Cross Crowned Fairest Of Fair
Dale Hollow Alligator Spotted
Heather Walker Named LA Co-Valedictorian
Crowned Fairest Of Fair
The Overton County Fairest of the Fair Pageant was
held Saturday, July 14 at Overton County Fairgrounds. Pageant winners
are, from left, Second Runner-Up Ashley Brynn Mullins, 19 year-old
daughter of Brad and Lynda Simmons of Livingston and Brian Mullins
of Florida, 2000 Fairest of the Fair LaShawn Livingston, 2001 Fairest
of the Fair Ciara Cross, 20 year-old daughter of Butch and Saralee
Cross of Allons, First Runner-Up Jennifer Buell, 20 year-old daughter
of Mike and Rita Buell of Hilham, and Miss Congeniality Stephanie
Smith, 16 year-old daughter of Charles and Sherry Smith of Rickman.
On hand to present trophies for the Livingston Regional Hospital
sponsored pageant are Michelle Watson, Chief Nursing Officer, and
Tim McGill, Chief Executive Officer. Mullins was also named Miss
Photogenic. Valerie Beth Brady, not pictured, was named Best Dressed.
Tiny Tot King And Queen Crowned
Master Hunter G.S. White and Miss McKenzie Poston
were named the 2001 Tiny Tot King and Queen in the Livingston Regional
Hospital-sponsored contest held at Overton County Fairgrounds Friday,
July 13. Winners are, from left, second runner-up Kayleah Elizabeth
Davenport, daughter of Devon and Angie Davenport, first runner-up
Austin Keith Young, son of Jason and Christy Young, 2000 Tiny Tot
Queen Bailey Sutton Rose, daughter of Donna Qualls and the late
Brian Rose, 2001 Tiny Tot Queen McKenzie Poston, daughter of Michael
and Tabatha Poston, 2001 Tiny Tot King Hunter G.S. White, son of
Richard and Jessica White, 2000 Tiny Tot King Alex Webb, son of
Mike and Amy Webb, first runner-up Susanna Story, daughter of Craig
and Tammy Story, and second runner-up Jacob Norrod, son of James
and Elaine Norrod.
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By Alan B. Gibson, Editor Clinton Co. News
Reprinted by permission
Life is full of adventures - some good, some bad,
some minor and some major, but adventures, nonetheless.
What started out this past weekend as a harmless,
"joke" with a couple of friends, ended up being a day-long
adventure that had a little of everything needed to make it one
of the most fun-filled, and memorable events of my 43 years.
A day-long excursion on Dale Hollow Lake with a couple
of good friends was filled with excitement, planning, stalking and
adrenaline rushes - not to mention adventure.
We went on a Gator hunt - caught the gator, lost the
gator, caught it again, lost it again - and finally had to go home
exhausted, but at the same time, satisfied that none of us had ever
had a day quite like this one before - nor would we likely ever
The Gator Tale is circulated
For the past several months now, rumors have been
circulating about an alligator-like creature having been spotted
on Dale Hollow Lake, and while most of the tales put the "critter"
in the vicinity of an area known as "Cope Hollow", near
the Kentucky-Tennessee border and just across the lake from Dale
Hollow Lake State Park, it was a somewhat unbelievable tale to many.
Even with some "fuzzy" photos that surfaced
a couple of months ago on the internet that could have possibly
been a photo of a small alligator like creature on a log, that could
have just as possibly been taken on Dale Hollow Lake, without seeing
the creature for myself, there was a strong doubt that what we actually
had was a photo of a rotten log that resembled a small alligator.
In other words, the proof was fuzzy, at best.
As the spring and summer progressed, the "gator
tale" continued to surface from time to time, with reported
spottings and the usual logical explanation that the animal was
most likely someone's pet that had simply grown too large for it's
cage, and was released into Dale Hollow.
A warm climate animal, if there was a small alligator
in Dale Hollow, it would surely die over the upcoming winter, and
from time to time, an additional part of the story would surface
that made it even more unbelievable - that being of reported spottings
of the "gator" last summer and fall, meaning the warm
climate invader had actually survived what was one of the harshest
winters we've had in Clinton County for the past several years.
Couldn't be true. The gator tale had to be just another
version of the "Dale Hollow Monster" or "Lady in
the Window" folklore that I've heard all my life around the
lake. No gators here, despite the fuzzy internet photos.
