Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Occasional Chestnut Rail

Every once in a while I find a wooden rail or two on top of a stone row. I assume they are chestnut rails because they lasted so long, but they could be any of the more popular commonly used and easy to split woods but they just look so much like chestnut to me, an old antique restorer-guy who was always being asked to identify wood.

I posted up a “soon come” photo – a photo of a notebook page – and wrote that I wrote down the wrong name of the road in the sketchbook. Well, I didn’t; there is another of the multiple “town line roads” surrounding me in four or five different places (including even an “old town line” road or two) that have some zigzag stone rows with rails on top of them.
And the stones are testudinate – shapes reminiscent of turtles – and I’m sure it was easier to leave the stones in place and then turn a trail into a road that used to go to an artist’s colony way back in history and then turn back into a wood road that eventually reverts to a tractor road that eventually turns into a trail that now opened back up as an ATV and dirt-bike race track (they never drive slowly, do they?) that eventually someone will get seriously hurt or killed on.
And there’s hammer stones and shaft abraders and those stones with the depressions worked into them to crack nuts just sitting there on the rows, along with old bottles, cans, tail pipes, tires, snuff and kerosene cans as well as spent shot gun shells etc.

One of the other places with rails on zigzags is across the road from my cousin’s former house – before she moved to the house where, out by the entrance of her driveway, there used to be Pomperaug’s Memory Pile - that I think I posted a woodcut of, either here or at Rock Piles.

This particular zigzag row remnant, like the zigzag row remnant that is along the road by my house, is disturbed at its southern end by the old poor house or work farm of the late 1700’s, where all kinds of linear and rectangular and definitely colonial sorts of stone work abound.

There's a swamp back there now, so I'm guessing the stone row protected that resource zone from burning (and vice versa, if you wanted to burn over the swamp).

Or it was a colonial "animal containment fence" for some really short legged creatures like cows or sheep from getting into the swamp - or perhaps for keeping frogs inside the swamp - because we all know Indians lacked the ability to use stone.

Sometimes the "difficult to capture (in photos) zigzag rows" aren't difficult to capture under certain conditions and here's one that didn't get away...

Some details:

Resting on the big point stone is a smaller handsize hammer stone with a depression on the bottom that suggests a "nutting stone" theme happening here...


  1. It sure looks like branches were being used in addition to split pieces.

  2. Well, I don't know really - maybe this row was topped with split pieces after metal tools came into the area - lots of "deeds" mention them. Maybe the fence looked better to European eyes with split rails. Maybe it's an old Indian fence that was less work to leave alone than rebuild and was just reused. Here and there I see zigzag rows that have a rebuilt very neatly look - including some near where my stone mason great grand father lived. This one is so flat that i wonder about it's origin - was it ancient Indian, was it Contact time Indian - was it colonial imitation - that nutting stone makes it all the more mysterious. Answers are the easy part, it's the questions that raise the doubts...