Sunday, December 8, 2013

By Design

Sometimes my wife will catch me staring off into space with a blank look on my face and ask “rocks on the brain huh?” 95% of the time she is right. Being in the stone business I do think about rocks a lot. I notice stone everywhere. On a home or building, in a cut in on the side of the highway or off in a distant mesa - stone is everywhere. I can’t go anywhere without looking at stone. At first I thought it was a sickness now I understand it is, though it sounds silly at first, an awakening. It is an awareness of God that I never had before. I found it here in St. Johns.

Stone has a way of bonding past to present. People who have gone before leave their stories behind in stone for us to discover and enjoy. In our little town of Saint Johns we are surrounded by such monuments. I feel a certain reverence when looking at these old stone edifices. I am reminded of the hard work and sacrifice of those who came before us. I want to share a couple of my favorites.
In our Salado quarry south of town sits this old stone block. At some point long ago, someone tried to split this stone down to a workable size with a hand crank drill and steel feather wedges. Perhaps they were shaping stones to build a foundation for a new home, or perhaps they were looking for a slab with which to make a headstone. This probably took the better part of a day to get to this point, and, for whatever reason, they abandoned their purpose and left this block as it sits today.
This building sits down by the Little Colorado off Water Street. Somebody told me it was a grinding mill at one point. It may not seem like much until you think that each single stone placed in these walls literally took hours and hours to find, shape, transport, and set into place.
Once I hiked to an old site out by TEP with Wade Udall where we explored the remains of an old limestone kiln. The early settlers would haul small chunks of limestone from a nearby bluff to the kiln and heat them. The heated limestone could then be crushed by hand and mixed with sand to make the mortar which still holds the stones in place to this day.
This mini obelisk sits it the St. Johns Cemetery. It seems rough to our modern standards, but when you think of the time it took to go out, probably on foot or in wagon, miles from town, excavate a large stone with nothing more than a pry bar and shape it slowly, chip by chip, with a hammer and chisel - it changes. When you look at it through that lens, you can see it becomes a masterpiece.
Sometimes when we excavate stone from the earth I feel guilty. Sometimes it feels like we are undoing what it took an almighty creator thousands and thousands of years to beautify and position. In the process we have made many discoveries. Deep below the surface we have found layers of rippled sandstone, evidence of a sandy beach frozen in time. We have discovered small footprints of some ancient creature in between layers of sandstone - again frozen in time for us to discover. We have found impressions of ancient ferns and plants.
The colors are also amazing. Iron and other elements give each stone a unique character over time. I love to inspect each load of stone that comes in and see the unique quality. When the Nielsens drilled our well I remember watching the tailings of blue and purple sandstone emerge from hundreds of feet below. It made me think of all the beautiful things beneath our feet that we will never see. These are all testaments of an artistic and patient God who, in perfect order and natural harmony, created these for us to appreciate.
It is awesome to contemplate the ages of time that have produced every single stone. They have been beat upon relentlessly by water and wind. They have been heated and compressed, slowly shaped and perfected. There are no two exactly alike. I like to think that is the way God works with us.
Despite our increasingly godless world, stone in a simple way has shown me that divinity undeniably surrounds us. In everything, if we will take the time to notice, there is design.  
Written By Chuck Humpherys


  1. What beautiful thoughts! Your sentiments are just what I needed today- that the wind, rain, heat and compression are just what God designed to make me into the person I'm meant to be.

  2. I enjoyed these pictures and your message. There truly is beautiful design all around us. Who knew rocks could be so profound?