April 28, 2024

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Rock walls in old farmers’ fields were playgrounds for kids in my youth, a challenge to balance yourself longer than your mate, and in that way not unlike any youthful contest. Were it an urban one, perhaps it would be roller-skating races on concrete sidewalks or skipping rope. Competition begins early, even in simply passing time.

     There were many rock walls in the country areas of my time, defining property lines or particular crop fields. I lived – still do – in Rockland County, N.Y., which tells you that we have rocks, plenty of them. Still do again, even after so many bulldozers have pushed away the walls and reburied stones bellow housing developments. 

     Yet rocks never disappear – farmers will tell you they can clear a field of rock for corn planting or new fruit trees in one season only to find a new bunch in another year. Picked up, the new rocks are thrown on the boundary wall.

     The original rock walls here were Native American, some built to cover those who pass in winter. As a result, more than a few of us consider boundary walls with spirit, even sacred. It is said that you try not to disturb a rock wall, to not take rocks to another location.

     But in youth, running along a wall stacked as professionally as a dry-set mason would, was simple fun on a carefree Saturday. We thought little about the hard work put in by farmers and those before them. 

     That’s the way it is supposed to be – youth should roam free of later – but necessary –  boundaries. Rock walls to play on are enough for a time. 

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.