April 1, 2018
Hoosier Craft Beer and Wine Salesman Brings it Home
Tiny Town Issues its Highest Honor to Brad Brookbank
Story, Indiana. Since its founding in 1851, Story has had no mayor, no board of commissioners, no town counsel, and certainly no election commission to oversee the peaceful transfer of power to such non-existent offices. Yet, despite the dearth of government, democracy thrives in this tiny southern Indiana hamlet.
If one were compelled to identify the seat of real power in Story, it would be the Tavern located in the basement of the old General Store, where town residents and overnight guests huddle to share news, gossip, and solve the world’s problems. And on April 1 of each year, “town elders” a/k/a tavern regulars, who by default comprise Brown County’s cognitive elite, confer to elect a “Village Idiot”. “It’s a tribute to the fermentation process” says Rick Hofstetter, the Story Inn’s co-owner and town’s only employer.
The balloting consists of submissions to the tavern’s bartender, Ann Johnson. “We have only one requirement for voting for, and being elected to, this esteemed position: at some point in your life, you must be a customer here” she explains.
This year’s “Idiot” accolades falls to Brad Brookbank, a salesman from 450 North Brewery/Simmons Winery in nearby Columbus. One may deduce that Brad is no stranger to his own wares.
For three consecutive years, Brad has been presenting Simmons’ wines at the Indiana Wine Fair, a large public event held at the Story Inn each spring. After loading a trailer with product, Brad hitched it to his truck, not paying attention to the fact that it had the wrong size ball hitch. Predictably, the trailer detached itself from the truck when Brad reached cruising speed on I-65, careening into a ditch. There were no injuries, but a total loss of product, and some hard questions from the Indiana State Police. “We had several cases of our Merlot in that trailer” he says, ruefully.
Brad has also been an occasional presenter at beer dinners hosted by the Story Inn. After one such gathering, Brad retired to one of the Story Inn’s cottages, where he decided to draw a hot bath. Upon discovering that the tub was not equipped with jets, he decided to improvise—by emptying a fire extinguisher into the tub. “I thought it was just air in those things” said he, upon being confronted with a prodigious mess.
The Story Inn’s cottages are all close together, linked by foot paths. While attempting to find parking near his cottage, Brad drove his car down one of those foot paths, and nearly into a creek. The next morning, he discovered the error of his ways, but could not locate his car keys. He eventually found them—under the vehicle. He was three hours late for work that day.
On another visit to Story, Brad concocted a practical joke for some friends staying in another cottage (one that was equipped with an outdoor hot tub). He hopped a privacy fence to steal the woman’s bathing suit, only to discover that the people staying there were strangers, and not a bit amused.
Brad celebrated New Year’s Eve at the Story Inn in Bacchanalian fashion, and at midnight, joined patrons in front of the Inn who were setting off conspicuously large rockets (known as “RGS Black Widow Artillery Fireworks”, and probably illegal). For reasons unknown, Brad reclined on the sidewalk, placed the stem of the rocket in his mouth, and lit it with a cigarette. The ensuing shower of sparks ignited his facial hair.
“This is the kind of stuff you see at fraternity parties” observed an incredulous Ann Johnson.
Brad’s victory, though well-deserved, was by no means assured, as competition for “Idiot” became fast and furious. Runners-up included a local resident and tavern regular (name withheld by request) who proved adept at, quite literally, recognizing a “diamond in the rough”. She received one nomination for allowing her pug dog to eat a diamond earring and, not to be “de-turd”, successfully retrieved it from her back yard. She received a second nomination for owning a pug dog in the first place.
Former Village Idiots made gallant efforts to reclaim the title. “The rules do not prevent someone from winning a second term, but that has never happened” observes co-owner Jacob Ebel. Jacob received his first nomination ever, for spending five fruitless days in a tree stand during hunting season, possibly because he refused to turn off his cell phone.
In 2010, Dani Ham was elected “Village Idiot” for igniting her own hair on fire while attempting to tame her coiffure with hair spray while smoking a cigarette and driving a car. “I multitask”, says she, by way of explanation. This year, Dani found two uncashed paychecks, dating back to her “Idiot” award, in the glove box of an old Buick.
Former Idiots Stan Smith and Lou Melillo combined forces in an apparent effort to re-make the movie “Dumb and Dumber”. The duo backed Stan’s truck to Stan’s house to move furniture, and quickly discovered that the truck had become stuck in the mud. Their efforts to extract the truck proved to be futile, but they trashed Stan’s yard in the process. Then Lou (re-named “Loo” at his 70th birthday) discovered that Stan had left the parking brake on.
Loo won “Idiot” accolades in 2012 for, among other things, dropping his wife Holly on her head while attempting to flip her over his back (the couple has remained married for 50 years—any coincidence?).
Holly Melillo’s head injury may well have done permanent damage. She received a nomination from Loo for losing her cell phone. After fruitless minutes searching, Loo had the bright idea to call it, which he did, whereupon Holly discovered that the phone had been tucked in her bra where she always keeps it.
Ricky Sawyer (Village Idiot 1999—for flipping a truck on its inaugural drive home from the dealership) received a nomination for dropping a pair of tongs into the Story Inn’s deep fryer—and then reaching for it. (Remarkably, he suffered only minor injury.) Thomas Kennedy f/k/a Thomas Doane (Idiot, 2008—for falling asleep in the median of a public highway) received a nomination for legally taking his wife’s name (Kennedy), and then getting a divorce.
Rick Hofstetter (2006 Idiot—for selling desiccated horse turds) made an impressive run for a second term, allowing his Toyota Prius to idle in the driveway for three consecutive days without noticing, possibly because he had allowed his dog Snow to eat one of his hearing aids. By late summer, Rick’s Birkenstocks had become so befouled that bartender Ann Johnson used them to start a campfire. By one extraordinary account—impossible to independently verify—Rick found a tick attached to a most private part of his anatomy.
Brad captured “Idiot” honors from local artist Brad Cox, who demonstrated his mechanical ineptitude when he drained both the engine oil and transmission fluid from his wife’s car, and refilled the crankcase twice, leaving the transmission bone dry. When his wife called to report problems, he dismissively accused her of driving the car into a creek. (The car sustained extensive engine and transmission damage, incidentally.)
Brad Brookbank will receive a $100 gift certificate, which he will most certainly spend in the Story Inn’s Tavern. He will hold the title of “Village Idiot” until March 31, 2019.
“Moments last a second; Story lasts a lifetime; the Story Inn’s Village Idiot lasts forever.”