Accomplices to the Adventure
This is where the story might begin to get somewhat
hard to believe, so we'll just be up front at this point and say
that while those of us involved in this Gator Adventure realize
that we have been known for our fun-filled antics over the years,
and when together, our reputation for being "serious"
isn't the best.
My longest friendship has been that of nearly 40 years
with Allen Smith, now Vice President with the Bank of Clinton County,
and one of my "cohorts in crime" from our gradeschool
years through high school and for the past 25 years of our post-high
school adult life.
There isn't anything we haven't done together, especially
if it sounded like fun and might make for a good story later.
One of our specialities is pulling jokes, and while
the victim of these jokes are more often than not each other, we
have been known to "gangup" on an unsuspecting victim
from time to time, which is how Saturday's adventure began.
The joke begins - early Saturday
While spending the weekend on the lake, we were summoned
early Saturday to make a short trip to Wisdom Dock to pick up another
good friend, Fred Groce, who was yet another member of the CCHS
Class of 1976 and has spent countless days and nights around us,
on and off the lake, relaxing, working on projects and usually having
fun on the weekends.
After picking Fred up in Smith's aluminum fishing
boat, the plan for the day was briefly discussed and it seemed that
Smith had put together an idea that sounded like a lot of fun.
Having obviously rolled this joke around in his head
for some time now, and with the "Dale Hollow Gator Tale"
still being circulated from one end of the lake to the other, Smith
had made a brief visit into town during his lake vacation to purchase
some small, plastic alligators about a foot long.
With a screw gun in the boat, we decided how much
fun it would be to attach one of theses plastic gators to a log
in the area where the gator was supposedly now living.
Then we'd go back to the cabin, laugh about our most
recent escapade and figure out what to do with the rest of Saturday.
The "joke" didn't last but a couple of
"Boys - there the x!se!wxx#ech is"
Traveling up the small fingerling of Dale Hollow
Lake we refer to as Cope Hollow, we passed a couple of boaters and
waved at a few houseboat groups along the shore as we traveled to
the very end of the narrow area where our plan was to come together.
Smith said he had previously searched out and found
the "log" that was in the internet picture and it was
there that our plastic gators would find their new home. As we trolled
toward the bushes, downed trees and logs in the end of the cove,
I remember thinking it did in fact look kind of swampy here and
just a little spooky as well.
With the log just a few feet in front of us, Smith
stood up and began readying his gear, his screw gun and a couple
of decking screws. As Freddie and I looked ahead at the approaching
target log, it was Smith who made the statement that would change
our plans for the remainder of the day.
"Boys," then came a silent period that seemed
like it lasted for several seconds before being followed by the
words "there the x!se!wxx#ech is"
Fred and I both looked toward the log that Allen
had us drifting toward, and the silence that filled the air for
the next several seconds was almost deafening - sure enough - there
the x!se!wxx#ech was!
We began a scramble inside that small boat, and for
the life of me, I can't remember what any of us was reaching for
or trying to do, but I'm sure the scene could have been a fantastic
video on how "not" to act in a small fishing boat.
Smith dropped the plastic gators, as well as the screw
gun, which luckily fell inside the boat, and quickly grabbed his
digital camera, began clicking away as Freddie and myself continued
to walk over each other and make our own excited exclamations about
what lay in front of us - on the very log we were about to use for
a well-planned joke.
There he was, about four feet in length, brightly
colored, slithering off the log and into the water as he headed
into a brushy area - probably to get away from these three idiots
in the boat who were causing all kinds of commotion and probably
were interrupting his early morning sun nap.
Sure enough - as it slowly swam in front of us, using
it's long tail and four small legs - it was an alligator.
More jumping - more running around in the boat, and
as Smith moved to the front of the vessel for a closer look, I grabbed
the camera and began snapping more photos.
The planning session begins.
"We've got to catch it" came out of someone's
mouth, and realizing that we left equipped to fasten a plastic gator
to a log, we quickly composed ourselves, or at least tried, and
made a quick trip back to our home base to regroup, and reequip
for a real live gator hunt.
Discussing what we needed to catch a gator, we quickly
ran around grabbing "tools" - fishing gear, hunting gear,
more cameras, and then looking for bait.
