· Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge: Oath of Office ·
Hello readers. I’m Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge and I’m recalling my days in January 1927, after arriving in Hutchinson, Kansas. Don’t ask me what happened this morning because my short term memory is iffy, but I remember my first days in the Salt City. Ninety-three years ago I was in Cora Brown’s purse, awaiting the opportunity to meet Sheriff Fay F. Brown. I’d been handed to her by outgoing Sheriff Jess Langford when he was leaving the residential area of the jail for the last time.
“Finally, if Cora will just take me out of her purse I’ll be able to see her and watch Sheriff Fay F. Brown get sworn in as sheriff,” said Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge. “I feel like I’ve been waiting forever to meet the man who is the reason I was created.”
The district courtroom was as crowded as a movie theater on Saturday night. The aroma of freshly baked cookies was in the air, but even the small children in attendance couldn’t detect its origin. Despite the closed windows, automobiles, their drivers in a rush, were heard as they raced down Washington Street.
“Welcome everyone to inaugural day,” greeted District Court Judge William G. Fairchild. “This is a special day here in Hutchinson, and elsewhere in Kansas, where citizens are being officially welcomed to elective office. In case you haven’t heard, Governor Paulen is taking the oath of office today in Fredonia, rather than Topeka, due to his father’s death yesterday.”
The judge’s comment caused Fay a moment of introspection. He recalled Sugar Grove Methodist Cemetery in Henry County, Indiana, where his parents were buried. His father died in 1894 when Fay was three, and with the loss of his mother three years later, he was an orphan. After three decades, at times, it was still distressing.
Sitting beside Cora, Fay reached out and clasped her hand.
Judge Fairchild got down to business, swearing in the new county clerk, John W. Schardein, followed by C. E. King who would join the county commission.
“Next,” the judge said, “Fay F. Brown, step forward to take the oath of office.”
Cora sat up straighter. Fay, at thirty-six, in his dark three-piece tailored suit and long tie, was movie-star handsome. If only he could keep from getting hurt again, she thought.
“Please get me out of here so I can see Sheriff Fay F. Brown take his oath!” said Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge.
At that moment, as if Cora Brown had heard the pleading voice, she opened her purse, and started to reach inside, but hesitated.
“Raise your right hand and repeat the oath of office,” said Judge Fairchild to Sheriff-Elect Brown.
“You do solemnly swear to support the constitution of the United States and State of Kansas and faithfully perform the duties of sheriff of Reno County?”
“I do,” replied Sheriff Fay F. Brown.
Cora, for a second, was transported back to their wedding on New Years’ Day, 1916. Fay was 24; she was 21. Fay was a Kansas National Guardsmen who would be leaving for the Mexican border that summer and would, upon his return, find the Hutchinson police force to his liking. Cora was a telephone operator, a “hello girl,” starting with the Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company and then later, after its acquisition, an operator for Southwestern Bell.
Walter Mead was sworn in as register of deeds followed by Charles Hull, who, as county attorney, would be required to work closely with county law enforcement.
The inaugural ceremonies were brief, occupying only a few minutes before all the elected officials had taken the oath and were ready to begin their duties for Reno County.
Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge had heard every ceremonious word but remained in darkness, silent.
One of County Clerk Schardein’s assistants, Mrs. Anna Hickman, began directing the appointed members of the elected officials to her boss’s office for another swearing-in ceremony. This included Ed Cunningham, 30, undersheriff; Martin Jolliffe, 63, deputy sheriff; Ed Woodson, 38, secretary; and Jess Blanpied, 65, jailer.
Cora wondered who was watching the jail as she again opened her purse. She wanted to present the badge to Fay, but she wasn’t sure just how publicly it should be done.
“Sheriff Brown,” said a bystander holding out a hand, “let me congratulate you on your election and also ask you what you intend to do about the ongoing thefts of milk from the Rock Island Express dock. You know, a few nights ago we had another five cans of cream stolen.”
“We’re working on that,” said the new sheriff, “we’ve recovered some empty milk cans from the Arkansas River near Yoder.”
“Cora, sorry I’m late,” said an out of breath auctioneer Jess Langford, the former sheriff. “We just finished up our auction a few blocks from here on Ave. A west. Did you give Fay his badge yet?”
“Not yet,” answered Cora. “The inaugural service only took minutes and now our deputies are going to take their oath of office.”
“Jess,” said Fay, as he approached both Cora and Jess, shaking hands with his former colleague and friend, “glad you could make it. I figured you’d be at your auction all day.”
“No, it was just one house with five rooms full of furniture,” said Jess. “We’ve got another auction tomorrow just east of Lyons. If you get bored with your job, stop by,” Jess concluded, with a devilish smile.
Cora reached into her purse, picked up the badge, and covered it in the palm of her hand.
“Fay, do you remember the open house here a year-and-a-half ago?” asked Jess.
“Of course,” replied Fay. “With a condemned courthouse we had to go somewhere.”
“I just thought about the still we had on display with those glass bottles filled with a suspicious looking liquid,” recalled Jess.
“Yeah, that was funny,” agreed Fay. “People were wondering if the Eighteenth Amendment had been repealed overnight, but it was only cold tea.”
“Sheriff Brown,” Cora interrupted, “as a vital member of your administration…”
Fay looked at Cora, questioning her, preparing for a surprise, waiting for her to continue.
“It’s an honor to present you with a brand new gold badge,” said Cora, as she handed it to him, “one personalized just for you by your former boss. It represents a culmination of your law enforcement career. If it meets with your approval, I’d be honored to pin it on your vest.”
“Instead of thanking Cora, Fay turned to Jesse. “Oh, Jess, thank you so much,” said Fay. “I know you’re only twelve years older than me, but you’ve been like the father I never had growing up. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to work with you the last four years. We’ve been through a lot together.”
“You’re welcome. I’m so happy for you and Cora,” said Jess. “Now that you have your vision back, I’m feeling better too. I’ve always felt partly responsible for that ladylegger blinding you when she broke the whiskey jar.”
“I thought that was history,” said Fay, “but I assure you, we were all doing our job. I’m glad to be taking office as sheriff with two good eyes for catching violators.”
“Jess,” said Cora, “you’ve been so supportive. The delicate eye surgery in Wichita was a total success. Thanks for giving Fay a month off to slowly recover. That’s just what the doctor ordered. On numerous occasions, Fay wanted out of that hospital room so badly he was ready to escape.”
Ed Cunningham, the new undersheriff, approached in a hurry. “Mrs. Sheriff,” he said, “come quick! You’re missing out on your oath of office.”
As Cora whisked away, Sheriff Fay F. Brown examined his new badge, then put it in his coat pocket.
The Kansas Authors Club www.kansasauthors.org is a statewide organization that encourages and supports great writing. It’s divided into seven districts. In Hutchinson, Reno County (part of District 6), we have monthly meetings at Hutchinson Community College. http://www.hutchcc.edu You’re invited. Questions? Contact Jim Potter, firstname.lastname@example.org