Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 29th August 2017

BACK in the day, when every kid loved cowboy stories, I had a namesake, Tom Brewster, who was the unlikely hero of a television series that ran in the 1950s.

Yup, it’s true. My middle name is Thomas, and Tom Brewster, nicknamed Tenderfoot or Sugarfoot, was a correspondence course lawyer who, for some unexplained reason, headed out to the Wild West with an aversion to guns and violence in general. He was an anti-cowboy with ethics.

Sheriff Tom Brewster had been a character in a 1954 movie, when he was played by Will Rogers Junior, appointed by politicians who believed his lack of cowboy skills would render him unable to maintain law and order after the murder of his predecessor.

Tom re-emerged, played by an actor called Will Hutchins, later in the 50s, along with his catchphrase “barman, give me a sasparilla”, which was guaranteed to rile the gun-toting, hard-drinking denizens of the saloon.

I was only about 11 at the time, but I have vague recollections of watching a couple of episodes in which Tom Brewster was the mild-mannered cowboy with a strong sense of justice. At one time, for those who had the wonders of TV, his program alternated with the more traditional cowboy series, Bronco and Cheyenne.

As a kid I wasn’t a huge cowboys and Indians fan, but for my namesake I made an exception. Tom briefly had a sidekick called Toothy Thompson, while much trouble was caused by his lookalike, The Canary Kid, a notorious gunman who created havoc in Brewster’s life.

However, in an era when cowboys were all the rage on television and at the Saturday morning pictures, Tom Brewster rode off into the sunset and became something of a forgotten hero of the genre.

What brought it back to me was reading recently about the death, at the age of 87, of actor Ty Hardin, who played Bronco Layne in those years between 1958 and 1962. He went on to enjoy a long and successful acting career and was married eight times — once to a Miss Universe — and had 10 children, before living out his final years in the Californian sunshine.

Hardin wasn’t his real name. That was Orison Whipple Hungerford Jnr. Small wonder that, in 1958, with a TV contract in his hands, he changed to Ty Hardin “as a matter of convenience”. Actors who played cowboys did tend to have strange, ill-fitting real names. Notably John Wayne, the Duke, whose real name was Marion Mitchell Morrison. He soon dropped the Marion bit, and the Duke soubriquet was a tribute to his dog.

I wonder if any of those old Tom Brewster tapes are still stored away somewhere, waiting to be rediscovered. You’ve got to admit, having a cowboy namesake is pretty cool, even if these days I bet hardly anyone reading this remembers him.

Still, make that another sarsparilla with cherry if you please, barman. And have one yourself.

JUST THE TICKET

A PARKING ticket is issued every seven seconds in the UK, according to analysis of data by the RAC Foundation, which found that 4.71 million vehicle-keeper records held by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency were obtained by parking companies in 2016-17, 28 per cent. more than the year before.

Most of this information was likely to have been used to send penalty charges of up to £100 to drivers who allegedly infringed parking rules. “Eye watering,” said Steve Gooding, the foundation director.

Nothing stirs people up quite like arriving back at the car to discover one of those little yellow plastic packets lodged under the windscreen wipers. Even when we’re in the wrong, and at heart we know it, a sense of injustice wells up in our breasts.

Several years ago I persuaded the boss of a local authority parking department to do an interview, to give the other side of the story from the big bad wolf’s angle.

It was a fascinating insight. Once, he told me, an irate American turned up at his office brandishing a parking ticket. It turned out he was sheriff of a town in Texas. The two got talking. Soon the sheriff became more interested in the methods of recouping money from fines in West Cumberland than in his ticket, which he happily paid.

The outcome was an invitation for the parking boss to visit Texas and share a few of his ideas for parking enforcement with the sheriff.

The parking chief also told me about Sunday mornings at home when he and the missus got round the table after breakfast and went through the weekly pile of letters containing appeals and excuses and, between them, composed replies.

I’ve never looked at a parking attendant in the same light since.

BBC QUITS ON SPORT

HAS the BBC finally given up on sports coverage on the box?

Twice this month it has annoyed me with elements of coverage, first of the World Athletics Championships and then the pathetic screening of the last golf major of the year, the PGA, from America.

Admittedly it would not have realised, when the deals were signed, that the golf was going to clash with evening sessions at the athletics. But to shove it behind the red button, assuming we all know how that operates, where it appeared in fuzzy non-HD, was shabby.

Sadly Peter Alliss and compatriots appear ready for the old folks’ home. The BBC’s commentary was lamentable and those of us who get golf on Sky could only compare it unfavourably with the informed team on that channel. Often the BBC’s commentators sounded lost and Alliss’s cheery tales about old Jimmy enjoying his gin and tonic in some posh club down south are utterly outdated.

I got really angry when the BBC’s athletics team grilled that London public health expert about the reasons why a Botswana athlete was not allowed to compete after being confined to his team’s hotel with a virulent stomach bug.

Four of them set about a respected health expert who did remarkably well not to lose her rag. The comments were brainless and biased. This is what happens when it gets too matey and you don’t have proper journalists to frame proper questions.

The athletics, away from the wildly jingoistic British leaning, were exciting. But I can’t help thinking the Beeb’s role in coverage of sport is distinctly third division these days.

LAWSON’S LAMENT

FORMER Chancellor Nigel Lawson, interviewed on the BBC’s Parliament program, said probably the worst thing to have happened since he retired was the march of political correctness, the view that there is one opinion and everything else is wrong and to be reviled.

I don’t agree with many of Lawson’s pronouncements, particularly on climate change, but on this issue I’m with him all the way. So often these days people are scared of speaking out, of telling it as it really is, for fear of enraging the PC brigade.

We see speakers being banned from university debates, vilified on social media, and people in public life measuring and diluting their words lest the easily offended spot something they can go to town on, calling for draconian punishments.

A good Labour front bench spokeswoman resigned her post last week after speaking out about the grooming gangs known to have sexually abused young children in some of our northern towns. Sarah Champion never intended branding an entire section of society, but cases in Rotherham, Rochdale and Newcastle, involved men of a certain profile and the Rotherham report underlined the fact that authorities had been unwilling to act on uncomfortable truths for fear of being labelled racist.

Young abuse victims were let down then and, while it still seems more important to tread the PC line than to back MPs like the excellent Sarah Champion, they will go on being failed in future. By accepting her resignation, Jeremy Corbyn sent out entirely the wrong message about how seriously victims can expect to be taken if they come forward in future.

Brave, honest, candid and gagged not by the opposition, but by her own leadership.

PUSS IN BOOTS

A CAT was pictured walking with its owners in Snowdonia. Nothing unusual, said the owners. You see pets being walked on a leash all over London.

After Ash’s Welsh rambles it can only be a matter of time before a moggy rings the mountain rescue from Sharp Edge or Helvellyn. “Come and rescue my idiot owners. Miaow!”