Big Frog Mountain Survey
In the summer of 2007, I was a young aspiring surveyor working for a medium-sized engineering firm based in the Atlanta area. Part of my responsibility back then as a Crew Chief (foreman in layman’s terms) was to be the action arm of the Professional Surveyor in our office. The Professional Surveyor would certify all the measurements I made in the field and certify that I made those measurements according to the established State Regulations for Land Surveys.
As luck would have it, I was tasked with surveying a beautiful little piece of heaven in Polk County Tennessee, just south of Big Frog Mountain. The river on the north side of Big Frog Mountain is the Ocoee River, where the kayaking competitions were held during the '96 Olympics. So there we were in the middle of paradise, surveying what was supposed to be 5 acres per the deed across the valley from Big Frog Mountain. The gentlemen who owned the property was a really nice country gentlemen. His son accompanied him during the survey, which ended up taking two full days of arduous climbing, chopping, crawling and measuring to finish. This is true hill country, which means crawling on all fours to get up some of the hills. It is always interesting. During the two days of work, they came along to every corner they knew of and spoke about mountain living. They talked about eating “ramp," which they described as a naturally growing plant in Appalachia — a cross between a potato, rhubarb and garlic and it has to be picked at just the right time of year or it will make you sick. We talked about a lot of things up there in the mountains. Since the area was new to me I found all of it fascinating.
I didn't know it at the time, but this gentlemen, we will call him “Bob,” was having a bit of a quarrel with his neighbor at the bottom of the hillside. This neighbor was family through marriage or some distant cousin twenty times removed. It is Tennessee, after all. But there was never more than a complaint from Bob about his neighbors and how he should have purchased the property when he had the chance. I completed the survey, which ended up being more like 14 acres instead of the 5. We were paid, he received his survey and I never thought I would hear anything about that seemingly innocuous survey ever again.
Boy was I wrong!!
As it turned out, these seemingly gentle folk had had enough of the cousin 20 times removed and the son went into their house and killed those neighbors over what amounted to about 15-20 feet of property near the driveway. To say I was shocked was an understatement. I didn’t believe it at first, so I did some digging and sure enough, Bob’s son indeed killed three people from behind while they were watching TV.
I learned something from that experience. Seemingly decent folks will absolutely lose their minds over property lines and children. Now you may be saying to yourself “Well, Mr. Tompkins, that is a crazy hill person ... that would never happen in more civilized parts of the state.” And I would have to disagree with you. I would say at least 50-70 percent of the properties we survey have some sort of property line issue that was previously undetected by the previous owner. I would say a full 40 to 60 percent have no earthly idea of where their property lines even are and what’s scarier than that, they get loans from banks where a survey is required so not only does the buyer not know where the property lines are, neither do the banks lending money or the neighbors.
Moral of the story? Protect yourself and mitigate risk. You can’t always assume anything when it comes to property lines, neighbors or seemingly decent folks.