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View Full Version : Take it or leave it? A questions of ethics.



LauraA
07-28-2006, 04:57 PM
Suppose while you're exploring a secluded GT, abandoned ranch or similar, you find a really neat old lantern or even a pretty pearl button. Do you take it or leave it? If you leave it for "future generations" don't you think the next person there will take it?

Note: names will not show with voting, so please vote.

brian10x
07-28-2006, 06:49 PM
Suppose while you're exploring a secluded GT, abandoned ranch or similar, you find a really neat old lantern or even a pretty pearl button. Do you take it or leave it? If you leave it for "future generations" don't you think the next person there will take it?

Note: names will not show with voting, so please vote.

I know its wrong, and I would burn in **** for doing it, but someday I'd like to have a collection of just "one". One thing that I found on the trail that is really old, really cool, and brings back fond memories.

NWNative
07-28-2006, 09:26 PM
The trouble with the "just one" theory is that it wouldn't necessarily bring back good memories.
Say (for argument's sake) that you took somethin that was pretty cool and you were young and self centered and didn't really think about it. So you take it. Then you're out at some site and there's nothing there - you wonder who took the stuff and if it's sitting in a house somewhere gathering dust.

When you get home you see your "trophy" and all you can think is how dissapointing it was to not see anything on your last jaunt. So the thing brings you no pleasure yet you have to keep carting it around 'cause you just can't throw it out. So what you get is a big fat reminder of what a turdball you used to be.

Of course I am just supposin' here.

brian10x
07-28-2006, 10:25 PM
The trouble with the "just one" theory is that it wouldn't necessarily bring back good memories.
Say (for argument's sake) that you took somethin that was pretty cool and you were young and self centered and didn't really think about it. So you take it. Then you're out at some site and there's nothing there - you wonder who took the stuff and if it's sitting in a house somewhere gathering dust.

I guess you have a valid point. But if I happen upon a cache of gold bars beneath the floor of some miner's cabin, I ain't sharing. I don't care how bad it makes me feel.

When you get home you see your "trophy" and all you can think is how dissapointing it was to not see anything on your last jaunt. So the thing brings you no pleasure yet you have to keep carting it around 'cause you just can't throw it out. So what you get is a big fat reminder of what a turdball you used to be.

Of course I am just supposin' here.
:mad: :mad: :confused:

LauraA
07-29-2006, 07:25 AM
It poses a couple of tough questions. On one hand, if you take it, it's going to be shown to other people along with the story of how and where it was found, opening topics of discussion and perhaps even awareness of history that might not have even been thought about before. On the other hand, it was left there by someone previously for us to find. Is it the right thing to do to take it now? After seeing some of the GTs, ranches and abandoned mines and seeing what disrespectful morons have done to them (graffiti, smashing old bottles and windows, etc.) I believe it might be conservation in a sense by taking the item. :confused:

old judge
07-29-2006, 02:56 PM
An old lantern. Not an issue. You take it and take care of it. No graffiti, no windows, no doors, but an old lantern, of course. And the gold bars,,,,In a heartbeat... OJ

Cecile
07-29-2006, 09:45 PM
I'd say it depends on what it is, where it is, and the likely hood of someone else taking it. I've seen situations where if I had taken something, I could have donated it back to the place when a historical society took over the place afterwards.

GaryB
07-29-2006, 10:06 PM
I'd say it depends on what it is, where it is, and the likely hood of someone else taking it. I've seen situations where if I had taken something, I could have donated it back to the place when a historical society took over the place afterwards.

About the way I see it too. I take pictures like mad, but if it was something of serious historical value, I'd likely snag it and give it to the closest museum.

Sorry Brian, but if I found some hidden gold bullion, you'd have to share the bench with me in **** ;)

cheever
07-31-2006, 10:32 AM
Just taking pictures of the place seems to do it for me. Although there was this one time that I was very deep in a mine that had a bunch of empty Hercules Powder boxes that I just couldn't resist. Now I'm pretty sure that no one else would have been dumb enough to go that deep in this mine and in combination with the fact that there were multiple boxes down there I didn't feel so bad. In addition to that I later found that this particular mine has be reclaimed by the state so no one else will ever see it again anyway.

Being on this topic what does everyone think about bottle collecting? I for one don't do it, but it seems like every time I go to an abandoned site that is easily accessible there are groups of people scanning the hills for bottles.

