Bryson City Seasons — Walkingstick (Part 2)

This is from the thirty-second chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Seasons, which is the sequel to Bryson City TalesI hope that you’ll enjoy going back to Bryson City with me each week and that if you do, you’ll be sure to invite your friends and family to join us.


We readied John’s bass boat, and as the light began to build, we slowly left the cove.

Steam and mist rose from the water as we headed out toward the lake. The mountains surrounding the lake were clothed, as they usually were on fall mornings, with their petticoats of smoke, drifting slowly, almost daintily, over the trees. With each chug of the motor, we moved away from civilization and toward freedom, and my sense of expectation increased.

Behind us, echoing off the walls of the cove, we heard peals of laughter—almost certainly from Carl and his friends. I smiled. Once outside the cove, John gave the motor its full throttle, and we were off.

As the boat pulled out of the cove, the massive dam came into view. John turned the throttle, and we shot off in the mist, headed for the other side of the lake. I loved the feel of the cool mist and air swirling against my face and hair. I could almost feel my pulse and blood pressure drop. I loved being out on this lake.

We went several miles up the lake and turned into a mountain cove. Some of the coves had gently sloping banks up to the tree line and then rolling hills above. This cove was more like a fjord, steep sides, nearly cliffs, soaring hundreds of feet into the air. It was like cruising up a canyon. John turned the motor off, and we coasted several hundred feet. The silence, other than an occasional birdcall, was deafening. We slowly drifted by a waterfall that tumbled dozens of feet into the lake.

“Tell ya what, Doc. I love fishin’. I do. But sometimes it’s so beautiful out here I just come and listen to myself think.”

He was quiet for a moment and then continued. “I can get away from about everything out here except the Lord. He’s out here. This is where I meet ’im and talk to ’im. This here’s my cathedral.”

He surprised me with his openness about his faith. Yet the setting and the conversation were so natural—not at all contrived or forced. He was expressing a normally hidden side of himself—and in a very comfortable way. I felt honored he was comfortable enough to share this with me. I made a mental note to consider how I might do the same with my friends and patients. I sighed. “None finer,” I commented.

“Amen” was the reply.

“This sure is a big lake, John.”

He smiled. “You betcha Bob!” He exclaimed. “It’s over 24 miles long and has almost 240 miles of shoreline.”

He paused for a moment to take in a deep breath.

“Well, let’s see if we can get some smallmouth bass. They say this is the best smallmouth bass lake in the world.”

For the next two hours, we trolled the shores of various coves, catching scores of nice smallmouth bass. Some we kept, but most we released.

After we had fished one spot, John would rev up the boat and sometimes head miles away to another cove—always working the north shore of the lake.

By late morning, we had several fish in the live well and John was steering the boat back toward the dam and turned up the Hazel Creek cove. John slowed down the boat and then stopped in the middle of the cove—a pristine wilderness as far as the eye could see. John took out the lunch his wife had packed. We drifted down the cove, carried by the slow current from Hazel Creek.

After our lunch, John started up the boat, and we headed back up the large cove leading to Hazel Creek. We pulled all the way to where the creek came tumbling out of the trees, down the clay banks of the lake and into Fontana.

“Let’s take us a little hike.”

We scurried up the bank, following what looked like an old road. Indeed it was. When we got into the trees, the road became more obvious.

“The Park Service still uses this road. It makes a nice hikin’ trail. Some folks ride horses over here, so watch your step.” John laughed out loud.

“I’m surprised at just how lush it is.”

John nodded in agreement. “Guess so. After all, we get over seventy-five inches of rain down on this end of the lake each year. Sure helps keep the flowers a bloomin’!”

We hiked for a bit in silence and then came across some brick ruins. The ruins reminded me of some of the old Civil War forts along the Gulf Coast I’d explored as a child.

“These are the ruins of the old sugar mill and the dryin’ kilns. After they’d cut up the hardwood, they’d bring it in the kiln to dry it out. Then they’d send the wood up the East Coast and to Europe. At one time, the Ritter Lumber Company that clear-cut this valley was one of the largest lumber companies in the world.”

