it was his collar bone broken or what.
And one day he came in and he said he had this heck of a
toothache; he just couldn't stand it anymore, just couldn't
stand it. Well, we didn't have dentists within 150 miles of the
Lazy B. And he got a piece of baling wire--you know, the hay
that you feed the horses was tied with bailing wire, some kind
of steel wire. And we'd take that off the hay bales--and my
father never threw anything away, so he always had some
wraps of baling wire around. And--and he got a pretty clean,
recent piece of baling wire and heated it up on the stove, till
it was red hot, and he jabbed it in his tooth where the root
thing was rotten. He just put it in there. My brother was
standing right there. And you could smell the burning flesh and
the--I--it was unbelievable. And he never winced, and he
solved his problem. I mean, I j--I don't know how people can
be that tough. I really don't.
LAMB: Who was Rastice?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Rastice was another of the wonderful
cowboys that lived his whole life at the Lazy B. And he had
been born and lived in a little town near Silver City, New
Mexico. I think his father probably was a--a miner, but his
father died when Rastice was very young, about five. His
mother remarried. His real name was Raphael Estrada. His
mother remarried, and Rastice, as he was called, didn't like his
stepfather at all, and he ran away when he was seven.
And he went down a mountain from Silver City and ended up
somehow in Lordsburg, New Mexico. And he asked around
town, asking if anybody could use some help; said he'd like to
work on a ranch or something. And people in Lordsburg said,
`Well, you ought to ask at the Lazy B. They can probably give
you something to do.' And he hitched a ride somehow out to
the Lazy B Ranch, and sure enough, they said `Yeah, you can
do some chores if you want to stay here for a while,' and he
did. And he never left until he died in his late '70s.
LAMB: But you tell stories about him leaving the ranch
because he got mad at your dad.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Once. Once.
LAMB: Mad at your dad.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Mad at my father.
LAMB: And what did you call your father?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: DA. I guess that started when my sister
was born. My brother and sister arrived about nine and 10
years after I did. My sister was little, and she was learning her
letters and how to spell, and she learned daddy was spelled
D-A-D-D-Y. So she started calling DA, which was short for
the spelling of `daddy,' and it stuck. Even the cowboys
started calling him DA.
LAMB: What about your mom? She also had a nickname.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: MO, short for M-O-T-H-E-R. So they were
MO and DA, until they died. Isn't that the greatest...
LAMB: And you all called them that?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: We all did, even their friends. It was
LAMB: So--so DA and Rastice--what happened?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, they were out one day on a roundup,
and if you don't have corrals, you have to hold the herd of
cattle together by having people on horseback surrounding
them and keeping them all in and preventing them from
running off. And anytime you're working the cattle, you're also
sorting out ones that you want to keep and ones that you
want to sell and ones that need to go here and ones that
need to go there. And they were in the process of trying
to--to match a cow with a calf, and Rastice ran out a
particular calf that he said belonged to a cow that had
already been put out in a herd to be sent somewhere, and he
said that was the match and he ran the calf out.
And after a while, my father had a conversation with him and
said, `Rastice, that calf doesn't belong to that cow. Why'd
you run that one out? That's--they're not a pair.' And Rastice
said, `Well, they are, too. Well, I know that calf, and I know
that cow, and of course they're a pair.' And my father insisted
that that wasn't the case, and Rastice grew so angry that he
went home that evening and he packed up and he went to
Duncan and he said, `I'm through. I'm through. If you can't
trust what I say around here, I'm finished with this outfit.'
And he didn't come back, and we couldn't believe it; that he
was gone. And I think a week went by, and he didn't come
back, and another week. And we just couldn't stand it
because he was part of the family. So, finally, my father went
in to Duncan to try to locate Rastice, and he asked around
town and finally found him and had a conversation with him
and persuaded him to come back and give the Lazy B another
try. But my father never challenged anything Rastice said
again, I can tell you that.
LAMB: There's also an interesting story about Rastice and
your father and a colt that your father ended up killing
when--I mean, not a colt, but a c--a calf.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes.