LauraA
07-31-2006, 01:27 PM
I've seen the bottle collectors out there too, they're a voracious bunch. Unfortunately, most good bottles I've seen have been smashed or used as target practice. If I found one that was unusual and attractive, I'd probably snag it. I think it's justifiable that you took the Hercules Powder box, I wonder if they'll remove the rest before they blast or bulldoze the mine? :( If not, perhaps someday, future archaeologists might find it....we can only hope.

cheever
08-02-2006, 09:12 AM
I'm not quite sure if they went in and grabbed the rest of the boxes. I do know that most of the crews that the state hires to do the reclaiming have no interest in that type of stuff anyway so my bet is that they just covered the entrance and moved on to the next mine to be reclaimed. This was the second time around of being reclaimed for this particular mine and it wouldn't hurt my feelings if someone dug it out again. :)

I've seen the bottle collectors out there too, they're a voracious bunch. Unfortunately, most good bottles I've seen have been smashed or used as target practice. If I found one that was unusual and attractive, I'd probably snag it. I think it's justifiable that you took the Hercules Powder box, I wonder if they'll remove the rest before they blast or bulldoze the mine? :( If not, perhaps someday, future archaeologists might find it....we can only hope.

caver
08-05-2006, 05:59 PM
My Dad has an old pick axe and something else they got from an old mine site his cousin took us to on vacation around 1970. I hope to actually find this site this year on our trip (Idaho/Montana) as I'm having pictures made of the old slides he took. His cousin has moved and probably doesn't remember where it was he took us. We talked about sending the items back to the local history society in the future.

LauraA
08-05-2006, 06:10 PM
Brad, I think one thing is for sure, nobody appreciates these "treasures" as much as those of us who value the historical significance of our find.
I'm sure you've wondered about the person who used that pick axe and wished it could tell its story. :)

Johnnie
11-27-2006, 09:46 AM
How did this poll turn out in Aug. Laura?

We thought you may have calulated your votes and this may be "appropriate" " time to ask or bump an answer out of you.;)

Johnnie & Sheila

LauraA
11-28-2006, 02:53 AM
How did this poll turn out in Aug. Laura?

We thought you may have calulated your votes and this may be "appropriate" " time to ask or bump an answer out of you.;)

Johnnie & Sheila

It looks like it's a dead heat, we'd either take it and add it to our own personal collection of "stuff" or we'd take it and donate it to an appropriate agency. Either way, we'd sure bump it from its original location. :D

Theresagram
10-30-2009, 01:20 PM
I voted that I'd give it to a museum.

It still bothers me and Bob Ballad that he didn't claim salvage rights on the Titanic and the next people who went looking for it plundered it.

RedDogSaloon
10-30-2009, 10:24 PM
Not a fair question... to a lantern collector! Of course I'd preserve it and prevent it from getting smashed by vandals - by bringing it home. I do document things I have with the specifics of their 'find' location whenever possible. Incidentally, I have never found a lantern in a ghost town but have in abandoned homesteads. One time I found a superb condition nickel plated Rayo lamp base, with burner, in an abandoned house - all it needed was the glass chimney and a wick. I stashed it outside very well as I couldn't bring it back at that time. I could not believe my eyes when I went back to retrieve it a few months later - some one /some group had found it and smashed it - flat. I was heart sick. From then on.... anything like that was better stashed or taken to safety. The only other lantern story I like is a fellow I used to know, a RR collector, found the relic remains of a smashed railroad lantern at the site of the 1910 Wellington disaster up here in Wash. What a cool relic it was, I wouldn't mind getting it but we had a falling out (he went weird I think due to a mental illness, sad). My friends and I have put things back up at old sites or made minor preservation attempts only to have it undone by vandals later on. I swear 90% of the people who go to these old places do not have history or respect on their mind.

AZBang
10-31-2009, 09:01 PM
I had a really weird thing happen to me the first time I visited the Indian ruins on Bloody Basin Rd.

When I arrived I was the only one there. The weather was nice, light breeze. I got out of my truck and was getting ready to get a pack out when the wind picked up and it blew so hard it slammed the door shut, then died down again.

