And So It Goes

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Remembering Rod

Rod Brown - 1967
Rod Brown - 1967

The first time I met Rod was back in the fall of 1988. Shannon and I had just agreed to our first date off campus and I purchased a couple of tickets to see Eddie Money at the Landmark Theater.

Shannon and I were going to Oswego State at the time and we had left the University after classes this particular day and we drove to Shannon’s house on Bull Run Road so she could change before the show.  In typical Oswego County fashion, a storm had kicked up late that afternoon.  The roads were getting icy and closings were being announced over the radio.  We debated about taking the Chevette out in the weather, but I had thought that if we could make it to I-81 that we’d be all set.  I mean, hey, I had “Two Tickets to Paradise” in my pocket and a beautiful woman to go with them.

Rod Brown - 1976
Rod Brown - 1976

Needless to say, we didn’t make it to the on-ramp. A few feet from the gas station, just around the corner, the Chevette lay sloped over the snow bank — all four tires buried.

After walking to the truck stop, Shannon had to call her father to come get us. Mind you, I had never met or even seen any of the Brown family at this point in time.  In walks an “older” man — Schoeller uniform, Carhart jacket and a stone cold look that would set many a would-be-suitors running for the door.

Shannon introduced me and Rod simply said “Lad” and gave a short nod before going about the business of pulling us out.  Yup. A beautiful first impression and for many more years to come, anytime he became annoyed with me or was unable to believe whatever foolish thing I may have done, he would start it out the same way, “Lad …”

Consequently, for the first few years that I knew him, I thought that the Schoeller uniform was grafted to his skin.  I can see him sitting at the kitchen table as clear as day.

Rod Brown - 2005
Rod Brown - 2005

Over the years, Rod was full of surprises.  For example:

  • Hands down the best Jeopardy player I’ve ever known.  A couple of times I actually thought the episodes were re-runs because he knew so many of the answers.
  • He was a good fisherman (both fresh and salt water) who made his own lures and flies but could be dangerous to himself and others with a canoe.
  • He was handy with a pocket knife and a piece of wood.  I’ve kept a couple of his carvings over the years; a wading staff with hand carved fish and a “spirit of the woods” that I keep on the mirror in my car.
  • He had a green thumb and could grow just about anything.
  • He even had skills in the kitchen, on the grill and in the smoker.  Canned goods + jams + beef jerky + smoked sausage  = the “Road Kill Sausage Company”.

One day I had on some 80’s hair bands on the head phones and he was sitting quietly at the kitchen table on Bull Run Road.  About half an hour or so went by and I removed the head phones, joining him at the table.

“What are you listening to lad?”

“Oh some Guns ‘n Roses. It’s sort of a heavy song called Welcome to the Jungle.”

“..huh. It’s got a pretty good beat to it.”

One thing led to another and by the end of the following week, he could be seen riding around on his tractor listening to a mixed metal tape that included bands such as AC/DC, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Gun ‘n Roses, etc.

Rod Brown - 2001
Rod Brown - 2001

We had our share of spirited debates. Most commonly they centered around politics, social issues or one of the “Bush” politicians — me being the Republican supporter and Rod the liberal half of the equation.

One day, I made arrangements, and a small personal campaign pledge to get an autographed picture of Dan Quayle and I had it personalized to Rod in lieu of a contribution I made in his name.  I framed the piece and brought it out to Erin & Patrick’s house on Bull Run Road.

Upon surprising him, first with the news of his financial support of the Republican ticket and then with his own personalized thank you from Dan Quayle, his cheaks turned bright red — he was pissed. However, after a few remarks and a couple of good laughs, he didn’t say much more about the subject.

On our following visit, I was prepared to rub a little salt in the wound, guessing that the picture wouldn’t be hung up. Before I even had the opportunity to get through the door, Rod had started in.

“Lad, I just wanted to say thank you for the autograph. I’ve found it to be quite useful.”

I was waiting for the punchline, but it never came. Later that day, upon using the bathroom, I discovered the picture hanging directly across from the toilet.

I always thought he had a screw loose from time to time but shortly after falling out of bed one night, he came home from the doctors and provided me with proof, that, in fact, his head was on straight and that he had the pictures to prove it.

Rod Brown x-ray
Rod Brown - Xray

After years of coaxing from his daughters, Rod finally put down a few memories about what his childhood was like.  He called it Sage District Farms.  The entire story, in his words, can be read from the previous link.

Calling hours will be held from 10am-11am Saturday, June 19th, at Foster-Hax Funeral Home in Pulaski.  A short memorial service will be held directly following.  An informal gathering is planned for noon for friends and family after the services at Mexico State Park.

The Syracuse Post Standard Obituary reads as follows:

“Roderick M. Brown June 13, 2010 Roderick M. Brown, age 80, life resident of the Pulaski and Altmar area died Sunday at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Syracuse. Roderick was born November 20, 1929 in Pulaski, the son on David G. and Hazel Hilton Brown. He graduated from Pulaski High School in 1947 and subsequently served in the United States Army. Roderick was employed by Felix Schoeller Technical Paper for 31 years and retired in 1999. Surviving, four daughters, Deborah Dunsmoor of Florida, Heather (Brian) Piper of Rochester, Shannon (Gary) Comins of Liverpool, and Erin (Patrick) Coe of Richmond, VA; one son, Brian Brown of Florida; one sister, Sarah Marriott of Cameron, NC and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Roderick was predeceased by one daughter, Lynette David. Funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, June 19, at the Foster-Hax Funeral Home, 52 Park Street, Pulaski. A calling hour will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. prior to the funeral. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The National Audubon Society, 225 Varick Street, 7th Floor, Department W, New York, NY 10014 or the Pulaski Historical Society, 3428 Maple Ave., Pulaski, NY 13142.”

— 06/16/2010, pg. A8, Syracuse Post Standard


  1. Sometimes the truth hurts. I was a very big Bush supporter and voted for W. (the first time). Maybe wisdom comes with age. Maybe it was the constant amount of topics Rod brought to my attention day after day. Although I’m still a registered Republican, let’s just say that Rod was effective in “opening my eyes” to several issues that transcend party boundaries.

  2. Nice job Gary! I can’t believe you so publicly admitted to being a Bush supporter though!!!:)


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