Jan 27, 2010

Nub City

Gia is addicted to documentaries. And within that genre, she is addicted to the sub-genre of documentaries about weird, little towns and their weird, little denizens. So we found ourselves watching a weird, little documentary the other night called Vernon, Florida.  It's less than an hour long and a fairly harmless waste of time.  Just a bunch of old codgers living out their odd lives in a small town in Washington County, Florida.

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?


Mrs. Hall said...

well, if you think about it. small isolated cities would attract those who had trouble getting along with others, or fitting into society.

we have a large number or small isolated towns up here. people think nothing of driving an hour to the clinic. all so they can have their 5 acres without anyone near them.

i do love the crazies. these are my people :)

RW said...

I could never live in a small town. I idealize them too, but have done enough traveling to know that the idealized version is not real. Quirky characters are fun... to see from afar.

Slyde said...


when i saw the title of this post, i thought you were FINALLY going to come clean and tell your readers the story of when you drunkenly smashed a taco into our poor friend Nub's face.


Verdant Earl said...

Holly - I guess you are right about the people they attract, but a lot of those folks were born into that situation.

RW - I wanna live in Reunion.

Slyde - that was a fun night. She did get her revenge, though. Yes folks...Nub was a woman.

LegalMist said...

fascinating stuff.

I'll be chuckling all day about "nub city."

justsomethoughts... said...

and here i thought you were going down another road entirely.
just goes to show...

sybil law said...

That is fascinating! Seriously!
Nub City will have me laughing all day, though.
No small towns for me. I don't like people up in my shit.

Verdant Earl said...

LMist - I was more horrified than amused.

Dude - The Verdant Dude blog is like a box of chocolates...

Sybil - Me neither, but there is a certain attraction.

Mrs. Hall said...


what is this back story about a taco?

o and btw i've had to start comment moderation on my blog cause of spammers and now I totally get why you hate it. my hatred is starting to burn deep and bright.

Bruce Johnson said...

Yeah, my wife is always pining to move to a quiant little town like this someday and escape the rat race. I have to keep reminding her that all the serial killers and loonies also want to move there as well and usually get there before we do.

Verdant Earl said...

Holly - You have my sympathies. I hate it so much. And the taco story? Maybe sometime in the future.

Bruce - See, Gia loves documentaries about serial killers too. I'm beginning to worry about her.

Faiqa said...

Man. I need to move the hell out of Florida. It's like that Sesame Street song, "One of these things is doing their own thing, one of these things do not belong..." Yeah, that'd be me, thank you.