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Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

FeedBack Print E-mail
Written by Letters to the Editor   
Friday, 18 September 2009

A 92Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

More on the Founding of ASPRS
I enjoyed your article on the ASPRS 75th Anniversary [July 2009], but was disappointed there wasn't more information on the founding members. Here is a link to a short bio of Captain O. Reading, a USC&GS officer, and at whose home the founding meeting was held: http:// www.history.noaa.gov/cgsbios/bior2.html. More information about Reading can be found at www.amerisurv.com/PDF/Reading-BluePhotogHistoryBk.pdf and www.amerisurv.com/PDF/CaptReadingNo3.pdf.
George Leigh, NGS
Via the Internet

Excepting and Reserving
Thanks to Wendy Lathrop for her excellent article, "Watch Your Language" [June 2009], in which she discusses exception and reservation language in conveyance documents. The article correctly states that the word exception relates to the holding back of physical portions the subject property (as in `I will sell you all of my land EXCEPT one acre along the road . . . ') while the word reservation relates to the creation of rights (as in `I RESERVE the right to change my opinion upon the disclosure of additional facts . . . '). Regarding the usefulness of combining the two terms excepting and reserving the article asks, "What can that phrase possibly mean?" One answer is the meaning found in mineral clauses. "EXCEPTING and RESERVING all minerals and all mineral rights in the lands . . . " means that the physical portions of the land that are mineral in character (particles of gold, drops of oil) are excepted, and rights (to extract and dispose of the gold and oil) relating to those physical portions are reserved.
Michael Bell, LS
Wilton, CA

Thought-provoking Articles
As an LSIT and a lawyer, I enjoy reading this magazine quite a bit. The June 2009 issue provoked a lot more thinking.

Jerry Penry's article "Survey or No Survey" about the unlicensed surveyor really struck me. I remember when How to Avoid Probate! by Norman F. Dacey first came out. Many lawyers were incensed. The closing remarks of the book were pertinent­write a will, just in case. A knowledgeable person reading the book would realize the importance of having a lawyer. A less knowledgeable person could likely create a mess, and lawyers would eventually be needed to straighten things out. I agree that the state licensing boards ought to vigorously pursue the unlicensed person. But the property owner who uses unlicensed surveying techniques simply creates more work for a surveyor later on. So the unlicensed firms just promote more work­isn't that compliance with the Surveyors' Full Employment Act?

[The June issue also included] "Watch Your Language" by Wendy Lathrop. I agree that surveyors need to watch their language, but I say that many more lawyers need to also watch their language­in fact, some of them need to go back to school and relearn [or learn for the first time] Real Property.

[In that light] below is an excerpt of a letter regarding Real Property and surveying that I recently sent to Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco in hopes of getting the law schools moving:

"I am very proud that I am a graduate of the Class of '65. That Hastings education has been wonderful to me, and I treasure every moment. But my education did not stop there. About three years ago, I did take and pass the preliminary license issued by the State of California for surveying. As such, I am now also an LSIT­a Land Surveyor in Training. There are a lot of things, all of them good, about this additional pursuit, that I could say, but there is one thing to which I wish to address to you in this missive.

Working with surveyors, I have encountered deeds and legal descriptions, many of which are drawn up by lawyers. While many descriptions are suitable for their intended purpose, I do note that the surveyor relies not just on contemporary information, but information going back a long way. That's where some error on the part of the lawyers does creep in from time to time. In addition, contemporary lawyers, as well-schooled as they might be, simply do not have the expertise in drafting property descriptions in all kinds of documents.

Without casting stones, I will say that sometimes the lawyer simply does not take into account some of the surveying parameters that do influence land and property descriptions.

As I "survey" this field, the thought occurs to me that perhaps, in our legal education, somewhere in the real property courses, there ought to be some time given to instructing about what a surveyor does, and what is needed in property descriptions. Too often I read in a surveying magazine some poor description written up by a lawyer (for example, The American Surveyor which has illustrated without rancor some of the mistakes made by lawyers). It immediately becomes apparent that more education is required, more knowledge about the acts of a surveyor and the importance of proper description in any land-related document.