LAMB: And--and the problem of getting the mother to--I don't
know what the...
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: To nurse, to accept the calf.
LAMB: To nurse, yeah.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Right.
LAMB: And--and how did the--what was that all about? Were
you involved in that yourself?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, I saw him do it a lot of times. Rastice
was amazing in his ability to work with the cattle, and we
raised our cattle to look alike--to look exactly alike. Cow
buyers wanted uniform appearance. And I tell you, I think
Rastice knew every cow and every calf on the place, the
thousands of them. He just wasn't wrong about them. And if a
mother cow is nursing a calf--the calf is still dependent on the
mother's milk--if something happens to the calf, the mother
cow won't accept other calves that aren't hers, usually, and
yet her udder will be badly swollen and in need of milking, and
she has enough milk to support another calf, but she won't
accept one, normally. I mean, it's something about the
inherent nature of the cow.
And so there were several occasions actually, although I think
I mentioned only one in the book, when a particular calf would
have been killed, probably by a coyote. Coyotes would often
take small calves and start eating them from the back end
forward and kill them. And it left the mother cow without a
calf. And we had some dogie calves at the corral, the calves
whose mothers had been killed or died for some reason, and
we'd try to raise the little calves. You'd have to feed them
milk with a bottle if you didn't have another cow that would
And Rastice went out and he took the skin that was left from
the dead calf that the coyote had killed, and he tied it around
one of the dogie calves, tied it on, so that the mother cow
would smell the skin of her own dead calf and accept it. Cows
have very poor eyes; they have terrible eyesight, and cows
don't recognize their calves by appearance. They identify
them by smell. And so when Rastice succeeded in tying the
skin on of the dead calf, then the cow got used to this new
calf, and gradually he could take the old, dead skin off and
she accepted the new calf. But things like that went on a lot.
LAMB: Rastice call you Tanny? Was that the one?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: He did. I guess when I was very small and
learning to speak, I tried to pronounce my own name, and it
came out as Tanny instead of Sandra, and so he called me
LAMB: Picture on the cover is how old?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, you--I'm not sure. I suppose I was
nine or 10 years old when that picture was taken.
LAMB: What's the name of that horse?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Chico. And Chico was a wonderful horse.
He was one that came out of a string of wild horses. There
were a lot of mustangs in the Southwest in those days,
horses that were wild and just roamed around, and Chico
came out of one of those strings. He was a perfect little
horse, but very small, and that was ideal for a child. And he
ended up being the gentlest, kindest, most wonderful horse
I've ever known. He just was fabulous. And he lived to be a
very old age. He died in his mid-30s, I think, which for a horse
is pretty old.
LAMB: Correct me if I'm wrong, but there were horses named
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Mm-hmm.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: I know.
LAMB: And others.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Terrible names.
LAMB: Where did they come from?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, just whatever some cowboy would
think of. My brother really enjoyed working with young horses,
and if he had a horse he liked, he--he'd give the horse a very
nice name, like Candy or Hermosa or something pleasant. But
we had another old-time cowboy, who lived at the ranch all
his life, named Claude, and Claude was a believer that it was
very dangerous to give a horse a good name; that something
bad would go wrong if you did. And so over the--the years,
he persuaded my brother that we ought to give the horses
some of these less-pleasant-sounding names.
LAMB: Here's a picture of when you were 12.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes.
LAMB: What was life like for you at that age?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, life at that age meant having to go
away to school, and that was a very painful time for me,
actually. It's hard for ranch families who have children
because when it's time for a child to go to school, many
ranchers send their wives into town to rent or buy a house
and to live with the children during the school year, and that
means the--the husband and wife are separated. And my
father and mother were really deeply in love with each other,
and they didn't want to be separated. They didn't want to do
And so my mother's parents were living in El Paso, and my
Grandmother Wilke in El Paso was very young for a
grandmother. She had married at age 16 herself. She was
very young, had plenty of energy. And she said she would just
be delighted to keep me in El Paso for school, and so that was
the arrangement that was made. And I went away to school.
