In my last blog, I told you about shovel work and described some of the most physically taxing work on the farm. Shovel work is hard work, but there was some other work on the farm that made ordinary shovel work look like fun.
A lot of farm work is rewarding. Looking at the boxes of picked prunes stacked up at the end of the day, or seeing the orchard all cleaned up after the harvest, or seeing a completed ditch—all that was rewarding. Picking rocks was not.
Rocks in an orchard, field, or in most any planting area are very undesirable. Rocks dull the cultivating disks, and that makes the task of disking more difficult. If that is not bad enough, the unpleasant sound of disk to rock contact is akin to that of running a fingernail across a chalkboard. Anyway, the rocks have to go.
By the time I got to the farm, most of the rock-picking work was already done, and the road down to the dry-shed was paved with the proceeds nearly the entire way. But there was one lower section of orchard, where Paramount Drive now joins the highway, where there were still some rocks. In Mr. Pitman’s mind, these rocks had my name on them. Now, according to Dave Pitman, Mr. Pitman’s younger son, picking rocks was not so bad because, in his words, “That’s when I got to drive the truck.” But for me, I was already driving the truck when this prospecting work was first introduced, so I had “less fun” picking rocks.
It was not until many years later that I realized where all the beautiful old rock walls came from that were at the edges of many of the farms in the Los Gatos - Saratoga foothills. Every orchard needed the rocks picked out of it, and a lot of people picked a lot of rocks. When you drive through the area today it is difficult to find any of those old rock walls. They are part of a history that has been largely covered over. But I do wonder if the homeowners on Paramount Drive, where the road down to the dry-shed used to be, ever wonder where all those rocks in their yards came from!
This article was condensed from the new local history book, The Last of the Prune Pickers: A Pre-Silicon Valley Story, by Tim Stanley. It is available on line at www.2timothypublishing.com