“When we build let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, ‘See! This our father did for us.’” ~ John Ruskin
It looks as if a drill has marred the sides
otherwise so straight and even
seashells imbedded therein —
rumors of a long-ago sea.
These are the marks of settlers who upon finding
lots of rock, not so much timber
set about to turn the Greenhorn Limestone
into fence posts in Ellsworth, Westfall, Beverly
towns of grandparents’ past.
The ingenious pioneers drilled holes,
filled them with water
and waited for the winter freeze to split the rock in two.
Then, slinging the 500-pound posts
under horse-drawn wagons hauled the posts into place.
I’ve seen photos of the laborers –
wearing overalls, hats pushed back taking their ease at noon
eating lunches made by their German wives or
posed with an uncomfortable pride around the hewn rocks.
My own grandfather
cut posts in the 1920s
when he was newly married
with a family to support.
He went with his father and uncles to cut the rock
working with sledge hammers and wedges,
in the winter, when the carpentry work
and Irv Ekelman’s blacksmith shop were slow.
Today, we move the posts with a tractor
and sand-blast on names for decoration.
But customers come with admiration for the pioneers
and want ones with wire embedded still.
With each rock we move, I think,
of the men in the wind-swept winter,
keep moving to stay warm,
to keep food on the table;
and thoughts turn to my grandfather –
taciturn, esteemed, indefatigable.
I look for the marks of his hand.
– Paula Glover Ebert
Paula Glover Ebert is an English graduate student at Kansas State University. A native of Colorado, she spent 30 years as a journalist in Colorado and Wyoming before coming to Kansas. She is recently married to a farmer who works his family farm outside of Manhattan.