Clarence’s Drive-In in Unicoi, Known for Fabulous Food, Tall Tales

In 1985, former Press writer Tom Hodge wrote about a restaurant that he occasionally patronized. Located in Unicoi, it was Clarence’s Drive-In, owned and operated by Clarence Tapp who opened the popular eatery in 1969. It is still going strong 40 years later.

The signature meal, according to current owners, Jerry and Teresa Collins, is the biscuits and gravy plate, which is served anytime. The thing that intrigued Tom about Clarence’s, aside from its tasty victuals, was its reputation for producing some of the most outlandish tall tales imaginable. I located several of the writer’s columns that dealt with the trendy restaurant. I am repeating my favorite yarns along with the names of the perpetrators.

Lawrence Hahn said that he and Briscoe Edwards once were driving in Erwin when they spotted a dog chasing a cat from a yard into an alley. After the dog apprehended the cat, a fierce fight ensued. The feline not only whipped the canine, but moments later, the latter ran out of the alley with the cat behind in hot pursuit.

Bill Honeycutt, while working on a Clinchfield Railroad crew repairing a bridge, once observed a man with a shotgun and a dog coming through a field. They passed in front of a house where a second man was standing in the doorway. About that time, a large rabbit came hopping across the front yard. The dog spotted the animal and took chase. The man with the shotgun hollered to the man at the door, “If my dog kills your rabbit, I’ll pay you for it.”

When the dog caught the rabbit, the rodent-like creature unexpectedly kicked the dog three feet into the air. Every time the mutt got up, the hare belted him again. Seeing what was transpiring, the man at the door shouted to the man in the field, “If my rabbit kills your dog, I’ll pay you for it.”

Carl Jones related that when they wanted to go hunting, they’d make an appointment with Smith and Ike Nelson because they had the best dogs in the country. He went with them several times and noticed something unusual. The dogs would bark for a while, suddenly become quiet, and soon afterward resume yelping again. One night he inquired why the animals so frequently lose the scent and stop barking. It was explained to him that the dogs were trained to cease barking anytime they passed through posted land.

Bill McInturff’s dog, Tige (same name as the Buster Brown Shoes canine) weighted maybe five pounds soaking wet. He noted that the animal once saved his life. It seems he was out in his pasture working when one of his cows went berserk and chased him into the middle of his pond. Even worse, the bovine started in after him. Tige, seeing what was happening, immediately came to his owner’s rescue by nipping at the cow’s heels until it turned and chased the dog back onto dry land.

And finally my favorite … Bucky Church owned a dog that every evening would faithfully go into the pasture and bring all 22 cows home. The dog showed up back at the farm at precisely the same time with the herd. One day, Bucky sold one of the animals to a neighbor. When his dog went to the pasture to acquire the cows that evening, he found only 21 of them, realizing one was missing.

The dog eventually located the animal in a nearby neighbor’s pasture and ushered it back to the herd, bringing the number back to 22. Bucky returned the cow to its rightful owner, but the dog retrieved it again the next day. This went on until Church figured out how to solve the dilemma. He obtained the cancelled check from his neighbor and showed it to his dog. The canine promptly adjusted his cow count from 22 to 21 and the problem was resolved.