2013-02-07 / Columns

News & Reviews

By Edward F. Keller, D.D.S.
1732 Golf Drive Bismarck, ND 58503

Rock Picking

Rock picking on my Emmons County, Strasburg, North Dakota, farm in the 1930s was hard work… yet it was a fun family event. Every little hand helped. Emmons County was blessed with many farm equipment-breaking rocks… not as many as neighboring McIntosh County… but plenty. McIntosh County was said to have more rocks than any county in the world. Rocks were a distinct hindrance to plows, seed drills, cultivators and harvesting machines. Every year new rocks worked themselves to the surface.

We hitched “Ben” and “Tom” to the wagon with the oldest half of a double box and headed for the field. All the family piled on. We covered a 20 yard swath at a time… pitching rocks onto the wagon from both sides. It was fun to see who could lift and throw what size rocks onto the wagon… rocks the size of baseballs and footballs. One time my father made us all laugh when he tried to pick up this “small”rock. It turned out to be the peak of a huge boulder. We dug away the earth around it and fastened a chain around it for “Ben and “Tom” to pull it to the rock pile. These larger rocks became the outer ring of the piles and the smaller ones, by the wagon loads, we threw into the middle of the pile. There were about three or four piles to a 60 acre field.

Today you can see all the rock piles still in place… overgrown with brush and weeds… permanent reminders of our fun hard work 70-80 years ago. Out-of-state travelers often wonder what is under the weeds and brush on the land… and why they happened.

Many rocks and boulders are being harvested by urban landscapers for decorations and retaining walls… something my father could not have imagined.

Till next time.

Return to top