In Retrospect

Two prominent southwestern historians wrote in an introduction of a jointly published book: "Americans are a people peculiarly addicted to celebrating anniversaries." I am one of those who have the bug and have on various occasions used anniversaries of one kind or another to write about it. To make my point, with this issue of BENCHMARKS I am celebrating the tenth anniversary of ANTEPASADOS, the first column of which appeared in the June 1988 NEWSLETTER. This gives me an opportunity for a little philosophizing.

Professional societies are just as hungry for suitable material for their newsletters and magazines as is the public media, but unlike newspapers and magazines that employ a paid staff of storywriters; most professional societies rely primarily on voluntary contributions by their members. If it functions as it is intended, it not only gives the membership a forum in THEIR organization but also makes for an interesting and informative newsletter. It also relieves editors, who are only dedicated volunteer members, from having to rely too heavily on other societies’ publications for re-printable material.

The average member of any organization tends to ask: "What do I get for my annual dues?" forgetting that collectively the membership can only take out of their society what they have put in. If he only knew how much most editors welcome each contribution, even in the form of letters with comments or criticism. The German dramatist and critic Lessing (1729-1781) sent on several occasions critical comments and observations under a pseudonym to his magazine, which he then answered with great gusto in the following issue under his real name. He did this in the hope of receiving more letters and getting a discussion going.

As for myself, I too have spent most of my working life sitting on my hands expecting interesting newsletters from various groups. It took the invention of the word processor to finally induce me to put some of my own thoughts on paper. Although some of my readers may have, I myself have never regretted it, I only deplore that I do not have a better command of the English language.

"Where do you get all that stuff?" I have been asked. It really is all around us if we only open our eyes. I find surveys where others may see only fences, highways, tunnels, canals, maps, or lawsuits. Tourists gawk at the pyramids and speculate: "How did they ever move all these stones?" I rather think about the fellow whose expertise assured that all these stones met in a common point vertically above the center of the base. He interests me because he was a surveyor. If it is difficult to write a story about most of our profession’s accomplishments it is mainly because nobody took the time to write them into the record. Television has chosen to glorify doctors, lawyers, cops, and cowboys, yet our profession is at least as interesting as theirs, and quite possibly more so, it only lacks a Perry Mason to promote it.

When I started to write at the invitation and with the encouragement of Bob Stephenson I wondered how long I was going to be able to keep this up? Ten years and 77 columns later I am still wondering. It is mostly a matter of being able to discover new ideas and new material that I judge to be of interest to New Mexico surveyors.

So how many more stories can I write? – In Some Part of Myself J. Frank Dobie told of a man who was writing a book entitled: "The Sons-of-Bitches of Boone County as I Have Known Them." When asked when he was going to finish it he replied: "Every time I think I’m through I discover another one." – Let this fellow’s answer also be mine.

About the Author

Fred Roeder, LS

Fred Roeder lives in Tularosa, New Mexico. He emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1957 and spent most of his surveying career in the Southwest, working for the U.S. Forest Service. Now retired, he started writing a regular column for the New Mexico Professional Surveyors Newsletter in 1988. In 1994, NMPS produced Antepasados, a book of his columns. Many surveyors are good writers, especially about technical or legal matters. However, it's not often that we find a surveyor/story-teller who can present historical facts in a manner that makes them fun to read. Fred Roeder is such a writer and we are pleased to present more than 80 of his stories here. Bibliography is a list of the books Fred used in his writings, and includes a numbered index of the articles. Index is a list of all the articles Fred has written and when. Editor's pick: The King Who Had No Title
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