A fool and his folly

iconic stonehenge pm smaller

This is the photo of Stonehenge that set my grandfather’s heart ablaze.

There are variations of my grandfather’s story, but I prefer this one.  Mostly, because it came from my great-aunt Sophie, and she never said anything that wasn’t true.  Or at least, true enough.  She was the keeper of our stories.  From births to deaths, weddings to wakes; new jobs, new homes, new dreams, if it involved a Webster, Aunt Sophie wrote it down.  That job fell to me a few years ago when, at the age of eighty-two, she fell off her bicycle, hit her head, and died.

(Let that be a lesson for you — You are never too old to wear a helmet.  Aunt Sophie would back me up on this if she could.)

This story began fifty years ago when Grandpa Webster had a dream.  In it he dreamed that his ancestors had been druids, and this pleased him immensely.  The whole wise man, mystical nature thing.  He thought it might be true.  But, when he told others about it, they said — Don’t be daft, you foolIt’s just a dream.  So he shut up about it.

Still.  A wisp of the dream remained.

Shortly after that grandpa bought a box.  He was fond of auctions, and even fonder of bidding on blind boxes – blind in the sense that you had no idea of the contents but were willing to chance that there might be something of value inside.  In this instance, the thing of value was the tinted photo of Stonehenge you see above.

How that photograph took hold of my grandfather.  He kept it on his nightstand.  It was the last thing he looked to before he closed his eyes, and the first thing he saw upon waking, his wife coming in a poor second.  But she was patient because she loved him.  And she knew about his druid wish.  For even a wisp of a dream carries a sweet, smoky odor that a good spouse can smell.  She went to the public library and brought back a book — The Stonehenge Myth — and set it next to the photo on my grandfather’s side of the bed.

My grandparents owned a small farm at the time.  Eighty acres on which they grew corn and wheat and raised chickens, sheep, and some dairy cows.  (My father grew up on this farm and knew before he was eighteen that he wanted something else in life, but that’s another story, for another time.)  Four months after his finding the Stonehenge photo, six months after the druid dream, my grandfather dragged home his first big rock, a four foot by two foot slab of stone that he slid off the back of a flat-bed trailer at the end of the sheep field.  The neighbors wondered what use could be made from a stone that size, but my grandmother had an inkling.

Over the next six months, my grandfather brought home twelve more boulders and stone slabs of various sizes.  He paid his four strapping boys and their friends to help him arrange the stones in a circle.  He borrowed a backhoe and a front end loader.  He carried the Stonehenge photograph in his shirt pocket, and when people asked him what in blue blazes was he trying to build, he pulled out the photo and handed it to them.

This, he said.  I’m building this.  It’s iconic.

Some people thought he said ironic.

Over the years, my grandfather and his folly became legend.  There were stories told that he danced drunken and naked in the moonlight among those stones.  Aunt Sophie said that wasn’t true.  She said that he simply found comfort in sitting in that stone circle while the sun rose or set and he could think about the day ahead of or behind him.  It brought him peace.

For my father and his brothers, it brought them something else.  There were more than a few times when they and their friends dared one another to strip and whoop it up around the rocks.  For them, it was a level of coolness others didn’t have.

We were the only kids with Stonehenge in our back yard.

Fifteen years ago, as my grandparent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary approached, their sons wanted to gift them with a trip to England, to see the real Stonehenge, they said.  My grandparents turned them down.  Why spend all that money, when they were happy with the one they had?

I’m no fool, my grandfather told his boys.

It was the truest thing I ever heard him say.

The Webster family Stonehenge that stands in what used to be a sheep pasture on the farm.  The stones are not as big as they look, not nearly like those at the actual Stonehenge, but they were good enough for dancing around in the moonlight.

The Webster family Stonehenge standing in the sheep pasture on the farm. The stones are not as big as they look, certainly not like those at the actual Stonehenge, but they’re good enough for dancing around in the moonlight.

n.b.  This is not a true story.  It is fiction.  I wanted to see if I had a photo that was iconic to me (for the Weekly WP Writing Challenge), and then make up a story to fit the picture.  Also, I have been to the real Stonehenge.  I wasn’t allowed to dance around the stones, though, naked or otherwise.

154 thoughts on “A fool and his folly

  1. I really liked this story, well done! Interesting and fun idea, makes you wonder what the rest of the family eventually did with ‘stonehenge’

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  2. Mary, amazing. I love this piece deeply. It takes all the story telling that is you and weaves it with deep mystical truths and mysteries. Brilliantly done!

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    • Thanks, Barb. I was pleased with the way it turned out. I thought of the title first, given that I began it on April 1st. And the first three sentences followed quickly afterward. Those words and the photo were my starting point. I think that the mystical truth and mystery was evident, but it took a couple of days of “listening” to find it – which makes me believe that the process of creating in itself is magical. I’m glad you liked it!

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  3. Mary, that was wonderful. I loved reading it and was disappointed at the end to find out it wasn’t true. But you have a wonderful voice. (I know I used wonderful twice, but what the heck, sometimes you need to!)