As we were walking around the ruins, John pointed out where the various structures stood and described what they were. He suddenly stopped and put his index finger to his mouth. “Shhh.”

We were quiet. I couldn’t hear a thing.

“You smell that?”

No sooner had he asked than my nostrils picked up a malodorous, pungent smell.

“Pigs,” he groaned. “Follow me. Be quiet.”

We crept forward among the ruins. The smell became more noticeable. He began to squat, and I followed suit. He peered over a low wall and then quickly ducked down. He turned to me, smiling and pointing across the wall. I came up beside him.

We both slowly peered over the wall and saw just on the other side and down in a small hollow a small herd of the largest, blackest, meanest pigs I’d ever seen.

“Russian boar,” he whispered. “The male’s the big one with the tusks.”

I saw him. He was huge, with long ugly hairs sticking up on the nape of his neck. Just seeing and smelling them, hearing their grunting as they rooted through the brush, made the hairs on my neck stand up. I felt my arms chill with gooseflesh.

“Besides the male,” John whispered, “there’s a bunch of mature females—his harem. There’s also a bunch of piglets—I’d guess about six months old.”

We watched in amazement. “I’d guess that male is over 250 pounds,” John said.

“Are they native?”

“Heavens no! Some wealthy fellow who stocked ’em in his hunting game preserve up by Robbinsville imported them from Russia. Bunch of ’em escaped, and they’ve been breedin’ in the Snowbird Mountains and the Smokies ever since. We see ’em down in this valley all the time. And there’s a fair bit of poachin’ over here since it’s so close to public land.”

The boars began to move away into the brush, although their odor hung in the air like a morning fog. We stood.

“Don’t want to startle those guys. More times than not, when they’re startled, they attack. And I wanna tell ya, there’s not a nastier gash than a gorin’ by a mad boar. No question about it.”


  1. The Murder (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  2. The Arrival (Part 1)(Part 2)
  3. The Hemlock Inn (Part 1)(Part 2)
  4. The Grand Tour (Part 1)(Part 2)
  5. The Interview (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  6. Settling In (Part 1)(Part 2)
  7. First-Day Jitters (Part 1)(Part 2)
  8. Emergency (Part 1)(Part 2)
  9. The Delivery (Part 1)(Part 2)
  10. The “Expert” (Part 1)(Part 2)
  11. The Trial (Part 1)(Part 2)
  12. Shiitake Sam (Part 1)(Part 2)
  13. Wet Behind the Ears (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  14. Lessons in Daily Practice (Part 1) — Anal Angina(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)
  15. White Lies
  16. The Epiphany (Part 1)(Part 2)
  17. Becoming Part of the Team (Part 1)(Part 2)
  18. Monuments (Part 1)(Part 2)
  19. My First Home Victory (Part 1)(Part 2)
  20. Fisher of Men (Part 1)(Part 2)
  21. Fly-Fishing (Part 1); (Part 2)
  22. Something Fishy (Part 1)(Part 2)
  23. A Good Day at the Office
  24. An Evening to Remember
  25. Another New Doc Comes to Town
  26. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Part 1)(Part 2)
  27. A Surprising Gift
  28. The New Year (Part 1)(Part 2)
  29. The Home Birth (Part1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  30. The Showdown (Part1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  31. The Initiation (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  32. Home at Last (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2018. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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2 Responses to Bryson City Seasons — Walkingstick (Part 2)

  1. Elizabeth Nichols says:

    First time reading your blog.
    I read one part of story of the man with pneumonia and cancer but can’t find the other parts of the story.
    If you can tell me the name of that story maybe I can search your blog and find it. Plus I’d love to begin reading your other stories. Thanks

  2. Just go to my health blog web page ( and scroll down to “The Christmas Story.” It’s in three parts. Let me know if you have any trouble. Happy New Year.

    Dr. Walt

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