Marston Anderson, a fourth generation mason whose father and grandfather taught him the trade, died recently. He was our faithful helper for 30 years. In 1999 he built a beautiful wall for us and I would talk to him while he worked. He told me the history of his family trade and the interesting fact that stonework had named patterns. I was inspired to write the poem “Stone Quilt,” which appeared in the 1999 Poetry and Prose book of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters.
Marston was the last of his branch of his family and the end of the era of those Anderson fine masons who added much to the beauty of Door County for over 100 years.
My friend hangs Tree of Life on her wall,
beautiful as an early American oil painting.
A neighbor carefully unwraps Bear’s Paw,
taken across the prairie by her pioneer great-grandmother.
A name worked in small perfect letters
is in the corner of my great-aunt’s Harvest Sun quilt.
Outside the house the young fourth generation mason
creates a layered stone garden wall –
Jump and Run, he calls it, chosen after thought
over Spider Web or Hit and Miss.
Stones lie spread over the driveway;
with careful deliberation he chooses each one.
Muscular back and arms lift, split, mortar,
piecing ancient Door County stones into the wall.
As he works I hear about walls made by his father
and of chewing tobacco cans, each containing
a slip of paper with a name and date,
hidden inside walls and chimneys by his grandfather.
Found years later when the stones were taken down,
the cans are kept in a drawer of his grandson’s workbench.
Our lives are made of the textured fabrics of experience,
the mortared foundations of our heritage;
each pattern is unique.