So I ask you to give some thought to expanding the courses in real property to including a bit of what surveying is and does. By doing that, perhaps our education will be better."
W. Stuart Home, JD, LSIT
Fresno, CA

More on "GIS Follies"
I am a Professional Surveyor and Mapper. Being licensed for 20 years and having graduated from a four-year university, I have worked for both land and aerial survey firms. I am fascinated, like Mr. Leininger, that people put letters after their name (i.e., PhD) and feel that they can succeed in solving real world problems! [See "GIS Follies," Feb 2009 and FeedBack letters June 2009.] I don't wish to downgrade having a PhD, for I am aware of the powerful work needed in such an accomplishment. However, nothing in the world of surveying is easy and to give the general public such an idea is crazy. And if one summer of using a plumb bob, programming an HP and drawing with a Leroy kit qualifies one to sit for the exam, which it does not in Florida, I would not have my career.

The original article by Mr. Leininger was on point (maybe "Sketching the Wobbly Cadastral Descriptions in Brazil" would have been a better title). Any description which simply has a "right" or "left" directional call is a recipe for disaster. When people engage in land disputes, the approximate location of a line is not adequate, and GIS is only an approximation of the real thing anyway.

My present employer is beginning to generate a GIS system and with 90 years of paper data, we are finding it a task to compile land descriptions that spell out exactly where the lines go!

Mr. Leininger is right. The GIS experts need a reality check.
Thomas J. Barry, LS
Jupiter, FL

Rattlers and Moonshine
I appreciate your magazine and look forward to each issue. I am a 76-year-old retired land surveyor who has followed this wonderful profession for about 40 years, with plenty of rich memories.

While I was a young crew chief with the Little Rock District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, I was involved with the marking, by level survey, of the normal water's edge around most of the perimeter of the Greers Ferry Lake in Cleburne and Van Buren counties, Arkansas. Also, an additional line 50 feet or so in elevation downhill had to be surveyed. From our survey, and by contract at a later date, timber was totally cleared between the two lines and "topped" out from the lower one. The combined length of both these lines was about 500 miles. These lines were, of course, surveyed before the lake filled with water. From one to three crews worked on this job, each averaging about two miles of line surveyed per day, so the job lasted many months.

It was the late 1950s, and the number of good, hard-surfaced roads were few. Once you left the town of Heber Springs, or Clinton, most of the roads were rough in the area to be flooded­ boarded gravel roads, or a wagon road in the bottoms, or none. We had to follow and mark the contour where the water's edge would be when the lake was filled, wherever it led, which was often to remote locations miles from the nearest house. Needless to say, we met up with lots of ticks, snakes, and "wildlife".

It was in mid-November, after one or two light frosts, and our crew had waded across the south side of the South Fork River at a shoal. We walked about a mile through the woods to the point on the contour line where we had parked the work the day before, and had been working for a couple of hours when we came upon the largest rattlesnake I had ever seen. Snakes are generally hibernating in dens at this time of year, but this one was lying on a large flat rock in the sun, soaking up some warmth. It was about six feet long with 13 rattles and a button. A rattlesnake that large can inject a very large amount of venom when it strikes, and we were a long way from our vehicle or any medical help. If any of my crew had been bitten, even with first aid efforts, odds were that person would have become very sick, or even died. We were fortunate to avoid any mishaps.

It was also about this time that a very good friend of mine became the proud co-owner of a Piper J3 airplane. He was working with one of the crews on the Greers Ferry Lake Survey, and on the weeks that the plane was in Heber Springs, he and I would usually fly to North Little Rock after work on Friday afternoons.

In addition to snakes, the hills and hollows of Cleburne and Van Buren counties had their share of clandestine and illegal moonshine stills. One of my brothers-in-law, when he learned where I was working, asked if I could find some genuine mountain dew and bring a couple of quarts home. Since we had some local men working on the crews, it was not difficult to locate a source. It wasn't too long before the J3 headed home one Friday afternoon with me flying it from the front seat of the tandem cockpit and my friend in the rear seat with two full Mason jars. As I recall it cost two bucks a quart, and was clear as tap water. If you poured a small amount into a saucer and held a lit match to it, it produced the prettiest blue flame. I delivered it to my brother-in-law and he lived happily for quite some time! I've often wondered­would a single delivery of moonshine with a Piper J3 airplane qualify me to claim the honorary title of an Arkansas Moonshine Runner?
William F. (Dub) Davis, Jr., LS (retired)
Via the Internet

Got some feedback?
We always enjoy hearing from our readers. You can contact us via our website at www. theamericansurveyor.com, or send a letter to: The American Surveyor, P.O. Box 4162, Frederick, MD 21705-4162. We reserve the right to edit letters for clarity and length. Due to the variety of titles used by licensed surveyors throughout the U.S., we use the title LS after the name of any registered land surveyor.

A 92Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

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