OH&S News

Toobig Uglyrock ? An interview

During this past year I’ve quoted many people in my articles about Barre granite. I unintentionally ignored the rocks, so I interviewed one. Here it is.

Langer: I am talking with Toobig Uglyrock, a member of the Barre granite pluton. So, Mr Uglyrock, tell the readers about yourself.

Uglyrock: Back in 1793, when the privilege to name Barre, Vermont, was decided by a fist fight, some of my relatives that were exposed on the flanks of a nearby hill had already been broken away from the ledges and turned into millstones. Other kinfolk that had been lying around were used as lintels, thresholds, hearthstones, steps and in fences and walls.

Langer: I understand another use of Barre granite was as paving blocks.

Uglyrock: Oh, yes. When people quarry rock, some of it breaks into pieces that are too small for gravestones. They just toss you over the bank into a chat pile. It just so happens that some of the waste rocks are perfect sizes to be worked into paving blocks. But I was too big to be used as a paving block.

Langer: Weren’t some of your most famous relatives selected because of their beauty?

Uglyrock: Yes. Back in the 1830s, some of my siblings were used in the Vermont Statehouse. They were very pretty. I was ugly; when they dug me up they pushed me over the bank into the chat pile.

Langer: Oh, dear. (Sigh) Aren’t most of your relatives used as gravestones?

Uglyrock: Well, yes, I have thousands and thousands of beautiful cousins that are gravestones, monuments and mausoleums. They have been shipped all over the country.

{{image2-a:r-w:200}}Langer: So, Toobig, is it difficult to quarry your granite family?

Uglyrock: You bet. I was quarried back before electricity and steam power. I was drilled by hand with hammers and drills, and split with feathers and wedges. But we rocks also have inherent weaknesses that experienced quarrymen exploited, making their job easier.

Langer: It must have taken many people to quarry so many of your relatives.

Uglyrock: Many Americans as well as Scottish, Italian and other immigrants worked in Barre’s quarries and sheds. During the early 1900s the mechanical working of stone created dust, and inhaling granite stone dust caused the horrific disease known as silicosis. Many labourers and owners alike, died well before their time, leaving their widows to fend for their families. Barre was among the first of the mineral industries to address the issue by installing dust-removing equipment.

Langer: Toobig, I see you have been loaded on a railcar. Do you know where you are going?

Uglyrock: Well, these days a lot of my relatives in this chat pile have been run through a crusher and are used as roadbase and asphalt aggregate. Me? I’m too big. I think I am going to a landfill; a place they take stuff nobody wants.

Langer: Wrong! You are headed to the Port of Oswego on Lake Ontario in New York State. You are going to be used as jetty rock* to help provide a safe haven for boaters.

Uglyrock: Really? Hey, boaters. You can call me Barre Breakwater!

*My thanks to Harry Hart from North East Materials Group for pointing out the use of Barre granite as jetty stone and aggregate, and for the photo of Toobig Uglyrock in the jetty.

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