Utah has a proud history of bootlegging during the dry days of Prohibition, but none finer than the story of Hod Brown.

The natives of Kanab still refer to Hod as ‘an endearing old rascal’ – among other things. A theoretical sheepherder by profession, Hod reputedly operated his business from a sheep pen near what is now the Kanab Airport. He would bury the ‘hooch’ near the gate to the pen, proudly serving his customers at night, and herding the sheep over the site during the day to hide the evidence.

The money collected from his enterprising spirits was concealed in empty tin cans near his house. “The place was always such a mess,” one local historian recalls, “that the authorities could never figure out which tin can.”

He announced a fine new vintage was ready by strolling down the main street singing, “Hey boys, hey boys, have you heard the news? Hod Brown has come to town with a load of booze.” Bad as his singing may have been, the sheriff could never put him in jail for it.

One of Hod’s finest moments came when the sheriff caught him with a load of canned beef stolen from the Army. The beef was locked in the town jail for safekeeping and the sheriff was rubbing his hands in anticipation of putting Hod there too. But when the cans were brought into court and opened, they were filled with cow manure…and no one in Kanab had ever been jailed for filching cow patties. Nobody has ever found out how Hod made the switch … although one local rancher claims his grandfather refused to help Hod solder the lids back on.

For sheer brazenness, the ‘Case of the Hollow Barrel’ is hard to match. It is claimed that Hod ordered a large barrel of fine Canadian whiskey and had it shipped through the mails to the Kanab Post Office.

At last the authorities thought they had him trapped, and sat back patiently until Hod strolled in to claim the goods. Weeks passed and Hod never appeared. Finally, someone fell against the barrel. Amazingly, the barrel flipped over and rolled across the floor … empty as the town jail. In the floor was a small hole that perfectly matched one in the bottom of the barrel.

Burrowing under the building with a brace-and-bit, Hod had been supplying the town with the finest brew Prohibition-less Canada had to offer for weeks, right under the sheriff’s nose.

 

Heritage Happenings presents stories, family histories and anecdotal moments, which are on display or archived at the Kanab Heritage Museum.