I’m a second-generation land surveyor. I started surveying when I was about 12 years old. I used an old iron transit and read the angles on the verniers of the instrument. I remember some of those old guys would pull me off of my feet with that 100-foot chain and then get mad and say, “Quit foolin’ around, boy.” So I’d run, go pick up the end of the chain, wrap that leather strap around my wrist a few times and set my feet as if I were in a tug of war, because that’s what it was for me.

Solo NotesI surveyed again for a while when I got out of high school, and then I went off to try other things. I came back to surveying in my early 20s and found my niche, but I moved on to another career eventually.

I remember in most of my interviews at other jobs I had in between land surveying that I was hired for my surveying knowledge. Even when I wasn’t surveying, people would ask, “What do you do?” I’d reply, “Well, I’m an old land surveyor, but right now I’m doing such and so.” I was in a tug of war with other career paths and surveying.

I have recently returned to the field of land surveying. I’ve tried the careers that I thought would bring me fulfillment, but they were all mirages. I’m older now, not as quick as I used to be, but I can still out run the yellow jackets. The new technology changed a few things though. I think for the most part a three-man crew is a thing of the past. Hardly anybody uses the chain anymore. Nobody knows what an EDM is, or was. I’ve also met young guys at work that have never seen a plumb bob.

The one thing that I realize now that hasn’t changed is the comradery of the people who are drawn to land surveying as a career. We are an eclectic group of folks from all kinds of backgrounds. I’ve known surveyors who were musicians, tattoo artists, trappers, and adrenaline junkies way before that was the thing to be.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people come up to me over the years when I’m out surveying and say, “You know I used to do land surveying and I loved it.” It comes to me, “That once a surveyor, always a surveyor.”

So to me it isn’t about who is or isn’t using the latest technology, or how much the technology has changed the way we do our job. Land surveying is a way of life, a tight group of people who embrace their career field and have similar goals for their profession. There’s an element of danger surveying in the great outdoors and the freedom it affords is priceless.

Bart Gibson has worked as CAD draftsman and instructor, and is a published author. Bart currently works in the surveying department for Planners and Engineers Collaborative, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia.

Solo Notes is a regular feature in POB and highlights the experiences and strategies of solo surveyors and small business owners. To share your story for a future issue, email Managing Editor Benita Mehta at mehtab@bnpmedia.com.