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  5. I hope that’s a good thing. A few people have said they were surprised to find it was fiction. The one true thing in the piece, though, is that I AM the keeper of my family’s stories. This just wasn’t one of them!

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    • Oh, thank you, Linda. I had wanted to get it done by end of Monday to post the link on your Monday page, but it took me longer to write then I expected.

      You absolutely should go to see Stonehenge. Although the first time we saw it, it seemed somehow smaller than the photos make it look. When you walk closer to it, though, I swear the energy and vibes in those stones calls out. . . .

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  6. Lol, I knew it was fiction because it was tagged “fiction” at the top. But it’s great, and I can almost see my own grandfather doing something like this. But they don’t allow dancing at the real one? Are they afraid you might knock one of the stones over? 🙂

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    • Jen, you can only get close enough to dance around the stones by making a special appointment, and then it’s only very very early in the morning that it’s allowed, and you know me and early mornings . . . . 😉

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  7. Mary, You had me from Jump, convince I was reading another of your family stories (I’ve heard a few, and this one seemed right at home among them :-). Lovely writing, My Dear. Lovely. You say the story’s not true, but it ought to be. More, please.

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    • You know, I felt like I was telling a family story. Also, I LOVE PicMonkey. I worked both of the photos there. Both are the real Stonehenge, but from different angles on different visits.

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  8. The moral I took from your fictional story was that you do whatever makes you happy and to hell with eveyone else. Also dreams are little understood. Who knows if we connect to some greater consciousness when we enter then.
    Nice article 🙂

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    • Thank you!! I did have a wonderful Grandpa (two, actually, who were both equally just lovely), but neither of them built anything like the Stonehenge. There would have been no room in either of their yards, anyway.

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  9. Great story! It always makes me a little sad to find out at the end that a great story didn’t actually happen, but I’ll forgive you 🙂 You’re a great storyteller!

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  10. This is a beautifully written, wonderful post. I think it’s a mark of good writing that, even though you revealed this to be fiction, I still *wanted* it to be true. As so, as far as I’m concerned it is, and somewhere in America there’s an old man with a Stonehenge in his backyard…

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  11. You had me all the way which is something a realist with experience (for that read cynic) finds hard to admit. I wanted to believe it even after your confession. You have a rare talent in story telling. Keep going!

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  12. You fictional little minx, you! I was ready to cry the bloody murder of each and every tear you teased from my eyes with this post. And then I realized, that as a writer myself….I love it even more now that I know the numbers on this license plate.
    Damn.

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  13. “It was the last thing he looked to before he closed his eyes, and the first thing he saw upon waking, his wife coming in a poor second.”

    Powerful stuff. The dreams we chase and the inspirations we acquire. Keep up the fantastic writing.

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  14. What a great story! I loved how the narrator left lots of little hints at the family and their quirkiness by mentioning other stories. Very well written!

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  15. you wooda “dunn good” when the mountain gazette (a rockymountain magazeen, now semi-expired) had, for a few years, the ongoing “1000 words” contest. they’d post a pixure, and whoever wrote, in i’m-not-sure-who’s opinion, the best story about the photo, won the following month. maybe YOU WERE ‘there’. this story is/was!

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  16. Wow, your story really sucked me in – I believed every word of it! I just went to Stonehenge a few months ago (looked quite different with the snow all around it) and it was so magical! Even seeing it from far away when we were approaching it up the road was fantastic! Wish I got the chance to lie down on the stones or even dance around them 😛 Grand story!

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    • Thanks, Inidna. Stonehenge is quite something. The next time you’re in the UK, check out the stones at Avebury. There you CAN actually dance around them! I’m glad you like my little story. Thanks for stopping by.

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  17. What a great story. I was thinking to myself that most people have someone like this in their family since it sounded like something that would one of my relatives would do, if not myself. Still, a lovely story and was enjoyable to read.

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    • Actually, both photos are the real Stonehenge. I edited the “Webster family Stonehenge” pic from a different Stonehenge photo I took on another occasion to make it look believable as a family folly. Glad you liked my story! You should definitely put visiting Stonehenge (and England) on your To-Do list.

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  18. I’ve been to Stonehenge, and was very disappointed by all the fencing. It is a powerful monument, but I also would have loved to walk inside. Now I read that it was a burial place, and they are finding cremated bones, older than the stones. Perhaps it’s best after all, that we don’t get to walk on it. I fell in love with the Grandfather in your story, and wish he was mine. I could easily believe that my Grandfather Fred could have built a stonehenge if he had wanted to — he built a house with my father’s help. He built a pulley system to put in place a huge, heavy septic tank in Upper Michigan when his wife was pregnant with my dad. He would never have gambled money on a box, though, that was such a charming detail. Thanks for a terrific story that reminded me how magical my own grandpa was.

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    • To tell you the truth, the first time we drove to see Stonehenge I was a little disappointed – from the road it felt smaller than I had imagined. But when we got closer to it the mystery and energy of such an ancient structure was apparent, and all I felt was amazement and awe.

      I’m happy you liked my story. The one tiny true component to it was the part about the box. My dad was the one who used to come home with them, he couldn’t resist. Mostly they were full of old books, but he always hoped to find a valuable 1st Edition of a famous book like The Hobbit or Alice in Wonderland or something. He never did.

