Thursday, December 29, 2016


December 29, 2016

When I was growing up in the mid-fifties, our family life was as regular as clockwork. Friday nights would find us at my maternal grandparents, where we kids played until dinner in the fields and woods on the acreage out back. After dinner, we played board games until the Friday night fights, after which we headed home.

Grandma and Poppa Henthorn lived just east of Parma Corners, NY, on Ridge Road in a house my grandfather built after he had to quit work as a milkman due to a bad heart. He bought land from his sister who lived in the old homestead across the Ridge, tore down the barn that was there, and built what was then a modern ranch-style house.

The Ridge, as I noted yesterday, was the southern shore of the ancient lakebed that receded to its present dimensions in prehistoric times. It had been an Indian trail before pioneers in the latter part of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century carved a road along it. Driving along the road, the most notable feature of the landscape is how suddenly it drops away on the north side of the road to what from there to the present Lake Ontario is relatively flat ground. In the winter, the road could be treacherous, but what I remember most is the summer afternoons when we drove out for our Friday nights with grandma and poppa (as we called him).

Back before the State Highway commission decreed that trees alongside the roads were a hazard that must be removed, much of the Ridge was shaded by massive maples, oaks, and the occasional elm and horse chestnut. Riding in the back seat, the pattern of light and dark from passing these trees danced a kaleidoscope rhythm in my eyes, while the road itself had a regular thump-thumping from the concrete pads that were used back then for the roadbed. I still miss the feeling that road ingrained in me when we rode out there.

One of the unusual features of the Ridge is the cobblestone houses that dot the roadside, becoming more and more frequent as one approaches the little hamlet of Childs, which could be called the cobblestone capital of the world, were they so vain as to dub themselves such. The cobblestone architecture of the Ridge is unique to the area; it isn't found anywhere else except for the few places where the masons traveled from that center. The buildings, mostly houses, but also churches and schoolhouses were constructed in the early part of the nineteenth century, using the most abundant local material available, the smooth round cobblestones from the lake. This unique architecture dates from around 1825. The English masons who worked on the Erie Canal are believed to have pioneered the technique. It took up to three years to collect the stones, which were sorted and graded according to shape and size, then laid up in rows, often with decorative mortar in between. Later examples include flatter stones laid in herringbone patterns.

Yesterday I wrote of the uniqueness of the weather patterns along the ridge; today, I'm thinking of the things we have in common. Those cobblestones are pretty much alike except for size and sometimes coloring. The combined action of glacier and wave over millennia made for uniformity, but when placed in the hands of master masons, created something unique to a unique area of the country. In the hand of the Master Mason, ordinary stones like you and me are laid up in creative patterns that become a building God himself inhabits. Peter said we are like "living stones, built up together into a spiritual house." Isn't it amazing that the God who could raise up from the stones beneath our feet better servants than we could ever be, chose instead to take common, ordinary stones like us for his dwelling place? That is something for which to praise him tonight!

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