Last week, the guys from B&D Rockeries built a long wall along our driveway to stabilize the steep slope below the house. While they were down there working, I was up in the house constructing a revision of my middle-grade novel-in-progress.
B&D is a partnership between Neil Eneix, 62, and his dad Clayton, 81. Neil sets up their projects and Clayton runs the installations from his seat high in the track hoe. By manipulating levers that control the big boom, the dipper and the jaws, Clayton can land an 800-pound rock with the precision of a mama bestowing a kiss on her baby’s forehead.
I watched them lay out the materials: soil for filler, and the one- and two- man rocks. Then, in 20-foot stretches, they started to build. Working with both the track hoe (Clayton) and shovels (the rest of the crew), they cleared the way for the new wall by digging into the hill, working around big tree roots.
Rocks were placed one by one. Clayton selected from the rock pile with an expert’s eye. Then he maneuvered the track hoe to lift each rock, turn and lower it into place. At the jaws end of the track hoe, Mark, who’s in his 40s, settled the stones in place, making smaller adjustments. Clayton and Mark have been working together for nine years and seemed to communicate telepathically. Mark’s son, David, 22, shoveled to backfill as the wall grew. Four generations working together to build our wall.
Our new rock wall has a traditional, purposeful design. The biggest rocks were laid first, creating a sturdy base along the bottom. Next came the smaller secondary rocks filling the voids between the big stones, and finally the top course, providing a flat and finished top. As Neil told me later, “Every rock has its home.”
Back up in the house, I considered my novel in stretches, too: beginning, middle, end. It’s the middle that has my attention lately. The big stones are in place and seem to have found their homes, but I am playing with the secondary pieces, moving some around, discarding others, finding new pieces that are a better fit. I’m trying to find a combination of chapters and scenes and beats and even words that builds a story as interdependent as our new rock wall. A story where every piece matters. In a way, I am working across generations, too. This story has roots in my father’s childhood. If only he were still here to pull the levers and guide the construction.
The rock guys completed our wall by early afternoon. In one day they built a thing of beauty and utility that will be here long after we’ve left the scene. I can only hope to create a story as enduring.