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A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss!

By Al Howlett

This is a story about a stone that did and did not gather some Moss.

I take you back to 1942 when I was ten years old and trying to learn something in the one room schoolhouse located just across the fence from our house in Glen Morris. I only had to jump over the fence to get to classes. I am not sure if this helped the learning process or not but it was a quick trip to the fountain of learning. In any case it was convenient as I could go home for dinner and had no excuse for not arriving home after school in time to start the assigned chores or homework. One of these was to head back to the school with the water pail to be filled at the school pump. We got our drinking water from the school well. Those pails were heavy when filled and did not always remain full on the home trip. This would result in an additional trip for more.

Some of the students would ride bicycles to school and I always envied them, as I did not have any wheels, others walked of course. No yellow school bus in those days. The only thing yellow was the Anson training aircraft that were constantly flying overhead from the Brantford airbase. These were the student aviators learning to be aircrew to help bomb Hitler into bits. Sadly some would never make it and we had seen the results on more than one occasion. However that is another story and not related to the rolling stone.

Out behind the yellow brick schoolhouse was a steep hill that ended at the Lake Erie & Northern railway track. On the other side of the tracks was the Grand River bank, always source of interest to small boys as well for home made boats, swimming etc; There were no electronic gadgets to amuse young minds in those days and anything mechanical was a source to be explored or talked about. Some of the students at recess time would ride around the school to show off their bike riding skills to impress the onlookers. Going around in circles and putting your feet in various places was all part of the show. At some point it was noticed that the top of the hill behind the school was an ideal place to go over the top pick up speed jump back up over the top. A path was created down and up again to improve the performance. I borrowed a bike from someone and was trying my skill at this stunt riding one day when I hit something at the bottom of the path bounced off the bike and hit my head on the ground. I was out for a count . Regaining my senses (as if I had any) an investigation showed there was a buried rock at the bottom of the path that may have contributed to this event. It was decided that this hazard had to be removed for safety reasons. No one ever wore a helmet in those days.

Shovels were brought to school in the next day or two and work commenced to remove the stone that was only partly protruding above ground. This stone had probably arrived on this spot by way of the Glaciers thousands of years ago. As the digging got under way it was discovered that it was round and approximately 24 inches in diameter. After several recesses at this new sport of rock removal, it was free and ready for disposal.

Since the rock was mostly round letting it roll down the hill was the logical choice. Chanting one, two, and three it was shoved over the edge. Gathering momentum on its downward journey nothing in the way slowed it down and on reaching the bottom it bounced in the air and landed on the railroad tracks. We all looked at one another and came to a quick decision. It had to be removed from the track as we had a lot of respect for the LE&N trains. Down the hill we all rushed and managed to roll the heavy stone off into the ditch. Then back up the hill for classes.

As the years passed the stone remained down by the tracks and the incident was stored in my memory to be remembered many years later. By this time the LE&N tracks and trains were gone having been converted to a Cambridge to Paris rail trail. Thousands of people travel this former track bed each year and enjoy the nature along the way. Some time back I was walking the trail enjoying the river sounds and the flora & fauna along the way when I remembered the stone. I had a very good idea as to where it might be located so I started looking in the trees to see if I could find the rolling stone. The track bed and ditches have been bulldozed to smooth out the trail and it may have been moved a few feet from its original resting place. However I think the rock I found is the schoolyard stone. And yes after 70 years it has now gathered some moss.!




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