By Don Bradley
About the time the birthday party started, someone wondered aloud if the Brown brothers at 92 might be the oldest set of triplets still kicking.
That set off a Google group effort.
The brothers, Larry, Gene and Lon, didn’t seem to particularly care. They huddled at a table looking at a black and white photograph of an old mutt.
It was Jeggs, the dog they had on the Dust Bowl farm when they were kids.
One day they poured water down a squirrel hole and instead of a squirrel a rattlesnake came out and Jeggs pounced on it, got bit on the head but killed the snake.
“Jeggs’ head swelled up like a football but he lived,” Larry said while Lon and Gene smiled and nodded.
They hadn’t been together for a while. Age, miles and Covid kept getting in the way.
Then, finally, on a recent Saturday in Raymore, they came together for a birthday party. One in sneakers, one in cowboy boots and one in a wheelchair. They picked up where they always had: talking about growing up on a Kansas farm in the 1930s during the Great Depression, no electricity, no running water, dust storms turning days to night, fights with town kids…
They were happy to see each other. The joy of old stories lit their eyes.
But there was something else about this day.
“Might be the last time we’re ever together,” Larry had said earlier. Then he thought some more.
“Yeah, probably will be.”
A surprise debut
The Brown triplets came along about the time their older siblings were ready to go out on their own.
“Surprise, surprise for their 40-year-old mom,” said Robin Gardner, Larry’s daughter.
The Stock Market Crash had come the previous year. Then came the Dust Bowl, taking life on the family’s west Kansas farm from bad to worse.
Their father raised hogs and chickens to put food on the table. Crops were harder because of drought and dust.
“I remember days turning plumb dark because of the dust,” Larry said. “One time we couldn’t hardly get from the barn to the house. The dust would cover everything in the house no matter how hard you tried to keep it out.”
“One time the Model T got stuck because the dust was piled so high and we had to get a team of horses to pull it out,” he said.
The boys ran the timber and pastures. They ice skated down creeks. They got in trouble. They fought. Larry pushed Lon into the cattle tank. They got their mouth washed out with soap for bad language.
“We were poor but we seemed to always have food and clothes so I guess we were okay,” Larry said.
Their older sister, Ruby, had been saving for a coat for herself but when she learned the boys had cardboard in their worn-out shoes, she gave the money to help buy new ones.
Finally, their father gave up and moved the family to Missouri. That’s when the triplets started going to the “city school.”
“The town boys dressed different than us and picked on the country boys but we three were okay because we always stuck together,” Larry said.
Years later they even tried to join the Air Force together.
Lon and Gene made it. Larry was rejected because of allergies.
“I told’em I’d be fine as long as they didn’t put me in a wheat field,” Larry said.
Gene and Larry were already at the party when Lon arrived at their table.
“Well, how in the world is everybody doing,” he asked, smiling.
That’s all it took to get three brothers going.
“They’ve got some catching up to do, but they always pick up where they left off,” Pam Baker, Gene’s daughter, said as she watched. “That’s how they’ve always been.”
In order of birth, Larry, of Raymore, worked for General Motors; Lon, of Belton, was a preacher; and Gene, who became an electrical engineer, lives in Oklahoma. He also drag raced a Buick Skylark well into his 80s.
Their four siblings have died.
The family had hoped to do the birthday party two years ago when the triplets turned 90, but the pandemic got in the way. Curtis Brown, Gene’s son, saw an urgency.
“I told them that if we’re ever going to do this, we need to be doing it,” he said.
So, on Dec. 10, kids and grandkids and others gathered at Holmes Hall at Foxwood Springs in Raymore for the big event.
It was a day of food and stories, memories and old photos.
The brothers didn’t care if they were the oldest living triplets. Such a designation is fleeting. The Brown brothers seemed just glad to be together again.
“Thing about being a triplet,” Larry said. “I always had someone to play with at my age.”