Read into it what you want but after that I tend to leave things where they are and just take a lot of pix. :confused:

Norman Johnson
11-01-2009, 06:54 PM
Disclosure---my brother is one of the top anthropologists on the west coast. Two years ago, I was along on a dig with him on Santa Rosa Island in the Santa Barbara Channel.

We were there for early American evidence from about 13,000 years ago. Our campsite was near a Chumash site from 500 to 3,000 years ago. There were things that were found that were left in place. But some stuff was kept and cataloged for the museum.

Pigmy mammoth bones, tusks, and molars were photographed, GPS'd and left in place and a report was sent to the guy who did ancient mammals. I was with an anthro group.

Point is, take a photo, map the location, do some field notes, and turn them over to the museum curator in charge of the area ASAP. You are not a curator. Curators of other disciplines are limited as well. If they won't touch it---you should not. If you want to get some respect for your work as a history sleuth, do it the right way and you will feel real good about it.

NJ

AZBang
11-01-2009, 07:28 PM
Sounds like good advice.

David A. Wright
11-02-2009, 09:11 AM
So far no one has mentioned the Antiquities Act of 1905, which prohibits collection of items more than 80 years old (or something like that) from historic sites.

It was in effect during the bottle collecting craze of the 1950s and 1960s. It's still in effect now.

The vast majority of people were ignorant of the law. Many were decieved by all those neat old Desert Magazine articles about collecting desert relics.

In recent years the government has started enforcing it again. About a dozen years ago a man in Ridgecrest, California was arrested and imprisioned for all the stuff he stole and was found in his possession.

Me? I've come across many neat things over the years. I've had a working relationship with the area museums and I'd take photos and detailed notes and lately GPS coordinates on where the stuff is so that they can do what they feel is best - take it or leave it. Sometimes an archaeological team was sent to investigate.

But I will admit to having an 1872 quarter I found in Candelaria, Nevada that I found in the 1970s while I was ignorant of the law.:rolleyes:

AZBang
11-02-2009, 09:15 AM
Thanks for posting that info, makes that decision a whole lot easier!

Darin
11-02-2009, 09:37 PM
My last trip to Eastern Washington proved to be somewhat of an eye opener when we went to the local museum in one town. The curators of the place had been talking to us about the bottle collecting that is still going on to this day. They said that they collect bottles from the neighboring town which is now pretty much gone, but relics remain near the mines. They go and collect the bottles and put them up for sale as souvineers at their museum and charge an outrageous fortune for the little bottles that are the same about the same size as airplane alcohol bottles. Needless to say, the "Better Half" had to have one since they were for sale so, a fortune was spent...on a friggin' big one!

So I would further my sleuthing in finding out just what a "curator" would do when such a find is brought forth to them.

They also said that other people in town collect them for decoration and sales as well...guess the whole town is into breaking the Antiquities Act. :eek:

LV Caretaker
11-03-2009, 08:44 AM
:( I took 3 things - once - and as time went by I regretted the decision to take them. I can't return them to the source - as I have lost the pieces. (I think that was a divine decision - they were not mine to keep in the first place). They were not from here in the states, and they were quite ancient - man-made items from a double digit year. I have told my story to park visitors - in the hope that my confession would enlighten them from taking anything.

Thanks to David for bringing up the Antiquities Act. I tell people about that too. :)

David A. Wright
11-03-2009, 07:39 PM
So I would further my sleuthing in finding out just what a "curator" would do when such a find is brought forth to them.
Fortunately, I had a long term working relationship with the museums in eastern California and know they went out of their way to protect sites.

One example is San Carlos, Inyo County, California.

http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/ca/sancarlos.html

In the early part of this decade, I took a couple of friends to the townsite and found the whole town dug up. It appeared to be a large scale, systematic digging for anything the perpetrators could find. On the San Carlos page, all the images are mine, including a couple of the damage.

I've been on an archeologocial dig with the BLM at a ghost town near Death Valley, and there were some similarities at San Carlos ( http://www.gbr.4wdtrips.net/trips/reilly.htm ). It was obvious that either a couple of people spent days unmolested digging up the town (which I doubt) or numerous people did so. Though off the beaten path, somebody had to have come along - the City of Los Angeles checking their power lines that run through the site, or doing work along the Owens River; explorers along the old narrow gauge railroad bed or somebody.

