My wife is getting a big rock for Christmas.
This isn’t a diamond. This massive stone is much better than a diamond.
This rock has aged to a nice shade of green. It is about three feet long, three feet wide and two feet thick. I’m not a rock expert, but I’m guessing it weighs 500 pounds or so.
Wade, my 9-year-old grandson, imagines that it might be solid gold.
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The rock was discovered during an all-to-infrequent scavenge through the nearby woods. We found two plastic buckets and two lengths of T-bar fence posts as we picked our way through the briars to a small waterfall. And we found the rock, partially buried atop a 40-foot (we measured) hill.
“Cool rock,” I said.
“Yeah,” said Wade.
“Wonder if we could move it,” I said.
“Probably in a wheelbarrow,” he said.
He later amended his response when I suggested that we move the rock just far enough to pull the rock out with his dad’s pickup.
“No,” he said. “We’ve got to use what we scavenge. Rocks. Sticks. We get no credit if we use a car or a truck or something.”
And so Wade and I have pushed, prodded and levered the rock for several days now.
I explained levers to him, quoting old Archimedes, “Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the earth.”
“I know all about levers. That’s your fulcrum,” said the fourth grader pointing. “I use levers all of the time in Minecraft.”
My quest to get him away from Minecraft and other computer games led us outside to explore. He carried a metal baseball bat, a handy tool that has been used to knock bark off a dead tree, to pulverize a briar, to push sticks out of the way, to bash leaves off trees, to scatter the remains of a rotted tree, to squish a beetle, to bang things to make noise and, briefly, to be used as a crutch.
He even used the bat to poke around the base of the rock. “No Wade, don’t hit the rock with the bat. You’ll dent the bat,” I told him.
“But it is metal,” he said before scattering bits of rotten wood from a nearby tree with a mighty swing.
I have a history with rocks. I like the look, the feel, the permanence of rocks. When the family farm was sold, I knocked out the rock foundation of a dilapidated tobacco barn and hired the offensive line of the high school football team to help me move them to my house. My grandfather, perhaps his father, hauled those rocks, shaped them and used them to build something.
I built a waterfall with them and later moved them again when I sold that house. Those same rocks, and a broken mill stone from the farm, are now dry stacked as a wall around the rose garden. The black flat stone that was the step into the smoke house sits by my screen door.
That rock wall brings me pleasure. The most precious stone in the bunch is Wade’s rock, a six-inch long gray rock that a very young Wade claimed as his own. He rearranged it regularly in the wall for a few years.
This rock in the woods is supposed to join the others in the wall, probably at the end near the petrified wood, found by my grandfather years ago near a spot that yielded an abundance of arrow heads and native American pottery.
The big rock has been as challenging as I hoped it would be. We have bent our scavenged T-bars into twisted medal. We have snapped boards scavenged in the woods. The sled we built with wood “scavenged” from the garbage worked wonderfully until it too snapped.
The rock is out of the ground and 25 feet down the hill.
But much more important to me, several times the first words out of Wade’s mouth as he has walked in after school have been, “Let’s go scavenge.”
Those moments are cherished, just like last year when Wade decided we’d make a totem pole for his dad. Wade planned the whole thing. We carved out “BBQ” and a pig on a 4x4 and painted it.
Or the time he wanted to build a clown trap in the backyard. He had heard about clowns in the woods and he wanted to trap one. We dug a hole four foot square and four foot deep. He wanted to put out a jack-o-lantern to lure the clown into the pit. A rock was set on a stick to fall on the clown.
Imagine his surprise on Nov. 1 when he found a squashed witch’s hat in the bottom of the pit. He hadn’t planned on catching a witch on Halloween. Apparently, she flew away.
The rock, if we can move it, will be another symbol of his childhood and time we had together.
“Wade,” I said, taking a break from rock moving, “what are we going to do with the rock when we get it out?”
“Let’s give it to Granna,” he said. “She’d like a rock.”
And so it is. Granna is getting a big rock for Christmas, although it may be closer to New Year’s Day before she takes possession. I don’t think we can wrap it though.
Tim Stevens covered high school sports for The News & Observer and the Raleigh Times for 48 years.