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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Yeah, funny things happen in the world: Born For Hard Luck

I don't know if there is anything better than a good story teller. It's great when are stories true, it's great when they're exaggerated, and it's best when you can't tell which the story is. That's definitely the case with Peg Leg Sam. Real name Arthur Jackson, he was born in 1911 and grew up in rural, like, rural rural, South Carolina. If you have seen the movie Amelie, the clip of the old man with one leg dancing is from this documentary Born for Hard Luck. (video links are on the left of the page.)

It's hard to say what he was. He was a blues harmonica player who could play two harps simultaneously, one with his mouth and one with his nose. But generally, he was a cool old man who spent his life traveling on freight trains and doing whatever he could. At one point he worked in medicine shows, following in the long rural tradition of selling snake oil.

The life he lived and the stories he tells seem like they would be impossible. I never hear stories like his today. Peg Leg was never a rich man, but he seemed genuinely happy with how everything turned out. And everyone around him seems like they wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I can't even imagine doing half of what he has done, but I also can't imagine watching anything cooler than this short documentary.

Quotes I'm partial to:

"To show you that I IS in hard luck, if I go up the street walking fast, I run over something. I'm in such hard luck, if I go up there walking slow, something run ofer me. I'm in such hard luck, if I'm sitting down I'm in everybody's way. I'm in such hard luck, if it's raining down soup at this very minute, everybody'd be standing there with a spoon--why, I'd have a fork."

"I said uh oh lady, I forgot bout my fingernails"

"Somebody carry me. Get a car quick!"

"But that was a funny thing. three years I done saved up. Two days after I quit work, broke as a he-haint in Georgia Yeah!"

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