Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stonewalling

The above image popped up late last night in an image search for "weird stone walls fences."
Maybe it was "unusual stone walls fences," I forget, but I found a "Stonewalling" post on "yankee whisky papa's" blog that included a drawing by Eric Sloane that I hadn't lifted yet that illustrates a bit of "Stone Wall Myths" that even included that old Stone Manure Pile Myth.
Yankeewhiskypapa writes: "If you enjoy a stroll through the woods in New England, you will likely find stone walls. A very short moment in each year is the harvest. Mechanized now, the harvest was once a near-panicked and frantic race for many seasons. Making hay is even a risky venture with New England weather. I occasionally bird hunt in up-state New York amongst the cleanly-shorn fields where some of the migratory birds glean the errant grains from the ground."
Just what papa is talking about - stonewalling or making hay - is a little mysterious. The stolen drawings are credited to Sloane and it's possible these are Sloanes words typed into the post:
"The labor is poured out, elbows and backs wear down... some will never be the same. Toes and fingers are crushed, and shoulders on men both young and old pinch during a pre-dawn stretch. In April, it's still cool enough for hard work, and there won't be too many biting insects. Burning stumps and brush tend to smoke the clothing, and at the end of the day, the clothes are better kept by the door instead of in the bedroom... it goes back on the next morning. They smell, but it's the arms and joints that complain the loudest..."
No haywagon appears but a stone boat does show up - weren't we just talking about that sometime or other, looking for images?
There's more Sloane images, more yankeewhiskypapa rambling here:
(It occurs to me now, pouring myself another coffee, that the blog may make more sense if one is actually drinking whisky while reading it...)
Another image that popped up seems to come from Massachusetts, the Minute Man National Park.
In my own personal theory on stone rows/stone fences, I contend that the majority of stone rows on the New England Landscape - that still haven't been stolen or rebuilt - are actually Native American in origin, the whole wooden fences and "thrown up" stones a reverse chicken and egg situation.

(Below: It's really a "cross and rail fence," more likely built over already existing stone rows that are evidence of the earlier Native American Cultural Landscape, easily converting Indian Land into private property by an early Massachusetts Fence Law, Puritan and Biblical in origin.)
The author of the blog [ http://www.lincolnroadsides.org/index.htm ]says this: "There is the mistaken impression that stone walls are primarily a colonial phenomenon. They are not. Although walls were being built from the time of the first settlement to the end of the pioneering stage, most were built in the half century between the end of the American Revolution and the construction of the first railroads.
Settlers felled forests and cleared land of rocks and stone. The first walls were mere dumps along a field’s periphery. Later people built more sophisticated walls.
Stone was not their first choice of fencing material: Widespread use of it began only when other alternatives – stumps and split rails – grew scarce because of overclearing.
Thousands of fence lines became magnets for the stone refuse that would otherwise have ended up in piles. The large boulders were rolled into position; smaller stones were tossed above and between them. As the stone accumulated, primitive “tossed” walls began to rise up out of the weeds, replacing the lower tiers of wooden fences."
Looks to me like that was some pretty fancy and skillful "tossing" under those rails, accidently creating what look like some rather testudinate effigies.
Turns out the blog might be a sort of advertisement for a stone builder, including this drawing, captioned with the Olde Yankee Advise on what makes a Good Stone Wall/Fence:

I added this drawing below to my American Fences file after jumping into a Minute Man National Park image search, a more fanciful rather than accurate painting:
The actual stone rows look more like these stolen images from
And this one was in there, making a person like me wonder what happens when you follow those stone rows. Would there be more of this on the grounds of the Park?
Minute Man Boulder
Then there was this refreshing thought I found clicking on an image out of a bunch of some nice polished stone hand tools: "Minute Man National Historical Park is perhaps best known for its role in the American Revolution. Visitors to this park are greeted by colonial homes, the capture site of Paul Revere, and the site of the famous “shot heard round the world.” But what about the people who lived in Concord before the arrival of the British settlers?"

2 comments:

  1. Very nice! There's got to be a way to get to the bottom of this stone wall thing!

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  2. The words I wrote are my own, not Sloane's, but I take it as a compliment that they were thought to be his. The pictures are Sloane's, and my readers know that I regularly pay tribute to his work. I'm sorry that you feel that you have to be drunk to read the blog.

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