Whatever happened to your dad’s alligator?

Published 4:02pm Tuesday, November 13, 2012

“I thoroughly enjoy your Dark Corner tales in the Bulletin every month, but…” and here, the slightly graying, fortyish fellow in the Wells Fargo parking lot allowed his voice to drop quite low.

“But, what?” I asked.

“Well, the old tales are great, but there’s a lot of newer ones out there that you haven’t told yet,” he said. “Some I remember happening when I was a small kid or a teenager. For instance, whatever happened to your dad’s alligator?”

I learned that he had visited with my father, Alex “Little Elec” Campbell, at his small gas station on Highway 11 at Tugaloo Road, many times as a young boy in the 1960s. He liked to listen to my dad relate some of the old tales that I have written about in the past couple of years.

“My family moved away from the Dark Corner to the Clinton area in the late 1970s, but we still visited relatives up here fairly often through the years. Mr. Campbell closed his small gas station, but I heard about his finding an alligator in Highway 11 in front of his house,” he said.

He was right. In the summer of 1978, my father was taking his usual mid-day rest, when a young fellow traveling on the highway stopped his car and came running to my dad’s door. “You better come out here, sir. There’s an alligator crossing the road right in front of your house, and coming into your front yard,” he shouted.

My dad was always a man of integrity and didn’t want to call the young fellow a liar. He knew there are some large timber rattlesnakes, bears, wild pigs and even seldom-seen panthers in the Corner, but certainly not any alligators. (Well, there was that one incident years ago of a small one that local private pilot Mass Atkins brought back from Florida and put into the family’s pasture pond. But the family insisted he remove it immediately.)

When my dad got out to the roadway, he couldn’t believe his eyes. It really was an alligator. Not a baby one; it was almost 5 feet long. It looked mean, and must have been in a fight with another alligator, because it was missing a foot.

The young man offered to help my dad capture the rough-skinned critter, but how? 

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