I would come home at Christmas and over Easter break and in
the summers, but other than that, I was staying in El Paso.
And that was all right, except I was homesick. I really loved
the ranch and loved being with my parents, and I didn't want
to be away. So I remember those years with considerable
LAMB: What was it like when you found out that your mother
had been married before?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, I was very shocked.
LAMB: What year was that?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, I don't remember. I was a student in El
Paso, and I remember one of the children I knew saying, `I
know something about you.' `No, you don't.' `Yes, I do. I
know something about you and your mother.' `No, you don't.
What is it?' `Well, your mother was married before. She had
another husband.' And I said, `Oh, that's not true. I know
you're wrong.' And when I went home to my grandmother's
that evening, I asked her about it. I said, `Now somebody at
school told me that MO had been married before. That's not
true.' And my grandmother said, `Well, actually, it is.
She--she had a brief marriage before she met and married
your father.' And I guess that was something that, in those
days, divorce wasn't encouraged and probably looked down
upon a little bit, I don't know. Anyway, it had never been
mentioned to me, and I was very shocked.
LAMB: Did you talk to your mom about it?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Finally, I did. And she couldn't believe that
I had heard that, but she said, `Well, yes, it's true. Now
that's that. Let's go on.'
LAMB: The picture in the book of you when you were 16 years
old, if I read it right, you went to Stanford that year.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: I did, yes.
LAMB: And graduated from law school by the time you
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: I was--no, I was close to 22 when I was...
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: ...out of law school.
LAMB: How--how long did it take you to get out of Stanford?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, I finished my major in three years,
but I needed some additional credits to count for the
undergraduate degree. And I applied to the law school for
early admission at the law school, and to my great surprise,
they took me. So my first year of law school counted as
credits for my undergraduate degree, and so then I had two
additional years of law school.
LAMB: What were you like when you were 16?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Ignorant and naive.
LAMB: About what?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, about what life for a woman lawyer
might be like, for one thing. It never occurred to me that
there weren't women lawyers out there and that it might be
hard to get a job as one. I never thought about that.
LAMB: You know, I kept thinking when I read the book that
your life here at the Supreme Court might be--that your life
on the ranch might even be a metaphor for what you have at
the Supreme Court because you were--you and your mother
were surrounded by all men.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Right.
LAMB: What did you learn by being surrounded by all men?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, I learned that women could do all
right and be accepted if they could do the job. I guess that's
why I assumed when I went to law school that I wouldn't
have any trouble getting a job...
LAMB: You s...
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: ...but I did.
LAMB: You--you tell us that your mother took the LA Times at
home and she read The New Yorker, and you had
conversations--and your father read...
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes.
LAMB: ...all the time books.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: And they bought books constantly, kept a
library. And when they ran out of space, they would
sometimes give some books to the local library. And they were
both readers. And they loved to subscribe to magazines--Time
and The Saturday Evening Post and the National Geographic
and so on and--we only went to town once a week, and we'd
get the mail and get the groceries. And when we'd came back
with the mail, there'd be a big battle in the family about who
got which magazine first because we were kind of starved for
news, and we loved to read everything we could put our
hands on. So there was a big race for the mail to see who got
LAMB: When did you have television first?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, goodness, it was probably after I was
out of college. We got elec--we had an electric generator by
the time I was in college, and that ran on some kind of natural
gas. And my father could start it up at night and run it for a
while at night, and we'd have lights in the evening. But then
the REA, the Rural Electrification Act, had been passed during
the Franklin Roosevelt administration, and the whole purpose
of that was to try to bring electricity to rural areas that didn't
have it. And in those days, there were many rural areas in
America that didn't have electricity.
And while electricity did come then to the Duncan Valley and
to Verden and to Lordsburg, it did not come out to the
ranches. And my father made some arrangement with the
local REA that he would build the line, put the poles in--in to
their specifications and string the wire to their specs, if he
could get hooked up. And when I was away at Stanford, I
think, we finally got hooked up with the REA. And that was
very helpful because, at that point, it was possible then to
eventually put an electric pump down in the wells and get our
water pumped out with that electric energy. And my mother
could have a refrigerator in the kitchen and run a--a--a
vacuum cleaner and a washing machine and all those things
that hadn't been easy to do before.
