Igor Kidinsky, known as Eager (the Kid), was breathing hard after such a rough hike, and he wondered how Glenny Dale, or Glutton (the Old Man), would make it back to the truck, because the return hike would be uphill.
Fall had turned the Quaking Aspen into a shimmering yellow that seemed to flood the cold, gray mountains and deep-blue sky with light brighter than the Sun.
The two surveyors had just shot in two center ¼ corner monuments, one set in 1969 for this four-section subdivision and one set 40 years later about 12 feet to the northeast. They had been hired to survey in six adjoining lot corners—all original 1969 monuments—to the “new” center ¼ corner. One lot was for sale, and the lawyers were holding up the closing until the appropriate quit claims deeds were prepared that would “change” the ownership of these lots according to the “correct” (new) center ¼ corner, set in 2009.
“Some day, all the sections will finally have accurately set center ¼ corners now that everyone is using GPS, just like Abraham Lincoln wanted!” predicted Eager (the Kid), proudly. “Abraham Lincoln said that the center ¼ corner is to be placed at the intersection of opposite ¼ corners, and this guy finally got it right!”
“Actually, we’re in the process of confusing every section with GPS!” the old man said. “We are mocking the order and freedom that Abraham Lincoln—the ender of slavery and signer of the Homestead Act—worked so hard for, went to war for, and died for.”
“But, I know surveyors who say that the intersection of straight lines define the legal location of all center ¼ corners! Doesn’t the BLM Manual and state law require us to honor the correct, calculated position and reject any monument we find that’s in error?”
“Those surveyors are talking about the original subdivision of a section,” said the Old Man. Abraham Lincoln used compass, chain, and pencil when he worked as a surveyor in Springfield, Illinois. As a lawyer, he could interpret the Manual of Instructions as an experienced surveyor. He was explaining that the manual did not instruct the original surveyor to ‘stub out’ the center ¼ corner, but place it at the intersection of straight lines.
“Lincoln merely stated that an original surveyor must measure with compass, chain, and pencil two-mile-long lines in the field, and at that intersection the monument placed is the legal center ¼ corner. In the context of surveying, we are talking about lines run on the ground with the tools we have.
“There is no surveying instruction or law anywhere in the U.S. that requires surveyors to use tools that do not exist—such as GPS in 1850—to run a more perfect line on the ground. Since the beginning of the PLSS, society needed surveyors to set monuments so that we could settle the land in peace,” continued the old man.
“This section was accurately subdivided by the original surveyor in 1969. Look at how steep and rugged these mountains are, and imagine the difficulties of measuring in the center ¼ corner with the transit and tape used in those days. This original surveyor did a great job. It is our duty as retracement surveyors to honor the position of this old pin, because of all the adjoining recorded lots that are tied to it.
“We know that Mr. GPS found the original 1969 corner because he shows it on his plat when he incorrectly thought he was required to set this new pin 12 feet away. He filed his plat in the county surveyor’s office with great pride. He was able to break down this rugged section in one-tenth the time with a GPS, but he was doing a retracement survey, not a ‘corrected original survey’ as it appears he was trying to do.
“Now the lawyers all think that the new center ¼ corner has ‘shifted’ all the adjoining lots, and here we are today measuring out little slivers of land to be described, quit- claimed, and recorded, with my stamp of confusion on everything. What a mess!” whined the Old Man, pointing to the new monument.
“The surveyor who set this is showing no respect for his own profession. He is discarding the good, hard work of his predecessor and getting away with it while you and I toil for profit to please the lawyers for the wrong reason,” he snarled.
“The landowners have no idea what we are doing, or what the ‘problem’ is, or why there is even a problem. They can’t close their sale without us doing this. They just assume that all surveyors live in a constant state of confusion, with nothing better to do than go around and change perfectly good property corners. There has been no conflict between the recorded lots and the original monuments for 40 years, until Mr. GPS came by. Now, these people all hate surveyors because of the costly trouble they’re going through to describe and exchange slivers of land, unnecessarily.”
“Sounds like these lawyers should take surveying lessons from Abe Lincoln!” concluded Eager (the Kid).
“Right you are, Kid. The guy who set this new center ¼ corner should join them.”
Eager (the Kid) hoisted tripod on shoulders and total station in hand. He reached for the stake bag because he knew the return hike would be too much for Glutton. But, before he could reach it, the Old Man was already gone with it, leading the way up the mountain, as if he thought he were a middle-aged whippersnapper.