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    • Thanks, Tomasen. I checked out your blog – it’s awesome. I was thinking that if you want to build your own Stonehenge (could be a mini version), you could devise it as an extra-credit unit about the real Stonehenge, having students research its possible origins, its purpose, and how on earth were people without heavy equipment able to construct it?

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  19. Wow! superb story Mary, I loved it except the end :). Before I reach the end of the story, your story had me believed it was all true (sigh! its not true).

    There sure is something mystical about the Stonehenge (well at-least to my eyes & heart), before I return home to India I will surely visit the Stonehenge. \,,/

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  20. Wow. You are TOTALLY a great liar…..I mean storyteller. At the end I found myself thinking, “Nah, she’s gotta’ be lying about lying. It sounded too true to be a lie.” Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. You totally earned it with your amazing fib!

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  21. I enjoy your imagery. I wrote a story once that swam in the same, fantastical waters. It revealed a sculptor that built the Temple of Apollo for an unrequited love. I really enjoyed researching (as well as writing) that one. Write on.

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  22. This s a wonderful piece, beautifully written and I just love the largeness, the hugeness, the boldness of a dream that leads the dreamer to deciding, hey, why not, let’s build stone henge in our back field…brilliant! You’re a wonderful story teller.

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  23. you transported me to a world where i envisioned grandpa sitting in his green backyard, in an old rocking chair, admiring his own masterpiece bearing a smile of accomplishment and contentment and the look of peace within his old eyes…aahhh the bliss of story telling.
    even though this is fiction, i loved being transported to your world.
    am so reveling the images in my mind even now, fantastic stuff.
    congratulations on being freshly pressed.

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  24. A story of love and memories…
    consideration and dreams…
    how, perhaps it is certain, if we stopped to listen to those of our grandparents…
    we might find other stories, with other worlds beautifully described, though never visited… and this is the real beauty!
    Yours is a story that made ​​me go back in time: now that my grandfather George is dead… even as my father is no more…
    Thank you… claudine

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  25. I live not so many miles from Stonehenge. I have an old black and white picture of my mother sitting on one of the fallen ones. My brother, a little boy in shorts, is playing in the foreground. Back then anyone could go up and touch the stones – no fences or wardens to stop you getting close, and no turnstiles to take your money either. Mum said it was a good thing when they put up the fences. She said people were always chipping bits of the stones, in the end there would be nothing left! I went with one of my daughters a few years ago, we paid the money and went in. It wasn’t too crowded, being off season and a cold and wintery day… but I tell you what, those stones are something else… There is magic there. 🙂

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  26. Awwww! I really thought it was true!!! Great little story – I loved it – it really resonated with me – I’d love to own a field or huge garden and have my own stone circle – LOL – thank you for sharing that ❤

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  27. Awesome. I really enjoyed reading this. If you look through, there are a bunch of other writing prompts in the story too:

    – Expand on how Aunt Sophie died. It sounds like it might have some humor to it.
    – A story about another one of grandpa’s finds in the “blind boxes”
    – What did father do as “another life”?
    – How did the grandparents meet?
    – There has GOT to be a funny anecdote out there about the kids dancing around “stonehenge” naked.

    I think the best thing about this is that it isn’t just fun to read; it sparks the imagination too.

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  29. Oh Mary, I love the way you ended this with Grandpa’s words–I’m no fool. A fantastic story with a well-knit ending. You tell good tales. I am surprised this is fiction 😉

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    • Thank you, Uzoma. I think because I started writing this piece on April 1st – which is April Fools day here – I had “fool” on the brain. I’m not a person to play pranks, generally. This piece is as prankish as I get. 🙂

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  30. Well, you had me completely. I was totally shocked at your n.b. at the end. Maybe I’m gullible…or just don’t expect fiction on a blog…or maybe you’re just that good a writer. I’m thinking it’s probably the last. Great story! I was wishing I could have known your grandparents.

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    • Thank you. I’m glad you liked it (even if it isn’t true). I prefer to think of it as “true enough” in that I wish I’d had a grandfather who dreamed of being descended from druids and had built his own version of Stonehenge.

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  31. Mary, this was BRILLIANT! As I read, I thought, “hey, this sounds like the same sort of crazy antics my grandfather would dream up!” Then as I finished, my thoughts changed to, “hey that’s the sort of brilliant storytelling my grandfather would pull off!”

    And then I read in your early comments that you began writing this story on April 1, 2013… The 10 year anniversary of my grandfather’s passing. And all I can do now is smile and feel such gratitude for this story, these memories of my grandfather, and this new connection. Thank you! Christy

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    • Wow. That gave me shivers reading that YOUR grandfather died on an April 1st. It felt like I had “help” when I was writing this. I don’t know where it came from. Maybe your grandfather knows. . . .

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  32. Oh, Grandpa Webster, I love you! Thank you for building your Stonehenge.

    Mary, thank YOU for telling Grandpa’s story. I say it’s a true story, in every way that matters.

    (“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” — Albus Dumbledore)

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