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Saturday, February 6, 2016

ETV and my friend, Carl Brown


I just finished watching a SCETV program about “Idaho’s trial of the century,” a trial of a man named Haley who had been accused of murdering a governor or recent ex-governor (I’m not sure which is right) of Idaho in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.  When I finished watching this program, I thought of an old friend named Carl Brown. 

Carl is an Aiken County farmer of note.  I have seen him on occasion on ETV(?) when questions about farming were being investigated.  Other than that, I have not seen Carl in over 50 years.  Still, I would consider him to be a friend.  We were friends when last we met and nothing has changed between us. 

As a boy and young adult (teenager,) Carl was good looking, fit, and stuck with a smile that never seemed to quit.  His hair was always in place (well, almost always,) precisely parted on one side, and just the right shade of brown to make even a Hollywood starlet forget any thought of hair dye.  He was taller than average, but not so tall as to be seen as a threat by any basketballer.  In short, he could be described with the phrase, “what’s not to like?”

Carl had a personality that was hard to criticize.  If he was ever angry, he kept it to himself.  He could listen without jumping in with an opinion even though he undoubtedly had opinions and would, I suspect, share them if asked.  As a fellow Scout, I’m sure when Carl repeated the Scout Law, he meant it, as did I.  If you know the Scout Law, you know that covers a lot of territory.

My father was an Explorer Advisor to both of us.  Dad liked Carl. 

Recollections, like a two-edged sword, can bring happiness, or regret.  In this case, I’m sure you know which edge is in play.

As to the story that got me thinking—it is a worthwhile tale, true tale at that, of a famous trial that happened in 1907 in Idaho.  The lawyers were preeminent in their day, the judge was without equal, and the jury was fearless.  The verdict may or may not have saved an innocent man from execution.  It was a penultimate example of American justice, though, and will remain so for as long as American justice is considered something of value.

Why did this program make me think of Carl Brown?  Simple—it was the jury.  The seven men on that Idaho jury were described as being Idaho farmers.  They were depicted as being concerned people intent on following the law and in rendering a correct verdict.  Which, according to the program, is what they did, in spite of their having to render a decision that they knew would be unpopular and, in the early twentieth century, not all that far away (especially in Idaho,) from America’s frontier days, one that would possibly put them in personal jeopardy.  Still, they followed the letter of the law and rendered the correct, if unpopular verdict.  

Carl could have been the chairman of that jury—and the result would have been the same.

Stephen V. Geddes, Aiken, SC, February 6, 2016.

Anyone with an interest in watching a really good PBS program (from Idaho PBS) should go to idahoptv.org/trial.  I don’t know how long a program it is, I began watching sometime after it began.  In any case, I suspect I’ll watch it again.  Just checked out the link:  It will give you a good description of the program and give you a chance to buy a DVD—which I just might do.  (It really is that good.)


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