LAMB: How much education did your father have?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: He never went to college. He went to high
school in Pasadena. His father had found someone to manage
the ranch, eventually, and the family had moved to Pasadena.
LAMB: Pasadena--what state?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: California.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: And my father went through high school in
Pasadena. And he had wanted to go to Stanford, and it was
at the time of World War I, and two things happened. My
father was drafted briefly before the end of World War I,
although he never saw military action because it ended. And
his father died. And my father was sent out to the ranch to
try to keep the lid on things...
LAMB: How much education...
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: ...while the estate was settled.
LAMB: I'm sorry. How much education did your mother have?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: My mother had a degree from the
University of Arizona, and she had taught school, grade
school, I think, for a while in El Paso.
LAMB: So when did you--given that atmosphere at that ranch
and all the newspapers and magazines coming out, when did
you begin to form your own views, strong views about life and
what you believed.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, not till I went off to Stanford, I
suppose. I mean, I read a lot of things, but I don't think that I
had a cohesive philosophy of life at that point. I was basically
very uneducated, and I went to high school, as you know, in
El Paso. And in those days, it wasn't fashionable to get good
grades, so I did have good grades, but I tried not to have
anybody know about it. And I don't think I learned much. And
when I went off to Stanford, I was really astounded at the
depth of knowledge of my classmates, and many of them
were, really, remarkably well-educated compared to me. And I
just thought I was very deficient, and I'm sure I was.
LAMB: If I read it right, this year is the 50th anniversary of
your marriage to John O'Connor.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes, that's right.
LAMB: And you tell a story in this book about that--you know
I'm going to ask you about this story.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes.
LAMB: You tell a story in this book...
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, I know.
LAMB: ...about the first time that you brought him to the
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes.
LAMB: What happened?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, it--it was funny. John grew up in San
Francisco. He was a city boy. He knew nothing about ranch
life. I mean, that had just--he had never lived in the country.
And I was a little concerned about having him get along well
with my family, since he knew so little about ranch life. And I
didn't know whether he'd be accepted by the cowboys either.
I didn't know if he could ride a horse well or, you know,
So we made a trip out to the ranch and drove out to the
ranch and drove up one afternoon. You could see the dust
cloud way off. They knew we were coming because you can
see the car dust for five miles out. And we got up to the
house, and my mother, of course, rushed out of the door to
greet us and be so happy to see us and to see John. And I
said, `Well, where's DA?' And she said, `Well, he and the men
are down in the corral branding some calves. Maybe you'd
better go down there and tell him hello.'
So after a while, John and I walked down to the corrals, and
there was a lot of activity down there. They were branding
that day right at the headquarters and had some cattle in the
corrals. And there was a lot of dust and swirling around and
bawling of the cattle. And they had a branding fire in the
middle of one of the corrals. And I knew that my father knew
we were there. He had seen the car coming, and he knew we
were there, but he never looked over and acknowledged us.
And then, finally, he kind of reached up and touched the brim
of his hat. And that's kind of the universal sign out in that
part of the country that, `Yeah, I know you're there.' So,
finally, he said `Come on over. This must be John.' And so he
stuck out his hand, and, of course, it was the hand of a
working man. It was tough. You shook his hand, it was a little
like shaking hands with Justice Byron White. You knew you'd
had a handshake. And it was dirty because he'd been branding
and probably a lot of blood all over it and no telling what else.
And so he said, `Glad to meet you, John.'
And then my father went over to the fence, and he pulled
down a piece of baling wire, and he straightened it out and he
put two or three strands together and made what--you know,
a skewer about this long. And there was a bucket down near
where they were branding the calves, where the cowboys
who were castrating the bull calves just threw the testicles. I
mean, they just cut them off and threw them in the bucket.
