Plans Sometimes Go Wild

When I had to apply my vehicle brakes recently and remain stopped for a minute or so, the experience eventually led me to think about plans made by individuals, organizations, and governments. 
   Like you, I’ve used my brakes for a number of different reasons.  Lately, in ever-growing Sevier County (TN), it’s usually been for traffic lights or other vehicles.  Sometimes for pedestrians.  Dogs and cats have tested the reaction skills of all drivers I suppose.  Ducks have also required breaking.  And, like most people who live in the mountains, every now and then I have applied brakes for a rabbit, squirrel, raccoon, ‘possum, or skunk.  Occasionally it’s been for a turtle.  (A few times I’ve had to get out of the vehicle, pick up a hissing turtle, and place it safely off the road.)  I had to break quickly for some deer.  Another time it was a bear.  Some wild turkeys strutted in front of me once.  But this past week I encountered a new reason for breaking.  Fifteen wild hogs crossed the road. 
   One of the stories in my “People Of Passion” book describes Horace Kephart’s encounter with “Belial, the Razorback Hog,” whom Kephart referred to as highly intelligent and vicious.  But this is the first time I’ve ever seen these creatures up close and personal.  According to Kephart, “If you camp out in the mountains, nothing will molest you but razorback hogs.”  He claimed that bears would flee from the camper, and wildcats would silently sneak away to their dens.  But, Kephart said, “The moment the incense of cooking arises from your camp, every pig within two miles will smell it and hasten to call…”
   Well, judging by the determination with which these swine trotted across the road, they must have picked up the scent of something.  My wife and I were driving slowly on the Foothills Parkway in the Great Smoky Mountains when the encounter occurred.  She was looking out the side window as I looked ahead.  I saw the hogs first, probably about 25-30 yards in front of us, and got her attention.  At first I thought it was a pack of dogs.  Drawing nearer, I quickly changed my opinion to bears.  A couple of seconds later I realized it was hogs.    
   As the herd crossed, led by what apparently was a large sow, they decreased in size, as if they were lined-up in order, from biggest to smallest.  All were about the same color, very dark brown, almost black.  Of course, I know very little about wild hogs.  But I do know that the National Park Service wants to eliminate these creatures.  They are very destructive and disease bearing.  A friend with whom I shared this story before writing about it said these are probably feral hogs, which means they are wild swine from domestic ancestry.
   He went on to explain that today’s feral hog population is attributed to the obsolete practice of “free roam farming.”  Hog farmers would brand their hogs and release them into the open woods to roam, feed, and breed.  When the farmers were ready to gather the hogs they would round them up with “hog dogs” and herd them into catch pens.  Then the hogs were separated by their brands and claimed by the farmers.  Of course, many were never recovered and were left to roam and multiply.
   Interesting isn’t it?  What was begun as a rather sensible practice has resulted in some highly destructive creatures that are dangerous to humans, other animals, and vegetation.  Robert Burns is credited with telling us “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.”  I guess if we are not careful, these plans can even become “wild hogs.”   
   By the way, if you wish to discuss wild hogs, Horace Kephart’s take on them, or any of the stories in “People Of Passion,” I’ll be at Sevierville’s Books-A-Million in Governor’s Crossing on Sunday, October 10, from 4:00-7:00 PM for a “People Of Passion” book-signing.  Come visit me if you can – and be prepared to use your brakes on the way.  After all, it is October in the mountains…  
Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 2500 events, can be contacted at or 865-436-7478. His books, including his two most recent, “People of Passion” and “Are We Communicating Yet?” are available in stores, at, and on 


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