· Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge: Rin-Tin-Tin the Police Dog·
It’s Friday night, August 19, 1927, in Hutchinson, Kansas. Fay and Cora Brown are home with their German police dog, Pal. The temperature is unseasonably mild.
“There’s another Rin-Tin-Tin movie coming to town next month,” said Cora.
“I think Old Pal heard you say Rinty’s name,” replied Fay. “He’s looking around.”
“Rinty must be getting up there in age,” said Cora. “Do you think he’s slowing down? Those movies require a lot of strength and agility.”
“Let’s see,” said Fay, “Lee Duncan brought Rinty back from France in 1918. That’s nine years ago. How many human years equals a dog year?”
“We were so lucky to meet Rinty and Lee at the Royal Theater,” said Cora. “Imagine, they visited Hutchinson, Kansas, for the opening of their first movie.”
Fay laughed. “I guess it says a lot about us when the most famous Hollywood actor we’ve ever met is a dog,” said Fay.
“That was 1923. The movie was, Where the North Begins,” said Cora. “Lee was so nice to talk with us afterwards. I’m happy for his success.”
“We were hooked on German shepherds after that,” said Fay. “I’m glad we both felt the same way about the breed.”
“Warner Brothers has kept Rinty working pretty hard with a lot of movies over the years,” said Cora. “If it wasn’t for Lee, Rinty would have never been famous.”
“Or rich,” added Fay. “I wonder if any of those stories are true about Rinty receiving thousands of fan letters a week and earning $6,000 a month?”
“Yeah, but even if it’s true, what’s Rinty going to spend it on, dog food?” said Cora.
“Supposedly, Rinty has his own solid-gold dog tags and a diamond-studded collar,” said Fay.
“I hope the money doesn’t go to his head,” said Cora. “In his most recent movies, he still seemed level-headed . He didn’t act arrogant. Do you think Strongheart’s getting paid as much as Rin-Tin-Tin? He’s a talented dog, but he’s not in as many movies as Rinty.”
Quietly, Fay said, “All of a sudden, I’m thinking about Venus.”
“I loved her. She was a wonderful dog,” said Cora.
“Venus was beautiful,” said Fay. “Unfortunately, whenever I think of her, I also think of Charlie Alford.”
“What a shame,” said Cora. “We used to be such close friends with Charlie, and then Ellen.”
“I do have good memories of Charlie and Ellen,” said Fay, “it’s just that the first picture that pops into my head is Charlie shooting Venus for no good reason. My emotions control my memory.”
“We were on the police force together,” continued Fay. “We were close friends. My god, I was best man at his wedding.”
“I enjoyed his eastern accent and made fun of him all the time,” said Cora. “He loved Rhode Island. I’m surprised he ever left.”
“Divorce,” said Fay.” When you learned he’d been a telephone repairman for a telephone company in Providence, I thought you were going to hire him on the spot for Southwestern Bell.”
Cora laughed at the memory.
Fay sounded serious when he slowly said, “He shot the wrong dog.”
“Honey,” Fay continued, “The only reason Venus was loose was because the workman accidentally let her out of the cellar where she was penned up.”
“Fay, I know,” replied Cora. “Some things happen and no one’s to blame. People complained about a gang of dogs, and Charlie got the call.”
“Ed and Charlie were both motorcycle cops on the police force at the same time,” said Fay. “They could get wild. They even won some speed races at the state fairgrounds.”
“After serving the Hutchinson police force, Charlie was a speed cop for South Hutchinson,” continued Fay. “Justice was swift in South Hutch. Charlie would catch speeding motorists all day. He’d arrest them and take them directly to the home of the police judge, Judge Kemper, who would immediately give them a trial. Within minutes the speeders were fined $5 and costs.
“We’re lucky to have Pal, our ‘Old Pal of Mine,’” said Cora, as she looked at the shepherd lying at her feet. “After Venus died, I didn’t think I’d ever want another dog.”
“Yes, he’s a really good dog,” agreed Fay. “If we could just get him into the movies, we could escape from this hoosegow.”
“You wouldn’t be happy, Fay,” said Cora. “Who would call you in the middle of the night and tell you they needed your help?”
“Most of the time, I enjoy the work,” said Fay. “It’s the unruly prisoners that tax my patience. If I wasn’t answering calls, I could always take Pal for a walk.”
Pal responded to his name. He got up from the floor and walked to Fay. He put his head on Fay’s knee, looked up, and stared at the sheriff’s eyes.
“Okay boy, get your leash!” said Fay.
Pal ran to the hallway and seconds later returned with his leash.
Fay attached the leather strap to Pal’s dog collar. The collar wasn’t diamond-studded; the dog-tag wasn’t pure gold, but Pal was a better canine than Hollywood movie stars Rin-Tin-Tin and Strongheart, combined.
Without a doubt, thought Fay, Pal, you’re the best dog in the world.
Until next time, happy writing and reading.