And my father reached down in the bucket, and he pulled a
couple out, and he took his pocketknife out of his pocket and
trimmed them up a little bit. I mean, they were just a bloody,
dirty mess down there. And he stuck some on this skewer
that he'd made, and he put it in the branding fire and cooked
the things down in the branding fire for a while.
And then after he thought they were done, he pulled a skewer
out and held it out to John. `Here, John, try these.' And I
think John was pretty astonished. I would have been. But he
was great. He plucked them off the end of this baling wire
skewer and popped them in his mouth and chewed them up
and sort of swallowed hard and said, `Oh, very good, Mr.
LAMB: Now was your father testing him?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, he di--well, of course.
LAMB: Has--has your husband, John O'Connor, had any
mountain oysters since that day?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, we used to have more than our share,
I'm afraid. That was one of the things that cattlemen sort of
thought were a delicacy. And, actually, my mother knew how
to prepare them and cook them, and they weren't too bad.
You know, when I grew up, everything was deep fried. You
deep fried the steak. You could have a perfectly good T-bone
steak, and any cowboy worth his salt would want it chicken
fried. And you fried the chicken, too, and fried the bacon and
fried the eggs and fried everything. And so you fried the
mountain oysters, too, dipped in a little milk and egg and
bread crumbs, and they weren't too bad served with some
LAMB: Now you have had three sons, Brian, Scott and Jay.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes.
LAMB: How old are they, and where are they?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, they're pretty old now. They're all in
their--the youngest is about to become 40. And the oldest
and the middle son live in the Phoenix area, Scott and Brian.
And our son, Jay, the youngest, lives in Palo Alto. He went to
LAMB: What kind of work do they do?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, Scott and Brian are both in real
estate-related ventures. And Jay is in the dot-com world, still
LAMB: Now DA, your father, and MO, your mother, were here
when you were sworn in to this court.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: They were in the court on the day I was
sworn in, in September of 1981.
LAMB: Did they understand it? Did they know what you were
about to do?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, of course they did.
LAMB: And what did they think about it?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, they were thrilled, as parents, of
course, would be. And what it meant for them was that the
minute it was announced that I was nominated, everyone
they had ever known contacted them to tell them how
excited they were and to talk to my parents. And so here are
these two, who had lived that life for so many years on that
isolated ranch--were in contact with the world. And reporters
came out to the ranch and wanted to talk to them and take
their photographs, and the world came to their door. And it
must have been interesting for them, really, to have all of
that communication at that late stage in their lives. I know it
was fun for them. And it was a great thrill when they came
back here and sat in that courtroom.
LAMB: How many years did they get to see you in the--on the
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, I went on the court in 1981. My
father died, I think, in '86--I can't--something like that. And
my mother lived another five years.
LAMB: Which one are you like the most: your mother or your
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, hard to say. Probably my father.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: A curiosity about how things work. His
nature was to want to know how everything worked, and he
liked people. He liked people, regardless of background or
wealth or status, high or low. If they were interesting people
to talk to, he liked to talk to them. And I think I share some of
that, actually. He wanted to go to Stanford and never had a
chance, and probably that's why that was the only university
I wanted to go to. I don't know that that's the case, but
we're often influenced by things we don't understand. That's
probably the case.
LAMB: There's--there's a quote from him in the book. "If you
want something done, do it yourself."
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: He was a strong believer in that. He
thought he knew how to do things at the Lazy B. And if he
wanted it done right, he would do it himself.
LAMB: Who do you want to read this book?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: First and foremost, I will be happy that
family and friends and people who've known about the life
that we lived out there will have a chance to see it, and
people who have never experienced life in isolation or in the
Southwest may be able to read it and have some feeling of
how it looks, how it smells, how it sounds, how it feels. I
thought my upbringing was perfectly normal at the time, but,
of course, looking back, I know that it wasn't. And it was a
special way of life and a way of life that is largely gone these
days. You--you don't find those old cowboys who spend a
lifetime on a ranch anymore.
