When Asa Holbrook Staggs stepped into the cold-water spring that would later bear his name, he was drunk. The date was November 18, 1914. He pulled himself from the water, sober, cold and converted to a new life in the Lord. And thus began the legend of Asa's Spring, a pool indiscriminately dispensing favoritism to those who believed (or wondered about) the curative power of its water. These are stories of people born in Cuttercane, GA, the place of Asa's Spring, and who earned minor celebrity from the townsfolk's highest praise: "He (she) is something else, ain't he (she)?"
The " . . . something else . . ." is what a Southerner might call a catch-all phrase, for it can apply to saint and sinner alike. It means exactly what it implies: the person referenced has made a name for him(her)self in some manner – Asa, the drunk, becoming a war hero; the reigning heavyweight lard watermelon champion and Indian terror, Newell Proudfoot, in a grudge match against the Prichard twins; Felton Eugene Weaver's rise from whiskey runner to Hollywood movie fame; Elmo Parker and Monroe Dawson in a showdown baseball game between the Claybank Textile Tigers and the Jefferson Bluejays; and, last, the stunning Mattie Mae Blair's career as the strip-tease artist, Princess Salome.
Such stories as these, spoken and/or written in the edged-in-humor style of gossip, are still shared daily in cafes and other gathering spots in rural communities of the South. It is a practice embedded in the culture, and all it takes for a casual mention to become a tall tale is one storyteller trying to outdo another. If you find yourself in the company of such men and women, pause nearby and eavesdrop. When the snickering turns into a cackle, you will know that someone has been elevated to being " . . . something else. . . " and you will experience the magic of story that turns humor and tenderness into caricature.