From May 30, 1996- July 4, 1996 over 30 newspapers articles were published. The news media did over 18 interviews and stories. Inside Edition published a story on their program. Over 50 radio interviews were recorded. To date many more articles than this and more than 20 environmental organizations were organized from the exposure the swim did for the Cumberland River.THE SWIM
When Leon Alligood (Senior Nashville Banner writer, now at the Tennessean, now teaches journalism at MTSU) met me at a spot over at on the river at Demonbreuns Cave for a photo, there was no turning back. Once the article came out on the front page of the April 30, 1996 I had to go through with the swim or loose all credibility with future battles for the river.
"I HAD TO AT LEAST SWIM 10 MILES A DAY TO BE BACK TO WORK IN 10 WEEKS. ONE DAY I SWAM 5 MILES, ANOTHER DAY 23." V. Scoggin
The 696 mile swim down the Cumberland River started on May 1, 1996 in Harlan Ky. and ended in Smithland Ky. July 4, 1996. The swim was to bring environmental awareness towards the Cumberland River watershed, which covers approx. 18,000 sq. mi. in area. From Harlan Ky. There was 134 miles to Cumberland Falls, then 103 miles across Lake Cumberland, 147 across Cordell Hull, 97 miles for Old Hickory, 69 miles down Cheatham Lake, 118 miles across Lake Barkley, and 31 miles below Barkley Dam to the Ohio River.
An exert from the swim Journal: By the way all my written info on the swim was stolen by a low life thief in 1997 at the Mapco in Bellevue Tn. any info about this will result in a reward.
Barboursville Ky. May 1996:
Leon, Doug and I had just finished hauling our equipment up the river bank to our campsite. It would be dark in an hour. We had a fire started and water heating up. All a sudden this guy came through our site. He acted like we weren't there until I asked him "what's up." He said he was looking for a stringer full of bass. He motioned how big the fish were by putting his hand to his elbow. I thought that was odd until Leon told him what we were doing on the river. Leon told him that I was swimming the river to bring attention to the pollution. The guy interrupted and said that he had swum the river. I looked upstream towards a bridge and thought maybe he had swam from there to here or something. He went on to say that he swam down the Cumberland and up the Mississippi to Detroit. Then he said he spent 6 months in a hospital in Alabama. That was the strange part, but I believed him about the hospital.
Well I knew it was coming, he asked us if we had any guns. We all said no, even though I didn't go anywhere in southeastern Kentucky without my .45. Then he said the reason was is that there are wildcats on the Cumberland. He explained that if you are attacked by one you have to grab it by the neck with one hand and poke it's eyes out with the other. I heard enough of these stories. They would go on all night long. We still had some work to do. We hadn't eaten and we were in need of sleep.
Rain was moving in and I needed a tarp. I thought I would ask this guy a serious question. I said "is there a Wal-mart around here". That was a mistake. He said go into the woods, take a right next to the big oak, go left past the wire fence, then walk 100 yards towards the open field..... He went on with these type directions for 5 minutes. He might have been right.
This guy just got up and left. I watched him wonder off into the thick cane and poison ivy until he disappeared in the fog and darkness of the river.
What made this story weird is a few minutes later another guy came by and asked if we had seen this other guy, they were looking for a stringer full of fish.
I didn't sleep well that night.
May 1, 1996- Got down to about Loyall Ky (2 miles down) and forgot our 5 gal jug of water. Had to get out of water, climb up that muddy bank and get some water. While I was out I had to use the restroom. I wandered into a gas station, walked through the store and somebody reminded me that I left some muddy footprints across the floor. While in the restroom I flushed both feet in the commode to wash them off. When I came out I offered to mop the floor but they said "no problem". We got our water and headed back to the river. I didn't think we were ever going to get downstream.
THINK SAFE SO THAT YOU WILL BE HAPPY ON THE WATERWAYS. IN 1996 I USED A TYPE I PFD WHILE SWIMMING 696 MILES. THE ONLY TIME I SWAM WITHOUT IT WAS WHEN I JUMPED FROM THE BOAT AT SMITHLAND KY AND SWAM TO SHORE. THE BOAT WAS 50 YARDS FROM SHORE.
THE US COAST GUARD RECOMMENDS THE FOLLOWING PFD'S
TYPE I OFF SHORE LIFE JACKET. BEST FOR OPEN ROUGH OR REMOTE WATER WHERE RESCUE IS SLOW COMING
TYPE II NEAR SHORE BUOYANT VEST. GOOD FOR CALM INLAND WATER WHERE THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE OF FAST RESCUE
TYPE III FLOTATION AID . GOOD FOR CALM INLAND WATER WHERE THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE OF FAST RESCUE
TYPE IV THROWABLE DEVICE. FOR CALM INLAND WATER WITH HEAVY BOAT TRAFFIC WHERE HELP IS ALWAYS NEARBY
MAKE SURE YOU SELECT THE PROPER PFD AND THAT IT FITS PROPERLY
NEVER LEAVE CHILDREN UNATTENDED EVEN IF THEY HAVE A FLOTATION DEVICE ON.
HAVE YOU CHECKED YOUR BOAT FOR THE CORRECT NUMBER OF PFD'S
INSPECT YOUR PFD FOR TEARS OR DAMAGE, DISCARD IF ITS DAMAGED
NOT MANY PEOPLE HAVE DROWNED WITH A PROPER PFD.
GO TO US COAST GUARD FOR MORE INFORMATION
"DON'T THROW ANYTHING IN THE WATER EXCEPT YOURSELF AND MAKE SURE YOU ARE WEARING YOUR PFD." VLS 1995