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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 12, 2003 - Issue 91


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Child of Stone

by Timm Severud

Transporting RocksI have always had a special relationship with rocks. My older brother Todd always tells me it is because of how many I have in my head. As a school age child one of the things always in my pocket was a small flat head screwdriver. I use to pry the agates out of the tar in the road. I doubt I had a pair of pants, even my Sunday Go-to-Church best lacked a full set of tar stained pockets. I have always been a laundry nightmare. I knew how to get the tar off the rocks (acetone) but not out of my pockets.

I remember hauling pockets full of agates and hematite banded jaspers home. I remember keeping my clothes in boxes under my bed so that I could keep the rocks in my dresser drawers. No dresser survived me I am sorry to say. I also remember my Mom constantly sewing pockets back up. The pockets were always the first things to go on my pants, they still are.

There was a genuine old rock hound in my hometown. Les Claire, he was a retired professor from the University at Madison. He had a 1947 Chevy Stylemaster with the hearse rear door that he drove around, with cane poles sticking out the back window. His house was on the corner of 3rd and US 53 with a garage shop in the back of the house. I remember sitting there for hours watching him work rock and talking about such things as the 'click and clack' of rocks, to explain why things fracture the way they would. He got my absolute best finds, just because he was an artist with such things, he often made lampshades out of the rock. Someday I will find one he made, that is how I want to remember him.

Les only had one rule about being in his shop, I was allowed to touch nothing. I never broke that rule, because learning about rock was more important to me. He was the one that introduced me to our local catlinite (pipestone) there are ancient quarries throughout the region. Pipestone is something I now am involved in a way that I am sure Les would love, I am helping in documenting the different quarries, from both local knowledge and old written documentation. When we started we knew of 2 quarries in the Indianhead, now we are aware of over 30, we are taking samples so that when we study old pipestone bowels we can determine which quarry the stone came from. We have found one quarry we call the Rainbow Quarry because the blood red catlinite is banded with a gunmetal colored hematite. We knew it existed because of a couple of old pipes we had seen and others we have been told about. Les would have loved to know about the Rainbow Pipestone, probably better he did not though as the entire purpose now is to see that each of the areas is protected from destruction and commercial exploitation.

Les used to take off for a couple of weeks a couple of times a summer. He was always heading up north, which in his case was up to the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation, where he would have tribal guides to take him out fishing on the Chippewa Flowage. He would pay tribal members for the rock he was looking for. The hills of the area are fabulous for the type of rock he wanted. I found this out because today I live and work on that reservation and I walk around finding the type of rock the Les always had. I talked about him, and at the point I mentioned the 47 Chevy Stylemaster, tribal faces light up. They knew him as the Rockman. So many times I feel like I am seeing things that Les saw, but not in the same way.

Transporting RocksHere I sit today, on the dam that forms the Chippewa Flowage with half dozen cubic yards of rocks and stones out back. When the pile gets wet and the sun hits it that is why I have it sitting there. Friends have come to visit just to look into the rock pile. I keep telling them this is the proof that we walk in beauty and on it.

The stones I collected, as a child did not go to waste. After I left home, my dad decided to finally finish the basement by putting in a cement floor - it was sand originally. When he poured it he placed the rocks in the surface and pressed them down... I love to mop that floor. The rocks always look there best wet.

In my life I have sought the best for myself and I no longer do. I would rather take a walk and find a bit of beauty and add it to the pile. But first where is that needle and thread, I have another pocket to sew up.

Remember it is up the us to decide what type of piles we are going to leave behind, what type of memories we will have planted and what type of possibilities we are polishing for the future.

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