if I think of anything when I think of Massachusetts
it is rock.
rock is used for everything
and, especially it is used for walls.

I have seen all manner of walls.
drystack and mortared
decorative and plain
retaining and freestanding
decorative and functional.
every sort of wall there is.
most of it is good stonework.
clearly there are a lot of masons in Massachusetts,
and they take pride in their work.

I have seen a few slipshod walls.
hastily thrown up mortared walls,
with no care taken with sound technique.
unsecured rocks falling from the mortar of nearly new walls.
building done to last until the check clears.
but building something is more than just collecting a check.
a man’s work represents who he is.

one wall stands out over all the rest.
erika simister was walking with me thru wilbrahim
when we came to a retaining wall beside the road,
that was about 20 feet tall.

as we walked along, I did not notice it that much at first.
rock walls are everywhere, after all.
but it was not possible to overlook it for long.
the workmanship was exquisite.

huge stones, small stones.
all were fit together with incredible precision.
this was inca quality workmanship.

even more impressive,
every joint was covered.
now, anyone who has worked with stone will tell you
we always try to cover every joint.
but when you work with all different sizes of stone
arranging them so the top and bottom are level,
and the ends come out even.
it is not possible for every single joint to be covered as well…

but these were.
we wondered at the skill and pride of the men who had built this wall.
it was not in some special place,
to be admired by the masses.
but, truly it was a work of art.

so erika found out the story behind the wall:

the veterans returning from WWI found no employment waiting.
the government had them build the wall
as part of a program to give them work.

the men who built that wall did not just pile up stones and collect a check.
clearly, someone among them was a gifted stoneworker.
maybe more than one.
and no one is better prepared to work as a unit,
to accomplish great things,
than men who have been at war,
when their lives depended on working together
and doing things right.
every man must have found his niche
with the skilled workers guiding
and everyone contributing what they had best to offer.
this wall is not just a stack of stones
holding back dirt.
it is a portrait of the men who built it…

erika’s great grandfather probably among them.

part of me thinks the wall should have a plaque on it.
listing the names of the men who built it
and telling the story of how it came to be.

but maybe that is not needed.
for the rest of their lives
every man who laid his hands on those great stones
could look with pride at the masterpiece they helped to create.
and who among us would not want to know
that we had built something of great beauty,
that would be standing long after our grandchildren were gone?