By  Mike Miller  November 23, 2021

Vernon is a small town in the Florida panhandle not too far south of the Alabama border. Larger towns in that part of Florida are DeFuniak SpringsMarianna, and GracevillePanama City is about 25 miles south.

Henry Shipes, Vernon Turkey HunterHenry Shipes, Vernon Turkey Hunter

The documentary movie maker Errol Morris decided to make a film about the town back in the early 1980's that would be titled "Nub City".

This name came about because he discovered that most amputation insurance frauds in the country came from Vernon.

Townsfolk would take out an accidental death and dismemberment insurance policy, then fake an accident and blow off their foot or their hand and collect the insurance money.

Amputee Not From VernonAmputee Not From Vernon

They say a favorite technique was to remove your left foot because you'd still be able to drive your new Cadillac with your right foot.

When some town citizens reportedly threatened to kill Morris if he made "Nub City, he decided to make another documentary instead.

Poster for Vernon, Florida the MoviePoster for Vernon, Florida the Movie

This film featured several townspeople talking about whatever they wanted.  The result is the 1982 movie "Vernon, Florida". There is no other documentary quite like it.

The movie has no plot. It starts off with an old mosquito fogging pickup truck making its rounds in the early morning on the deserted streets of the small town.

Errol Morris is an American film director and documentary maker.  His 2003 documentary film, the "Fog of War:  Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara" won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.  He originally intended to name the documentary about Vernon, Florida "Nub City." 

Various people begin to talk to the camera in no particular order. No questions are asked by the unknown camera man. It is not like a documentary with interviews.

One of the people who talks is an avid turkey hunter named Henry Shipes. His passion for hunting the elusive bird is riveting.

Vernon, Florida Man with Gopher TortoiseVernon, Florida Man with Gopher Tortoise

Another is an old man who keeps "pets" in a cage in his yard, including a possum and a tortoise.

Northerners loved to ridicule the old man for calling a tortoise a gopher, but that is the Florida cracker term for that animal.

Another old farmer is an expert at growing "wigglers", earthworms used as fish bait.

Yankees laughed at these poor country folk when the movie came out in 1982.

Man on Bench in Vernon, FloridaMan on Bench in Vernon, Florida

Intellectuals and academics were particularly entertained, and the people of Vernon began to resent the movie.

It looked to them like Errol Morris was making fun of them.

It's definitely a culturally significant movie. I experienced similar culture shock when I first moved to Pensacola in 1960 from the Upper Midwest.

Pensacola was then known as being in LA:  Lower Alabama.

I have known northern hunters who were passionate about their sport, but none approaching the level of Vernon's Henry Shipes.

Vernon, Florida Story TellerVernon, Florida Story Teller

Was Errol Morris making fun of these poor southerners? You will have to decide for yourself, but I for one am not sure that was his mission.

Southern self sufficiency stands out all throughout this little gem of a movie.  These are people who have found something to be passionate about in life.



Cypress Spring
2860 Cypress Spring Rd, Vernon, FL 32462 | (850) 233-5070

Plunge into the crystal-clear waters of Cypress Spring, a natural wonder that's a favorite among locals and visitors alike. This hidden gem is perfect for snorkeling, kayaking, or just floating on the water while soaking in the serene beauty of the surrounding nature.

The spring is part of Holmes Creek, a waterway that offers some of the best paddling experiences in Florida. The Springs are only available by boat, so hook up with one of the nearby outfitters like Cypress Springs Adventures just a mile away from the springs or launch your own boat at the public boat ramp.

Vernon Historical Museum
2808 Yellow Jacket Dr., Vernon, FL 32462

Step back in time at the Vernon Historical Museum, where the town's rich history is preserved and celebrated. From its early days to the present, the museum showcases artifacts, photographs, and stories that paint a vivid picture of life in Vernon.

It's a fascinating visit that offers insights into the area's past and its people. You’ll enjoy the friendly guides who are passionate about sharing their knowledge and love for Vernon's heritage.

Holmes Creek Canoe Livery
2899 A, FL-79, Vernon, FL 32462 | (850) 210-7001

Embark on an adventure down Holmes Creek with a canoe or kayak rental from Holmes Creek Canoe Livery. This tranquil waterway is lined with lush vegetation and offers a peaceful escape into nature.

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, including turtles, birds, and maybe even an alligator sunning on the banks. It’s a great way to spend a day outdoors, providing both a relaxing and invigorating experience that reconnects you with the natural world.

Pine Log State Forest
5583-A Longleaf Rd, Ebro, FL 32437 | (850) 535-2888

Less than 20 miles from Vernon, Pine Log State Forest offers miles of hiking and biking trails through diverse ecosystems. Whether you’re an avid hiker or just looking for a scenic stroll, you’ll find trails that suit your pace and preference.

The forest is also a popular spot for bird watching and photography, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. It’s a refreshing retreat into the wilderness, where the beauty of Florida’s landscapes is on full display.

Red Head Roller Coaster Road
Red Head Road, Vernon, FL 32462

For a fun and slightly offbeat adventure, take a drive down Red Head Roller Coaster Road. This winding road through the countryside offers beautiful views and a fun, roller-coaster-like experience as you navigate its hills and curves.

It’s a favorite local secret and a fun way to explore the rural beauty surrounding Vernon. Don’t forget to enjoy the picturesque scenery and perhaps stop for a picnic along the way.

Nana & Papa's Country Market
2975 Moss Hill Rd, Vernon, FL, 32462 | (850) 658-4678

Visit Nana & Papa’s Country Market to sample local produce and homemade goods. This vibrant market is a wonderful place to support local farmers and artisans while enjoying the freshest flavors of the region.

From juicy fruits and vegetables to sno-cones and cane syrup, it’s a delightful sensory experience that connects you with the community.


Jun 17, 2020
by: David Hutchinson

I was so entranced by this movie that once when I visited Florida I drove from Tallahassee to Vernon in an attempt to find Henry Shipes.

I didn’t have to ask many people before I found him and what an interesting guy he was. My wife and I talked to him outside of his trailer for a good hour and I really enjoyed it.

I gave Henry some money for his time and he was well pleased though I refused his offer of cooked catfish.

Sep 07, 2018
We need another documentary about small town Florida.
by: Carolyn

This was an interesting documentary. I was born and raised in Florida. This reminded me of some of the old timers we used to know.

Jul 26, 2015
How to pick up a 'possum'
by: Sandy

You will learn this and many more valuable tips in this movie.

Jul 31, 2014
Facebook Friend Friend Is In The Movie
by: Kat

I shared this on Facebook and a friend of mine commented that she and her husband were in this movie.

Jun 23, 2012
Vernon: The Movie Could Become a Cult Classic!
by: Greg May

A buddy of mine is an avid hunter. Last year, I had to drive him to the Kissimmee Courthouse to face charges of killing a female turkey.

After the judge read the charge, she said in her seven years on the bench she had never had a case like this come before her. My friend was charged $500 plus court costs.

What happened was while he was turkey hunting near Yeehaw Junction he accidently shot a hen. Another hunter saw it and reported it to the game warden.

He also stole the dead bird. After an investigation, the hunter that took the dead turkey was charged with tampering with evidence!

Hunters certainly do take their pastime seriously.

Jun 23, 2012
Good Job, Mike
by: George Mouzakis

I enjoy reading your blurbs on the non Walt Disney World aspects of our adopted state.


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