5-Ton Boulder At Its New Home Triggers Memories

Guest Author: Christopher Joles, RHS Class of 1980

Chris Joles (age 5), Gayle Joles (age 3) and Don Joles (age 2).

One of my fondest childhood memories began when my family moved into our home by the Concord/Leroy Township property line. My sister, brother and I were able to “ride an elephant in our front yard” in childhood fantasies based on a huge boulder of prehistoric origin.

I named the 5-ton “beast” Maya, which I heard on my favorite TV adventure show, “Maya the Elephant.” I was 5 when we moved to the Williams Road home; my sister Gayle was 3 and brother Don was 2. Although it would take a few years for them to grow enough to climb aboard Maya safely, my vivid imagination created a narrative of great promise about the fun we could have riding into the African-Leroy savanna.  Even my mother, who was barely 5-feet tall, occasionally climbed onto Maya to humor us.

After each of us was enrolled in Leroy Elementary School, we shared our boulder story with classmates, and Maya soon became a neighborhood gathering place for a herd of us “little elephant riders.” I think it is safe to assume that rocks of many sizes were attention grabbers in most of our young minds.

A casual ride through Concord, Leroy and nearby areas proves how many people used rocks for landscaping in yards and as conversation pieces. Since history and earth science were always interesting subjects for me, both in and out of school, I have watched many history documentaries on TV and become curious about the locale here in the northern section of our continent.

It is hardly possible to delve farther back in history than where “Maya” came from, since “she” was transported at the end of the last ice age when the earth warmed and a huge glacier spread over the then flat land of our north. As the glacier carved out huge holes, valleys, cliffs and trails, all lower areas captured the melting ice and formed the Great Lakes and the rest of the topography, including rivers and streams. Carried along and deposited as the glacier moved were the infinite number of rocks we now accept as commonplace.

Chris' dog, Fox, on Maya.

Early on, when I learned that our continent’s Great Lakes are the largest area of fresh water on the entire planet, I gained a real appreciation for my home in Ohio because of the huge impact lots of WATER has on everything around it, including lush vegetation, infinite food sources, recreational opportunities, and great beauty. It also helps that Ohioans are good at ignoring much snow and rain.

In recent years, I hadn’t given much thought to Maya until events in my life changed when my mother died last October. My father had passed in 2003, and Mom had married her second husband a few years later and moved recently to California. Her house went up for sale, and I realized Maya would stay with the property unless I moved rapidly.

For many years, beginning when I was a sophomore at RHS and took Gretchen Reed’s aviation class there, I became a fixture at Pheasant Run Airport, which the Reeds were developing into a museum starting about 1979. Except for my four years while in the Navy and stationed in Nevada, I was never away from the Reeds for long. In my older childhood, I had become obsessed with model airplane building, so being close to the operating aircraft drew me to the Reed property, plus Chuck and Gretchen were totally optimistic about my becoming a pilot. I flew often with both of them, although for sure she enforced more “rules” on me than he did.

I worked part-time at the airport on necessary maintenance until Chuck’s death in 2008. I moved into an in-law suite on the property in 2009 and became the airport manager. When Mom’s home on Williams Road went up for sale, I knew my attachment to the airport was paramount, and I also realized I wanted Maya here.

This is Hallmark Excavating's huge front-end loader and biggest truck. Chris and Scott dug around rock, put chain around it and Hallmark lifted it into truck.

Shortly after Chuck’s death, Gretchen had signed a life estate agreement with Lake Erie College, which essentially turned over ownership of the place to the college. Before initiating Maya’s move to the airport, we sought input from its president, Jennifer Schuller, and she was enthusiastic about having a fixture here that is about as historic as something can get.

Next, I spoke to Ralph Harrison, owner of Hallmark Excavating, whose employees had done work on our buildings. Ralph thought moving Maya would be an interesting challenge and quickly offered to supply the equipment and manpower gratis to the college, and Maya’s transport began. The company’s biggest front-end loader arrived at the Williams Road property along with its heaviest and most powerful truck.

Scott Debalski, a faithful friend and former RHS classmate of mine, is a wonderful neighbor.  He and I met the Hallmark guys in the Williams Road yard, and we dug dirt away from Maya’s base until it was partially exposed, enough to put a strong chain around her and then have the loader lift her onto the truck. Of course, the 5-ton claim is a guesstimate, but the partly flattened tires on the truck through the 8-mile trip to the airport speak for themselves.

Gretchen and I had agreed on the chosen “sacred ground” for Maya to be in front of a tree grove close to our biggest hangar and fully visible from the road. Scott dug a perfect foot-wide perimeter around Maya and gave her a “dressing of gravel.”

Further plans for Maya are still being discussed, but for sure the written history of her geological past and recent move will be available at the airport. What a wondrous revelation it would be if Maya had human-like senses that could explain what she had witnessed over her travels through Earth’s darkest, ancient mysteries to now.

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