TVCC – The Early Years – Ocoee Water Mandate and Other Updates

This is part 12 of the 14-part series.  It was first published in the TVCC January 2001 newsletter


by Jack Wright


Ocoee Water Mandate: Bill Miller grew up in Polk County, and was President of TVCC the year (in the late 70s) when TVA shut down the Ocoee #2 flume line for rebuilding.  Hooray, there was regular water in the river bed for the first time in decades, and it immediately became the premier river in this area.  At the first public meeting Bill was first to ask the chief TVA official about continuing water after the flume was rebuilt.  The official told him off the record that water would still be available for recreation.


So the next TVA announcement was that the river would be closed again after the flume was rebuilt.  Bill was so angry, he vowed to do something about it, and he was very determined.  As President of the closest club, he felt a responsibility.  For the next month, Bill single-handedly wrote articles of incorporation, developed basic strategy, made a list of potential board members, and talked to all of them by phone.  He selected a date and time, and asked them all to meet at the Ocoee takeout.  Virtually all of them showed up!  There were lawyers, commercial outfitters (Mark Hunt was one), other club presidents, etc.  They walked across the road, into the woods, and had the first meeting of the Ocoee River Council.


The ORC later hired David Brown as its Exec. Dir.  TVA viciously opposed them, so they brought suit in Federal Court, but lost the case.  Brown testified before the US Congress.  They then took Gov. Lamar Alexander down in a raft, with Bill paddling safety that day.  They eventually got Sen. Howard Baker to attach a rider to some other bill, requiring TVA to release water.  Later, a state reception was held for them in Nashville to congratulate them on a “job well done.”  We all owe thanks to Past TVCC President Bill Miller for jump starting what we enjoy today as the Ocoee River.


Last month’s picture in Woodall Shoals: John Pickett (in the picture), emailed me the whole story on that classic picture, out of his detailed logbook.  The trip was July 31, 1977 and the water level was 1 ft at the highway 76 bridge.  He said they were watching Robert Harrison, an expert paddler, who was a photographer for a raft trip, looking very cool surfing across Woodall in an open boat with no flotation.  Pickett was green with envy.  He paddled in and surfed across once, but then made the mistake of turning his boat downstream.  The stern started filling up with water, and this is the point that Bill took the picture.


Pickett’s not smiling, it’s a total grimace, and the shaft of his Norse paddle is bent almost 2 inches.  He bailed out, slipping out of his thigh straps, putting one foot on the foam in the bow, and leaping as far as he could downstream.  He barely cleared the hydraulic and swam to a rock.  Nobody threw a rope, watching his boat tumble in the foam.  Then Harrison, who initiated all this, coolly paddled out, grabbed the bow line and pulled the boat out.  See what great classic memories a detailed logbook can provide!


Chattooga Update: The name of the actor who played the mountain man villain who Burt Reynolds shot with bow and arrow was Bill McKinney.  Check out Bill’s unique current website after the most (in)famous dialog line in the movie.  I recently sent Bill a couple of emails with a few questions, and he was kind enough to reply.  He lives in Van Nuys, CA and said screenplay has been written for a sequel to “Deliverance,” but hasn’t heard of any Warner Bros. plans to produce it yet.  He’s done some other wild movie roles but nothing like the villain in Deliverance.  McKinney said, “That was a character like no other, and in Leonard Maltin’s new (2001) book he states that my acting in the rape scene in Deliverance is the best villain in history.”


That description is well deserved.  Think back 30 some years, how many movie villains were that memorable?  I have a sister who lives in California.  She recently told me something new about when she and her husband visited us here in the late 70s.  I always took them canoeing on our innocent Hiwassee when they were here.  She said that her husband had voiced very serious security concerns (to her only), about doing any canoeing out in the wilds of Tennessee, just because of that scene in “Deliverance.”  He was really spooked, she said.  So it did  make more deeply indelible impressions than I realized.


I’ve suggested to the Dillard House marketing dept. that they host a 30th year reunion of the filming of “Deliverance” next summer in 2001.  Don’t know if the idea will fly or not.  Could be interesting if they could attract Warner Bros. and one or more of the actors.  Any other ideas out there?


Tune in next month when we’ll look at some early overnight trips.  Did you know John Alden has led them for 33 year?  See you then.