New Hampshire Rocks!
By Joanne Belviso Puckett
Fifteen years ago this winter, I moved to the Upper Valley of New Hampshire
… alone … leaving my husband and three children in Ohio to finish out an Air
Force career, and the school year, respectively. I moved from the "Buckeye
State" (buckeye trees; peanut butter and chocolate candy buckeyes; and Ohio
State Buckeyes) to the "Granite State" (rocks … lots of them … everywhere).
When the family finally re-united that summer, we began building our new
home. This would be the first home our family would live in for longer than
two or three years and we were determined that it would have everything we
didn’t have in Base housing during the 20 years with the Air Force, things like
"any color but white" on the walls, appliances newer than 1960, and more than
one bathroom for 2 adults and 3 teenagers!
Well, one thing we didn’t have on all those Air Force bases was rocks, but we
sure had 'em now!
You would think two fairly intelligent homeowners-to-be would have gotten
the hint when, during construction, the builder told us they had "hit ledge."
Just like the old Cary Grant, Myrna Loy movie, Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream
House, wide-eyed and innocent we asked "What’s 'ledge?'"
"It’s like a big rock, only bigger," Mr. Blanding's builder told him. "Sometimes
it's only a few feet; sometimes it can run the whole side of the mountain!"
It took us a while to assess the magnitude of our "ledge problem." And then it
was just a matter of "how much will the jackhammers and dynamite cost?"
That's when we questioned the wisdom of "retiring" to New Hampshire and not
to Florida's sandy soil. There is a reason why there are so many quaint stone
walls in New England. Someone told me that rocks were one of the best crops
in New Hampshire, and so began our "rock movements."
For almost a year, the huge rock piles produced by the builders sat in front of
our house. Friends and neighbors were merciless as they busted our chops
about the "stone wall kit" … which is what the builder connived us into
believing, so he wouldn’t have to haul them away!
We couldn't afford to have a stone wall built just then and I couldn't stand
looking at the piles anymore, so I finally convinced my husband to have them
removed. So, now we paid to have them jack-hammered into existence, paid to
have them removed, and of course, you can guess the rest of the story.
Ah yup, the following summer, we paid for a guy to come build a stone wall in
front of the house. Of course, we PAID for the "new" stones, even though I
know in my heart he got them from some farmer's field (or even more likely,
from some flatlanders trying to get rid of their "stone wall kit!").
Once the new wall was in place, we began landscaping. For each teaspoon of
dirt we turned over, we uncovered scores of rocks and bits of ledge. "What do
we do with these rocks?" we asked ourselves. Pile them in front of the house?
I don't think so! Pay to have them removed? I don't think so! Pay to have
someone build another stone wall? Not in this lifetime!
So, my husband had two choices: pile them up in his shiny new wheelbarrow
and haul them up into the woods behind the house, or learn to build stone
walls. While learning to build a stone wall was my preference, it was not my
husband's, so let's just say that in the end the path up into the woods was long
The guy who built our
first stone wall was,
shall we say, quite
unique. He told us that
the stones talked to him
and told him where
to put them. They must
have been very articulate
and artistic stones
because it is truly
a beautiful wall!
Perhaps the stones had a sense of déjà vu…perhaps they had been here before,
in another life … and maybe now they were happy to be home again!
I was driving home one day recently and stopped at a light behind a
construction truck filled with rocks. The sign on the back of the truck said
"Construction Vehicle Do Not Follow."
Trust me; I had absolutely no intention of following those rocks anywhere!
The red light seemed to last an eternity; I tried desperately to avoid eye contact
with the rocks, but finally, as the truck began to pull away, I could swear I
heard those rocks calling to me, "Take us home … you know you want us .
there is a whole terrace just waiting for a wall … we’ll find you … we know
where you live…we've been there before!”
About the author: Joanne Belviso Puckett is a freelance writer and the chief quality officer
at a northern New England medical center. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Mrs.
Puckett and her husband Michael have lived in Hanover, New Hampshire since 1993.
The previous 20 years were spent traveling throughout the United States and overseas
with Michael, a career Air Force officer, and the kids. She is the very proud mother of
three children, John, Anthony and Ryan Elizabeth and is now “Nonna” to a delightful
new grandson, Jack, whose parents she is trying to convince to move back to New
England! Writing about family life and the “baby boomer” generation offer her much
needed comic relief from the dramatic world of healthcare.
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