I notified Bill Michaels at Eastern California Museum. He downloaded my digital images to his computer. He notified and consulted with various state and federal agencies; all of which stated they knew nothing about any digging nor did they issue permits for a scientific archeological dig (based upon my experience on such true diggings, they don't leave the site a shambles like San Carlos was left).

Likely nothing has come of it, it happened in 2002 and I've moved to Nevada since then. Bill is no longer with Eastern California Museum, but now living and working farther north.

The government didn't really enforce the Antiquities Act for decades. It's only recently, with the cultural shift to preserve history, that the old law was dusted off and enforced again.

Same thing for Native American artifacts. When I was a kid growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, arrowhead collecting was normal and a fun past time. Try that now days and find out what will likely happen ...

ghost_town_huntress
11-05-2009, 12:29 AM
Well I got an arrowhead off our property and I believe that as long as it's on your own property they can't do anything about it.

campp
11-05-2009, 07:33 AM
I found pottery shards in my backyard in both of my last two houses. Reburied on the spot.

campp
11-05-2009, 07:37 AM
I have seen several small "shrines" in the Grand Canyon floor at various locations, with a circle of rocks outlining a small collection of arrowheads and interesing shards. They remain undisturbed year after year, as most of the floor hikers are aware it is not theirs to take. I find that very refreshing.

danny_stoddard
11-05-2009, 12:34 PM
"TAKE ONLY PHOTOS, LEAVE ONLY FOOTPRINTS"

If we all took "just one thing", there would be nothing left! I take pictures and am very happy to remember stuff through them.

WadeVC
12-17-2009, 12:09 AM
I would not take anything other than photos, period.

I do find it odd that, collectively, everyone here agrees that vandalism at many of our historic ghost towns is appalling, disgusting and to many, bordering on criminal.

But isn't stealing also a form of vandalism?

The excuses are numerous, but excuses just the same. Just because one may find a clever way of phrasing what they find appalling and wrong when others do so, does not make it right nor any less destructive or legal.

One of the reasons so many of our beloved Ghost Towns are in such poor condition (other than nature taking its course) is due to the fact that too many will, do and continue to justify their actions, as seen by some of the responses here and as evidenced at far too many locations.

Taking items to "preserve" them when one is not a specialist in a given field is not helping history or historical sites, it is destructive to them.

I just hope I can make it to some of these sites before others "preserve" them into oblivion.

teds280z
01-10-2010, 03:15 PM
I really believe in the take only pictures. Remember the Bodie curse. Vandals are a form of evil. With my luck I would find that stash of gld bars and just before reaching the hiway the ranger would pull me over. Where did you get those. Freedom, truck, everything would be lost. The authorities are alot more diligent in enforcing the law now with gold over 1000 an ounce. Big mining companys are supposed to get it all:mad:

shirohniichan
01-11-2010, 03:59 PM
I just posted a long reply and it went "poof". :mad:

SiloStv
03-09-2010, 03:53 PM
Well, here in the Pacific Northwest it rains... metal in the ground rusts... exactly 'how long' should something remain burried in the 'hope' a future generation will find it? I understand we need to preserve history... but if the choice is to preserve by finding, digging, and preserving (either with me or a crook who is employed by the State or Federal Gov't) or letting it rot in the ground... I think the item needs to be saved. What good is a rusted out lantern?

Walking around taking pictures is fine, leaving what you see is great! But what my metal detector finds... you would have never seen anyway. And no I don't leave big holes!

the Antiquities Act of 1905... sure brought up a lot... if the 'lantern' is 99 years and younger, whats the problem?

Also, there seems to be a lot of mention of 'future generations'... I don't think they will care, they don't seem to care about anything now except what looks good on them or what cell phone to buy this week.

Mikejts
03-12-2010, 06:39 AM
Laura,

The question is easy for people to answer. The real test is when you find that item.

I was working with the BLM in the Sand Wash basin looking for artifacts and evidence of inhabitants in the area. It was my first volunteer project with the BLM. Totally by accident on the second day out we made a major discovery that had not been documented before. It took us several days to determine the size of the site and in the process we found all sort of structures and artifacts. My favorite was the small stone blind built along a game trail complete with peep holes and a place to launch arrows.

Our project suddenly turned into one of documenting the location and size so an in-depth research project could be implemented. After finally flagging the area, taking GPS coordinates, photographs, and writing up descriptions we decided to take a break.

