My parents trained me to see deer. Anytime we were in the countryside, on foot or by car, their eyes were scanning the distance for game. I inherited the practice and developed the knack of picking out the camouflaged form and color of deer in the landscape even when they’re hundreds of yards away.
While on a walk around town the other day I spotted seven. They were in a field that would have been familiar to my parents. In the late 1930’s, Frederic Van de Water, the author of many novels and history books, moved to Dummerston from New York. My father was acquainted with him through the land around his home. At the beginning of hunting season he would knock on the back door of the of the old house at the end of the road to ask, and receive, Mr. Van De Water’s permission to stalk deer in the woods and fields.
Twenty years after Van de Water’s death in 1968 I was asked, by the new owners of the property, to build a stone wall there. I gathered and moved enough loose stone from fieldstone dumps on the farmstead to fashion an 80’ length of decorative fence. The innovation I employed for the project was to erect convex batter frames to create wall faces with curved slopes. Twenty-seven years later, visiting the wall for the first time since it was built, I see that it has held up well. My idea to splay out the foundation stones turned out to be a good trick for stabilizing the structure in the long term.
Time is the test of dry stone work. Wallers build with the faith that their skill in the craft will see the work through. I’m heartened when I see ancient stoneworks still standing tall and I’m proud of those I’ve built that continue the tradition.