The Saga Of The Stones

Still on the road…

I had just finished hauling the sand away from under a now-dismantled porch. It had been made of stone and wood, but not well. My dad wanted it out so that he could push forward the living room and add a large window for a better view of Otsego lake. This was 1978. Rocks

The sand was carted, wheelbarrow full by wheelbarrow full, across the yard, through the driveway, over the dirt road, and onto the land adjacent the railroad tracks, which separated our road from Old 27. The railroad owned this strip of land, but as long as nobody inteferred with the tracks themselves or impeded the view, the company was tolerant about its use. We even had a small garden, as others did.

My dad figured nobody at the railroad would notice the sand, because I had spread it out thin. The rain would smooth over any lumpiness.

The broken stones, though, gave my dad a great idea. He would build a cracked-stone chimeny and fireplace. But to do that required an enormous amount of stone. Buying them was out of the question, so we began scouring the county for boulders of head- to half-body size.

We quarried a bunch from a plot owned by a farmer who wanted them gone. Others we collected from the sides of roads. One beauty, about the size of a watermelon, I found down by Al’s Market. Now, Al’s was 1.1 miles from home. I know this because there was coincidentally a sign at the store giving the distance to the State Park, which was at the entrance of our road.

I couldn’t carry a watermelon-sized rock that far. But I hunted around and scored a rope. It was about seven or eight feet long and must have fallen off of one of the railroad cars. I tied the rope around the rock and drug the damn thing home. I was very proud.

Soon we had an enormous pile of stones. We began the tedious process of swinging a 15-pound sledge hammer on top of their heads, attempting to crack them, hoping to expose an interesting patten inside the rock. Some looked acceptable, many did not. These were added to the junk pile, which soon outgrew the backyard.

The fireplace and chimeny were eventually completed. It was beautiful. But there was still the pile of unused stone and fragements. What to do with them? We couldn’t put them back from whence they had some, of course. That would be littering.

I suggested dumping them by the railroad tracks. My dad put the kibosh on that idea, saying that the railroad was sure to notice such a humongous pile of stone. So he had the brilliant idea of me digging a pit out behind the garage. Into the pit would go the rocks, forever hidden from view!

It took me two weeks to dig that hole. I wore through one shovel and took the viriginity of a second. At times, I had to use a pick axe to break up the clay. It was finally deep enough, however, and in went the stones. I began covering them with the dirt from the hole.

Most of that dirt did not fit back, naturally, because the room formally occupied by the dirt was now nestled with rocks.

What to do with all the leftover dirt?

A puzzler. Finally, my dad hit upon the idea of me carting the dirt to the railroad tracks, and putting in the same spot I was going to put the rocks. Thus another large fraction of my summer was spent pushing a wheelbarrow back and forth until the dirt pile was moved from one place to another.

At the end, the pile of dirt was substantial and, of course, easily visible from the tracks. But my dad reasoned that this was dirt, see, and not rocks, and that therefore the railroad company would not care.

I can only guess he was right, because we never heard any complaints from them. That pile is still there, but overgrown with trees.


We didn’t stay long to enjoy the fireplace because my dad had a building bug and wanted to put together a house from scratch—which we did.


  1. SM

    You must’ve had the workout of your life that summer.

  2. Speed

    I once worked summers at a resort in western Michigan. When the owner saw a landscape eligible rock near the road to town (there were many roads to town) he would mark it on a map. Every month or so we would harvest his finds using shovels, levers, ramps and a pickup truck, depositing the booty at potential garden spots through the resort.

    Landscape rocks have no handles but in return they are unbelievably heavy.

  3. John M

    You’re lucky your Dad didn’t decide the new house needed some “clean fill”.

  4. ad

    Interesting. Passing by the assumed colloquialism of chimeny, i’ve never seen ‘drug’ used that way as past tense of drag.

  5. Kevin B

    Who said there were no shovel ready jobs?

  6. Matt, after thinking long and hard about it I’ve now opened a new blog for my grandkids’ edification and entertainment, or possibly embarrassment – not sure which. You inspired me, sir, so it’s mostly your fault. You need to take your punishment like a man.

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