A good portion of her fascination with small-town documentaries is a not-so hidden desire to one day live in one. A place where everyone knows everyone else's business. A place with one traffic light and one schoolhouse and a General Store. A place where Friday night high school football games are the highlight of most folk's week. A place where the old-timers hang out at the local post office or service station or marina or hardware store exchanging stories that they've all heard hundreds of times before.
So there is a lot of love behind her fascination with the charms of small-town America.
There is also, however, a healthy portion of freakshow-esque fascination that goes along with that love.
And Vernon is one of those freakshow-esque places. The documentary was filmed in 1981 and it focused on half a dozen local eccentrics. The guy who was obsessed with hunting turkeys. The couple who visited White Sands National National Monument and believe that the sand in their jar is growing. The local sheriff who dissuaded speeders by parking out in the open because his radar gun was in the shop. The ex-pat from Chicago who retired there because he could buy a home for $2,200 in the middle of snake-infested swampland. Stuff like that.
But it's the story that the documentary DIDN'T tell that I find utterly fascinating.
You see, back in the late 1950's and early 1960's, Vernon had earned the nickname "Nub City" for the outlandish number of residents who filed insurance claims for lost limbs. For a period of time, the high number of claims represented almost 2/3 of the total national claims for lost limbs. This from a town whose population ran between 500-800 in total! So there was a fair amount of speculation that the residents of the town were intentionally dismembering themselves for the insurance money.
Yeah. And that was actually going to be the focus of this documentary which was originally going to be called Nub City. But the filmmaker claimed to have received numerous death threats by the residents of the town when they found out about his intentions, so he changed the focus of the film to several eccentric residents instead. Nary a one of them missing a limb, by the way. Not one mention of anyone missing a limb anywhere in the entire film.
You really can't make this shit up!
And I'm not sure if the plans to widen State Road 79 ever went through, but here is a story from a couple years ago about the town and it's past...and it's future.
Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. I wonder how many women in Vernon were named Eileen...get it?