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When I turned 12 years old my father, J.N. Newton, bought me my first .22 caliber single shot rifle. He was surveying the Coal Mine Ranch located in Presidio County, Texas. One weekend he took me and his father to the ranch to check a few angles for some computations. This was in 1974. Little did I realize, at the time, my surveying experience began. It started out small things like working on my patience, dealing with long days, learning what the tools are. What I do remember the most was I did not like going vertical up the side of a mountain in a 1972 Ford Bronco. “I want out and I want out now!” was my cry. Thankfully, Grandpa said “Yea Norman it’s time to go back”. The next day I learned how to shoot targets, that was more fun. 

Through the years I learned what rock mounds are, how to recognize a manmade pile of rocks, and rocks that fell in place appearing to have been stacked. How to cut brush lines so we could see the other end with the scope. Oh how I longed for science fiction to come true.

Work ethics were being drilled into my rebellious mind without understanding it. ‘Put an honest day’s work in’ is basically what I’m remembering while writing this. During my high school summer months I worked on the survey crew setting blue tops for street and road construction. Oh how frustrating to hear “hundredth down” only to strike the stake with a 10 lb. hammer then set the rod up and again hear “hundredth down”. “I hit the #^%^$ thing down” was my scream, while getting the answer “not hard enough”. So I hit it harder only to hear the check reply “hundredth up”. I really can’t remember how many time I quit that summer. By the time of my high school graduation I knew I had enough of surveying. So off to the bigger city to work as a cabinet builder. Loved every minute of it but grew anxious for the outdoors.

The summer of 1981 I went to work for Esmond & Hanner, in Odessa, Texas. While under their employment I worked on Earl Foote’s crew as rodman. Earl had a work ethic that made me want to better myself. He also talked rough to new members of his crew using all kinds of foul language. Any new hand he would call, well it wasn’t pleasant. After a few weeks I noticed that the instrument man was quiet and not talking to me much. I asked him what was wrong. He replied, ‘Earl is calling you Michel instead of ****head. He didn’t stop calling me that for almost a year.’ I then realized I earned someone’s respect. To this day I think of him as my mentor for wanting to be a worker and enjoying it. I thank my father for the deep appreciation for land surveying and how to operate a successful business.

While I’m at it I want to thank a good friend and mentor that is not with us any longer, Curtis Callaway. He taught Laurie and me that honesty and concern is foremost in surveying.

Where On Earth

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I received my registration from the Texas Board of Professional Land Surveyors in June 1992 and in January 2002 was appointed Licensed State Land Survey.

With all of this training, I have had the privilege of being involved with all most all aspects of land surveying. From first order networking, to high accuracy boundary surveys, large ranch and farm surveys, pipeline and well location surveys, patent and vacancy surveys, gradient boundary surveys, appointments as Special County Surveyor as original locator of the Loving – Winkler County Line. Thanks to my father’s encouragement and love for surveying I enjoy what I do. Most of all, I enjoy training and teaching others about what surveying is. All you need to do is ask me.

Most of my surveying life was working for my father. I married my wife Laurie in 1982. Prior to our marriage I started teaching her drafting using the conventional tools of the day. She caught on very quickly, since she was already an artist. After we were married she would go in the field with me on surveys. We had a pipeline project from Seminole to Andrews, Texas, so she was on the asbuilt crew while I got stuck on the tie in crew. Then the office time come, and while tabulating all of the wield lengths for the total distance of about 30 miles she had to be in the field for the other boundary projects. One very cold day in February, the phone rings and it was Dwayne telling me Laurie was injured. He had to walk over a mile to the nearest telephone. On my way out I was wondering why did he not call me on the radio, anyway I drive up to the project site about the same time he got back. Laurie was holding her hand while bleeding profusely. On the way to the ER I asked her what happened. She didn’t really want to admit to me that she didn’t hold the hammer the way I showed her. She missed the top of the lath and her finger caught the corner. To this day when I hold her hand I feel that knot and, well now laugh about it. It’s actually one of our fond memories.

Laurie’s training is ‘hands on, here it is draw it’. When computers become a must in the business world, she took an AutoCad class at Odessa College. I for my part taught myself computer drafting. Now I’m always asking her “how do I...” We raised two daughters while working for J.N. Newton & Associates and when our oldest girl got married, her new husband went to work with us. 

In January 2005, Laurie and I left working for J.N. Newton & Associates. It was a hard time but we all survived. With only a few hundred dollars left over after paying all of our bills, Laurie and I went and opened a checking account under the name Where On Earth. This was January 12, 2005, and we had a couple of projects that our former employer sent with us to finish. A few months rocked on and we were worried. However we built up our clientele and things started getting better. Turns out going out on our own was one of the best decision we ever made. And again thanks to my father, we both understand what is really involved with owning a business. There are taxes due, insurances to have, operating vehicles and payroll, etc.

We have surveyed several ranches in the Trans Pecos and Big Bend area from a few thousand acres to a 300,000+ ranch. We have designed and surveyed a 53 section subdivision. She took a GPS unit went one direction setting corners while I took the other went another direction setting more corners. Laurie is not afraid to work, digging holes, swinging a sledge hammer driving pipe and rebar in the ground. By the way she knows how to properly hold a hammer. 

Our work load has increased over the past 10 years that we are expanding. We are currently operating two survey crews, Laurie is still doing all of the drafting, and for myself, I’m overseeing the projects, teaching our crew members what surveying is. I’m on an advisory committee to the Texas Board of Professional Land Surveyors. For the past five years I have the privilege to be one of the five Licensed State Land Surveyor instructors at the High Plains Experience held on the LIT Ranch in the Texas Panhandle.

Our goal is to offer quality land surveying in a reasonable amount of time. This means we will not take on a project that we are not staffed for.  We offer surveying services from residential to commercial boundary surveys, subdivision design, layout, and platting through the local authorities. ALTA, TSPS and other high precision surveys along with route surveys for pipeline and roads. High accuracy networks for boundary control. We also provide surveys for patents, vacancies, and corrected patents, and other surveys required by the State of Texas.

(806) 368-7920 South Plains and (432) 524-5198 Permian Basin