PLEASANT HILL, TN—Bob Carson, a State Farm life-insurance salesman for the past 27 years, is a walking encyclopedia of sudden-death scenarios, local sources reported Monday.
"Did I ever tell you about that poor barber in Mississippi, Frank?" Carson said, addressing the owner of Frank Klemper's Fourth Street Barbershop. "Such a shame. He stepped on a push-broom, and the handle flipped up, hit his arm, and drove the shears he was holding into his eye."
Added Carson: "Killed him instantly, because of the brain trauma. Went three inches down in there. Busted the eye like a grape and gouged the brain: home lobotomy. Hell of a thing for his wife and infant son. Had to fill the socket with a marble for the funeral."
Carson has reportedly inserted hundreds of similar anecdotes into conversations during the past several years. Among his stories: a 1976 incident in which a Texas oilman got his tool-belt latch stuck in a high-pressure pump moments before it was turned on, the tale of a Southern Electric high-tension-wire worker who absorbed 10,000 amps through his metal lunch pail, and the story of an Arkansas grandmother who was hit and killed instantly by a passing tanker truck, which subsequently careened into a busload of kindergarten students on a field trip to see the Carlsbad Caverns and blew up cars within a quarter-mile radius.
"At this point, I'm almost afraid to say hello to Bob after Sunday services," neighbor Jane Francis said. "The last time I did, I remarked how good the coffee and Danishes were. The next thing I knew, he was giving a forensically detailed account of a body found after a May 1978 bakery flash fire caused when a malfunctioning pilot light ignited a cloud of flour."
"It was all 'charred and grisly remains,' and then he tipped his hat, said 'God bless you and good morning,' and walked over to Tim Hutter," Francis added.
Francis said Carson has a friendly smile, a charming personality, a cheerful demeanor, and "an absolutely lurid obsession with freak accidents."
Francis said she walked by Carson several minutes later, on the same Sunday, and overheard him telling Hutter about the fast-acting carcinogens found in the groundwater near chemical plants like the one adjacent to Hutter's hunting cabin in Trousdale county.
Holy Redeemer Baptist Church pastor Hal Jackson said he is "a little concerned" about Carson.
"Granted, Bob does a very good job selling life insurance and making sure all the townsfolk are adequately covered, but still," Jackson said. "His habit of introducing technical accounts of fatalities into polite conversation is something we should sit down together and talk about."
Asked about the reason for his obsession with death, Carson had this to say.
"Your last name is Kemp, you say? If I'm not mistaken, the town of Kemp was the site of a grain-silo explosion not two years ago. A ladder fragment flying at about 250 miles an hour beheaded a fellow about your age. Head cut clean off, if you call that clean. Just imagine."
"Wait," Carson added. "It may be I'm thinking of the fellow who fell 20 feet from a collapsed balcony into a running wood chipper. But I've forgotten your question. What was it you were asking again?"