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DAVID LYNCH, Guest Columnist
Editor’s Note: This is one of an occasional series of articles from Perry County residents who have either moved here, chosen to remain here or who have returned after living elsewhere. Columns are sponsored by the Perry County Quality of Life Committee, a branch of the Perry County Development Corp.
I can remember as a teen being picked up after school not knowing where our journey would lead. I was certain that adventures would involve woods, hills and being in the middle of nowhere. On our way to our destinations, I would tell Dad “Let me find it this time.” Even though I was nearly worn out by our walk, I would get my probe out and scurry to try to find it first.
I knew my time would be limited once the search started. I would ask “where would be a good place to look?” As he got the old records and maps out, he would point in a direction and remind me to look for old evidence of fence or old road beds. After several minutes passed and I had exhausted my search, Dad would ask “Give up yet?” Then, with a grin, he would walk directly to a beautifully carved stone as if he knew where it was the whole time. We would clean around the stone, place an orange carsonite post and a metal tag on a bearing tree to witness the location. At that point, we would be on to the next adventure.
My father, Harold E. Lynch, began his career recovering property cornerstones with the U.S. Forest Service and Job Corps in the early 1980s. He retired in 1986. He was elected Perry County Surveyor in 1988 and served five terms. His finding 2,700-plus cornerstones in Perry County, and more than 700 in surrounding counties has had an impact beyond words. Dad stated that on some “good” days he could find and place up to 10 orange carsonite posts. Dad’s hero was Daniel R. McKim, Perry County’s surveyor elected in 1856, 1870, 1876, and 1880. McKim’s legacy in Perry County as a surveyor is immense and his presence is known at all four corners of the county. McKim’s recorded notes and scribing system on the south side of stones was brilliant for both identifying the location and preventing fraud.
Like many other teenagers, I went to college and got my education. I started working in a big city under an apprenticeship to get my surveyor’s license. I spent my work days in Evansville and my weekends in Perry County. Oh, I liked Evansville and the conveniences of it, but the fast pace, deadlines, and knees-and-shoulders of it can wear you down. Dad always told me, “If I was your age I would get my license. There is a need for your work.” The beauty of the rolling hills, church life and yearning to be with family and friends kept me eager to come back home to Perry County.
My journey back to Perry County was an eventful one. While in Evansville, I met my wife, Michelle, and got married. I got my land surveyor license in 2001. Life changed again with the birth of our first child, when I was a stay-at-home dad for nine months. I knew a better quality of life was in Perry County and always wanted my kids to attend Perry County schools. In late 2002, I started my own company. My great uncle passed away and shortly afterward I moved my family into his trailer. In a small two-bedroom mobile home, we spent two years with computers, files, survey equipment, a toddler girl and a newborn boy. In 2005, we built our current home-office.
Perry County has totally embraced my family. Shortly after moving home, both my wife and I began serving on various boards and volunteering at numerous church events, school functions and other community organizations. One recent highlight was assisting Bob Ramsbottom in retracing “Freemans Corner” in the Spring of 2010. Bob has a love of Perry County and it was an enjoyable day using surveying to help him recreate a piece of history.
After I moved back, Dad would occasionally go out with me to search for cornerstones that I could not find. In spite of my “apprenticeship and education,” I still sought his wisdom and bloodhound nose. I know Purdue surveying students often spent weeks in the summer here in Perry County with Dad. They got a taste of his dedication for finding stones. Even now at conventions, Purdue alumni ask about Dad and laugh and reminisce about the good times they had. After Dad’s stroke in 2006, reality set in on how precious life is and how we take for granted the strength of our own bodies. Still today, I frequently see a metal tag on a tree referencing a found stone. Those tags with Dad’s scribed initials and date have sentimental value to me, and I often touch them, knowing his presence is there.
In more than eight years of performing boundary work on my own in Perry County, I have been able to observe and perpetuate hundreds of the stones that McKim had set and Dad had found. Only now as an adult, I can relate to the passion Dad had for life in Perry County. Now in 2011, I look back through my dad’s career and am reminded how much positive impact he had for the property owners. Like my dad, I hope to pass on to the next generation my love, desire and commitment to Perry County.
David Lynch and his wife, Michelle, own Lynch Surveying and Engineering near St. Croix.