Friday, September 25, 2009

Air markers ...

Those of us who have just a little bit of seniority on this planet can remember when pretty much every small town had a building that had the community's name painted on its roof in huge yellow letters. The signs were relics of the early years of aviation ... in the days before radio (much less GPS), confused pilots could look down on those painted roofs to figure out where the heck they were. They were called "air markers," and most of them dated from the 1930s.

The air markers weren't just limited to towns, though ... some of them were far out in the middle of nowhere, in case a pilot happened to get really lost. Many of them included navigational tips that were written in a little language all their own. Like this one, which still exists on the roof of an old cattle shed in the upper Smith River country in northwestern Meagher County.

The code is actually pretty easy to decipher. The arrow on the left of course points the direction to Helena, which is 35 air miles away. The symbol on the right directs one to the nearest airfield ... in this case, the one at White Sulphur Springs, which is 21 miles to the south. And the numbers in the center are the latitude and longitude of the cattle shed, separated by a north arrow.

(Note that you can click on this and most other photos here to see a larger version, if you'd like.)

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