Joiner’s Corner: A rocky field

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, November 7, 2018

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A long while back, maybe thirty years or more, I read an article in The Macon Telegraph that has stuck with me.  I don’t know how accurate my recollection is.  I would love to find someone who knows the details, or maybe even meet someone from the family that lived the story.

As best I recall the feature was about a widow whose husband had died in the 1940’s or 50’s.  She was left alone to raise their young children on a small rocky farm.  It was a challenging situation, not as bad as some but much worse than most.  The setting was in middle Georgia, but I’ve long forgotten which community or even county.

It was hard to make a living on a small farm, even for those with the most fertile land.  Tending rocky fields without her husband would not be easy.  It would, however, allow them to survive.

This determined mother decided they needed to do more than survive.  She wanted her family to thrive.  Rather than complaining about the rocks, she and those children began collecting them.  They built a stone house, thinking they would move in it since their home was in disrepair.  Instead of moving, she found someone to rent the house, which brought in some much-needed cash.

They built a second house and also rented it out.  Finally, the third rock house they built became their new home.  She turned those rocks into cash and into a better place to live. Moving those rocks out of the field also helped improve the farm, making it a little easier to till the land.

I wish I had saved that article.  The lady is no doubt long gone, but perhaps she still has family around.  I would have enjoyed meeting her and hearing her story first hand.  I would have enjoyed learning what helped her see the promise those rocks held.

It would have been tempting to look at those rocks and dwell on what appeared to be a somewhat hopeless situation.  But what seemed like a problem became a blessing.  The stones that had been rejected became the cornerstones of a better life.

She could have plowed around those rocks and bemoaned what a bad hand she had been dealt.  But she, instead, saw potential scattered around that small tract of land.  The rocks weren’t something to stumble over and rail against. They were something to embrace, to lift and move and use to build homes.  There was nothing wrong with the rocks.  They were just in the wrong place.   

We all have some rocky patches to cope with, some being more severe than others.  We can complain, blame somebody else, or mope around wondering why so many rocks are in our fields.  Or we can look at those rocks and think about what we can do with them.  We can dwell in despair, or we can look for purpose in our problems.

One morning many years ago, I was at my Uncle Murray’s farm shop.  It was an unusually dry spring.  He and the other local farmers were having a hard time getting a good stand of crops.  I said something to Uncle Murray about it being a bad start.  He smiled and said, “Well, I’ve always heard that a bad start makes for a good ending.”  Uncle Murray knew that wasn’t always the case, but he understood it was a good way to look at life.

Sometimes when life seems more challenging than I want, I think about Uncle Murray and what he said that day.  And sometimes I think about that lady who turned her stones into homes.  Her story is one of a rocky start with a happy ending.   It helps remind me to look at the stones of life not just for what they are, but for what they can be.

I wish I knew more about that lady.  It sure would be nice if her story carried her name.  There may still be three stone houses in a rocky field somewhere in middle Georgia.  Or at least maybe someone remembers where they were and knows more about the history behind them.  That lady’s story needs to be told a while longer.  I hope there’s someone who still remembers.