Schlepping rocks II

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A half century later I’m the one searching
for those piles of rocks along Auburn Folsom Road.
The man who led us there died 15 years ago,
and I begin my quest for river rocks thinking of him.

But as I drive past the spots where we once hefted rocks
into the trunk of my father’s Chevy, the two-lane road
has morphed into a four-lane highway, one side
rimmed with houses, shopping mall, light rail
replacing railroad tracks. No longer a safe place
to pull over and paw through piles overgrown
into hillocks sprouting grasses and trees.
Five decades of rain and dust and debris have turned
the mounds into living organisms—although perhaps
they always were alive, those river rocks keeping
their stories to themselves.

I want these rocks—suddenly attached to memory
like ions clinging to water molecules. I want
them in my life again, in my yard,
far downstream from where I started.

As I drive and search, the prayer arrives:
“Our father, who art in heaven, Roger be thy name,
guide me to a quiet place where I can safely
lift rocks in peace, in the name of all that is holy—
river, rocks, you, the universe, amen.”

And I turn down a road into a space once populated
with grasses and oaks, perhaps a deer trail or two
the only way through, to find myself arrowed
into a small, empty parking lot. I park, head down
a bike trail that I suspect meanders toward Lake Natoma,
dredged more than sixty years ago from American River soil,
those rocks joining the huge field of tailings left
a century earlier in the rush for California gold.

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And around a curve they stand, gleaming as if brand new
under summer sun: naked mounds of river rock.
I climb one pile, feel stones shift as my weight
bears down, chuckle at the top to see a field
of exposed piles undulating northward,
as if deposited just for me.

I grin my thankyouthankyouthankyou to the sky,
set to work hefting, selecting, tossing keepers toward
the bike trail, know that I will come back, come back,
come back to this place outside of time.

Again and again I will load rocks “yay big,” as he
used to say, into a red bucket on a wheeled cart,
tow it up the trail behind me to my own waiting Honda,
transfer each rock into that welcoming space,
head back down the trail for more—
each step a meditation,
each rock a memory,
each breath
love.

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Photos by Dick Schmidt

About janishaag

Writer, writing teacher, editor
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4 Responses to Schlepping rocks II

  1. Sigrid Bathen says:

    Wonderful. Love those Folsom rocks. . .My late husband called them “Folsom Potatoes,” and I still have his favorite speckled “potato” that he kept on his workbench in the garage, later on his desk when we moved to Gold River (built on former Natomas mining co. land along the American River, which left huge piles of river rocks along the river and the “nature trails” winding through Gold River). We lived in Folsom 78-96, and it was still a small town (reminded me of Chico, where I grew up), and “landscaping” that first large, hilly, bare yard (with several beautiful oak trees) involved many rocks — some were embedded deep in the soil, and had to be dug up in order to plant more trees, shrubs, dig a pool. Others were saved, or retrieved from many area rock piles like those you describe so well. “Dry stream beds” filled w/river rock were popular for “landscaping” in those days, still are, and we created several of those meandering, dry streams of many rocks that our young daughter and her friends loved to paint in bright colors and designs . .The pool contractor was astonished to find a well-preserved telephone (telegraph?) pole deep underground, on its side, on the site for the pool. The property had been part of the Ashland Ranch in Folsom, if memory serves, long since subdivided into the rapidly spreading suburbs. . .

  2. Patricia Honeycutt says:

    I cannot tell you how dear to my heart this story is. My father and mother had us three kids hauling rocks from the time I can remember walking. After my father Ralph went to Heaven ✨ my mom installed a hoist pulley system at their vacation home in Soquel. When we went down to the creek we had to hoist up river rocks. My parents used them for all kinds of things; landscaping, rock base for inside fireplaces, and on and on. Still to this day I’m still hauling rocks myself, and can remember all the wonderful memories associated with my family and ROCKS! So you GO GIRL because YOU are a ROCKSTAR 🤩

  3. janishaag says:

    Thank you, Patricia… fellow Rockstar! I’m glad to know that you’re also a second generation (at least) rock hauler!

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