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80 Years Ago

Archives 07-25-2001




Cross Crowned Fairest Of Fair
Dale Hollow Gator Captured On KY Side
Meth Lab Discovered At Vines Ridge


House Trailer Parks On Hilham Highway

Becky Meredith/OCN staff

A house trailer almost but didn't quite make it up the hill on Hilham Highway, just past the intersection of the highway and Highway 111 Wednesday afternoon, July 18. The truck pulling the trailer reportedly ran out of gas, stopped, then rolled backwards over the right bank. The extent of the damage appeared to be limited to a broken window and a rather large dent in the front right corner. Officers of Livingston Police Department responded to the scene moments later and blocked off the end of Hilham Highway at traffic light 2. The officials rerouted motorists on Hawkins Road, which runs beside The Building Center. One concern of Chief Roger Phillips was that with local factories changing work shifts, a traffic jam would possibly result before the trailer could be moved. A large wrecker was soon brought to the scene to move the trailer. One bystander at the scene commented, "Not exactly a great place for a house trailer."

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Dale Hollow Gator Captured On KY Side

By Alan B. Gibson Clinton County News Editor Reprinted by permission

Allen Smith, left, and Willard Johnson pose with “Gus, the gator”. Smith and Johnson recently caught the caiman, which is related to the crocodile family.



A big net, a hunk of chicken, a towel, and a roll of electrical tape, along with a short "tussle" in the water, and the Dale Hollow Gator is "in the bag".

After more than three weeks of stalking and hunting that included at least a dozen trips to the "gator hole" on Dale Hollow Lake, "Gus" the gator is finally safe from harm, and resting comfortably in a tank full of fresh water with an endless supply of chicken.

Allen Smith and Willard Johnson were involved in Sunday evening's successful "gator adventure" and upon arriving at Wisdom Dock with the 40-inch creature alive and well in an aerated live-well on Smith's boat, it didn't take long for word to spread about the "catch of the day.”

With flashes popping and cameras whirring, the mooring area around the Wisdom Dock Lighthouse Restaurant was quickly a center of activity as word quickly spread of the successful capture earlier that afternoon

The saga of the Dale Hollow Gator has been circulating for several months since earlier reports this spring of a sighting of an alligator-like creature in an area of the lake known locally as Cope Hollow near the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

Although the existence of an alligator living in a fingerling of Dale Hollow Lake was somewhat unbelievable to most who heard it, the story took on a heightened circulation a few weeks ago.

In its July 4 issue, Clinton County News published a report, along with several photographs taken during a day-long effort to catch the animal after three locals, Allen Smith, Alan Gibson, and Fred Groce, made several failed attempts to get the animal in their small fishing boat.

Since that story first appeared in Clinton County News, several other newspapers in the Dale Hollow Lake area reprinted the account and two separate reports of the sighting and attempts to catch the gator were aired on Nashville television stations.

Sunday's successful venture came after several afternoon and nighttime trips had also produced results that were little more than the alligator getting another good meal, compliments of the group who have now become known in the area as the "Gator Hunters."

Named "Gus" by those who were hunting him, the gator's favorite food appeared to be Cagle's marinaded chicken breast, and Sunday's nabbing of the gator by Smith and Johnson began with the careful placement of several pieces of chicken.

For Smith, the hunt began like most of the others had, but for Johnson, a first-time gator hunter, it ended up being a day he will likely never forget.

Placing a large net across the log, Johnson said that Smith had explained the plan for the day, noting that hopefully, while crawling up on the log where he had been seen more often than not, "Gus" would become entangled in the net while searching out the pieces of chicken that were being left.

After baiting the log with the chicken, Smith and Johnson, who were accompanied by their wives, Lisa Smith and Sherry Johnson, left the area for about half an hour in order to allow the gator to approach the log without anyone being around.

"When we came back, I looked up toward the log, and there he sat," Smith said Sunday evening as he held Gus carefully in his hands and allowed onlookers to get a closer look.

Smith said he could tell that the gator was being held on the log by the net, which had apparently gotten around one of his legs and prevented him from leaving the area as the boat approached.