We split up and started surveying the nearby ridges. As I was walking along I began to see signs of activity. Small flakes, chert etc. Then my heart leaped. I thought I saw the tip of a large blade. As I got to my knees and started to carefully remove the surrounding dirt I validated my first impression. It was a perfect blade over 8 inches long.

As I laid it in my hand I saw that it stretched from the tip of my fingers past my wrist. I sat there all alone and the thoughts started to race through my mind. Could I put this in my backpack and nobody would know? Should I take it? How will I get it home? Will they search our bags before we leave? I even rationalized taking it by saying things like, I have never found anything this perfect before, this is a once in a lifetime find, wait until I show all my friends. This is better than anything Julie has found. Julie is my sister in law and has hunted for years. Is anyone watching? If I donít take it we will just photo it, GPS it, and bury it. I deserve this for all my hard work. More rationalization.

Still on my knees it became obvious to me that I had to make a decision. Hide it or flag it. Now You decide.

Darin
03-12-2010, 11:15 AM
:) I know I'm not Laura, but...

It's like being on a military base. There was one time we were on a training day at Fort Benning. We were out in the middle of no where and pitching our tents. after digging a rain trench around the tent, I dug up a partial belt of M-60 ammo (unused). I sat there and thought to myself, do I take it with me (keep it), or turn it in? After the thought of an Article 15, I turned it in.
Working with the BLM, I would have bagged and tagged it and reburried it. It's a part of our past that should be preserved and if it's not the BLM's place to take it and hand it over to a museum or what have you, at least it could be documented for the propper agency to do so.

LauraA
03-12-2010, 01:26 PM
Mike, Wow, tough to know what to do. I suppose it's best answered by asking yourself the "right" questions. Is it ethical to take the item, what would I do with it if I did indeed take it... and then of course there's the other side of the coin. If the people doing the research at the dig site have the item, what will they do with it? Will it be buried in a drawer in some dusty museum archive or will it be displayed where the public can learn and enjoy it? I have no idea what I personally would have done, probably my conscience would have gotten the best of me and I would have reported it to the proper authorities. Having said that, I found a small lady's diamond ring buried in the sand at an old mining camp, it looked like it was circa 1900s or so. Did I keep it? You betcha I did, it would have served no purpose at all to leave it buried, I wear it and enjoy telling the tale of how it was found to anyone who will listen. I'm sure some people will chide me by saying I should have turned it in to the local historical society or some such place but I saw no reason to do so.
I've found lots of pottery shards and other items like that, these I leave in place for the next intrepid explorer to enjoy, hopefully they'll also leave them behind.
So, Mike, what was your decision? :)

Here's a link to the post I did regarding the diamond ring.
Saguaro Mine is gone, but the gold is still there! (http://forums.ghosttowns.com/showthread.php?15807-Saguaro-Mine-is-gone-but-the-gold-is-still-there!&highlight=diamond+ring)

Mikejts
03-14-2010, 12:57 PM
Laura,

Before I give you the answer let me give you some more details:

That division of the BLM has so many artifacts that they do not even want to keep them as it costs too much and they have no more storage space available. So if I do not pick it up and put it in my back pack it will get reburied where I found it. Of course it will be photographed, GPS coordinates will be taken, it will be written up with a description of size and shape as well as a drawing made.

So again what do you do?

LauraA
03-14-2010, 04:26 PM
So again what do you do?

Mike, In light of what you've said, my honest answer would be...I'd take it myself. If it were to be reported and with the GPS coordinates taken along with photographs, etc, I'm afraid I wouldn't trust someone else's honesty to not come back at some later date and retrieve the knife for themselves, (oh me of little faith) particularly since it's such a good find.
Perhaps later on it could be offered to some museum or historical society, but reburying it doesn't seem to make any sense to me....conscience be d a m n e d! :o

Mikejts
03-14-2010, 04:40 PM
I like your attitude..... If I had a do over I would also. Plenty of musuems that would take it.

Norman Johnson
03-14-2010, 05:27 PM
Shifting gears,

I was leading a Boy Scout hike one time in Joshua Tree before the N. Park days. I was 17. I took the scouts up to a high peak above the campsite--a peak almost no people ever climbed. There at the top were twenty eagle feathers---huge beautiful perfect molt feathers from a spot that the eagles would sit and watch the valley. I --- .

