By BOB ANEZ/AP Political Writer
''You had people coming and going to work and I'm not sure they wanted to be pestered by a politician.''
This day on the campaign trail, Brown appeared more interested in gathering information than votes.
At a Deer Lodge lumber mill, a poorly timed tour occurred during lunch hour with few workers around. Brown greeted only a handful of employees, instead questioning owner Sherm Anderson about timber supply and doing more with wood than making boards.
At Montana State Prison, he was briefed on operations by Warden Mike Mahoney and talked with Corrections Director Bill Slaughter before getting a quick car tour of the outside of the prison. Brown left for a fund-raiser without meeting any rank-and-file prison workers.
The 56-year-old Brown is not the typical candidate on the stump. Although comfortable speaking to groups and to people he knows, he doesn't hungrily seek out strangers for the typical political ''meet and greet.'' He seems almost a reluctant campaigner.
But, asked if he considers himself shy, the veteran of 10 political campaigns seemed flustered and at first declined to label himself. Later, he offered: ''I like people and to visit with people. I would make a very poor hermit.''
This day began with Brown arriving at his Capitol office about 7:30 a.m. to deal with the myriad documents awaiting the signature of Montana's chief recordkeeper. ''This is the signingest job I've ever seen,'' he quipped.
Brown scanned several morning newspapers for accounts of his debate the night before with Democratic challenger Brian Schweitzer. He declined to rate his own performance, but said he slept little afterward, as he replayed his answers and wished for better ones
Jason Thielman, Brown's campaign manager, gave him a quick rundown of the day's schedule and left. Then it was a 15-minute briefing on the previous day's management meeting before leaving for Deer Lodge.
Behind the wheel was Tom Beck, chief policy adviser for Gov. Judy Martz and a former state Senate colleague from Deer Lodge. In Beck, Brown had one of the most familiar faces in the Deer Lodge Valley to show him around and break the ice.
Beck advised Brown to spend the day talking about himself, the corrections budget and the need for increased timber cutting on state lands. A lumber mill and the state prison are big employers in the area.
Brown's first campaign stop was at the deserted banquet hall of the Broken Arrow bar and restaurant, where he was interviewed by a reporter for The Missoula Independent. He talked easily of his background and his political ambitions.
He told the reporter he has no aspirations beyond governor, saying, ''This will be the end of the line for me.''
Brown acknowledged the contrast in personalities between himself and the outgoing Schweitzer. ''I'm not a flashy guy. I am what I am. It's a mistake to try to be something you're not.''
By 11 a.m., Brown reached Sun Mountain Lumber for a tour by Anderson, a Republican state senator and good buddy to Beck.
After an hour-long tour of the plant, Brown was back at the banquet hall for a Rotary Club luncheon where he addressed about 30 people. His message of the day: The Montana economy is improving and the credit belongs to GOP policies of trimming taxes and controlling spending.
He promoted natural resource development - a familiar theme of his campaign - and he used information gleaned from the mill tour to make a pitch for greater timber harvests.
In touting advantages of wind energy, he said new larger turbines have such slow-moving blades they pose no danger to wildlife. ''You'd have to be a pretty dull-witted bird to get killed by that,'' he said to a round of laughter.
It doesn't take long to notice that Brown, whether speaking to one person or 100, has his hands in constant motion. That's always been the case. Brown remembered when the Senate chamber changed to hand-held microphones for members, he insisted on continuing to use a boom to hold his microphone so that his hands would be free.
Although this lunch featured prime rib, Brown said many of his campaign meals are finger foods at receptions or fast food on the fly. ''I've about had my fill of food with toothpicks stuck through it,'' he said. ''And I've learned to hate gas station hot dogs.''
Brown arrived at the state hospital in Warm Springs shortly before 2 p.m. and got a quick primer on the institution from Amberg. While walking through some wards, Brown met several patients, looked in some of their dorm-style rooms and shook hands with a few staffers.
At a nearby convenience store where Brown stopped for bottled water, fellow customer Gene Jupp of Havre pulled his head out of a cooler and did a double-take upon seeing Brown.
''Hey, I know you. You're ... you're Bob Brown,'' Jupp said. ''Aren't you running for governor or something?''
Brown said later he was surprised he had been recognized at all, despite running for the past 15 months. Not many people recognize him.
By 3:30 p.m., Brown walked into the state prison for a meeting with Warden Mahoney. The two men spent much of the next hour talking in Mahoney's office. As at the state hospital, Brown discussed his concern over the growing problem of methamphetamine use and the demands it puts on state programs when addicts end up as patients or inmates.
Too late, Brown realized he had no time for a walking tour of the prison if he hoped to make his downtown fund-raiser. Mahoney drove Brown around the perimeter fence of the prison and pointed out the various buildings.
The fund-raiser, attended about two dozen supporters, capped the candidate's day. Brown sampled some of the food, none of which featured toothpicks, and gave a short speech.
As Beck drove toward Helena, an exhausted Brown pondered the next day's campaign schedule. Barely audible over the engine, he sighed.
WARM SPRINGS - The three o'clock shift change at Montana State Hospital offered a classic campaign opportunity for a candidate to meet voters as dozens of workers filed past.
But Bob Brown stood back, not offering either a hand or hello, not introducing himself as someone who wants to be their next governor.
The Republican candidate chose to quiz a hospital official about the dilemma of treating mental illnesses compounded by drug abuse.
Ed Amberg, who runs the hospital, had nudged Brown toward the shift change as a political mother-lode for a candidate, and had repeatedly introduced Brown to some staff when Brown didn't do it himself.
Later, Brown acknowledged that glad-handing voters is just not his style.
''It doesn't come naturally to me,'' he said, adding he did not want to bother the hospital employees.