Stone soul picnic

By D.C. DENISON  |  October 11, 2007

This article originally appeared in the October 5, 1982 issue of the Boston Phoenix.

It sounded like gunfire, rapid gunfire, the kind that comes from an automatic weapon. There was also a loud echo, suggesting that the reports came from the quarry at the top of the hill. According to maps of Milford, the quarry was abandoned, one of hundreds of such quarries in Massachusetts. But “abandoned” quarries are seldom deserted. Nature abhors a vacuum; something is always going on in these topographic wastelands. Among the predictable visitors to abandoned quarries are swimmers, rock climbers, and teenage boozers. But nudists and dirt bikers? And now snipers?

As it turned out, the fire was friendly, aimed only at tin cans floating in the water 50 feet below the quarry’s edge. The riflemen, one of whom was wearing an Army fatigue jacket, the other a simple vest, were taking turns riddling the cans with semi-automatic rifles. Two unarmed friends were with them, one wearing a yellow T-shirt that read “I’m an astrologer. Show me Uranus.” They all looked to be in their 20s.

Because of local gun control laws, the riflemen declined to state their names, but they did volunteer some information about the quarry. Situated off Route 85 in Milford, it is known officially as Fletcher’s Quarry; these guys, however, called it Chickenshit Quarry, in reference to a prominent cliff labeled, in spray paint, Chickenshit Leap. According to local historians, this quarry has a glorious past: tons of its distinctive pink granite, removed during the early part of the century, were used in the construction of New York’s grand Pennsylvania Station, among other edifices. In recent years, the quarry has fallen on hard times. There is lots of graffiti around, stuff like “Ricky and Tracey 4-Ever,” and “BUZZ CITY.” There are also many broken bottles, crumpled Schlitz cans, and rifle shells. The water has an oilslick on the surface.

“That’s from the cars,” the man with the Uranus shirt said.

The cars?

“Yeah, there are about 30 or 40 cars down there now,” he explained. “The kids do it. They steal a car, put a large rock on the accelerator, and watch it fly off the cliff. Sort of stupid. Two years ago the cops came up here with a crane and pulled out about 25 cars; then last year they came up here again and pulled out another 25.”

“It’s sort of a mess,” one of the men said finally, “but we’re from Framingham and it’s hard to find a place there to shoot. We know no one’s going to bother us here.”

 

Fletcher’s is one of about 30 abandoned quarries in the backwoods of Milford. Some are the size of swimming pools, others approach football-stadium dimensions. Granite was first discovered here in the mid-19th century. Swedish, Irish, and Italian stonemasons would start quarrying large ledges that jutted up from the ground and keep going into the ground until the granite ran out. Big-time quarrying came to Milford in 1850, when the Boston and Albany Railroad started cutting a local ledge to use in tunnels, bridges, abutments, and walls. Soon the railroad’s quarry was employing 300 workers to cut and ship the rich supply of granite. Railroad stations in Wellesley, Wellesley Hills, and Framingham were built with Milford granite.

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