“Geologists have a saying – rocks remember.” – Neil Armstrong
In the middle of the pasture of my grandfathers 250 acre cattle farm was a lone rock. Now in my eight year old mind, this was less a rock and more a massive boulder, or possibly the peak of some mountain buried thousands of feet below inching its way skyward. I could entertain myself for hours playing and exploring on this rock and I am sure it was the beginning to my life long love affair with rocks.
My grandfather was born on the property in 1926 and died in the same house he was born in 70 years later. His family had owned the property for almost 200 years so this rock had entertained not only my generation but at least three before me. As an adult, my grandfather didn’t have the same infatuation with the rock as his eight year old grandson did. The rock required him to change his mowing pattern on the tractor and then use a hand-held brush hog to cut the briars and bramble back. As he got older he began to just mow around it and eventually the rock disappeared under a cover of blackberry vines.
This rock sat alone in a green field holding the world together as my grandfather would say. He and his brothers played on it as kids, as did his children. I know if I asked him once I must have asked him a thousand times how did it get here and why was it here. The solutions I offered were always answered with a maybe but never anything definite. For my grandfather it simply was that “damn rock”.
As I got older I realized this probably wasn’t just a lone rock in a pasture, it was just one to large to move or use by my grandfather’s ancestors. The foundation of the house built-in 1827, a date etched in a rock on the front corner of the house, was all rock as was the bottom portion of the chimney. All of the outbuildings, the barn, chicken house, smokehouse, were all built on a foundations of large rocks. Given all the rock that was used in the construction of the buildings scattered around the farm I could imagine later a landscape littered with rocks of all shapes and sizes.
But still, after all these years I wonder how that “damn rock” got there. Was it is part of some ancient river or glacier millions of years ago? Just one of many thousands caught up in the slow movement of time that carved the rolling terrain now covered in green fescue. When I placed my hands on this rock as a child I could feel the journey it had taken. The personality etched in its cracks, the patterns created both smooth and rough by the passage of each season. This rock represented time to me, not just a moment or flash but as close to eternity as anything I had ever encountered.
I assume it is still there. I hope it is still there, for a new generation to conquer as make-believe pirates or explorers as so many tribes before them have done, a lonley monument holding the world together.
“As with other phases of nature, I have probably loved the rocks more than I have studied them.” – John Burroughs