A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss!
By Al Howlett
This is a story about a stone that did and did not gather some Moss.
I take you back to 1942 when I was ten years old and trying to learn
something in the one room schoolhouse located just across the fence
from our house in Glen Morris. I only had to jump over the fence to
get to classes. I am not sure if this helped the learning process
or not but it was a quick trip to the fountain of learning. In any
case it was convenient as I could go home for dinner and had no excuse
for not arriving home after school in time to start the assigned chores
or homework. One of these was to head back to the school with the
water pail to be filled at the school pump. We got our drinking water
from the school well. Those pails were heavy when filled and did not
always remain full on the home trip. This would result in an additional
trip for more.
Some of the students would ride bicycles to school and I always envied
them, as I did not have any wheels, others walked of course. No yellow
school bus in those days. The only thing yellow was the Anson training
aircraft that were constantly flying overhead from the Brantford airbase.
These were the student aviators learning to be aircrew to help bomb
Hitler into bits. Sadly some would never make it and we had seen the
results on more than one occasion. However that is another story and
not related to the rolling stone.
Out behind the yellow brick schoolhouse was a steep
hill that ended at the Lake Erie & Northern railway track. On
the other side of the tracks was the Grand River bank, always source
of interest to small boys as well for home made boats, swimming etc;
There were no electronic gadgets to amuse young minds in those days
and anything mechanical was a source to be explored or talked about.
Some of the students at recess time would ride around the school to
show off their bike riding skills to impress the onlookers. Going
around in circles and putting your feet in various places was all
part of the show. At some point it was noticed that the top of the
hill behind the school was an ideal place to go over the top pick
up speed jump back up over the top. A path was created down and up
again to improve the performance. I borrowed a bike from someone and
was trying my skill at this stunt riding one day when I hit something
at the bottom of the path bounced off the bike and hit my head on
the ground. I was out for a count . Regaining my senses (as if I had
any) an investigation showed there was a buried rock at the bottom
of the path that may have contributed to this event. It was decided
that this hazard had to be removed for safety reasons. No one ever
wore a helmet in those days.
Shovels were brought to school in the next day or two
and work commenced to remove the stone that was only partly protruding
above ground. This stone had probably arrived on this spot by way
of the Glaciers thousands of years ago. As the digging got under way
it was discovered that it was round and approximately 24 inches in
diameter. After several recesses at this new sport of rock removal,
it was free and ready for disposal.
Since the rock was mostly round letting it roll down the hill was
the logical choice. Chanting one, two, and three it was shoved over
the edge. Gathering momentum on its downward journey nothing in the
way slowed it down and on reaching the bottom it bounced in the air
and landed on the railroad tracks. We all looked at one another and
came to a quick decision. It had to be removed from the track as we
had a lot of respect for the LE&N trains. Down the hill we all
rushed and managed to roll the heavy stone off into the ditch. Then
back up the hill for classes.
As the years passed the stone remained down by the tracks and the
incident was stored in my memory to be remembered many years later.
By this time the LE&N tracks and trains were gone having been
converted to a Cambridge to Paris rail trail. Thousands of people
travel this former track bed each year and enjoy the nature along
the way. Some time back I was walking the trail enjoying the river
sounds and the flora & fauna along the way when I remembered the
stone. I had a very good idea as to where it might be located so I
started looking in the trees to see if I could find the rolling stone.
The track bed and ditches have been bulldozed to smooth out the trail
and it may have been moved a few feet from its original resting place.
However I think the rock I found is the schoolyard stone. And yes
after 70 years it has now gathered some moss.!