When we think of New England, much comes to mind – a driving force for the creation of our Republic and participatory democracy, leaders who created the Declaration of Independence and Constitution; renowned higher educational institutions such as Harvard or Yale; but in a more earthy sense, we are also known as the land of steady habits and, rocks! Over 10,000 years ago, glaciers spread across our northern hemisphere.
This moving, massive ice sheet scraped the landscape bare, pushing gravel, sand and stone as if a giant bulldozer, depositing this mixture as the ice retreated. Where? In our back yards! As enterprising Yankee farmers cleared fields, gray ribbons of granite began outlining property boundaries.
Robert Frost, in his poem “Mending a Wall” suggests good fences making good neighbors. East Hampton certainly has its fair share of stone walls – ones we see throughout our neighborhoods and many jutting through the landscape of woods and fields. Just walk the Airline Trail from Cranberry Pond towards Salmon River and you can experience the remnants of long abandoned farms and the ribbons of gray walls outlining former pastures.
But East Hampton farmers had another method of dealing with rocks, especially those in close proximity to Lake Pocotopaug, or as my great grandfather, Newton Markham, used to call it, “The Pond.” It seems our enterprising forbearers developed a rather novel approach to disposing of them. With oxen, they, in the dead of winter, would drag the rocks out onto the ice. With the spring melt, magically the stone would disappear, much to the chagrin of our present day recreational boaters. The remnants of those deposits appear along much of Pocotopaug’s coast line, in some areas more than others. Any of us can see “Rocky Island” on the east side of the lake off Day Point Road. Not a natural island – just an accumulation of rocks. Elsewhere they become nuisances or as when I was growing up, things to explore on a warm summer day.