Well, we were talking about piles of stones, some stacked on some boulders that were shown on the Larry Harrop video above, captured at a place neither of us had actually seen in person, somewhere in eastern Rhode Island. My friend expressed an opinion that he was skeptical that these particular stones were Native American in origin.
And I say in response, “I'm skeptical that any farmer would stack up stones in general rather than "throw down," as in fill a hole or a ditch or make a ford in a stream or something. The Human Laziness Factor call it.”
I guess I was inferring that a Prayer in Stone, as my friend has called Indigenous-made Stone Stacks - and has created a really excellent video about (Stone Prayers Of Southern New England) - is a project that is the exact opposite of laziness, a form of sacrifice and an expenditure of energy for a Spiritual purpose, building an enduring monument "stacked up" which is much more difficult than "throwing down."
Like a spire on a church or cathedral, reaching up to the sky to "Heaven above."
Above: Eric Sloane DrawingAnd I could’ve added, “Or toss them in a cart and haul them off to use somewhere else, since if you’re going to lift something heavy, you’d only want to lift it once, neatly stack it only when you got to the place you want to use it” – even though that doesn’t always happen in the real world, so it’s just as well I didn’t say it. Perhaps it was a “muscle memory” of more than one occasion where I’d actually built a retaining walls of stone or repaired a section of stone someone had taken apart (which is a whole story in itself about an old man of Italian descent with dementia who kept taking apart and rebuilding a section of stone wall when he lived at my mom’s rest home. Old Joe died of a suspected heart attack in his sleep one night – after a day he’d spent taking the wall section apart for the last time, my father’s prediction about both the old man and the stone wall coming true as he expressed his frustration about the situation.)
Above: Re-drawing of Eric Sloane's Drawing by the Awful- Oops, I mean, Author
My friend says, “I agree with you mostly. But I also think the truth is somewhere between your point of view and that of Timothy Ives…”
And I take that as a compliment, the thought that I “push the envelope,” as I think my friend has said about me at some earlier time, that I’m the other extreme from that mythical and perhaps apologistic view about stone walls in the “New England” that is thought of as the land of the Pilgrim’s Pride and not the ancient Homeland of Indigenous People that was plundered after 1620, their stone constructions ethnically erased from the landscape since that might imply that the lands weren’t actually vacant and improved, not the “proper fences” that those Puritan magistrates were quick to include in hastily written property laws.
My friend had also said, “The pines around them are all of roughly the same age. Coupled with the stone wall, this appears to have been a pasture. No, that alone does not rule out a native origin. But...”
And that led to the title of this little opinion piece, The Process of Pasturization.
See, I contend that this hundred mile wide swath along the present coastline of what has become known as Southern New England was just full of Indigenous People happily and respectfully maintaining a Sacred Landscape by use of fire and constructing fuel breaks shaped like Great Serpents over a long period of time that is the East Gate of Turtle Island human made and stone built Cultural Landscape version of other known and sometimes even studied stone landscapes in other places – the Great South West of North America, all those cities in South America, but without the stone houses, more of a wigwam culture you might say.
Above: Two Tims' Views on Pasturization
And as far as pastures go, I think they were second hand acquisitions of Euro-Americans, re-purposed or “pasturized” (yes spell check, I know – it’s my own term I just made up that has nothing to do with Louis Pasteur) for cows, oxen, sheep, goats and horses, originally Indigenous fire protected ecotones or resource zones – or “whatever Indians wanted to use them for” zones - surrounded by fuel breaks that were those intermediary spiritual creatures that more resembled snakes or eels or even inch worms (the Foot Snake) who shape shifted and had families, the enemies of those Thunder Beings who shot lightening from their eyes, causing the rare lightening fires some unimaginative (and ill-informed) scientists insist were responsible for all the fires on the continent.
So, yes I’m the Other Tim, quite happy to be the Tim who sees that he is surrounded by serpent walls. I’m formally untrained in the sense that I have no degree, but I’m free to not be bound by that training, free to question the authority of the documentation, free to interpret what I think I see and speculate rather than homogenize about it “until the cows come home from the Euro-American pasture,” you could say, and see how it makes sense in a Traditional Indigenous Knowledge sort of way – just like other imaginative researchers like Nancy Turner or M. Kat Anderson or Clark Erikson are finding in other places such as California or the Pacific North West or the Bolivian Amazon (Bill Gammage in Austrailia).
I see those same stone walls, but I observe patterns that aren’t in the stone wall identification books and I’m not embarrassed by what I perceive as a snake’s head at the end of a row of stones, or by what I think I see in the cranberry bog a snake’s tail dips into, or in the stream that two serpents (or a series of entwined serpents) zigzag around, a burial ground at the low end, a quarried milky quartz boulder with a hammer stone resting on it in the middle, and a Tobacco Sacrifice Stone that looks like a bear’s head and a base of a fire starter stone at the high end -
– or the section of land around the stone piles, where like my friend I find who I quote again here “…boulders…stacked with cairns (stacked with stones that)…typically have unique qualities-- they might look like a human face...
...or an animal, have quartz inclusions, or hematite, or they have deep splits, concavities, depressions, or holes that are filled, wedged, or otherwise covered with stones. And the cairns themselves have unique qualities-- they have built-in niches, or a single head-like stone protruding, or they are particularly well-made...
...or they are a very large, or they are marked with a standing stone or Manitou stone (such as this one above from my friend's video), or they have single unique colored stones built into them, usually quartz but sometimes other colors, or obviously foreign stones built into them (strikingly beautiful stones of unusual shape or color).”
I banter with my friend, disagree and then sometimes either agree or disagree some more with him, but most often we are laughing and joking while we do it, both of us marveling about these stone features and cherishing them and the time we’ve put in walking, seeing and observing, delving into what people have written in both the distant and recent past and just plain enjoying being open minded enough to appreciate the wonderland around us – but not so open minded that our brains fall out, like a wiser man than I once said…
So, as industrious as a no-nonsense Yankee farmer is said to be, I have to ask again, "Who had more time to construct an estimated quarter million miles of stone walls? Who had the more "dire need" for all those (fire-proof) walls on a Landscape that was fire-tended and most likely pretty densely populated. Who in the long run would have have saved labor (travelling less for a more dependable and abundant resource outcome, not burning up your firewood or all the ecotones, pruning and maintaining just one of your blueberry fields or cranberry bogs, instead of all of them at once)? Who is more inclined to make images of turtles, bears, deer and large Great Serpents on a Sacred Cultural Landscape?"