Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Rock Jack

Oil on board, 5" x 7"
$125 plus $6 shipping in U.S.
SOLD

Those of you who live in deep soil country may not know what a rock jack is. Here in eastern Oregon much of the hill country has a thin layer of topsoil over a rocky volcanic base. Since it's next to impossible to dig a post hole, fence-building ranchers construct these triangular structures every couple hundred feet and weight them down with (what else) rocks, so they can stretch barbed wire tightly between them. The posts in between the jacks are often floating, not dug into the ground at all, and serve just to keep the wires separated and the fence vertical.

I've always loved the look of these jacks, punctuating the rolling grasslands in single-file processions. They make me think of ancient monuments, or cairns. Their simple forms have an architectural quality, and the piled boulders give them a presence akin to sculpture.

12 comments:

Susan Roux said...

This is very interesting. You're right I never heard of rock jacks. I can just imagine the floating posts! Ha it makes me laugh. Do they dance around when the wind blows? In my mind each has its own personality like little children wiggling about. Thank goodness for the parent ones keeping them all held together!

Lovely painting.

Pam Holnback said...

I loved learning about these fences! It's windy and rocky here in Colorado. Wonder why we don't have more of these.

rahina q.h. said...

love this composition Don, beautifully handled.

Don Gray said...

HA, I love your imagination, Susan! Actually the personality thing is very true. No two rock jacks are exactly alike--they have their own character, like people. And the floating posts often aren't too serious about being fencelike. Occasionally you see them tipped over nearly to the ground. Cattle and elk sometimes flip them upside down!

Don Gray said...

It would be interesting to trace the history of this kind of fence-building, wouldn't it Pam? Why it turns up in some places and not in other similar landscapes I don't know. They are prevalent in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada. I don't recall seeing any in rocky Arizona.

Don Gray said...

Thank you, Rahina.

Jala Pfaff said...

Cool.
I'd never heard of them.

Don Gray said...

Interesting, Jala--they don't seem to be used in Colorado.

Dennis Dame said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing. Don't have much trouble sticking things in the soil here in the valley - kind of have the opposite problem!

Don Gray said...

Dennis, your challenge there is keeping fences from being overgrown with blackberry vines, right? Thanks for the note.

Dean Grey said...

Never heard of a rock jack before! Now I know!

-Dean

Don Gray said...

Who says my blog isn't educational, right Dean?