by Thom Van Vleck
When you come to my place I have a circle drive in front of my house. In the center is a tree planted on honor of my mother in law, Peggy Lynn Barton-Baybo, who passed away about 10 years ago. Around the tree are four limestone fence posts that weigh around 225lbs each that came from central Kansas courtesy of Ryan Batchman. Ryan is a great lifter (one time USAWA member) and thrower and a real friend. They came from his farm and are fence posts carved from limestone used in the 1800’s in central Kansas when trees where scarce. Then around that are my strongman stones. I have several different sized concrete stones….kind of your traditional strongman stones from 225lbs to 300lbs. The biggest round stone sits on a concrete slab from my Great Grandpa Baugher’s well. It has a hole in it where the pump went and a concrete ring around it. I like it because it reminds me of a mill stone. But I also have three natural Granite stones I dug up on my farm starting 20 years ago.
I eventually dubbed my three natural Granite stones the “Jackson Stones”. But early on, about 20 years ago I discovered some stones that had been pushed in a draw on my farm. Years ago the top had been row cropped and I’m sure as they came up with these glacial till stones they pushed them in the draw to get them out of the way. They were half buried and I just wanted one to practice stone lifting so I picked the smaller one that was around 220lbs. A good “starter” stone. This stone was kept in my yard and from time to time I’d lift it. It was used in my first ever strongman contest as part of a medley event. Chad Ullom was at that event.
About 15 years ago I decided I needed a bigger stone so I went back to the draw and after much digging and work pulled this 299lber out. It looks smaller in the photo but it’s not as round as the first one and the odd shape made it a challenge. It was at that same time I pulled out the third stone, which weighed in at 330lbs. This trio of stones was used in several of my strongman contests and was part of my training when I used to work on strongman events. They also were often used in our strongman shows that USAWA member John O’Brien did with me. We had a standard Whiskey Barrel that we would lift the stones on.
These stand as a challenge for anyone that comes to my place. As far as I know, only Eric Todd, John O’Brien, Joe Costello, Brian Kerby, and myself have lifted all three in succession. While they are rough and easier to grip, they are odd shaped and finding the center of gravity can be a real problem. Making them challenging in their own way. For years I just guessed the weight and I was at 225, 300, and 325. I finally weighed them officially and found I was not too far off! I have a plan if I can find a 440lber to make some Dinnie Style rings! The pink granite crystals make them really beautiful in my book over the grey concrete stone. I hope others will take the challenge. If you want a crack, just come to my place!