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    Over 700 Ghost Towns

    New rock wall
    piece of history

    by Delbert Trew
    Delbert Trew

    Recently I built a dry-stacked rock wall in Bull Canyon to hold back soil from the area where we hold family reunions.

    By dry-stack I mean building a rock wall using no mortar between the rocks. I learned the method while visiting in Nashville, Tenn., years ago where miles of such rock walls still stand after being built by slaves in the early 1800s.

    Basically, place the larger rocks on the bottom layer, and secondary size rocks on the second tier, setting back from vertical about one inch. Use lesser size rocks on upper tiers always leaning the walls back a bit from vertical.

    When the dirt settles behind these walls they are solid as a rock. (Please excuse the pun.) An old Spanish adage comes to mind, "There is a place for every rock and a rock for every place."

    Amazingly this is borne out again and again as you build a rock wall.

    My new/old historical wall is about 150 feet long and about 3 feet high, following the contour of the slope behind. My best friend, Jose Kuboto, did the heavy lifting and filled the dirt in behind the wall. The dirt shelf created holds my collection of 40-plus antique walking plows and farm implements. As for the "historic part" of the wall I offer the following explanation:

    Over the past 60 years, many of the earliest ranch buildings built by Charlie McMurtry, lost their original use due to progress. Time, storms and age left others too costly to repair so the structures were torn down. All had concrete foundations and floors which were torn out and hauled to near the ranch dump site.

    Now, the sand and gravel for this hand-mixed concrete was shoveled from creeks into wagons, hauled and mixed on site, pushed in wheelbarrows, dumped and troweled smooth by hand sometime in the 1920s making it about 80 years old.

    Proof of age comes when the larger slabs are broken up. The chunks reveal every sort and kind of metal available around a ranch in that period of time. This includes barbed wire, hog wire, nails, bolts, windmill pieces, wagon parts, railroad spikes, horseshoes, cable, oil field junk and baling wire.

    We keep one small chunk of concrete on a shelf sporting a railroad spike poking out as a souvenir of this period of ranch history.

    Always being a staunch believer in "use it up, wear it out and recycle if possible," I decided to break up the old concrete and place it into my new rock wall.

    By turning only the broken edges of the concrete to the front, fitting closely, choosing the thickness of layers and adding a few native rocks to fill in the holes, the final look is "Trewly" a native rock wall.

    This project provided a much-needed barrier to hold back soil, created a quaint rock wall in a beautiful place, recycled a large pile of historical concrete and kept me out of the rest home a little bit longer.


    Delbert Trew
    "It's All Trew"
    April 5, 2011 column
    Delbert Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164, by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail at trewblue@centramedia.net. For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears weekly.
    Related Topics: Ranches | On Architecture

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    This page last modified: April 5, 2011