Sunday, October 15, 2017

Eric Sloane and Stone Walls (or Fences)

Eric Sloane and his dog, Spooky.  (Original Black and White Photographs From Archives)
"The thing that might impress you most about New England is its stone 'walls.' When they were built anything forming an enclosure was called a fence.  Whether it was made of roots or wood or stone, they were never referred to as walls; they are more properly called stone fences."

Eric Sloan <> wrote these words in "Eric Sloane's America," one of his many books.  These pictures of him (and his wife and dog) were taken at their house in the northwest corner of Connecticut in the late 1960s.

His Wife, Ruth

This came to mind, watching a craftsman at work.

Set up with Coffee and Barely Audible Classical Music

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.   
- Robert Frost. “Mending Wall.”

He apologized for his approach, and explained that this wall had not been "properly" built originally and therefore he was cheating by using the mortar for the repair.

He is one of the few remaining men in Maine who can build a proper dry wall.


Starchy White Congregational Churches and Stone Walls (Fences)



Robert Frost also cited (but argued against) "good fences make good neighbors." What about the corollary? "Good neighbors make good fences."

Books suggested by a reader:
  • Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England's Stone Walls by Robert Thorson <>
  • Exploring Stone Walls: A Field Guide to New England's Stone Walls by Robert Thorson <>


  1. I was just thinking of Frost's, "good fences make good neighbors" this morning while browsing through Yankee. Frost may have argued against them but those stone walls not only look beautiful, they're lovely reminders of property lines. AnnZ, MetroDC

  2. Muffy,don't know if you remember me. I had a blog "" Man of the 50s". I just wanted to thank you for keeping your wonderful and entertaining site going. I look forward to each new post. I do miss the photo of you holding the chicken!

    1. Of course I remember you! It is so nice to hear from you and thank you.

  3. The poem has a character, Frost's neighbor. It is he who speaks the words "good fences make good neighbors." In fact, he liked it so well he said it twice. Frost described the neighbor as holding stones in his hands, like an old savage armed. Frost did admit the necessity for walls for when there are cows. But not for his apple trees. I love this poem. And even more the one about the apple trees. Thanks for this article. The wall photos are lovely, and I think with our world split into factions, good to be reminded that we don't always need so many walls. Donna M. South Carolina

  4. Love Eric Sloane's artwork and writing. Nobody painted skies like he did. His "Eric Sloane's Weather Book" inspired my later career in the Earth Sciences.