What could we use to lure a gator into the boat. I
grabbed a package of hot dogs and my other cohorts came up with
a can of vienna sausage and a package of marinated chicken breasts
from Clinton County's very own Cagles - Keystone Foods processing
Surely one of those would work to lure the creature
into our net.
Wait - we didn't have a net. It was one of the first
things I thought of and on several occasions I continued saying
that one of the more important tools would be a large dip net.
No net anywhere on the place. A quick trip to a neighbor
was in order, and without telling him where we were off to, we asked
if we could possibly borrow his dip net for awhile.
No net on his boat either.
So off we go, with our gator catching paraphernalia,
bait, hooks, racing hearts - but no net, other than two small pieces
of a rotten net that Smith had used as a decoration.
Back to the end of the cove, and all of us asking
the question - "wonder if he's still there?"
As we pulled back in, this time considerably quieter,
the three of us began looking toward the log, not knowing exactly
what to except.
Back in the same place, atop the downed tree, surrounded
by brush and muddy water - there he lay - the Dale Hollow Gator.
We planned briefly, and after realizing that none
of us had actually been on a gator hunt before, we admitted that
this was going to have to be a trial and error - hit and miss thing.
As we watched our target, which didn't seem near as
excited to see us as we were to see him, the first plan began to
come together. We'd see just how close we could get without using
any of our tools except the largest piece of rotten net we had.
This would be a piece of cake - float up to the gator,
throw some vienna sausage at him, then catch him in the net.
Usually, the first plan isn't the best, and that proved
to be the case in this first attempt.
The critter simply slithered off the log and swam
a few feet away in the opposite direction, seeking refuge in a heavily
weeded area in about three feet of water.
As I manned the camera, my two accomplices began their
luring technique, which consisted of hunkering down and throwing
vienna sausages into the water, with Smith breaking the rhythm from
time to time to take a bite of the bait himself.
Bad plan. Vienna sausages, especially those that have
been bitten in half before being thrown, don't float for any length
of time at all before sinking to the bottom of the already muddy,
mucky area - never to be seen again until they show up in the stomach
of a large catfish.
Next plan - not one of my smartest moves ever
As we mulled over what went wrong with our first
attempt, we continued to look at the small gator, resting now with
what appeared to be a smile across his foot long mouth, in the weeds.
"Okay boys, here's the deal," I said as
I put the camera down and stood up. "Look at him - he's a baby
gator - even is he bites down on one of us, how bad can it hurt,
at least we've caught him."
"Are you going to get in the water with him,"
Freddie asked - semimaking a joke out of the situation.
It was then, when I peeled off my shirt and reached
for a life jacket that the pair got really quiet.
"Get the net out," I began explaining, "and
I'll ease up behind him in the tail and shoo him right back toward
you and into the net."
A look of disbelief went across both of their faces
as I finished explaining my plan and reached down for the short
Easing into the shallow water, with my "gator
shooing paddle" in hand, I soon realized that below the three
feet or so of water below us, was about another foot or more of
mud, which made my maneuvering the twenty feet or so around a couple
of downed trees and into the brush even slower and more labored
that I had anticipated.
Approaching the area where the small creature was
situated, I paused briefly until I once again had my eyes locked
onto his eyes and back, and began making my way toward his tail.
With just a few feet separating us, I used the paddle
to push up toward into his direction, and caused a small stick to
brush up against his tail, and with that - he began moving away
through the brush and out of my sight. I love it when a plan comes
"Where'd he go - is he coming your way?"
I quickly asked as I began slowly easing back through the mud so
I could get a better view of the gator going into the net.
"He's gone. I don't know. Hey Al - I can't see
him at all now," was the reply I heard, and the return trip
back to the boat - through the mud and water became a much quicker
one than it had been getting out there.
As I reached the back of the boat, my instincts took
over, and after a quick glance back over my shoulder just to make
sure that "jaws" wasn't about to hit me in the tail with
something, I returned to my water-skiing days of some three decades
ago when we used the outboard motor to regain entry into the boat.
One quick step, one bear-hug of the motor and I jumped back into
the boat, noting that I hadn't made that move in at least 25 years.
"You're pretty nimble for an old guy," Freddie
said as he marveled at my boat entering expertise.
It was about then I explained that someone else could
get in the water with the gator next time, if we were planning on
sticking with that same plan.
A new plan - in the rain
As a light rain began to fall, we began putting together
a new plan - one that would involve fishing equipment that everyone
who has ever worked the banks for catfish has used - limb lines.
Hanging baited hooks on short pieces of twine from
a limb, just over where the creature had been seen lounging earlier,
Smith began preparing the lines, as I continued to make more pictures.
With the rain now becoming heavier, we decided to
quickly bait the two lines with some pieces of marinaded chicken,
which was actually going to be supper that night and retreat across
the lake, under the shelter of a large overhanging tree.
Within minutes of finding our sheltered spot, and
spending some time talking about where we had been so far on our
adventure, we spotted him again - on the log, in the rain, eating
With the engine fired up and ready to go, Freddie
began trying to untie the knot that was holding the boat to a tree,
and just seconds later, realizing he wasn't having any luck at all
with the knot Smith had tied, out came a knife and with the rope
now in two pieces, we were on our way back across the cove and ready
to claim our prize.
"We need a net" I said again for at least
the 15th time, and as we moved within a few feet of our prize, he
calmly looked up at us, shook his head violently a couple of times
and again slid down off the log and into the water - back into the
weeds. Out of reach but not out of sight.
What was in sight however was our two, new, shiny
hooks, hanging from the limb lines, and without the two large pieces
of chicken that had been on them just moments before.
Not to be discouraged, or at least not to be terribly
discouraged, we calmly went through the baiting moves again, realizing
that this was as close as we had come yet to being successful.
Once again, we left to go across the cove, and once
again, this time before we ever reached the cove, our target, who
we now were considering to be our friend, crawled up the log, gulped
our chicken, and as we returned to scoop him up with the piece of
rotten net, he shook his head, stripped the chicken from the hook,
and retreated back into the water. Again just out of reach but still
in sight, and again, with an ever growing smile on his face.
After at least one summer of chasing turtles and frogs
and baby ducks, the small gator had made some new friends who were
feeding him pieces of chicken - fresh marinaded chicken nonetheless.
A revised plan - the one that would have worked
- except we didn't have a net
More discussion followed and suddenly, the plan began
to come together.
Smith grabbed a fishing rod and baited a large hook
with - what else - a piece of chicken. Then, we carefully placed
the limb line, allowing the chicken bait to dangle just over the
log. As an added attraction to this plan, we placed a piece of the
net over the log as well, in the hopes that while scurrying over
it to reach the chicken, he would become entangled immediately and
make getting him into the boat even easier.
As we prepared the trap, we looked just a few feet
away at our still hungry but quickly filling friend, and briefly
talked about how easy it would be to shoot him and be done with
The discussion quickly turned to how an eight foot
long shot really didn't pose any sport to the situation and that
solution would simply be too easy. We needed to catch him, ride
him around a while and show all of our friends, then contact the
zoo or refuge where he could be released and would likely be in
a better environment - especially during the winter months.
"Then we can go feed him chicken anytime we want,"
I noted and with that, our latest plan continued.
There we sat, our fishing line drooped over a tree
limb, the radio playing, and Smith manning the fishing rod. I worked
the radio and the binoculars and Fred kept the boat in place.
For over an hour, we watched the gator sitting in
the water with his chin resting on a small stick. We watched the
gator, and the gator watched us.
Suddenly, Fred hunkered down, as if to try and get
a view of the bait that would be more akin to the view the gator
had, when he blurted out "I don't think he can see the chicken,
raise it up a little."
With that, Smith pulled on the line and the chicken
moved up - just a couple of inches - and just as suddenly, the creature
raised his own head and began moving in for another snack.
With a gobble or two, Smith was sure the hook was
deep enough and, with the force normally used to set a hook on a
large striper, he stood up, gave the rod a yank and off the log
he came with Smith reeling him in and Fred and I scrambling for
pieces of rotten net to throw over him.
Fred's net hit the mark first, and then came our
first look at the famous "gator roll" as he twisted around,
shed the net and went under water.
With the rod nearly bent double, Smith was able once
again to bring our catch back to the surface of the water as I hurled
my piece of rotten net over him - now just inches away from the
edge of the boat.
Another roll and another twist away from the net,
our friend the gator made a brief stop to open his mouth wide, exposing
the white meat inside his throat as well as giving Fred and I an
inches away view of two rows of teeth that must have numbered into
"Grab him boys," Smith yelled just a second
or two after Fred and I had taken an up close look into his mouth.