If I took those magnificent feathers, I'd still have them to show people the wonder of the great birds. The feathers are twice as large as a vulture feather---huge. However, it would be illegal to even posses such things. It is illegal to collect any wild bird feather.

What did I do? What should I have done?

NJ

Mikejts
03-14-2010, 07:28 PM
Shifting gears,

I was leading a Boy Scout hike one time in Joshua Tree before the N. Park days. I was 17. I took the scouts up to a high peak above the campsite--a peak almost no people ever climbed. There at the top were twenty eagle feathers---huge beautiful perfect molt feathers from a spot that the eagles would sit and watch the valley. I --- .

If I took those magnificent feathers, I'd still have them to show people the wonder of the great birds. The feathers are twice as large as a vulture feather---huge. However, it would be illegal to even posses such things. It is illegal to collect any wild bird feather.

What did I do? What should I have done?

NJ

Man, am I in trouble. I have been collecting feathers for my little neighbor for years. She told me one day that she had no feathers and her friend had 17. So to help her out I started picking up feathers. Now I read this:

Can I keep the molted feather of a bird that I found?
Unfortunately, no; that is, not legally. Although it may seem harmless, todayís laws were made to protect birds from illegal poaching and trafficking. These laws were required to stop trade in egret and heron plumes and eagle feathers, along with the unlawful killing and trade of other birds, including endangered species in the United States and around the world.

May I retrieve feathers of birds killed by cars or other accidental means?
No. Birds and their parts can not be possessed by individuals.
Can I keep the feathers of birds killed by a hunter?
No. Only a hunter with an appropriate hunting license can keep such feathers or skins containing feathers.
May I keep a bird nest I found in my yard?
No. Bird nests may not be collected or possessed by individuals.
Can I keep the egg of a bird that I found?
No. Although egg collecting (oology) was permitted during earlier centuries, this archaic practice is no longer permitted.

Norman Johnson
03-14-2010, 07:38 PM
Thank God, I don't have those feathers right now. If I were to look at them sitting on my window ledge, forty years later, out of the sunlight, proud and beautiful, forty years of telling folk what a magnificent bird is the golden eagle and how huge the bird is and what giant feathers grace its body, it would just trouble me to know that I had committed an illegal act. And all of you should take this to heart and do the right thing.

NJ

dwinslow
03-14-2010, 10:12 PM
So what am supposed to do when my wife's big Macaw molts and looses a 2 foot feather? Stick it up.............well never mind.:confused:

shirohniichan
03-15-2010, 01:25 PM
Oy gewalt! Back in the '70s I found an eagle's feather in the middle of nowhere at my grandparents' place in British Columbia, and I took it home. I gave it to someone else years ago, but am I still cursed?!!! :eek:

JoeZona
03-15-2010, 02:13 PM
I wonder if American Indians are exempt from these stupid rules?

LauraA
03-16-2010, 03:39 AM
I'm According to this, Mountain-Prairie Region Office of Law Enforcement (http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/law/eagle/) Native Americans can get eagle feathers if they have a proper permit.

Mikejts
03-16-2010, 05:02 PM
I think it must be illegal to pick up dog poop in my neighborhood... Nobody seems to do it???

GaryB
03-19-2010, 04:17 PM
I think it's funny you can't have a birds nest. They fall out of the trees in my yard every time the wind blows really hard. I just sweep them up and toss them, but maybe I should call the Dept. of Wildlife to remove them :)

Norman Johnson
03-21-2010, 07:39 PM
Actually, it is pretty easy and pretty crazy all at the same time to get permission to "study" or "collect" in our public lands. I have been working on a number of new species of Arachnids (harvestmen) the last few years and have needed permission to collect some specimens in the California desert areas. The BLM biologists talk to you on the phone, figure it out right away and give you the go-ahead. Pretty sensible and good biology. The state parks have a two page form that a lawyer needs to fill out and then maybe by next year you get an answer. Since I am not affiliated with any major university or museum, I can't put answers in half the boxes. Fortunately, the one find I did make in a state park happened to be on private land.

But the rules are there for a reason, and I respect them. It is the administrators that can be a problem, but all I have dealt with have been very helpful.

NJ