The Gallatin News
David Brown Parrish
By Randy Cline
I remember visiting a friend once and reading a kitchen proverb on a decorative sign that read “Back door friends are best.” I suppose that stuck with me because I was a backdoor friend in that home, the kind that would show up on the back step, unannounced and be welcomed to come on in; no need for front door formalities.
I seem to think of that proverb each Friday when our backdoor friends come to see us at the newspaper office. I remember hearing the backdoor open on my very first Friday here (it’s a noisy door which makes sneaking in fairly difficult). I wondered who was coming in and whether or not they were supposed to be coming in the back door. Since I couldn’t see who it was, I listened to the shuffling feet and quiet conversation of at least two people before a couple of faces popped around the corner to say ‘Hi’; David Brown Parrish and Cameron Crutcher.
It had been more than seven years since I had seen these two backdoor friends. On my very last day to work in Gallatin as Sumner County Tourism Director in July 2004, I was invited to join David and Cameron, David’s long-time family friend and, now, care provider, at the Franklin Street eatery they visited every day at 11 a.m. for lunch. We enjoyed the summer morning while visiting and eating on the patio. In case you don’t know David Brown Parrish, suffice it to say that his picture should be in the dictionary beside the entry “Town Character.”
I first met David Brown (which I thought was his full name for a long time) at a Sumner County Bicentennial Committee meeting. I soon learned that this was only one of dozens of committees and boards that he either had a seat or ran entirely.
After seeing him a few more times, each time donning a different hat that he wore “just because,” I began to realize he had a massive hat collection. I later learned that it numbered somewhere north of 400 and the collection covered the walls of his garage.
He told me all about his “service” in World War II and I’m still trying to figure out how much of it was true and how much was part of his vast imagination. And what an imagination. He knows about a million songs and is likely to break one out at any time. I would see him zip around town in his little car which usually donned holiday decorations; bunnies for Easter, fireworks for the 4th of July, garland for Christmas and so on. I suppose it all comes natural to him. He was quoted a few years ago as saying that “he was the only babyborn in Gallatin with a hat on his head and performing.”
Perhaps he decorated his car to lift the spirits of the many elderly folks he delivered meals to for many years. And more than food, many of the elderly who had no one to check on them received a phone call from DBP every morning just to make sure they were okay.
By the time I met him, he had retired after teaching in the Metro school system for 36 years. Though, quite honestly, he has never quit teaching. He tried to help get the country out of my speech by pointing things out to me but, God bless his heart, that’s a losing battle. Neither 12 years of school, nor four years of college, nor 18 years of practicing at Toastmasters succeeded in eliminating the country from my language.
Actually, David Brown is still teaching. He and Cameron have been coming up with a Word of the Week for the Gallatin News for about six years. They pick a word that fits with the season or a nearing holiday; they dress in theme and many times provide a prop and backdrop to set the mood for their picture, which is why they come to visit us every Friday. If you work at it, you can easily increase your vocabulary one word at a time.
David and Cameron helped me out once years ago with a group tour of Ohio folk here on a mystery trip. After figuring out who-done-it at a Govan’s Mystery Dinner Theater production, I had the bus driver ease the coach alongside the Gallatin Cemetery where the two, in full cemetery regalia, stepped on board and shared stories of local folklore.
David isn’t talking quite a loud as he used to, nor walking quite as fast as he used to. He no longer decorates his car and he has retired from his many civic involvements. But he is still teaching and he is still my backdoor friend.
See you next week.
Follow Editor Randy Cline on Twitter @RClineNews