by William S. Morse

It was around the middle of the 1940's when Paul Glover and I spent two days cruising Victory Bog and part of the headwaters of the Moose River, which is a wilderness area in northeastern Vermont. New England Power Company had a large acreage there at that time. They were contemplating building a storage dam, and were trying to peddle the stumpage off and get it cut before the area was flooded. They provided a local man who knew their land and the area to serve as our guide.
We picked him up at Granby, left our car at the dam site, and started cruising. We followed our guide without paying too much attention to the course he was taking. Our main interest was in seeing the timber and in making sure that he didn't show us the same ground twice. Around the middle of the first afternoon we decided that we had better head out to the car and call it quits for the day.
After heading out and following our guide for some time without seeing any familiar ground, we began to sense that something was haywire and we started questioning him. He admitted that we did not seem to be where he thought we were, and that he was somewhat confused. His excuse was that we had spent the day in mostly low ground which was pretty well timbered and under a heavy canopy, and that he had not been able to get a decent glimpse of Old Umpire since we had left the car.
Umpire is the name of a mountain which is prominent in that area, and it was his landmark. We headed for higher ground where we climbed out of the timber until the mountain and the surrounding country came into view. Old Umpire enabled our guide to orient himself and we headed for home. We were a couple of mountains off course, and it was almost dark when we reached the car.
The same experience has happened to many people, and it illustrates the importance of landmarks and the necessity of keeping an eye on them.
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We normally associate landmarks with prominent physical features of the land that are visible for some distance, but there are other types of landmarks. There are those which are a part of us and which are invisible. Many of those landmarks are inherent in us, and were bequeathed to us by our ancestors. Others we start picking up at our mother's knee, and as we progress through the years we are exposed to ones which are strange to us and we have to use great care in choosing which of those to accept. If our personal landmarks are not strong enough to have a lasting effect upon us, or if they are faulty, the results are not nice. If we lose track of those which we have, as we often do, we run the risk of becoming lost, or at least, badly confused.
According to legend, someone once asked Daniel Boone if he ever became lost while exploring the frontier wilderness west of the Cumberland Gap. He replied that he was never exactly lost, but that there was a period of a couple of weeks when he was God-awful bewildered. Eventually he must have found his landmarks, for he was instrumental in settling Kentucky and Missouri, and became one of the famous historic figures of our country.

There could be a moral in all of this. When we find the going rough and life becomes confused and bewildering, perhaps we need to head for higher ground in order to consult our landmarks and get on a better course.

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From A Country Life, copyright 1995 by William S. Morse.Excerpted by arrangement with Moose Country Press and available by calling toll free 800-34-MOOSE (346-6673).
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William S. Morse has been called a "different kind of old-timer" by Noel Perrin, and indeed, Bill is a genuine old Yankee who completed this first book at age 90. He writes with a dry but honest humor that all ages will enjoy. I think Lois Shea (Boston Globe) put it just right: " ... a memory that dips into the early part of the century and brings up images clear as well water." -- Robert W. Averill M.D.