One of the funniest SNL skits of all time has Mick Jagger revisiting the show where he seeks to figure out what to do in front of Jimmy Fallon who acts as his “mirror.” In the beginning of the skit he does a ‘start me up’ in which he asks himself what he should do considering the fact that he has been on the show in the ’70s; ’80s; ’90s; “and whatever you call this ‘dicade’.” [1]

Well, Mick (and Jimmy’s) ‘rooster’ and ‘pointing my fingers at you’ aside, I am not sure that anyone has settled on what to call the first decade of this century. [2] Regardless, and here is where I am going to stop my throat clearing, one of the most critically acclaimed movies of that decade was Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 movie screenplay of Upton Sinclaire’s [3] Oil! Within the screenplay, Daniel Day Lewis acts most forcefully as an antihero within the “I drink your milkshake” scene.

Do you recall the movie? Do you recall the scene? Though normally you can find link outs only below at the end of my post, I make an exception [HERE].

Now if you have never seen the movie before, you might wonder what’s all the fuss? Well, what’s happening is a brutal confession that Daniel Day Lewis’ character – Daniel Plainview – has piped off and thus dried out all the oil from land from which the now destitute preacher Eli is hoping to cut some sort of deal. Lest I forget, this all happens AFTER Daniel gets his initial revenge for previous mistreatment by Eli by forcing him to first admit he is “a false prophet and that God is a superstition.”

Still don’t get it? The straw from which Daniel drinks Eli’s milkshake is akin to a pipeline which unbeknownst to Eli (and the original owner of the holdout property) had all of his oil drawn out by adjoining drilling operations.

How could this be relevant to boundary disputes?

Well, as a practical matter the unknown removal of resources is one heck of an uphill battle to climb. As a legal matter, a lawyer might initially revisit the first week of their first year property class and review the case Pierson v. Post – a/k/a “the fox case.”

In that case, hunter Post likely replete with fox hounds was in chase of his fox. Yet, Beverly Hill Billy style the fox came up on Pierson who by luck was able to shoot it down and scoop it up. Though only a fox pelt, the issue that the New York court had to decide was whether it was the chase or the possession which conferred ownership rights to Ferae naturae – a wild animal.

The upshot is that oil, gas, and water – which have the same quality as animals – in that these each have ‘wild’ characteristics of running off as they will, only become property upon possession.

Returning to the movie – which if you haven’t figured out by now is There Will be Blood – note now added to this theoretical conundrum for poor Eli – who will shortly thereafter have a more ‘serious issue’ – is the fact that even if he was able to convince a court that this precedent should not be applied … what are the quantum of damages? That’s fancy law talk for: “What was the value of the oil which Daniel ‘robbed’ from him?” I don’t know. I also am not going to dwell on that question.

Instead, and here’s the point, please think about the alternative in which instead of drinking the milkshake, it instead gets flushed down the toilet and out to a drain field which is under the neighbor’s land. Well, barring the fact that the neighbor needs some extra fertilizer for the field, and provided that this action is unbeknownst to the true owner, the toilet flusher is going to be up to his or her neck in deep doo-doo.

Why? Remember Adverse Possession requires open and notorious possession. In other words the neighbor who has a drain field which extends onto his or her real property BUT doesn’t know of this fact can not have it divested – again fancy talk for “taken” or as some may further assert “stolen” – from him or her.

What can I say, that’s just the way it is. The hierarchy of laws from lowest to highest are malum prohibitum ([criminally] bad because that’s what the law says). Then there is malum in se ([criminally] bad because it’s morally wrong – i.e. evil). And atop all that is the Doaist-like Zen of Natural Law.

Why is it that way it is? I don’t know. It’s just like the late motivational speaker Jim Rohn used to say regarding impractical questions: “That’s not a class worth signing up for.” [4]

[1] See video – after video commercial – [HERE].

[2] See a panaply of choices for in this article [HERE].

[3] Recall Upton Sinclaire’s best known novel was The Jungle which due to his description of the conditions of the Chicago meat packing houses drove uproar which within a few mere months from publication resulted in the 1906 creation of both the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act.

[4] Enjoy Jim Rohn Sharing The Parable of the Sower [HERE].