Latest reptilian invasion of Hartsville
has dogs barking and swimmers leery
By GRAHAM OSTEEN
Editor and Publisher
The reptiles are on the move.
It’s not even July yet, and the journalistic powers that be here at The Messenger – Darlington County’s news leader – have already brought you an exclusive report on a rare and beautiful two-headed turtle named Righty and Blindie, and today’s inside look at the infamous Prestwood Lake traveling gator.
We don’t make it up, we just report it.
As Cpl. Darren Hayes of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources explained, Black Creek essentially runs from North Carolina to Florence.
“He probably worked his way down and decided he liked where he was,” Hayes said.
Many thanks to Steve Terry for e-mailing the gator picture, which was shot by Prestwood Lake Wildlife Correspondent David Crook on Sunday, June 23, at the Coker Boathouse.
According to Terry, who did not want his name mentioned, “This fellow is about eight feet long. He heard or saw my dog in the water and came across the lake. He probably got within 15 feet of the dock down there and would follow the dog as he would move down the shore.”
Dogs feel naturally compelled to bark at gators as if there’s something they can do about the situation. It’s part of the reason we have “dog years.” According to the Discovery Channel, barking dogs on a lakeside look like loud, tasty chickens to reptiles.
I grew up on a small lake over in Sumter County, and we had our share of gator invasions from a nearby swamp that is appropriately named Nasty Branch. It’s one of the scariest places on earth, filled with cottonmouth water moccasins and escaped prisoners.
One summer there was a huge monster gator that came over the dam and was methodically cruising up and down the lake where my brothers and I regularly swam. This beast was terrorizing the idiotic family dogs and my mother wouldn’t let us go near the water. Clearly, something had to be done about the situation.
My father called on our newspaper’s ever-reliable pressroom foreman at the time for help. He was a speed-talking sparkplug of a man named Jimmy Russell who could fix or kill anything and tell stories while doing it. Jimmy stalked that gator and shot him between the eyes with a .22 rifle. We found the monster floating upside down the next day and dragged him ashore. There’s a famous family photo of my brother Kyle with his foot on the dead gator and a curious smile on his face.
Kyle and I told everyone who would listen that our usually mild-mannered father arrived home from work at the newspaper one afternoon, stripped off his clothes, swam into the lake like Tarzan and stabbed the gator to death with a knife that he had tucked into his underwear waistband.
This great story, like most family legends, has been passed on to our children, who don’t seem to believe it.