The compass’s red needle always points north. The compass is always right.
Until it isn’t.
by Leon Pantenburg
Boy Scout Troop 18 was doing a land navigation exercise in the Badlands, west of Bend, Oregon. One of the older scouts kept getting mixed up while using his map and compass. A couple of us volunteers called him over to look at his navigation gear. To everyone’s surprise, the red needle on his compass pointed south.
I confiscated that compass on the spot and replaced it with one of mine that was correct. Later, I bought the south-pointing compass. The “Rebel Compass” became a joke gift for Gordon Cotton, a friend who was retiring after 30 years as director of the Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg, Mississippi. A Confederate compass, naturally, would point south!
I have found three different compasses on three separate occasions that had the needle painted wrong, and subsequently, pointed south. This could be incredibly dangerous, obviously. Under duress, the user of a rebel compass could forget which direction pointed north. Or some unsuspecting user might pick up the defective compass, and assume it worked OK. At any rate, a defective compass could lead you in the wrong direction and into deep trouble.
Lesson learned: No matter how expensive the compass, make sure the needle always points north!
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