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Get a piece of the rock

For several years, one of my cousins, Jerry, rented a farm that was not what you would call tremendously productive. It was kind of hilly and had pretty shallow soil and no shortage of “mineral deposits” — otherwise known as rocks. A little limestone here and there isn’t all that out of the ordinary here in Winneshiek Country.

My cousin milked cows, and the soil types on this farm weren’t that bad for growing hay to feed the Holsteins. His landlord was Kenneth Hovden, a great guy in his 90s. After Kenneth’s wife died when he was in his 80s, he found a girlfriend in nearby Decorah. We always gave him a hard time about getting married again, but he said he was Lutheran and the girlfriend was Catholic. A marriage would never work because they couldn’t decide how to raise the children!

Kenneth, unfortunately, passed away, and his kids inherited the farm. They promptly raised the rent on Jerry by a fairly substantial sum. Jerry passed it up, and a new tenant was found. This new tenant began working the farm and discovered a rock that needed to be removed. It also had a fence post next to it.

No big deal. New Tenant grabbed the rock and discovered that it couldn’t be moved by hand. He then got his tractor with a loader and found that IT wouldn’t move the rock either. The next step was to call in the heavy artillery — a nice little Cat bulldozer operated by a man named Smiley.

Smiley began the excavation process. He dug around the rock and didn’t get it out. So he dug deeper. He still didn’t get it out. So he dug deeper yet. Same results. Finally, after digging what could be a house basement, he realized that this little pebble was going to be a bit of a job to move anywhere. You don’t just dig a boulder like this out of the ground and move it to the nearest fence line.

The solution was to haul it out of there in his dump truck. The problem was that a rock of that size didn’t fit in the bucket of the dozer and the dozer probably wasn’t going to have enough oomph to lift it anyway. The next step was to change the depth of the freshly dug basement to make it possible to simply back the dump truck up to the rock and push it into the dump truck.

Once the trench was dug and the bed of the dump truck was at the same level as the boulder, it was pushed onto the truck. No problem. But it sure would be nice to know how big that puppy was. So Smiley headed to Ridgeway with the rock in the back to get it weighed at the co-op. The co-op, of course, is where all the nuts come to weigh all their loads of various goods on a certified scale before heading down the road to create havoc with said loads. At least, that’s what I’ve HEARD.

According to the scale ticket, the pebble weighed at or slightly more than 30,000 pounds! 15 tons! And people whine about the damage I could do when all I lose is some wimpy little 1,800-pound round bale of hay. Just think what I could do with a 15-ton rock on the right curvy, hilly road!

The rock sat in the back of Smiley’s dump truck parked in his yard alongside Highway 9 between Ridgeway and Decorah. It had a For Sale sign on it, too. No word on what it took to own a piece of the rock, or the whole thing for that matter. It probably ended up being a lawn ornament for some rich dude’s front lawn.

There is one mansion in Decorah that is owned by a member of the Bruening family, as in Bruening Rock Products — a large construction and gravel company based in Decorah. My advice to Mr. Bruening would be to acquire the rock and put it somewhere near the edge of his property on top of the big hill. Go ahead. Build a phony catapult around it just to make your neighbors nervous. Better yet, build a giant plaque next to it and identify Mr. Bruening as the winner in the annual Nordic Fest Rock Throwing Contest.

Oh yeah, the fence post near the rock in the field? My cousin said Kenneth put it there a LONG time ago. The first year Jerry farmed the place, Kenneth pulled him aside, pointed to the post and said, “Stay the @#$% away from that rock. It’s bigger than the both of us!”

If he only knew.

Guy No. 2

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