LAMB: Now how did you and your brother Alan go about doing
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, first, we had to agree we were going
to, and I was worried that I didn't know how we'd have the
time, how I would have the time. And I had Alan sit down and
try to put down on paper things that he particularly
remembered, and I tried to do the same. And we spent
several days together about three years ago in the summer up
in a little cabin we have out at Prescott, Arizona, and we just
talked about the things that we thought ought to be included.
And we agreed that it needed to tell the history of the ranch,
it needed to describe it in ways that people could experience
it, and we needed to talk about our parents and the cowboys
and the cattle and the horses and what goes on, what it's
like, what's ranch life all about, and probably end up trying to
describe what we think the future of public lands ought to be
and how it ought to be.
LAMB: How did you get Random House to buy the book?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, I didn't--we didn't have an agent,
and I had talked to Jim and Kate Lehrer. Jim writes books all
the time, and I asked him one time, `How in the world can
you be so busy and write those books, one right after
another?' And he said, `Well, I try to write at least two pages
every day of my life.' And I said, `How can you do that?' He
said, `Well, if I'm on an airplane, I do it on the airplane. If I'm
at home, I do it there. If I'm at my office, I do it there.' And
he said, `You can do that. You can--anybody can squeeze
out time to do that.' And I took that to heart.
And then I talked to Kate. Kate has also published two or
three books. And I said, `Well, Kate, who have you used as
an editor? Who--who--what do you--do you recommend
somebody?' And she said, `Yes, there's this woman at Random
House that I think you'd like. Why don't you call her?' And I
did. And it was Kate Medina. And she came to visit me, and
we talked about the possibilities.
And, frankly, I wasn't sure that it would work. I wasn't sure
that what emerged would be of sufficient quality that I would
be proud of it. I--I just didn't know what I was getting into.
And Kate Medina was very kind and very patient, and I didn't
want an advance because if I didn't like it, I didn't want
anything to do with it. I wanted to see it before I knew that I
wanted to go forward with this. I mean, if you put your name
on something, you want to think, `Well, maybe it's OK.' And I
was very concerned about that. But she was lovely to work
with and encouraging, and so we just plugged along over a
period of time, and we'd share things. And we got along
perfectly in terms of what we wanted to do and cover.
And we had only one area of substantive disagreement, and
that was about how we should characterize our father. Alan
never left the ranch. I mean, he went to the University of
Arizona, and when he married, he came back to the ranch and
worked there. And I think sometimes it's very hard for a father
and a son to work together in the same business. My father
thought that he knew how things ought to be done and that
his way was the right way. And my brother, like many young
people, sometimes thought he could see a better way and a
different way, and that didn't sit well with my father. And so
they had clashes over that, sometimes serious ones.
My father had spent his whole life trying to get a uniform,
beautiful bunch of Hereford cattle that were pole. That means
that they're born without horns. He didn't like having to
dehorn the cattle. And my brother thought that Barzona
cattle would be better and wanted to make that change. And
can't you imagine how hard that would be for the two of them
to work out? And it was. And other areas of disagreement,
too. So my relations with my father were entirely different.
We never clashed over things, because I wasn't working for
him or trying to run things.
LAMB: At the end of the acknowledgements, you say, `In a
few instances, names have been changed to protect surviving
relatives of those mentioned.'
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes.
LAMB: Can you give us an idea where they were changed?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, I'd rather not. But there are a few
descriptions of people that aren't very flattering, as you might
imagine, and I didn't want to use correct names, in some
LAMB: How much of a tour are you going to do to promote
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, very little, if any.
LAMB: And do you intend, at any point, to do an
autobiography where you go into matters--I mean, you--you
drop us off at the time you get into politics...
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes, yes.
