The unincorporated town of Story, Indiana has no government. But democracy is alive and well in this southern Indiana hamlet. On April 1 of each year, village elders a/k/a tavern regulars convene to elect a “Village Idiot”.
This year’s new “Idiot” is Danielle (“Dani”) Hamm, who also happens to be the town’s main bartender and ballot-keeper. She won by consensus for unwittingly setting her own hair on fire while driving to work.
“This was undeniably an impressive achievement, and Dani has earned this accolade” says Rick Hofstetter, the Story Inn’s owner and himself a former “Village Idiot”. Story is located 13 miles south of Nashville, in Brown County.
This particular incident occurred in February as Dani was attempting to “make up” for lost time, coaxing her coiffure with a liberal dose of hair spray while attempting to control her 2000 Acura on Brown County’s legendary back roads. “I was late, and I was on my way to bartend at a wedding” she explains. “As I look back on it, it was probably not a good idea for me to light up a cigarette at that precise moment”.
Dani noticed that the volatile mix had ignited when she looked into the rear-view mirror. “I saw flames and smoke coming from the back of my head” she explained. Fortunately, she was able to control the vehicle while dousing the flames, sustaining no injury.
Dani did, however, endure a succession of “bad hair days” thereafter. “I didn’t hear about the blaze until after Dani had gone to another hairdresser to repair the damage” says Terry Imel, Dani’s mother (who also works at the Story Inn and cuts hair part-time). “That is just as well, since I probably wouldn’t have known how to deal with a challenge like this”.
After the blaze, Dani worked her shift as scheduled, and then nominated herself as “Village Idiot” for the gaffe. “She’s got a bit of fire in the belly, too” observes Hofstetter. “I’ve got a bald spot in almost the same place” he adds, with satisfaction.
Dani faced considerable challenges from a talented pool of “Idiot” nominees. Among them was Lou Melillo, a sound engineer from nearby Columbus and (belatedly) a red wine aficionado. Over a glass of fine Malbec, Lou confessed to fermenting yeast and sugar in his daughter’s baby pool and then distilling the resulting concoction, an act which might be equated with throwing out the baby and drinking the bath water. “I was a graduate student at the time, and we were poor” he explains. “Besides, the statute of limitations has run on that” he adds.
Other 2010 “Village Idiot” nominees include:
* The defending “Idiot” Stan Smith, who claimed the $100 prize for “best costume” for dressing up as Tina Turner on Halloween and charming the Story Inn’s guests (“What’s brains got to do with it?”).
* Miriam Griffith, a server at the Story Inn, who jumped out of a moving car when assaulted by a tiny field mouse.
* Bar patron Kisha Henderson, who attempted to lead several friends on a “short cut” from a campfire on her own property to her own house. She and her entourage got lost, and Kisha fell down a muddy bank into a creek.
* Anna Hofstetter, the blonde “Obama Zombie” college student and daughter of innkeeper Rick Hofstetter. Anna received two citations for texting while driving in Los Angeles. She took a day off from school and endured hours of waiting for her trial, whereupon she pled “guilty” as charged. She was so incensed when the judge audaciously imposed the statutory fine that she wrote to the Republican governor to complain about the “unfairness” of “the system”. (At no point in this process did it occur to Anna to consult her father, a lawyer.)
* Bar patron Luke Czapla, who spent $75 to have his “broken down” truck towed to his residence, not realizing that it had simply run out of gas. Luke also unplugged a sump pump at his house so he could use his electric razor to shave. He discovered that he had forgotten to plug it back in when the basement flooded at the next rain.
BREAKING NEWS. On the eve of the election, Luke received yet another nomination from soon to be ex-officio “Idiot” Stan Smith. Luke showed uncommon (some would say improvident) compassion for his pet goldfish, worthy of a PETA member. The fish fell into a drain, and then made its way down a pipe into a basin, as Luke was cleaning its tank. Luke spent three hours unsuccessfully attempting to catch the fish with his bare hands. Undeterred, he drove to Wal Mart to buy a fish net, and when none could be bought separately, spent $300 to buy a (supposedly) complete aquarium kit--not noticing that the aquarium kit did not include a fish net.
In addition to the honorific title of “Village Idiot”, which she will hold until March 31, 2011, Dani Hamm has received a $100 bar tab at the Story Inn’s tavern to enjoy in her discretion.