“Root, hog, or die” is an early-American expression whose origins lie in pig farming. You see, it used to be common practice for farmers to turn their hogs loose in the woods to forage (or “root”) for their own food, thereby saving the farmer the time and trouble of having to feed and fully care for the animals themselves.
The expression has become a Southern idiom for self-reliance, meaning that you must fend for yourself if you want to survive because no one else can (or will) do it for you. And ain’t that the fuckin’ truth.
Hotspur Closser lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He is not a pig farmer.