Fred and I both turned to Smith in disbelief of the instructions
that had just come from the man holding the rod.
It was about then that the now familiar phrase came
out of my mouth again - "We need a net," as I looked around
for something else to drape over its mouth and out of the corner
of my eye, I saw the gator's final roll, this one with enough strength
to break the hook, and off he went.
Inches - we had been, and a good dip net, from having
this creature in the boat and on our way back to what would surely
have been a night long bragging session. We need a net!
"Let's go get a net," Smith said after
catching his breath just seconds after losing the gator from the
"What an idea" I blurted right back and
with that, the three of us were off to the closest dock, which happened
to be Eagle's Cove, where we restocked with heavier fishing equipment
and borrowed a large dip net.
"This is it," I exclaimed, holding the net
in front of me. "This is what we needed all along."
It was on the return trip to the log that I seriously
began pondering the size of the mouth and the number of teeth I
had just examined from just a few inches away, and I then pointed
out to my two friends that my earlier statement about it being such
a small gator that even a bite wouldn't produce much damage should
be a statement that was disregarded.
Also, at about the same time, I mentioned that perhaps
the manuever I had made earlier in the day, getting into the water
with the boat paddle, perhaps wasn't the smartest thing I had ever
They both quickly agreed. Arriving back at the scene,
with the net in hand, we re-baited and restretched the line, backed
off and waited...and waited...and waited.
Finally, deciding that what we had on our hands now
was a tired, mad and probably appetite quenched gator, we decided
to retreat back to home base, and come back early in the morning
to feed our friend breakfast - and bring him in.
Morning trip - something's not right
During the late afternoon hours, as we sat on the
houseboat, tossing the stories of the day back and forth, the marine
band radio began reporting news of a shooting incident in the Cope
Hollow area, with callers requesting that authorities come in to
help with the situation.
"Someone's gone up there and shot our gator"
I exclaimed, reminding everyone just how easy we could have done
the same thing several times before during the day.
After what seemed like a short night's sleep, Smith
and myself, along with my son, Joe Gibson, headed back to the log
and brushes, without Fred, who couldn't make the Sunday morning
Nothing looked right as we approached. Before we had
left, Smith had thrown the limb lines up into the tree so the gator
wouldn't get snagged in the night, and we had gone ahead and put
the plastic gator to the tree, as we had originally planned on doing
when the entire episode began.
The limb lines were gone - completely, and so was
the plastic gator on the end of the tree - screw and all.
We sat and waited and watched. No sign. We noticed
there were more signs of other wildlife in the area than had been
the day before. More frogs, more turtles, more fish.
"Somebody's killed the gator," I noted as
we began packing up the gear some two hours later - it would have
been just too easy.
Smith doesn't think so, saying he thinks the gator
was still there, and we'll get him on another day.
Regardless, we came home, twice, without our prize,
but with the memories of a grand expedition of gator hunting on
Dale Hollow Lake, and perhaps the best ever "one that got away"
story to tell for some time to come.
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Walker Named LA Co-Valedictorian
Heather Walker has been named co-valedictorian for
the Livingston Academy Class of 2001.
In a recent review of Overton County Board policies,
the Livingston Academy administration found a discrepancy between
the current student ranking procedure used at Livingston Academy
and the ranking procedure prescribed by Overton County Board policy.
With this in mind, the Livingston Academy administration
checked the top two students' averages. In doing so, following Board
policy, the final rankings indicated that Heather Walker's average
of 99.4166 was sufficient to establish a ranking for the valedictorian
position. Because another student had initially been recognized
as valedictorian, the LA administration decided it would be more
fair to co-rank the students rather than lower one student's standing.
The Overton County Board of Education is currently
reviewing Board policy to assure a fair and equitable ranking for
The ranking formula in question was based on six subjects:
English, Social Studies, Math, Science, Lifetime Wellness, and Keyboarding.
The formula took the top three grades in Social Studies, Math, and
Science. If the students had four grades, for the four years, the
lowest grade was dropped. All four years of English were used. The
formula also included one semester of Lifetime Wellness and Keyboarding,
making those two classes count as one-third of the final average.
The system made it possible for a student to fail
a year of Math, Social Studies, or Science and still be valedictorian,
because all other subjects were left out of the formula. The formula
did not use 17 of the 32 high school courses
Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570