John Henry obviously loved stone and was beginning to get excited about what things he could do with it on his new property in Virginia. Having me build a dry stone wall for him was an option he began toying with.
He had one very old crumbled down dry stone wall there which I had admired when he first showed me around his the re-landscaped landscape. ( John had already done some major earthworks on the property)
I was really surprised and excited to see dry stone walls at all in this part of the country. I had known about and seen many of the dry stone walls of New England and Tennessee but had no idea how many there were in Virginia. It was amazing. They were all over Rappahannock county, beautiful old walls made of local stone and with lots of interesting styles and features. It seems strange that so few people seem to know about these walls and that to my knowledge no books have been written about them.
It wasn't long before John started really really appreciating the beauty of traditional looking dry stone walls as well. He wondered how much stone he would need to build the nearly eight hundred feet of wall he had decided to build along south side of his property. I told him we need a lot. A lot!
At first he was sure he could get it cheaply from somewhere locally but after realized there was not enough stone available except if he trucked it in from another state. He came up with another idea. He began digging again.
After several months of having an excavator full time on his own property he wrote to tell me he had uncovered and dislodged enough bedrock and loose stone material to do the job. It turned out he had not only enough to replace the 800 feet of fence but also two other massive stone projects on the property as well.
I kept getting cryptic email messages about how it was going.
It went something like this. - We have tons and tons of stones. We've started building a practice wall through the forest along the northern boundary of the property. I don't want to do the south wall until I get better at building.
The next letter went - The wall is coming along fine. It has started to get wide. I kind of like it.
Another letter left me wondering what was going on. - The wall is about 10 or 12 feet wide now in parts and is taking up a lot of material. It's a good thing I have lots of it.
I checked with him if he didn't mean 10 or 12 feet long?
"Nope , in fact it must be nearly 30 feet wide now along one part and I figure that I wont fill it in but sort of let it have a kind of rounded open area in the middle of the wall. The wall has a few of these enclosed areas now along its length.
I couldn't imagine what he was talking about.
Then he showed me pictures.
I was amazed.