Indiana University Research & Creative Activity

Working

Volume XXIX Number 2
Spring 2007

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man working on limestone blocks

By one machine or another, by chain saw or wire saw or channeler, quarriers eventually slice the bed into a grid of blocks, the way you might slice a pan of brownies with a knife. You know how tough it is to pry out that first brownie without mangling it. With limestone, it’s worse. The first piece to be removed is called the keyblock, and it always provokes a higher than usual proportion of curses. There is no way to the base of this first block to cut it loose, so it must be pried, splintered, and worried at, until something like a clean hole has been excavated. Men can then climb down and, by drilling holes and driving wedges, split the neighboring block free at its base, undoing in an hour a 300-million-year-old cement job. . . . Once there is room for maneuvering, the big cuts—some of them weigh 250 tons—are tugged onto their sides, the massive fall cushioned by pillows of loose rock, and then split into mill-sized blocks. The men who clamber over the great capsized stone look like whalers carving blubber from Leviathan. Photo by Jeffrey Wolin; courtesy Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago. Text by Scott R. Sanders; used by permission of the author. Both photo and text originally appeared in Stone Country (Indiana University Press, 1985).