Along the shoreline of the Keweenaw Peninsula, people stack stones. With the prevalence of gray basalt and reddish rhyolite, Lake Superior makes an endless supply of rounded material for zen-like cairns. Recently, a friend took my picture while I was communing with rocks along a beach strewn with stacked stones. In the photo, I’m at a distance and look like a cairn on two legs. I love that shot. I walk among my rock people.
Across the US West, cowboys think any work associated with fences is the worst task on a ranch. Often, it’s a punishment. Nevada is a rocky place, but ranches string barbed wire instead of stone fences. In the open draws of a canyon, they use tall juniper poles to erect horse traps. So, if you were to find a stone fence (say, you were out riding a modern fenceline or scouting for mustangs) you can bet it’s ancient. The Indigenous to the Great Basin stacked stones.
When I was a kid, between the ages of twelve and seventeen, I rode fence and pushed strays back to their high mountain summer meadows. This public grazing land was in California, but all the ranchers who used it were down in the valleys below in Nevada. I found so many stone structures, some fences, others hunting blinds, and possibly round houses. I had a sharp eye for human-altered stones because I was into rocks and could easily see the unnatural among the geology.
At my daughter’s farm, part of their land was once the Franklin Junior Mine. Where they farm, was part of the original small food plots for the village of Boston Location. In between, brambles, woods, and old orchards have overgrown the land. When I walk the trails they maintain, I can easily spot the old hand-made structures. Stacked stone beneath moss and branches.
This weekend, I received an unexpected respite and I’m currently in a cabin further north among stones both natural and altered. Unlike McLain’s this cabin has lights, a tiny bathroom (and inside), wifi, and cell service. It’s almost unheard of that a single spot up the rocky spine of the Keweenaw has either cell service or wifi, and this magical place has both. It’s been a long time since I’ve found such a peace. It’s an easy peace, not a practiced peace, or hiding peace. Peace. Calm. Water. Rocks.
Within walking distance of my cabin, I can marvel at some buildings made of local stone. They seem solid and part of the landscape. It makes me wonder when humankind began their relationship with stones. First, they took to caves, the earthly equivalent of wombs. What came next? Dugouts? Dwellings on rock faces? Was it a bold act to remove rocks in chunks and construct designs not dictated by mama earth?
I’d like to think that when we build with stones, we feel more connected to our natural environment. Despite cowboys not liking fences, they loved their horses. Riders of the range were connected when they ranched on horseback. Many collected rocks. When I see the cairns that people build, I feel they are connecting, too. Humans can find healing among the stones.
June 6, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features stone-stacking. How does the activity fit into a story? Who is involved? What is the tone? Do the stones have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads!
- Submit by June 11, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
- Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
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- Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
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