A Lesson Learned Is a Lesson Used

Surveyors, as a group, often have similar interests because of the type of work we do and the mutual satisfaction we get from "solving the puzzle." My rodman, Curtis, and I have found that we share many interests including the type of television programs we tune into. The surveyor's need for knowledge of history and the tricks of survival in the forest, swamp, and woodlands, have affected what I watch on television. I will often be channel surfing and find a history show or wilderness program and get caught up in the content.

A few months ago, a program was being broadcast on how to survive difficult situations. The show was about a man who was walking on a mud flat and sunk in to his waist, trapping himself. The man went through great difficulties and trauma before he was freed with outside help. The program went on explain how the man could have freed himself if he found himself in such a situation again. While talking about the show the next day, I learned that Curtis had also seen the program. This program stuck with me because years before a survey crew member had been trapped in the same way and it had taken a bulldozer and two team members to pull him out, in the process causing injury to his back.

Recently my rodman, Curtis, and I were surveying in the Back Bay of Biloxi. The job was to establish a Mean High Water line along a quarter mile of shoreline. We had established an elevation to locate said line and I moved to a point out into the marsh grass to establish a traverse point from which to locate this boundary. In the process of wading into the marsh grass, I stepped slowly and carefully 60 to 70 feet out to find a good field of view, and also to give the creepy crawlers time to vacate.

I stepped out and suddenly found myself sliding straight down. My heart went to my throat wondering how deep the hole would be. I stopped, waist deep, with my instrument on my shoulder. My first reaction was to panic, thinking I could slide further in, I quickly yelled for Curtis, about 150 feet away to come quick, he yelled back asking if I had fallen down. I answered "No, I am in a hole and sinking." He moved quickly to my position and took the instrument from me. He then reminded me that we had seen the program showing us how to get out of just this kind of predicament. With his coaching I sat down in the mud and leaned back spreading my arms to distribute the weight, and then began to raise my legs from their sunken position. I raised one leg, then another, until they were both in a position as if floating on the mud. Then I rolled on my side and began crawling until I was on top of the sawgrass.
After a few moments of reflection I asked Curtis what his next idea would have been. He answered that he didn't know but he couldn't swim anyway.

I never would have imagined, as I sat watching that TV show, that I would be using the survival skills described the very next day! But, as Milton Denny wrote in his last article in The Mississippi Surveyor, "Life is a matter of learning lessons."
GARY DURBIN is a licensed land surveyor and the owner of North Bay Surveying in Biloxi, Mississippi.

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