Monday, January 23, 2012

An Arm and a Leg

These days, everyone's broke. Well...nearly everyone, but for the most part the money's tight and sometimes that means making changes to one's lifestyle. For instance, before the crash, I'd frivolously purchase six dollar shirts. Now I refuse to get anything above two bucks. It's simply not in my budget.

Sometimes, however, people have made drastic modifications. Desperate times call for desperate measures (as the cliché goes) and during the recession of 1953 things were bleak in the small redneck town of Vernon, Florida. With no jobs and no future, several middle-aged men filed claims with their insurance company.

After, of course, removing off their limbs.

Ghoulishly referred to as the "Nub Club," these men had all lost hands and feet in various "accidents" and defrauded thousands of dollars from their insurers. Most of these incidents involved firearms, but some men reported axe injuries. Maybe they were old-fashioned. Regardless, it remains a mystery as to who exactly was the first, but the strategy proved alarmingly popular. More than fifty men took to amputation to make ends meet, and this was especially noticeable in a town with only five hundred people. Eventually, an army of insurance investigators was dispatched to Vernon to examine the improbable quantity of dismemberment and the story reached the papers. The reports referred to Vernon as "Nub City" and the name endured.

In 1981, documentary filmmaker Errol Morris learned about Vernon and decided to make a movie about the town. Not surprisingly, the taciturn members of the Nub Club were not keen on being interviewed, and so Morris was forced to broaden his focus to the other eccentrics that Vernon had offer.

It seems there were plenty to choose from.
Would you like to know more?
-Read this article from the Tampa Bay Times
-Read this excerpt from Accidentally, on Purpose: the Making of a Personal Injury Underworld in America
-Buy the Vernon, Florida documentary here for $2.75. Now that's a bargain.