At Fuss & O’Neill, our firm is proud to have in-house land survey capabilities that serve our offices and clients throughout New England. Our team has decades of collective experience and, during that time, they’ve amassed great experience and some interesting stories along the way. With tricky New England terrain, seasonal elements, and the occasional aggressive schedule, our surveyors have encountered challenging, and sometimes humorous, situations during their time in the field.
To borrow a line from the television show Law & Order, “these are their stories”:
A Rod Man on the Wapac Trail Survey
It was a mild winter day sometime in the late 1980s, and we were surveying a large parcel of land on the Wapac Trail located in south central NH on the NH/MA state line. Besides being on a mountainside, there were many historical boundary monuments and deed calls that made this survey very interesting. One boundary marker in particular was called the “Borden Monument”. It was set in the 1800s and was approximately two feet tall with a wide base at ground level that tapered at the top. The bound was inscribed and had a brass cup imbedded in the top.
Back then, we did not have the same equipment or technology we have today, so we typically ran a three-man crew on large boundaries. The crew consisted of a crew chief, instrument man, and rod man. This particular rod man was the best rod man we ever had. When he made a drill hole in a stone wall or ledge, he would lean down and blow the dust out of the hole. Then he would take out his detail brush and sweep away any remaining debris.
Around mid-day, we came upon the Borden Monument. We marveled at its beauty, imagined what it took to haul it in, and what the site conditions were like back then (it’s a survey thing). We got set up to locate it and sent the rod man over to get a shot on it with the prism pole. Well, since the brass cup imbedded in the bound where he was to place the pole had some “water” and a little debris in it, he did what he always did. He got his little brush ready and then bent down and blew out the “water” in the brass cup. Of course the “water” splattered all over his face from the rush of air he exhaled. In that moment immediately after, we smelled a strange scent. Yep, you guessed it – a local hunter had used the brass cup to relieve himself, and our faithful rod man ended up with urine all over his face. I never saw someone dive so fast into the snow and lather his entire face and upper chest area with fresh cold white snow. We had a very good laugh. Or at least two of us did.
After the panic and laughs subsided, we took a quick break and ate some lunch. There was a beautiful ancient stone wall that we marveled at (it’s a survey thing) right at our setup between our instrument and the Borden Monument. The rod man took off his gloves to handle his sandwich easier and laid them next to him … no wait, they were mittens… furry mittens… really furry mittens. Anyway, as he was eating his sandwich, he suddenly jumped up with a look on his face like he had seen a ghost. “What’s wrong?” I said. He paused and said “never mind”. “No, really” I said, “what’s wrong?” “Nothing” he replied, in a quiet, embarrassed voice. It was then that I realized it was his furry mittens that had spooked him. I have to admit that they did look like some type of animal. After another good laugh at his expense, we were back at work.
The lesson of this story is quite obvious. Don’t put your mouth where it doesn’t belong and don’t wear furry mittens in the field.
Time for Lunch!
It was January 2004, and I was working for a former employer. I had only been there about 3 months, so I was still considered the “new guy”. The weather was bitter cold and there was snow on the ground, so the field workload was pretty light. We were working on a large subdivision in Harwinton, CT that required roadway monumentation to be set in order for town acceptance, and it seemed like a good project to fill in the schedule. The mission was to set 39 concrete monuments along the new roadway. I knew that the digging was going to be difficult due to the 6” of frost, 12” of snow cover, and some pretty bony soil. The first day there I was digging holes with my transit man when my boss stopped by to check up on us. “C’mon and finish up the holes you are digging and take a break, lunch is on me today,” he said with a smile. I was pretty hungry, so I dug as fast as I could thinking about going down the street to get a hot chicken parm grinder!
When we finished digging the holes, we started walking to his truck only to see smoke coming up from behind it. As we got closer we could see that he dug a pit in the snow off the side of the road and lit a fire. “What’s this?” I asked. “Lunch!” he replied. He pointed to a box with 4 cans of beans and a package of hot dogs. He took the lids off the cans and literally put them in the fire to heat and he gave us sticks to cook the hot dogs over the fire. While this wasn’t quite the lunch I had envisioned, it was a good warm meal at the jobsite! Nothing like lunch on the boss!
Words Have Meaning
We as land surveyors are taught that “words have meaning”, especially when it relates to the text in a deed. Each word or phrase written in the deed can have a specific legal connotation that can directly affect a boundary location. I have also learned that words have meaning when giving directions to new hires.
Out one day with a new hire, we discovered that one of the control points, a wooden hub and tack I wanted to use, was just under a loam pile and would require some digging to uncover it. As I was setting up the field book, I instructed the hew hire to dig out the hub. Now to me, in survey lingo, that means to uncover it, expose it, and make it so that we can actually set up over it. A few moments later he comes back, says “here you go” and hands me the hub. I don’t have a selfie video to see my reaction, but I believe I felt my jaw drop and touch the top of my steel-toed boots. I took a deep breath, kept it together, and calmly explained what I actually meant by “dig out the hub”. But in my mind I was thinking “I can’t believe you just cost us two bleeping hours of additional work to bring in new control!” In return, I got the deer-in-the-headlights look. Obviously he had taken the words I had spoken literally. Even though I have used that phrase thousands of times before with positive results, this individual had heard it differently. Words have meaning.
Meet the Team
Karen Silkowski has dual Associate degrees in Graphic Design and Architecture Drafting and Design from Tunxis Community College and Porter and Chester Institute, respectively. Karen has been with Fuss & O’Neill for two decades and brings an additional nine years of experience to her role as Survey Data Specialist. When not working, Karen most enjoys visiting her two grown daughters in Brooklyn, NY, cooking and sharing a meal and lots of good wine with friends, nurturing her large garden, or curled up at home with a book.
Tim Blanchette holds an Associate degree in Accounting from Hesser College. Tim recently returned to the firm as a Survey Technician, after previously working here in the late 1980s. Tim enjoys tying flies, fly fishing, and spending time hiking in the woods behind his house with Lili, the black Labrador who adopted him.