Family, football, and fishing: a Lynchburg tradition

Noah Blankenship and Clayton Weatherspoon recently got a chance to meet fishing legend and Lynchburg native Bill Dance at Miss Mary Bobo’s Restaurant in Lynchburg. (Photo Provided)

When Clayton Weatherspoon’s mom got a tip that fishing legend Bill Dance just happened to be in town and dining at Miss Mary Bobo’s Restaurant, she just knew that her son needed to meet him. So, she devised a plan and her nephew, Noah Blankenship, and Clayton headed to Main Street. Sure enough, the local legend was there and as always, he graciously greeted the young men.

“Saturday mornings at our house, Andy and the boys would watch Bill Dance bloopers on YouTube and laugh and laugh,” said Clayton’s mother, Bethany Weatherspoon. His father, Andy, died unexpectedly in March 2021 at the age of 42. “When they actually met Bill Dance, they were speechless. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Clayton speechless.”

Clayton’s brother, Grayson, just happened to be fishing in Alabama with his cousin, Rodney Ervin, when the Bill Dance encounter happened. So, he missed out.

Clayton says he was definitely star struck but he loved every minute of the encounter. He even got his favorite, University of Tennessee hat signed — the one with the giant orange ‘T” just like Bill Dance wears.

It’s a thread that runs from the Dance family to the Ervins and Weatherspoons — their love of UT football and fishing. And it’s no wonder. Noah, Clayton, and Grayson’s grandmother, Becky Weatherspoon and her sister, Linda Ervin, counted Dance as a childhood friend.

“That’s why my Uncle Andy got so interested in him because of the family’s childhood connection,” Noah says.

Fishing to remember and continue the tradition

If you knew Andy Weatherspoon, you knew he loved to fish the Mulberry Creek right across the road from his childhood home. The Mulberry Creek also happens to be the tributary where a young Bill Dance learned to fish from his very own grandfather. If you could magically locate the footprints of the two men, they likely crossed the same path.

Like many fathers in Lynchburg, Andy passed down his love of fishing, not only to his two sons, Clayton and Grayson, but also to his nephew, Noah.

“Before Clayton and Grayson were born, Andy used to take me fishing over on the Nolen’s bridge almost every Saturday. He taught me everything I know about fishing,” Noah says. “We fished whenever we could, wherever we could, all the time.”

Clayton and Grayson say fishing always makes them feel closer to their dad and they feel closest to him when they are on the water.

Andy Weatherspoon’s sister, Karen, shared this post from Andy back in 2020 that details his love of Bill Dance and the Mulberry Creek. (Image Provided)

“Since my dad passed away, that’s all I want to do is fish,” said Clayton.

Grayson, who is two years younger than Clayton, says it feels important to him to pass down the family’s love of fishing to his kids someday.

A Lynchburg tradition

“I just want to keep the family tradition going — on and on and on,” he says. “Fishing keeps my mind right. It helps me when I’m having a tough day.”

Like many small towns, fishing is a Lynchburg tradition. There may not be many restaurants open after 6 p.m. or a mall to hang out at but there’s always the creeks, ponds, rivers, and lakes that sprinkle the local landscape,

All three boys say they love fishing for brim, catfish, small mouth bass, and black perch in the Mulberry Creek just like Bill and Andy did. They also enjoy fishing Tims Ford Lake with cousin Rodney. It’s fishing and football that keeps Andy’s memory alive for the boys.

“Our parents, our grandparents, that’s what they did. They played in the creeks and the lakes and that’s what we like to do too,” says Noah. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently-owned, community newspaper located in Lynchburg, Tennessee the home of The Jack Daniel Distillery. We tells the stories of local folks here in Lynchburg as well as those happening across Tennessee and the American South that we believe may be of interest to our readers. Like what we’re doing? You can support us for just $5 per month by following this link.}