Preface to The Great Mosier Beer Heist: The following story was related to me by Mr. Tom O’Brian, one time mayor of Mosier, Oregon. Parts of the story may be true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, namely Tom and me, for there is always the remote possibility that the Brumb Brothers may learn to read or that one of their few literate friends may see this and read it to them. It is likely that they would find it an unflattering portrayal and seek revenge by burning my home in Mosier or showing up with a pack of their lice-infested cohorts to kick my ass and rape my prettiest goat. Worse yet, they might steal my beer.
Mosier is another one of those shriveled-up one-time logging towns tucked between rocky cliffs on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. It is like many small towns in the Northwest, where one finds the remains of the small mills and logging camps abandoned around the turn of the twentieth century, after all the truly great timber had been harvested. The town is in fact not named for the famous French explorer, and the name has never been pronounced, “Mosié.” The correct pronunciation has always been, “Moshuur,” the more Okie an inflection, the better. The town is named for the enterprising sawyer who placed a mill wheel in the creek which also bears his name. A mill wheel which he chased or replaced many times after winter thaws or spring melts. He was one of the many early white settlers along the Gorge who erected turnstiles and collected a toll for crossing their land on the way west, which was only a few more miles. Word of the tolls and perilous crossings along the Gorge reached the end of the Oregon Trail at The Dalles. Most new arrivals bypassed The Gorge entirely and took The Barlow Trail west to the fertile farmland of the Williamette Valley.
After all the easy, and most of the not-so-easy timber was cut, many hard-working residents of Mosier, including the founding family, left in search of other forests to cut. Cherry orchards were developed on the few sunny slopes which had soil. Since that time there has never been much work in Mosier, which made it a perfect place for the Brumb family to settle.
Unlike the better known and soggier cities of Western Oregon, such as Portland and Eugene, Mosier, sitting on the edge of desertous Eastern Oregon receives a dry hot summer. Only fourteen miles east, The Dalles gets much hotter. It is the kind of summer heat that can cause a man to develop a thirst for liquid refreshment. Specifically beer.
Stubbs Brumb was such a man. He was known to say: “It’s not that I’m trying to get drunk or anything like that. I just really like the taste of beer. I always have. Besides, I’m still thirsty!” as he pulled the tab from the first can of his fourth six-pack of GENERIC BEER.
“Stubbs” was born John Jacob, after a favorite song of his father’s. He was the younger of the two Brumb Brothers (Pronounced “Broom” in the American Okie dialect. Better yet- “Them Broom Brothers from Moshuur.”). His nick-name originally referred to his small stature as a child. Later, it referred to his favorite beer container, the ‘stubbie.’ The odd thing about the beer heist is that it happened two years before Stubbs had the accident which supposedly caused some brain damage, yet changed his behavior not a bit.
Stubbs, and his big brother, Fat Billy, were a nearly harmless nuisance to the community most of the time. Their usual transgressions against civil order were their evening forays from their shabby trailer on Seven-Mile Hill in Fat Billy’s old Chevy pick-up to grab any unattended lawn mowers, rototillers, chain saws or pot plants. In truth, they were not above snatching an occasional chicken if Fat Billy’s wife’s check was late. Oh, Stubbs had a run-in with the law at Safeway in Hood River once. He drew his ever-present Bowie knife on the box-boy who was counting his empty cans and bottles, declaring that, “as a tax-paying American citizen, I will not be cheated out of my rightful deposit money.” “I suppose, young man,” speculated the judge, “that the tax you were referring to was the tax on alcohol?” Because he had caused no bodily harm to the box-boy or the store manager, Stubbs was given a month of community service. It was work which suited him perfectly. He picked up trash, mostly beer cans, along the highway. He stashed plastic bags containing refundable cans and bottles behind rocks or bushes, retrieved them each evening with Fat Billy, and made a small profit. When the so-called ‘Bottle Bill’ was enacted in the mid-seventies, the first in the nation mandating that beverages be sold in returnable bottles, I doubt that Oregon’s State Legislators envisioned such extensive employment benefits from the law.
And Fat Billy was charged with rape once. The girl was already drunk and passed out when Fat Billy arrived at the party. She came to as he was pulling back up his pants. Two months later, the rape charges were dropped and the trial ended. The pregnant plaintiff married the defendant.
Fat Billy wasn’t really that fat. It’s just that he had a big hairy belly that insisted on showing itself from beneath his greasy tee-shirts, which were always too short. He was bald on top with long, frizzy, light brown hair sticking out in a circle around his head. He looked somewhat clownish. Like a mean, dumb clown. If he’d had his front teeth, he may have looked less like he actually was. His front teeth rest on a shelf at Tom O’Brian’s. They are a momento to the only Tuesday night basketball game The Brumb Brothers ever attended. They showed up one Tuesday evening with the aforementioned lice-infested cohorts; invited, it seems, by a combination of beer, seconal, and bath tub methedrine, to challenge the sober townboys to a game. Fat Billy’s solution to losing badly was to forget that basketball is a non-contact sport. Tom, whose son’s are Billy’s age, didn’t like being tackled. Especially the second time. The local dentist extracted Billy’s teeth from Tom’s elbow. The Brumb Brothers never returned to the Mosier Tuesday Night Basketball Game.