Rock Piles

One of the monuments on the Prairie has always been Rock Piles. They are sadly disappearing because farmers don’t like to farm around them anymore. They take a bull dozer, dig a pit next to the Rock Pile and shove them in to bury the rocks. Very sad. These Rock Piles are tributes to hard, hard work done by hand by many people on the Prairie.

Northern Montana rock pile with the Sweet Grass Hills in the distance

Rock pile with the Sweet Grass Hills in the distance

My parents were some of these hard working people, they knew how to work hard. I grew up watching them work. When I look at these old Rock Piles I think back to how they were built. Most Rock Piles years and years ago were put there one rock at a time. This process was started by going to the field to be cleared of “donuts” my Dad’s word for rocks, with a horse pulling a device called a “Stone Boat.” All a “Stone Boat” consisted of was a flat combination of nailed together boards, sturdy enough to be pulled along the ground by the old horse and it was loaded with rock, one by one, by hand of course. When you had a good load of rocks you headed for a designated place in your field and then you unloaded your rocks. One by one by hand on the pile. Backbreaking work, rock after rock, day after day. My Dad and my Uncle Don S. picked many many rocks and built a lot of Rock Piles. My little skinny mother also picked her fair share of rocks or donuts. No wonder her poor back was like an S in her later years.

Bill and Pat Crites at home in Havre, MT

About a month before my Dad passed away. Couple of fine Rock {Donut} Pickers..

Later years a tractor pulled the stone boat, then a tractor had a bucket on the front and you picked rock that way. Then mechanized rock pickers came along that you pulled with the tractor.  When you went to the Rock Pile the rock picking machine dumped the rocks with the aid of a hydraulic cylinder. Much easier on the back.

A rock pile in Northern Montana by Gildford

One rock at a time. Hand picked back breaking work.

I was asked not too long ago about burying the rock piles on our place. I said no I want to always remember the work that it took to farm this country. Funny thing, when I was about 20 years old my Dad asked me why I worked like I was killing snakes? I just looked him in the eye and said, “I had two good teachers..”

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