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80 Years Ago

Archives 07-18-2001




Cross Crowned Fairest Of Fair
Dale Hollow Alligator Spotted
Heather Walker Named LA Co-Valedictorian


Cross 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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Dale Hollow Alligator Spotted

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 again.

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 seconds.

"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 plant.

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 paddle.

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 together.

"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 chicken.

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 it.

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 the hundreds.

"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 hook.

"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 done.

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 return trip.

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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Heather 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 all students.

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




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