LAMB: ...and--and there's nothing more. Do you ever intend
to do a second book?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, actually, I am working now on a
book, but it's a book about substantive things, some of--of
the history of this court, a bit about the writing of the
Constitution and the Bill of Rights and segments on some of
the justices who've served the court in the past and just
other substantive areas. I've been here--this is my 21st year
now, and I've had to give a number of speeches through the
years. And the best thing for a justice to talk about probably
is something historical, and I've tended to do that. And maybe
it's my naivety again, but I think there may be some things in
there that might be of interest. And so I'm drawing on that
wealth of research and material to try to put something
LAMB: On a day-to-day basis in this institution, how often do
you find yourself doing something because of what you did
back there in the--in the ranch days?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, I can't put my finger on it. I guess
growing up on a ranch gives you a certain amount of
self-confidence in your ability to work things out and not be
afraid to tackle something. You learn out there very much
how you can't call somebody in to repair anything. You have
to do it yourself. So maybe a little of that at least provided
me the sense that I could do this job at all. I don't think my
experience was such that would immediately suggest I could.
I'd never been a federal court judge, so maybe I leaned a little
bit on that experience as a ranch girl.
LAMB: You were a private law practitioner out in Phoenix.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Mm-hmm. Yes.
LAMB: You were in the state Senate there...
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes.
LAMB: ...majority leader at one point.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes.
LAMB: You were a Superior Court judge?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes. And assistant attorney general at one
LAMB: Assistant attorney general.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: And I was on the trial court bench and
then the Court of Appeals.
LAMB: And here for 21 years?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes.
LAMB: What--how--what do you think of this job?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, it's such an interesting job, of course.
I mean, think how privileged we are to serve here and to have
the most interesting legal issues of our times come to this
court. And to work with a group of colleagues who are so
dedicated and intelligent and competent, and everybody on
this court wants to try to do a good job and they work hard
at it. It's--it's really wonderful. You know, when I was in the
state Senate, like in any legislative body, there are times
when somebody will say to you, `Well, I'll support your bill, if
you'll support me on mine.' I think you call that vote trading.
There isn't any of that here at this institution, and that's just
wonderful. It's a place where everybody sincerely tries to do
the best job he or she can with the issue before them and
give it their best shot, and you're not trading for anybody
LAMB: By the way, your sister Ann did not participate in that.
That's your only other sibling. Why not?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Right. Well, three is harder than two, and
two is harder than one, isn't it? But it was very important that
Alan do it, because unlike my sister and me, he had lived
there the whole time, uninterrupted, and he had all that
institutional memory that was so crucial.
LAMB: He's nine years younger than you.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Yes.
LAMB: Now how much younger is she?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Well, I think he's 10, and she's nine. They
were close together.
LAMB: So she's in the middle.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And what is he doing today?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: She is the older--he's the--yeah--he--it
was--I was first, then my sister, then my--my brother.
LAMB: And where is Alan? Did you say he's in Tucson?
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Alan lives in Tucson and so does my sister.
And my sister served in the state Senate for eight or nine
years until she was term-limited out, the very place where I
had served before her. And she's now a county supervisor for
Pima County, where Tucson is, so she also has had a life in
politics, as it were.
LAMB: Only a couple of minutes left. There is a--there are a
couple of images in the book. One of them is, if I get--if I
read it right, of you and your father--or your father and
mother seeing the atomic bomb test at Alamo ….
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Oh, my father and I did. We were rounding
up cattle on the very date that the first atomic bomb
exploded over in New Mexico, and we had gotten up about 3
AM--you know how you do for a roundup. And we were in the
kitchen. We'd had some coffee and some breakfast in the
kitchen. The kitchen window looked north. And I was rinsing
off the dishes at the sink, and it must have been about--I
don't know--4 AM, something like that, and we saw in the
north and a little bit east this unbelievable explosion on the
horizon and this huge cloud go up. And my father came over
and we looked at it, and we couldn't figure it out. And I said,
`What is that?' It was war years. And he said, `Well, I--I
don't know.' He said, `Maybe it was some munitions dump
that went up, something like that.' And it wasn't until some
time later when it became public knowledge that the first
atomic blomb--bomb had been exploded up at Los Alamos.
LAMB: This is the cover of the book. Sandra Day O'Connor and
her brother, H. Alan Day and the book is called "Lazy B."
Thank you very much.
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