The Cornerstone: A Surveyor's Lament

Mid-afternoon it started murmuring softly on dry leaves
A steady, sleety drizzle filtered downward through the trees


The morning's sunny skies were by noon a slatey gray
What began with so much promise had become a cold, raw day

And the icy chill of winter penetrated to the bone
Having cut a mile of line we had found no cornerstone.

The open fields that greeted us had run to long leaf pine
Then we hit a wall of brambles about halfway down the line

Conditions weren't much better when we finally reached the end
Where a long, extensive search yielded nothing for our pain

I had followed with precision maps and signs along the ground
Still the vital corner marker eluded efforts to be found

Now soaking wet and tired we were headed for the truck
And I heard my helper cursing as he rued our rotten luck

I tried to think of something that would justify our toil
But such philosophic musings wouldn't soothe my weary soul

Two days later we were back again determined in our quest
We might not find that rock but we would surely do our best

The search was just beginning when I heard my helper yell
"I think I broke my toe cause it sho' hurts like hell!"

I went over where he writhed in pain to see what I could do
In agony he fumed and fussed while pulling off his shoe

I said "It's little consolation and I doubt you could have known
But old partner I believe that you just found the cornerstone"

"Well that surely is a comfort" he said trying hard to stand
"But if this is how you do it you can find another man!"


James McClellan has been practicing surveying in McClellanville, South Carolina for the past 20 years.

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