Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Dick Hilburn – The Quarter-Man
Man is often greater than the sum of his parts.
On January 15, 1918 an infant named Dick Hilburn was born in Bladenboro, North Carolina. He was born physically incomplete.
Dick Hilburn was born with a single arm and physically little else. He possessed no left arm and no legs, only a vestigial two-toed foot protruded from his left hip. Yet, despite what would normally be considered a crippling handicap, Dick Hilburn possessed an unconquerable spirit and indomitable work ethic which allowed him to not only surpass expectations but to also exceed the ambitions of many able-bodied men.
Dick Hilburn conquered his mobility limitations with little more than a rolling board. He used his arm to propel and steer his body and in the process developed great physical strength. That strength allowed him to hoist his body wherever he willed it with relative ease.
Having dealt with his mobility issues, Hilburn focused on developing his mind and ingenuity. He proved to be a talented artist and became fairly well know for his skills with a tattoo needle. He was also sought after as a commercial painter of signs, banners, trucks and semi trailers.
He possessed a natural business sense and rather than rely on showmen for exhibition purposes, Hilburn developed and operated his own show. He exhibited himself on his own terms and, later, added a second attraction. A young parastremmatic dwarf, a dwarf with twisted limbs, named Carl ‘Frogboy’ Norwood joined the venture and Hilburn generously provided for the both of them. During the off season the two operated a local diner, which was also owned by the one-armed wonder Dick Hilburn.
Successful in life, art and business Hilburn was also successful in love. He later married an average woman who had all her fingers and toes.
Dick Hilburn ran his sideshow until the day he died in June of 1971. He lived his life as any man free of handicap would. His only limitation in life was his mortality.
As for Carl Norwood, he was managed my Hilburn’s widow for a short time before joining up with the great showman Ward Hall. He toured for a few more seasons before retiring and passing on in Atlanta on Feb. 24, 1976.