Charlie is the stuff of legend - a huge, old, "tame" alligator with a belly like a whale and an appetite like an ogre. He's been fed for decades with mess hall scraps, roadkill, chicken wings, submarine sandwiches and anything else tossed over the retention pond fence behind the gate at the Joint Base Charleston Weapons Station.
Now, somebody has to move him.
Every time there's a heavy rain, the field around the overgrown pond floods deep enough to float a canoe. The pond has to be cleared and cut deeper to keep the water off the weapons station roads, not to mention Remount Road nearby. So Charlie and a girthy female companion have to be hauled to a nearby pond to wait out the renovation work.
Commercial trapper Ron Russell of Gator Getter Consultantsis set to take part in the relocation place in the next few weeks.
The animal has the head of a steer and a tail as thick as an off-road tire is wide.
Russell guesses Charlie at 400 pounds.
"He's 11 feet. He might go 11 1/2," the trapper said. "We'll find out."
Charlie's size is just one of the tales told on him. Nobody really knows how he got in the pond to begin with.
It's been said he was pulled from a commander's pool. There's supposedly a letter on file from two sailors admitting they caught him on the roadside in 1951 and placed him there. But a lot of sailors and soldiers have come forward to confess they put Charlie in the pond, said Terrence Larimer, the joint base natural resources manager.
What really happened "is sort of lost in the mists of the past," Larimer said. As best as anyone can guess, the alligator showed up sometime in the early 1970s. Based on studies Russell has seen, he guesses Charlie to be about 40 years old, maybe 50.
It's not unheard of for an alligator in captivity to live to be 60 to 80 years old. As for an animal in his own private love den with room service, "I might make it to 80 if I'm taken care of like that," Russell said.
Maybe the best story told about Charlie is the grass cutter. A hired hand on a riding mower was ordered to cut the lawn around the pond, and, umm, evidently was not told about Charlie. When the mower got too near the pond, the monster reptile lunged, knocked it over and sent the worker screaming down Remount Road. Word is, he never even came back for the check, Larimer said.
It shows just how legendary Charlie is that Russell, too, has heard this story, except that he heard the alligator grabbed the mower and dragged it into the pond.
"Once again," he said, "when they drain that pond, we'll find out."