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Shelton Mason County Journal
Shelton, Washington
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Mason County Journal
December 9, 1971     Shelton Mason County Journal
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December 9, 1971

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ne rownt own Bv JAN DANFORD ('hnhes may not make the man, but they certainly do a lot lOT a friendly witch, a happy ~low n andanother well-known l)ecembcr holiday character, :, cording to Gene Brown, ,helton'~ portrayer of festive ' ;gu ru's. "'1 have an inferiority ~mlplex," Brown confesses, "but h~dmg behind a mask of make-up and cloaked in laughter, I can do all.~, I hing!" Ills biggest thrill is to make pe~q~le happy. Born in Burlington ,nd reared in Forks, in Olympia ~nd ira Auburn, throughout his hildhood he longed secretly for !he glamo~ of greasepaint and the +\ely of costumes. "1 never had the nerve to lulgc the hobby until I was tcr,'" he admits. Years ago, while residing in v PickeTing area, Gene Brown, ~t bed as a witch, met his d,,orstep Trick-or-Treaters with gilt apples guaranteed to be p,Hsoncd lie had no takers. "1 had several pets, Brown cxplam~, including an enthusiastic mynah bml who got in the act and had everybody shook up!" lit' had begun at this time to acquire the collection of pets which was later to increase to fantastic proportions. Ills next home was near Mathmk, where he lived for 12 ~cars: Many tripe were taken with Ill,, parent+, who loved animals alHl~sl as much at did their son, and I1LIIncI()US exotic pets were /tLtlulred and transported in the lamily station wagon. ('haltering monkeys and screammg toucans were smuggled ]nit) mulels in the shattered sldlnc~s o| tile night. Cages were v, ashcd at streams. "We tarried a lot of dc~dtHant,'" Brown recalls. M~re than a thousand tleJlUles eventually made up the managcrJc that occupied the BT,,~n acreage The 500 different v;lrlcllc'~ i)l domestic and wild birds and beasts inchlded racoons, dtl,. k,,, get_'se, peacocks, |))ICDptlleS, hamsters, horses, nl,mke~s, sheep, goats, and many nhHC tAIlU>,EI;J] specimens. A Ii,m i,Hned the household as a lh[cc-and-a-halt pound cub. "lit" wa~, raised on a bottle and , )tl l~zlhltlnl,"' (;ene Brown says, "and I burped him like a baby ." A .second lion was gi'~:l~"io hi111, this tmc well on the way to maJlt111} "'1 dithl'l Iltlsl him leo far," (,u.u dcclalcs "h wasn'l as lh~mt!h I'd raised hinl myself." Ihc huge beast was kept m a cage dltd oll a chain. '1o clean his qu,lrlers, tilL' lion was transferred I nt t+ a snlatlct adlacent cage. BJ(,wn was well aware of his pt ,Iclll ILd danger. "' M i les from any possible help,' he explains, "'1 would have bc,.n completely at the mcrcy of lhc ammal had he turned on me.'" Ihe inevitable happened one da:, in the course of his daily chntes Brown was in the process el raging the lion into the smaller cap, e when the beast rushed past hinl with a snarl. (;ene flattened hlmsell against a wall, closed his ..ryes and prayed, lie fell the tearing of the flesh ironl his back. With a moan he sank to tile floor, burying his face More than 250 persons gathered in the PUD auditorium la st 1 hursday night to see a pt~,.L, ram el slides presented by Ira Spling. a former Shelton resident. and Ir