Southern Indiana Living

MAY-JUN 2018

Southern Indiana Living magazine is the exclusive publication of the region, offering readers a wide range of coverage on the people, places and events that make our area unlike any other. In SIL readers will find beautiful photography, encouraging s

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May/ June 2018 • 10 A s it turns out my love of stone walls may be hereditary. The connection is my ancient Irish heritage flowing down from Ballymacart Civil Parish near Waterford to the Atlantic Ocean; those miles and miles of hand-laid stone walls creeping across old sod to the sea. The proof is in a picture of me taken in Ireland standing inside the stone ruins of my great-grandparents home in Bally- macart. Four of my distant cousins grew up between those stone walls, tended cat- tle, rode horses and played in the pound- ing surf below. Three children left for America in the 1880s. One child stayed behind to care for their parents. They never saw one another again. Why do we keep forgetting we are a nation built of such immigrants? Why? It took me awhile to figure out the stone wall connection. Part of that is be- cause I have only recently been looking for answers. I had grown up with Robert Frost's take on stone walls as preached to mostly disinterested high school classes: Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That sends the frozen- ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun; And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. And this has been a perfect winter for such frozen-ground swells and tum- bling stone walls. We have several at Hid- den Hill that have felt the hidden wrath of a shoving frost. The walls gave way to gravity, spilled sideways. A solid thing — once strong and wonderful — leaning to- ward rubble. Such stones lead into the most en- during suggestion in the Frost poem: "Good fences make good neighbors." We now live with that lie in modern politics every day. It's wrong. In my case it was my good neighbors that helped me build a stone wall. Those stones came from an old fallen wall at the back of their farm, which has been in their family well over 100 years. My son and I hauled them home — 14 pickup loads in all — and stacked them on the property line that separates us from more good neighbors. When we built our rough-cut wooden barn we moved that stone wall to its edges. The stone and wood fit together nicely. They still do. So does the memory of my son and I building a stone wall. Every home in which we have lived in the past 50 years — the last two of them of the ancient-farm-house variety — has included stone walls, the material hauled home from somewhere else. Along with those stone walls came raised bed gardens. I never thought about why I built them. The flat layers of stone just made sense. The flowers belonged in- side. We belonged outside. It was simple, logical and well defined. Apply mulch as needed. That's not to say all our 8 Hidden Hill acres is a San Quentin for purple coneflowers. We have a sprawling mead- ow, a half-acre wildflower patch and a borderless woodland garden inhabited by showy native perennials that wouldn't have it any other way. Nor would we. I enjoyed the sheer physicality of building stone walls. Many of the rocks were heavy, jagged and stubborn. I be- came their master, lifting, turning and chipping away at them until they fit into place. Honest sweat. Tired muscles. A sense of satisfaction — and the ego of a fool. Those rocks were a million years old. Finding a sense of connection while creating visual poetry A Walk in the Garden with Bob Hill Building Stone Walls

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