A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 272

Brownie: the people's cop


FARMINGTON - Anyone who grew up in Britain in the 1950s will be familiar with an old song which was played every Saturday on the BBC radio show, “Uncle Mac's Favorites".

The song, called "The Laughing Policeman", concerned a locally loved and respected member of the London beat constabulary who was able to see the humorous side of just about everything.

Sgt. Walter Brown, who served almost three decades on Farmington Police Department, and who died last Friday, always put me in mind of this English song - not that Brownie laughed in a maniacal way like the four lines of that chorus. The Farmington sergeant might allow himself a  twinkle of the eye, or even permit a small chuckle to escape his lips. Nonetheless, he had a great sense of fun, and was able to chuckle or twinkle at himself, too, which is rare in a figure of authority.

It was Brownie, himself, who told Farmington Corner about chasing an escaping prisoner down Main Street one time - a prisoner, who, fearing the worst, suddenly stopped, causing a pile-up on the sidewalk of pursuing policemen.

Or there was the time when Brownie, who, to make ends meet, was working in the shoe factory during days and driving the cruiser at night, snatching a few hours of sleep when he could. One morning, driving down Central Street, fatigue overtook him. He nodded off for a few brief seconds, but re-awoke when the police car nudged into Rufus the Barber's shop on Main Street.

Brownie was always willing to help out in local escapades. When the Goodwin Library announced it was going to exhibit the fine art works of local artists, it was he who provided an armed guard for the Famous Kennedy Painting to thwart an art heist, as the invaluable work was being moved from Dumontski's Restaurant to gatecrash the exhibition across the street. 

Then there was the time someone found a Taxi" sign, and stuck it on the back of Archie Corson's truck, as he snoozed at the wheel on the Square. Brownie, ever watchful for rumored unlicensed taxi activity from this particular quarter, rapped on Archie's windshield, pointed to the illegal sign on the vehicle, and prepared to make ready with some paperwork. Only grudgingly (although in on the joke from the start) did Brownie accept Archie's protestations of innocence.

Brownie was always respected by that section of the citizenry that tended, after occasional wild weekends, to appear in Judge Nute's district court on a Monday morning. The sergeant had a reputation for giving people a fair break, and, in the old small town way of policing, would rather drive them home than lock 'em up.

A few weeks ago, I was perched on a stool in Denny Scruton's Neutral Zone, sipping  a cold one after the Bicentennial Parade and shooting the breeze with the guy on the next bar stool. Through the pub window, we saw Judge Nute getting into his car, which he had parked nearby.

There goes old Give-a-Hoot-Nute," observed my neighbor with unexpected warmth, recalling the fair treatment he felt he had received at the judge's bench, in earlier, wilder days of youth.

Many people have the same grateful memories of Brownie, who, instead of throwing the whole book at them, rapped them on the knuckles with a page.

In this spirit of good-humored respect, an underground song, "The Roundest Brown in Town," composed by a well-known local character, is still sung at certain lively parties in the area.

As a final tribute to one of the wisest of Farmington's Finest, we'll finish this column by reprinting "The Ballad of Chevy Chase", from Farmington Corner of July 2, 1990.

This describes a real life event, in which Sergeant Brown (Warden Browne in the song) was unsuccessful in rounding up some mudders. He enjoyed the verses though.


The Ballad of Chevy Chase


God prosper our selectmen three,

Our liffes and saftyes all!

A joyful mudding once there did

On Ten Rod Road befall.


To climbe a hill in Chevy truckes

Came chosen men of mighte,

Who knew ffull well in time of neede

That Budde would serve arright.


These tidings reach-ed Warden Browne,

In Puddledock he lay,

Who sent the mudders present word

He'd stop them if he may.


The truckes ran swiftly through the woods

To reach the Whitehouse Hill,

The blast of many a knightly horn

Did make an echho shrill.


With mirey tote rode steep before

And Ten Rod Road behind,

The dryvers mustered gallantly,

Payed Warden Browne no mind.


And long before high noone they had

Quaffed down a case of Budde,

Then one by one the dryvers went

To battele with the mudde.


To win the topmost of the hill,

These truckes roared up the slope,

'Til ooze and slime, 'spite booze sublime

Defeated eche knight's hope.


It caused stout hearts great greeve to see

Eche noble Chevy foiled,

White clouds of steam from truckes did ream

As radiators boiled.


Then knights, at speed, their dames dispatched,

As custome bade they oughter,

Through woodes to trampe 'til buggy swamp,

And fetch back cannes of water.


At length there came a champion,

Who strove with mickle mighte

And trusty 44-inch tires,

To gain the muddy height.


Greate cheers did ring the greenwoode through,

And Buddes were swallowed down,

To celebrate the victorie -

When uppe rade Warden Browne.


“Shew me," said he, "what men ye bee,

That mudde soe boldly here,

And with a scant regard for law

Do drink yon cannes of bere."


The first man that did answer make

'Twas noble Ceejay, hee,

Who sayd, "Wee wist not to declare,

Nor shew what men wee bee."


They've mounted in their Chevy truckes

And shewing little ffeare,

Sped merrilie from Warden Browne,

Ere he could draw his spere.


Forsoothe their plates with dirte were caked,

Thus did they thwarte pursuite,

Unhappilie the Warden's carre,

Mired down in mudde,to boot.


Now Browne has ta'en a dreadful oath

He would aveng-ed bee,

On suche as mudding reivers bold,

Under the greenwoode tree.


Yet God save our selectmen three,

And blesse this land with peace,

And grant henceforth suche rivalrie,

Twixt noble men may cease!


And we might add that truly noble men of spirit like Sgt. Walter W. Brown, people who have wisdom in their hearts, and a love of their fellow citizens in their breasts, will live long in our memories.

This Thursday night, let's drink to Brownie.

Aug. 23, 2001

FC Part 5