Southern Hospitality, Gator Style – alligator is mascot of Naval Weapons Station

Southern Hospitality, Gator Style – alligator is mascot of Naval Weapons Station – Brief Article

Preston Keres

Anyone in the mood for gator soup?

How about a brand new purse or comfortable pair of gator skin boots?

If so, I would avoid going anywhere near the grounds of Naval Weapons Station, Charleston, S.C.

You see, they’ve grown pretty attached to an alligator down there by the name of Charlie.

Rumor has it, this 14-foot relic and base celebrity arrived at this South Carolina facility some 40 years ago, but how and when he made his current home in a pond on the south side of the installation is unknown. One story has it that, as a pup, Charlie was washed through a culvert during the heavy rains of a hurricane and dumped in the heart of what was then an Army post.

Since then, he has become sort of an unofficial mascot and pet for the base and its residents. This legendary alligator’s reputation has even reached beyond the gates, to the point that he has become a tourist attraction for the visitors.

As a matter of fact, Charlie isn’t the only alligator that has paid a visit. The base frequently receives calls from its residents to report gator sightings anywhere from housing to the golf course and even near the base mini-mart — guess a gator was planning a party and needed to pick up some munchies.

The calls come so often, especially during the summer months, that the base has created a team of active-duty alligator catchers to assist the Natural Resources specialists in capturing and relocating these unwelcome visitors.

Master Chief Master at Arms James Cummings, Chief Yeoman Robert Pickert, YN2 Roy Davis, YN2 Johnny Cook and Mess Management Specialist 3rd Class William Mayberry are basically the station’s alligator Search and Rescue squad. It’s their responsibility to take care of the little snappers that find their way out of their natural habitat.

Now before you get too paranoid about that transfer or temporary duty down in South Carolina, you should realize that the small alligators — those measuring five feet or less — feed on crawfish, aquatic insects, small snakes, frogs and turtles, but not humans. Although they have been known to nibble on a pet or two, the only time they interact with people is when they feel threatened and forced to defend themselves.

Now those big ‘uns — the males that measure nine feet or longer and weigh upwards of 500 pounds — they’ll eat you, your neighbor and your brand new set of golf clubs, and won’t even think twice about it.

As a matter of fact, Charlie once felt he could eat whatever he wanted; that was until he took on a lawn mower. Then he discovered something that could bite back. His encounter left him with a nine-inch scar on his chin and four missing teeth. Ever since, he has learned to leave the employees who groom his territory alone,

Luckily, the rest of Charlie’s bigger friends stay away from the locals, but in the event they venture onto the base without showing their ID, the experts are on their tails quicker than a duck on a June bug.

So the next time you’re heading down to Charleston for a visit, be sure to leave all those exotic purses, boots and pants at home, and hold “Fido” a little tighter, because Charlie and his friends might get a little riled up.

COPYRIGHT 2000 U.S. Navy

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