By JOEL McNEECE
It would be difficult for most to match the energy level of 95-year-old Newberger Brown of Bruce. It would be even more impossible to match his experiences.
Brown has an incredible array of stories, from the time he wrestled a bear, to when he ran dice games up and down the Skuna Valley Railroad.
“I’ve done a little bit of everything,” Brown said with a grin.
Brown spends much of his time these days picking up cans and other recyclables.
“I go all over,” Brown said. “I’ve been doing it for years. I believe in living by the sweat of my brow. I’m not interested in sleeping my life away.”
Brown was raised on a farm in the Holcomb area of Grenada County, one of 18 children. He wasn’t afforded the privilege of attending school, instead being forced to go to work at an extremely young age to help support his family.
“I remember cutting wood when I was 6-years-old,” Brown said. “All we did was work.”
Picking cotton was among the hardest jobs, he said.
“I remember my daddy would whip us if we didn’t pick at least 100 pounds,” Brown said.
When he wasn’t working as a child, he loved to hunt and fish. He told of spending many a night in the woods on coon hunting expeditions with friends.
“We got so far out there in the middle of the night we wouldn’t find our way home until the chickens started to crow,” Brown said.
As he got older he also worked in a cafe, a pool hall and a barber shop.
“I started cutting hair when I was 8-years-old,” Brown said. “I cut hair as well as anybody with a pair of clippers in their hands. I always enjoyed that as much as anything I’ve done.”
Brown came to Bruce when he was 30 years old to find work cutting timber. His first home in Calhoun was down in the bottom, just below the railroad tracks, near present day Skuna Valley.
During those days Brown did a little of everything that he isn’t necessarily proud of today. He was well known for running dice games up and down the railroad that attracted a lot of players in the area.
“I’d just throw out a big cotton sack right there and we’d go to throwing dice,” Brown said. “I learned to run dice games when I was very young and just always found a place to play.”
Brown’s hands weren’t only quick with the dice, but strong as a vise. He still possesses a bone-crunching handshake at 95-years-old.
“I was blessed with an incredible grip,” Brown said.
It came in handy a lot of times, such as when he wrestled a bear. The animal was part of a traveling group that was offering money to anyone willing to wrestle.
“Nobody else would, so I decided I would be the first,” Brown said. “I used my grip to hold him off.”
A few bets were placed on the wrestling match, and those that followed. Brown reportedly walked away with his usual fair amount of winnings.
Brown later found work with Bruce Company where he stacked lumber for 33 years. He took great pride in being the best stacker around.
“You should have seen some of those stacks I stood on top of,” Brown said pointing high into the sky. He earned 30 cents an hour when he started.
Brown said the turning point in his life came shortly after turning 40. It was then he came to know God.
“Just like that, all the darkness left and everything became brighter,” Brown said.
The Lord’s impact on his life is now his favorite subject.
“When God came into my life and saved me, it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Brown said.
He rarely misses church and can often be seen dancing up and down the aisles singing God’s praises.
“I don’t have nothing to hold me down,” Brown said dancing on his kitchen floor. “God’s been good to me. He’s responsible for my good health. I give him all the credit.”
When he’s not picking up cans, Brown likes to do what he can for his neighbors, whether that be trimming shrubs, cleaning up their yards or other needs around the house.
“I like to help people,” Brown said. “If they want to pay me a little for working then that’s okay, but if they don’t, that’s fine too.”
Brown still lives in the house he bought from Bruce Company with one of his grandsons. He said he intends to stay active enjoying his life as he always has.
“I never wanted to be rich. I just wanted to live,” Brown said. “I got what I wanted.”