August 4, 2011 by wcobserver
By Susan McCarthy
WINSLOW – As demand for manufactured stone increases, stone masons worry that their craft may be a dying art, but a camp last week at Ozark Folkways aimed to introduce stone masonry to a new generation.
While you don’t usually hear “stone masonry” and “summer camp” in the same sentence, nine boys, ages 10-14, hauled rocks and worked in 100 degree heat to build four large round planters at the doorsteps of Ozark Folkways as part of a week-long camp.
“It’s definitely a lot harder than I thought it would be,” said Denver Squires, who was one of the youngest attending the camp. “I thought it would be rock over rock over rock, but there’s actually a certain pattern to it.”
Tom Jordon,71, who traveled from Lincoln each day to teach the camp, said it was also a challenge for him, but in a different way. Jordan said things were pretty crazy when he had nine boys in motion all at once.
“It’s kind of a dying art. That’s why I’m here. I want to help some kids learn something.”
Jordon learned stone masonry from his father, who is known for his work at the Prairie Grove Battlefield Park.
“I did my first job for money when I was 16 years old and it looked like my first job too,” joked Jordon during a late morning break.
The stone masonry camp is one of about a half dozen camps Ozark Folkways has scheduled this summer for youth. Ozark Folkways is a not-for-profit organization and Rebecca Buchanan, Executive Director, said camps like the stone masonry camp, aim to keep traditional Ozark arts, crafts, and music alive by introducing them to youth.
As he unloaded a pick-up load of rocks the group had collected along the Illinois River in Hogeye, Matthew Turley was already able to describe which rocks would make the best ones for the project…the ones with an even thickness and closest to a square.
With so many summer camps available to choose from, one might wonder why a teen might choose one that involved some sweat equity.
“It’s just a chance to learn something new,” said Javian Walter. “My grandfather can do this, so it gives me a chance to be like him, work like him.”
The stone masonry camp,like many of the camps offered this summer, are being offered for the first time at Ozark Folkways. Buchanan said a grant received earlier this year from the Pat and Willard Walker Foundation has allowed Ozark Folkways to expand the number and types of youth camps offered this year. She added that the grant has also allowed them to keep the costs of the camps low and has been able to offer scholarships to families that would not otherwise be able to afford to send their kids to a summer camp.
Two days after the stone masonry camp, a two-day fiddle workshop was already in session. Buchanan said photography and basket making workshops are still ahead before the end of summer.