Between Gates Of Heaven and The Thin Blue Line lies director Errol Morris’ second documentary film called Vernon, Florida. Morris really found some oddballs his second time around. Take the man pictured above for instance. That is a turtle he is holding, he knows that people think it’s a turtle, and he even notes how slow it moves, but still insists that it is a gopher. He also keeps a live possum in that metal container with the turtle.
Then there is the wiggler man. He’s kind of like Bubba from Forrest Gump in the sense that he feels the need to enumerate the many different types of wigglers. There’s orchard-worm wiggler, big red wiggler, eel worm wiggler, big ring-neck wiggler, and they got one they call the night crawler. He says there is a book about how to raise wigglers, but that it’s wrong.
We also listen to a wonderful preacher who gives an entire sermon on the word ‘therefore’. We enjoy in the exciting discovery that ‘therefore’ is a conjunction. Then it’s back to the dictionary to find out what a ‘conjunction’ is, only to discover another mystery word called ‘indeclinable’. It goes on for quite a while and we even end up looking at the Greek meaning of a certain word. Ultimately, he concludes that because of the widespread use of ‘therefore’ in the Bible, you shouldn’t take control of your own life. That would violate the word’s meaning and take away your God given peace.
However, not all of the characters Morris meets are jokes. The turkey hunter who looks like he belongs riding in a car with James Bond or in a Smokey And The Bandit film, turns out to be an enjoyable storyteller. Sure all the stories are about hunting turkeys, but he does it so well that we are mesmerized. Every time he mentions the word gobble, it’s funny, but the more time you spend with him, the more it becomes the call to his lifelong turkey hunt. It’s what he loves to do and hearing his stories lets us into that world for a short time.
While the turkey man who hears the call of the gobble is probably the sanest person in the lot, most are scary ignorant. I joked about the preacher and the old man who thought a turtle was a gopher, but there is a couple who actually believes the sand they retrieved from a nuclear testing site is growing. That’s right, that jar only had a little bit of sand when they first got it, now look at it! Another man actually advocates running people out of town on a rail complete with tar and feathers. I won’t even talk about the three old guys discussing whether taking off your shoe is necessary to blow your head off.
The members of this town can be funny and entertaining, but in the end they are sad. Morris never says this and he never demeans any the people he films. Still, you almost wish a nuke or a natural disaster would let the people and the place die. It’s short at a little under an hour, so as long as you know what you are getting into, it is worth a look.