A few months ago, cairns of carefully stacked rocks began to appear in Cameron Park. You could see them up behind Eskaton, on Sudbury Drive, in the Pine Hill Preserve — tiny cairns, medium cairns and a few taller than an Irish Wolfhound. People wondered where they came from.
The mystery is a mystery no longer. The creative action behind the rock cairns comes from Cameron Park resident Bob Haltom and his trusty fellow rock hound, Boomer. Haltom began collecting rocks 20 years ago for the terraced rock walls he built for the extensive gardens wrapping around the home he shares with his wife Joanne.
“My wife is the gardener and I’m the landscaper,” said Haltom, surveying the multi-level gardens. “I used to go up behind Bel-Air where they built the medical center and pick up truckloads of rocks unearthed by the construction. We called it ‘the moon’ up there but now it has been paved over.”
Seeing a rock cairn by the side of the road while on a drive sparked Haltom’s creativity.
“I thought it was so cool.” He began building small stacks while on walks with Boomer. “I wasn’t doing it openly at first, just kind of as a surprise.”
Boomer, a 7- or 8-year-old rescue dog of indeterminate breed, patiently waited while Haltom made his stealthy constructions in a few minutes. Neighbors took notice and one day Haltom and Boomer were caught in mid-construction.
“The neighbor said he’d wondered who was making the stacks and he liked them,” said Haltom. Another neighbor found him out and told him she loved seeing the rocks. An artist was born.
A vacant lot that backs up on the Pine Hill Preserve is Haltom’s favorite playground with an endless supply of rocks. The hilly lot boasts more than 10 rock cairns. Most have a triangular rock on the top, Haltom’s signature. “They don’t all have a triangle, but I try,” he said.
Haltom and Boomer walk every day and the rocky red topography near their home provides plenty of material. “You need a solid base, so I start with a flat rock on the bottom and then add different shapes,” he explained. “After 20 years of building rock walls, I can visualize how they’ll fit before I stack them. The higher you stack the rocks, they start balancing themselves.”
Often the stacks topple over — sometimes an accident of the weather or an animal; other times a human factor has intervened. “Not a problem,” said Haltom. “It just gives me more to do and I stack them differently. Boomer has knocked a few of them over doing his business.”
Wife Joanne Blossom has also been known re-stack the toppled cairns when Haltom is rock hunting elsewhere.
“It’s kind of a Zen thing,” said Haltom, adding that he has always loved to play in the dirt. “This is a throwback to my childhood. I ‘ve only been doing it a few months, so I know it’s going to grow.”