"I think it was Allen who said 'we got to get in the water with him' and I didn't even think twice, I just jumped in," Johnson said, just before Smith jumped into the conversation and began reviewing their next actions that resulted in bringing the gator to the boat.

"I slipped around behind him and told Willard I was going to grab him by the tail, and when I had ahold of him, Willard was going to throw a towel over his head and hold him down," Smith said, pointing out that as he was now an experienced "gator hunter", his plan called for him to grab the tail, while he instructed the newest member of the hunt party to deal with the "business end" of the animal.

"Worked like a charm," Smith said. "As soon as I grabbed him, he turned and hissed and just like that, Willard had him covered up and we had him."

Johnson said that after the pair had subdued the creature, it briefly began hissing and twisting, but with a firm grip on both ends, it quickly settled down and seemed content to be carried to the boat.

Back in the boat, and with a firm grip on the gator's mouth, Lisa Smith was summoned to wrap the snout shut with several rounds of electrical tape and with that, the ordeal had come to an end.

In the meantime, the fourth member of the Sunday afternoon gator hunt was happy to not become a first-hand member of the excitement. Willard said his wife, Sherry Johnson, spent the entire time at the back of the boat, as far back in the boat as she could get.

"When we started coming into the boat with it, Sherry was already back near the motor and she started trying to find a way to get even farther back," Johnson laughed as he repeated the story Sunday night at Wisdom Dock.

Sunday's successful gator capturing run had a bit of a twist of superstition, as well.

Wearing his gator hunting attire, Smith went after "Gus" in the exact same outfit he was wearing the first day the critter was spotted in late June – a black Harley Davidson tank top and a white cowboy hat.

It was also pointed out that both Smith and Johnson are employed at the Bank of Clinton County, while their wives, are both teachers at Albany Elementary School.

Sunday's successful gator hunt has also brought forth several more questions, including how "Gus" ended up in Dale Hollow Lake, and are there any more in the immediate area.

A closer inspection of the animal by Smith, Gibson, and several others who had reported seeing the animal earlier, raised the possibility that yet another similar specimen may remain on the loose in the same area.

"I'm not sure this is the first one we saw," Smith said, noting that the animal photographed several weeks ago appeared to be somewhat different in color and perhaps longer than the one caught Sunday.

It could be that more "gator hunts" will be planned in the future, if it appears that yet another gator is still living in the area.

Currently, several avenues of getting the captured animal to a proper environment are being researched by those involved in the capture, in an effort to not only get "Gus" entered into surroundings that are more suitable to the normally tropical environment where they are usually found, as well as insuring that it is better taken care of and away from potential harm.

Wherever he ends up, we'll be sure his new caretakers are aware of his acquired appetite for marinaded chicken.

Editor's Note: Bill Moulton of Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has informed Overton County News that the animal is actually a caiman, a relative of the crocodile. An alligator-like creature has been reported in Dale Hollow Lake for about two and a half years.


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Meth Lab Discovered At Vines Ridge

Sheriff Kelly Hull, left, and Reserve Deputy Tom Key display the methamphetamine paraphernalia seized Tuesday, July 17 from a lab in the Vines Ridge Community.


Becky Meredith, OCN staff

Production of methamphetamine at a lab in the Vines Ridge Community was brought to a sudden halt Tuesday morning, July 17.

Officials at Overton County Sheriff's Department were tipped off on the whereabouts of the lab, and upon searching the location, found methamphetamine had been cooked on the scene.

According to Sheriff Kelly Hull, at best guess, the confiscated chemicals and cooking utensils had been used for only one cooking of methamphetamine.

Evidence will be presented to the Overton County Grand Jury.

Until the investigation is completed, names of those in custody will be withheld from the public.

Items seized in the bust will be sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to be further verified as methamphetamines, Hull reported.

The Vines Ridge seize was the third bust within a four-day period in Overton County. Two labs were discovered Friday, July 13.

Sheriff Hull urges residents of the county who have information regarding drug activity and manufacturing in the area to come forward and report the situation to the Sheriff's Dept.


Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570
tel 931.823.6485
fax 931.823.6486


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