When Evan Lane was a wee lad, taking care of family and friends, keeping the peace and helping people came naturally. And so it is today for this young man, who’s not a wee lad now. His mantra at work is simple: “Give people respect and they’ll give it right back.”
“I feel I was destined for this job, to do what I am doing. It’s my calling. I knew it way back,” he says, thinking back to his growing-up years with the family in Eagleton Village in Blount County. “From a young age I knew this is what I wanted to do … be a cop.”
He’s in is fifth year as part of the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s (THP) Troop D in the 11-county District 1. He patrols Blount, Monroe and Sevier counties. His “beat” includes the dreaded “Dragon” of U.S. Highway 129 and its 11 miles and 318 curves, Alcoa (“I’ll kill ya”) Highway, U.S. highways 411 and 321, Highway 33, parts of I-75 and I-140, plus Louisville Road, Topside Road and Morganton Road. Translation – he’s always busy.
Today that wee lad is 6-1, 230 pounds and fit as a fiddle. He runs five miles a day followed by a workout. He is a 2010 graduate of Heritage High School, a football defensive tackle for four years who still lives in Blount County and refers to himself as “Blount County through and through.”
Before his THP career, he worked for almost five years as a deputy at the Blount County Sheriff’s Office. He joined its Explorer Post right out of high school and was hired fulltime in 2013. Between high school and joining BCSO, he earned his associate degree in criminal justice from ITT Technical Institute.
He was enjoying his time at the sheriff’s office, so why the switch to the THP?
“It was a great opportunity to grow myself in law enforcement. I was talking with a trooper one day (Ryan Fletcher) and he had left his agency for the THP. I asked him if it was worth it,” Lane said. “He said he’d do it again in a heartbeat. And he was right. I’d do it again in a heartbeat too. It’s growing me as a person.”
During the summer months, when people from as far away as Europe come to tame The Dragon, along with the locals, Lane says he feels like he lives up there.
The road is legally off limits to 18-wheelers and other large trucks. Some still try it as a shortcut. He cuts them zero slack. “No mercy. If I see 10 trucks a day, I give out 10 citations and they’re not cheap,” he says. “I have spent hundreds of hours there. We have people running off the road, people killed trying to push the limits with speed, hitting trees and going down the hills.”
This past summer on The Dragon, he even found himself on the end of a fire hose with the local fire department putting out a fire started by a wrecked car. “It shut down the road for eight to 10 hours and we finally got one lane open and then I was escorting cars around the fire back and forth.”
Fire seems to come his way more often than not. Working a car fire even led to his receiving a major award from the state legislature – the Law Enforcement Commendation – for helping pull a man from a burning car in March 2021 along with four Blount County deputies, who also were honored by the sheriff’s office.
On March 15, 2021, the deputies were sent to a vehicle fire on Defoe Circle in Blount County where a driver with a medical emergency ran his car into the side of his own home. Deputy Christina Wallen was the first to arrive and then Lane. The car’s accelerator was still pressed to the floor causing a friction fire in the engine. He and Wallen had to get part-ways into the car to get the man out. Working together they pulled him out and he survived.
Lane also had planned to be off for his birthday on March 30, 2022. Didn’t happen.
Another fire, this one in Wears Valley, broke out that day and eventually burned 2,500 acres and affected 219 cabins and other structures. In addition to traffic control on Highway 321, Lane helped evacuate residents from about 50 vacation cabins on the mountain. He was home when he got the call and was on the road within minutes.
He proudly says that his heart is with the THP. “We all work to make a difference day in and day out. It’s way more than just a job. It’s been an amazing experience, working with the great people, from the colonel on down to my captain (Stacey Heatherly), who really loves and cares for her people. And that matters to me. It really matters.”
This wee lad from long ago is still caring for others today.
Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia.