A Good Memory

Back Home Next

  Article taken from "Backsights" Magazine published by Surveyors Historical Society


by A. Carl Wolfe

In 1975 I received a postcard from a man that said that he needed a surveyor.  Finding his place, I realized that this was not the ordinary job call as the old house was practically roofless.  I carefully crossed the collapsed porch and knocked on the door.  At the call to come in, I saw a man, elderly, and very frail looking, lying on a bed, which had a pipe and ladder frame around and over it.  He told me not to mind the plumbing as it was his only method of moving around the room as his legs did not work.  A table next to the bed, a kerosene heater and a kerosene cooking stove and a shelf with some food stuff were his furnishings.  There were heaps of newspapers and magazines and books on the floor.

He said that he needed a surveyor as he thought that someone had cut some timber on his land, a tract of over 200 acres, mostly mountain land.  He handed me a deed and I sat down and made a sketch.  He looked it over and pointed to a corner which would be on the mountain, saying that it was the only marker, as the other corners of the land fell in the public roads.  Pointing in a direction toward the road, he told me to go down a few rods to a stone row at the edge of the field, follow the stone row to the end of the field and continue on to the corner of his land.

My helper and I took a hand compass and a tape and started to measure from the road along the stone row.  The field the man talked about was once a field but now it was grown up with brush and some trees which were up to 10 inches or so in diameter.  I told my helper that this looked like a wild goose chase as I doubted if the old man knew what he was talking about, or else I did not understand him correctly.  We came to the end of the old field and according to the deed call had yet another 3000 feet or so to go to the land corner.  I walked to a compass line as we measured and in an hour or so came to the distance indicated on the deed description.

He had told me to look for two large oak trees and the corner stone would be between them.  A stone about 18 inches high with a tin milk pail upside down over it.  One large white oak was right near us and we went to it and at once found the corner stone.  No milk pail over it but I could hardly expect that anyway.  The other oak tree had fallen down and was nearly rotted away.  Now I began to wonder when the man had last been here.  My helper started scratching the leaves and turf from around the stone to make it more visible and in doing so found a wire ring and bail handle from a pail and also flecks of tin plate.  The wire handle, probably about three-eights inch in diameter originally, was now just a thin rusty wire which could be broken with the fingers easily.  Finding this was a bit too much so my helper and I sat down and started trying to figure out how long ago this man was talking about.  There was nice timber on his land, a very grown-up old field, a fallen oak that looked like it had fallen many years ago, a completely rusted away milk pail, and even the heavy wire handle nearly gone.

After a while we continued walking along his property lines and found no sign of timber cutting anywhere.  Finishing the line cruising, I returned to the house and told the old fellow that there was no timber cutting near his land and therefore he did not need his land surveyed and marked at this time.  He seemed well pleased and asked for my bill, but I declined, saying that I enjoyed the walk and now had an old corner which I could use for future jobs in the area.  Before I left I asked him when he was last back to the corner he described to me so well, and he said:  "Just before the war."  I said that he had a good memory as that was now over 30 years ago.  He raised up from his bed with his hands on the ladder above him and said, "Boy, I mean the big war, I have never walked since a day in France in 1918!"


Back Home Next