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Over Our Dead Bodies

Anthony Esolen

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Men Who Are Willing to Lay Down Their Lives Are Truly Indispensable

When the old slate quarries of the Pennsylvania town ceased operation, the land was sold to an enterprising fellow who leveled the heaps of refuse and cleared dozens of acres for junking cars. That man's a millionaire now, and does necessary work, but he has not been able to alter the quarries entirely.

On his property remain three holes, each of them well over an acre in breadth and from a hundred to two hundred feet deep, now shining as lakes of cold clear water. They are banked by screes of jagged slate that will cut a bare foot as quickly as shards of glass, as I have found by experience. But sometimes it is not a bank, either, but a veritable wall cut vertically in the rock, with the clean corrugations of the quarrying saws still visible.

Wrested Slate

Water was an important part of the slater's day. You had to recirculate water as coolant in the works of diamond-grit saws, lest in a few moments the heat generated by the friction of blade-rock against quarry-rock fuse the machine's innards. The -quarry's own gut had to be pumped continually, lest the breached water table fill the cavity. And human bellies, too, have their needs. A workman might sweat fifteen pounds of water on a day of normal heat. They replenished it, usually in a form to stir up conviviality or fighting or both; and those, too, are not the least of the calls of the man's life.

Read the entire article on the Touchstone Magazine website (new window will open).

Posted: 04-Jun-06



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