The little sleepy river town of Clinchport was enjoying one of the warmest winters in recent history. It was two weeks before Christmas and the temperatures were in the sixties with plenty of sun. The weather was so nice it was hard to get into the Christmas spirit.
Stelly Lawson, owner, operator, and custodian of Stelly’s Restaurant, was taking a break with Bear Neeley, the local game warden. Bear came by every morning to eat one of Stelly’s breakfasts and set a spell.
Uncle Dave Fry worked at the restaurant as the pit master for the barbecue and master brewer for the still. Oh, I forgot, Stelly was famous for her barbecued carp and her sippin’ whiskey, which were both made out behind the restaurant. They marinated the Clinch River carp in the sippin’ whiskey, and then put it on the grill. The sippin’ whiskey softened all the bones in those boney carp to the point you could eat the entire fish, bones and all.
While they were talking Uncle Dave came up and asked Stelly if he could borrow her boat to go fishing. Stelly kept a flat bottomed boat chained to a Sycamore tree, just above the swinging bridge where she gathered the carp and mussels. Oh, I forgot to mention that she was also famous for her steamed river mussels and crawdad tails. Stelly gave Uncle Dave the key and told him to be careful and try to get her a mess of mussels because they were about out. She noticed that when Uncle Dave left he picked up a quart crock of her sippin’ whiskey.
About thirty minutes later, Effie White stormed into the restaurant and raved like a mad woman “Are you a tryin’ to kill my baby boy Coy?” Effie was the wife of a local merchant and the town busybody. She was about five feet tall and just about that big around. She always had a dip of Bruton’s Snuff and tiny lines of brown running down both sides of her mouth. Coy White was her son that she always referred to as “my baby boy Coy’. Now although Coy was almost thirty years old, weighed two hundred pounds and was six feet tall he was still “my baby boy Coy” to Effie.
It seemed that Uncle Dave Fry had asked “my baby boy Coy” to go fishing with him. They poled the boat out to the middle of the river and pulled it up on a sandbar just above the swinging bridge. They then proceeded to drink the entire quart of Stelly’s sippin’ whiskey and passed out.
Bear stood up and told Effie not to worry that he would go and get them off the river. Everybody in the restaurant thought this might be something fun to watch so they got up and followed Bear, Stelly, and Effie to the riverbank. Above the swinging bridge, sure enough, Uncle Dave and “my baby boy Coy” were passed out deader than a door nail in the boat.
Bear started yelling and throwing rocks at them until he got their attention. About that time he noticed that on the end of the boat was a frog gig. It was against the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia to gig fish in the Clinch River, so Bear decided he was going to have to arrest them. He kept talking to them until Uncle Dave was able to pole the boat back to shore.
Uncle Dave handed the boat chain to Bear who held it until he stepped onto the riverbank. He then asked Bear if he could go by Stelly’s and have one more mug of her sippin’ whiskey before they went to jail. Bear told him to go lay down in the hog weeds and wait until he got “my baby boy Coy” on the bank. If they behaved he would take both of them by Stelly’s on the way to jail.
When “my baby boy Coy” stepped up on the boat seat the whole thing floated out from under him and he did a summersault head first into the water. Effie went crazy. She started screaming for Bear to save her baby boy. Bear was laying on the riverbank laughing like crazy at the scene when “baby boy Coy” went down for the second time. This made Effie even crazier. She started beating on Bear screaming for him to save Coy.
Finally Bear got control of himself and said, “Coy, if you will do exactly as I say, I can save you. Do you understand?”
Coy said, “I’ll do anything to keep from drowning.
Bear said “Okay Coy, listen to me. STAND UP.” Coy looked kind of funny but he did as Bear instructed and stood up. That’s right, Coy was about to go down for the third time in water not deep enough to drown a cat.
Bear was true to his word and took both Uncle Dave and “baby boy Coy” by Stelly’s for one more mug of sippin’ whiskey before he took them to Gate City to jail.
The news spread like wildfire about the heroic efforts Bear made to save Coy that day. He easily won the election for High Sheriff of Scott County in the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the next county election. He would probably still be there if it wasn’t for that missing moonshine but that is another story.