Day 483: Stoned!

stone3Our property is shaped like a huge popsicle stick. A narrow hundred foot wide leg goes from the street back to a four hundred foot wide rectangle that runs a thousand feet down the mountainside.

The entire perimeter is marked by a three foot high stone wall, straight and true. In all that’s over a half mile of wall with no apparent function other than to let deer and chipmunks know when they’re crossing from our neighbors’ woods to ours. If the Federal Reserve ever decides to go on a granite standard, move over Bill Gates.

stones-2Some of the stones in the wall are huge – three hundred, four hundred, even a thousand pounds.  They were nudged and hefted into place, I am told, with the occasional help of an ox but mostly by hand.

I used to tell people that the land was originally settled by the Kent family and their son Clark built the wall. Truth is, I can’t imagine the labor that went into making it. A friend and I have spent hours trying to pry one of the mid-size boulders a few feet with bars and chains and come-alongs – and no success.

There are stretches of our back woods so steep you can’t stand upright without hanging on to a bush or sapling. The ground slopes twenty feet down over a fifteen foot run. Yet the walls continue unimpeded. They run through thick stands of first growth oaks, some of which had to lie right on the property line and needed to have their huge stumps pulled to keep the wall straight. The builders did it without a chain saw or bulldozer, without any combustion engine to ease the task. Would it have really mattered if the wall jogged a few feet this way or that to avoid a massive elm? Apparently the answer two centuries ago was Yes it would. Those guys must have spent a lot of time in the gym.

As curious as the perimeter wall is, even more mysterious are the dozens of interior stone walls and partial granite foundations that dot the property. A local history teacher suggested that the interior walls were pens for livestock – most likely sheep. But there’s a three-walled five-foot high foundation built into a steep section of ground that’s made from meticulously cut flat-faced granite blocks – some a foot and a half high and three feet long. That part-foundation was not a pen for anything.

It’s too small for a house and too painstakingly constructed to be the base of a utility shed. If I had ever built anything that massive and precise I would consider it a monument to my craftsmanship and ingenuity. Yet the structure stands in our woods half-buried into a sloping hill with no inscription, no function, no hint of what someone decades ago had in mind when they built it.

I have to wonder if I’m looking at all this ancient work with wrong eyes. The people who did it were building for eternity – not for resale. Survival certainly had to be high on their list of priorities – plant too little and starve, stack too little wood and freeze. But the work itself had to be the reward. I’m pretty sure the guys who built our stone walls would take one look at the ‘good-enough’ hay room I built out of four-by-fours and plywood and laugh themselves silly. I can hear one snickering to another That mess won’t last near fifty years! 

Of course, neither will I.

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1 Response to Day 483: Stoned!

  1. Jill Hunter says:

    Loved the stone story!!!

    Could one of these be for food storage? Like a root cellar or to store ammunition or gun powder. Or to store dye or wool? Away from wet or damp? It is so much fun to go back in time this way.

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